Fragile Cigars: A Young Mans Pride and The Boys Frontier.

When I turned 18 we all went out and bought cigars together. We had reached a stage in our life when could make that mature decision to poison ourselves legally. My friends and I felt bold as we pointlessly smelled cigars in the humidified closet of the smoke shop run by gentlemen we thought were wise men. Those men were quick to tell us how silly it was to smell a cigar in a room full of cigars- you could be sure you weren’t smelling the cigar you had in your eager hand- no you were surrounded by the aroma-cloud of the cigars. The cigars spilled over themselves from their sweet and fertile-foreign origins. We looked like idiots trying to find the right 10 dollar cigar. A 10 dollar cigar I couldn’t even afford. Asking for money at the register from my friends was more embarrassing then the trivial smelling.

With the borrowed money from our parents, we bought many cigars over those next few months, and we enjoyed them on our parent’s porches. After our long days of football and the school books had been closed we would rock in leather backed rockers and plastic lawn thrones, as nauseous smoke filled our lungs and the patios. We would discuss all the things in our life torching our incense of man-hood. Wet chocolate stubs of tobacco sat in the corner of our mouths tasting what we were sure was important. We were the blind leading the blind- speaking smoke in smoke- we were a product of Amarillo’s finest. We were conceived in of the salt in the plains; our conservative parents had raised these boys on these porches carefully watching the ash grow on the ends of our torches.

The story often passed around at these meetings was how Abraham Lincoln would thread a wire through his cigar so his ash would hold until he finished the cigar- the longer the ash holds the more respect one held, and of course there was the supposed truth that the ash held a lot of the best flavor in. What a perfect narrative we had? Could there ever be a more accurate description of how fragile we, boys, were? Could there be a better description for vain pursuits of a group of senior men in Amarillo, Texas? We were concerned who could hold the most ash on the end of our cigar, sure it was in fun, but what metaphor: young men trying to hold onto their burnt cigar ash.

 

Certain Frontiers of boy hood are good, and this may even be one of them. The young man trying his father’s whiskey, the micro-steps into the right of passage into adulthood. I ultimately believe a boy trying his first cigar is fine and normal. I do however wonder what we are looking for. These weren’t our first tastes of nicotine- these weren’t our first tries at the vices available.

Jack and I stole his father’s cigars and small pulls from the handle of Bacardi a hand full of times one summer. We would wait until everyone was asleep, carefully open the cabinets in the pool room, and quickly hide behind the 3 foot wall that separated the patio from the backyard. If anyone were to have walked out you would have seen the tops of our blonde heads and smelt the cherry-milk smoke from the cigar. The difference between the back porches filled with 18 year olds and the back porches hiding middle school refugees is pride in the air. The 18 year old Will felt he had accomplished something and ultimately was owed an equal something in return. 13 year old Will was walking cross country to look at a dead body. 18 year old Will felt wise and was convinced he could (and should) not die; 13 year old will had just found out what death looked like and was he terrified and full wonder.

Jack and I threw up several of those nights we stole those cigars, we didn’t tell anyone because we didn’t care for anyone to know- we had done this for no one else but ourselves. We should not have done it, sure, but our motives were honest and humble in a sense, though this does not excuse stealing your father’s cigars. However, I do think I can afford to give the younger Will more grace while I slap his wrist. But I have little tolerance for the 18 year old- he asks for his picture to be taken on his birthday so he can post it to social media- he wants people to see him with the longest lasting ash on the end of his presidential cigar in a cloud of smoke. He wants to be seen- while the younger Will wants to see.

 

 

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What time is it?

Voices clamoring all around us. Every one of these voices is held by a person with a heartbeat and a life; a body and a hunger; a bill payer with a frustrated commute. And in the many voices shouting out, excreting their humble and honest thoughts and opinions into the world, one can see the chaos of the world’s current condition; we can see some of the meaningless toil of the agitator and the naïve warrior- and so many other characters.

The streams of thought flow from the foundations of beliefs. We watch the diffusion of these streams trickle into the cracks of the asphalt of America, and with each season the cracks grow larger like the erosion of the pot hole facing winters scaring ice while spring melts away the cold-infiltrator in time for the next sharp snow.

We can see splintering divisions drawn into the scene- scars and wounds reopened- like a branch cut too soon from a tree. Still green and alive, the fibers of the trees tissue still very attached to the idea of still being a part of the tree- still alive.

We are the fibers, and we are the sharp snow- longing to be a part of the tree, but seasonally eroding the holes in our alleys.

 

We can no longer be the anti-thesis of our brothers and sisters. We can no longer put ourselves first. We can no longer lust for our own justification. We should long for not only a resolution, but complete reconciliation.

You say “what has happened to our country, our community, our way-of-life?” I ask where are you looking and who are you listening too? Who do you mourn for? What do you do with all the pain that has been deposited onto your feed? Do you feel attacked because some think you have ignored them or that you have been ignored? Lose that battle, in the room of your accusers be silent. What do you have to gain? What are you seeking?

Damn my pride. Damn your pride. We must lay down our confusion, our loaded question, we should no longer play the role of the devil’s advocate. Rather in list as an advocate for the broken and downtrodden. Bear the burdens, don’t step over them with your false sense righteousness understanding of where they should be. We all should be somewhere else then we are.

We spread filth with filthy hands, you are in the way of truth- you have been called to love the enemies and speak for the mute.

Don’t sacrifice truth for politics, and don’t sacrifice people for vanity and pride.

You shout Ecclesiastes? Of course there is a time for other things, but what time is it? Is it time for birth or for death? Is it the right time to kill, or to heal? Is it time to lament? Should we make love, or abstain? Is it time to embrace, or is it time to part? What should we hold on to, and what should we let go? What should we rip out and what should we mend? Should I shut up or should I speak up? Is it time to love or time to hate? War or peace?

Dead Deer

There, on the side road, lies a dead deer with his moosey-dog-face, peacefully and completely dead.

I imagine its life. Napping under the mesquite trees, sipping from the creek in the early morning and again at dusk. The deer leaves the security of the brush, revealing his beauty to satisfy his thirst.

The deer’s routine leaves impressions where he lies down, trails worn in where he commutes, velvet-scars on tree trunks from teething-horns, and now in death he meets my routine.

The trappings of my life- to be bundled up into verse or analogy reducing my life, my experiences, friends, family stories, to be something I try to wield and use. Something I create, a narrative or plot. Like a noble hunter I try and capture beauty in my life, reducing them to still and botched taxidermy projects.

Dead I kill these things while I try to recover them. I fail to properly extract these valuable pieces of my life. I leave them on the table, as I open my journals, each morning gasping for air. I remember the screams and admittedly feel the pains and joys they brought and meant to impress on me, but then another emerges and then another. And so I settle for the quick jotting and noticing of the deer dead on the road.

 

Writing is: The Dress

Any good champion of a cause would use a parable or three to communicate their plea to the people, so I will do the same. This is the first one: The Dress.

 

A young woman, a seamstress, works day and night working on the dress she has had stuck in her head for some time. She has become slightly obsessed with the dress- a mostly white and yellow sun dress- she has decided this is the most important thing. She knows it is the right thing to do, she will not delay, she start immediately.

Each thread is woven in with great care and intentionality. She knows each thread with great intimacy. The stitching will connect the different pieces of fabric into one dress. The fabric has been carefully sifted, much of the fabric will never be used again, but even the excess cut from the final arrangement is important and absolutely needed. Each stich is its own and as each thread has been properly given to the dress she is able to feel a breath of relief come back into her lungs, and quickly leave as she starts out on the next.

 

The girl is a writer. A sower of the story. Writing is difficult. Writing should be difficult. Writing ought to be a painful process of pouring yourself out in to the work, letting it gestate, exposing it to the world. Once born into the world it will either whither in the atmosphere it wasn’t ready for or humbly climb into the world and proudly drag its lame extremities.

 

After some time, a few days, she is finished with her orchestrated movement. She sits back and looks at the dress hanging in her door way. The woman will wear the dress to her brother’s funeral, an event that has managed to bring together her complex and strife ridden family. She has grown anxious, and is relieved that at the very least she can feel safe in her creation. She thinks it may even distract her mother from trying to think less of her. She wanted to love her mother, she did love her mother, and her mother might love the dress on her.

 

Though she has decided to bring her dress into the light she still exists in tension with decision. Some people are aware of this and continue anyway, and then there are some who choose to not walk down these roads. Those who chose to engage in this mystic walk of writing and creating, they find depth and reassurance of why they started, but only after they give the proper time and honesty- though at times the hope offered can be brief and scarce. For those who don’t, either realize they don’t wish to look into this part of life knowing that it will be frustrating and painful, and they quickly cling to rationales that their thoughts aren’t valuable enough to immortalize, so they don’t entertain the muse. Or they decide that writing is a waste of time, ignore the call, and ultimately leave it to those who wish to occupy themselves with such airy-deeds. Each of us falls somewhere in between these postures; often all of them exist in tension constantly.

 

The morning of the funeral she arrives early to the event. The service is good, everyone feels the warmth of her brother’s life. Her dress felt good to hold onto when trying fight tears. The family gathers at the mother’s house afterward. As the woman approaches the drive way and walks up the stairs of the porch she chooses to think about the dress, she pretends to wonder what her aunt and niece might think about it.

She walks in, she thinks it’s louder than it should be. People are moving from room to room. Scene to scene. She is immediately stopped by people giving condolences and good long hugs. She is increasingly nervous, but manages to keep it together, until her aunt spills her wine onto the white and yellow sun dress. An almost surreal moment the woman manages to keep calm but dies inside. She looks down to see each thread, she knows each thread, all now stained with cheap red wine.

Her mother, of all people notices, and follows her into the bathroom. The woman sits on the edge of the bathtub crying trying to wash the stain out. The mother appears on the toilet seat hesitantly but sweetly consoling her daughter. The woman looks up and tries to explain to the mother what the dress was, the mother looks down and tells her the story of when she stained her wedding dress on accident. The woman and her mother sit there and remember the dresses they had worn to Sunday school, and the costumes for Halloween. The mother held the daughter in the bath tub washing the stain out of the dress for hours long into the night.

 

The stain bloodies and soils her dress, her mystical cloak she had crafted to grant her passage through her dark valley. This is the writer’s journey. Working on the craft in an attempt to make sense of things, wielding it as a tool to navigate the tragedy and complexities of her life. But once she faces that which looms in her anxieties, the mess bleeds on to the dress. But what the writer nor the seamstress  does not expect, but desires, the mother enters the bathroom and there they weave a real story. The dress now has more depth then it could have ever had. The dress is now a redeeming agent between the daughter and mother.

I invite all of you to walk down these sorts of paths.

 

Painting by:

The Deep Blue Gallery 1261

Down Into the Gullies And Ravines: A Boys Epic.

Down into the gullies and ravines, the young boy marches into his most wonderful space. Falling into thick brush, moving vines and branches from his path, but just at his eye- for his feet tear through. Tearing through thick brush, a quietly loud activity, the boy feels strong. With legs like machines- pulling and pushing forward into the ungroomed thicket- each step new with its own new views, and with uneven ground forcing uneven thoughts, the whole act of the wilder march is a dance- falling into rhythm. Para kinesis, carefully falling, controlling and twisting through the piles of leaves carpeting the floor. Farther and farther in- further detaching from the neighborhood the boy started in. And now he is alone. Alone with his thoughts and his innocent self. He stops every so often while the silence pours in around him only to be interrupted by his breath- he listens for the creatures he hopes to be there. Aware of the small sounds and signs of life.

Now still and idle, the boy’s chest pulls in air- up and down; in and out- so too is the wood- the sleeping giant with the slow and steady movement that it conceals. And so the boy watches and listens with jerking head towards all the snores and moans of the woods. He continues on with the sleeping giant- watching and wandering about him- like a boy might watch over his sleeping father on a Saturday morning just before he might wake him up. “WAKE UP!” the boy shouts. “I AM HERE! NOW SHOW ME WHAT TO DO!” The boy feels he has answered the call, he has replied to the invitation. He has enlisted himself into what he believes to be the call of the world.

He is suspended in his journey. There are no rules, and there are no busy things to do. No roads, and no people telling him what not to do. Leaping from boulder to boulder down into gullies and ravines. His hands free to run fingers through the wild bushes, and to follow sounds and smells with an obligation only granted by such innocence left alone. Completely, He is enthralled. His inner spirit stirs and communes with beauty afoot. His sail is open, the water glassy and deep- with nets cast wide he is taken away by his catch.

Stillness begot stillness. The Boy can hear himself, and here he will hear what he enjoys, and values; what he detest, and desires. Each breath ushered in with a smile of real and foreign to familiar relief. And once he finishes that breath he knows he belongs to this, he feels very apart of his own life. He feels a joyful debt to keep moving in the journey into his valleys and up his cliffs. He belongs where He is. Here, He turns in the field in the open break in the thicket he is encompassed by, and decides now is as good a time as any, just before it is too dark (though already dimming into darkness) to start back home.

 

Community and Creativity

 

I moved into a neighborhood with a school named Puckett when I was in the 4th grade. I found friends very quickly. I was sort of a character compared to my new suburban companions. I was a kid who probably became too fond of a good hyperbole, telling slightly fabricated stories of the schools and the experiences I had been a part of prior to my time at this new school. But what really allowed me into their circle of “elite and cool” kids at Puckett elementary was my ability to create monsters and other imaginary characters with a pencil.

This group of boys at Puckett elementary had an increasing appreciation for drawings and doodles of the fantastic variety. Knowing my honed drawing skills, I knew that I could be appreciated properly. (Hopefully my sarcastic tone is being picked up here). When they saw my drawings and as I was slowly drawn into the group I was met with an odd thing. Community.

This group of boys was consumed with each of the characters and the deep back stories assigned. Each participant had developed their own sense of folklore and fairy tale with each character and monster they drew, and we all cared about each other’s ideas. We would ask for the honest opinions and thoughts on each hero or creature. We thoughtfully participated in each other’s dreams – literally. We were engaging in community, and inside of this we experienced a certain amount of freedom.

No one felt they were less creative than the most talented, we merely just had a respect for the unique outlook and perspective each person had shaping our ideas. In the absence of airier motives and childish innocence we were able to do community unusually well. And inside of community done right, community that was unselfish in nature, we were able to create freely.

Inspiration: the myth

I write these stories and blogs. I also write songs, poems, and draw pictures.

I am what some call artistic.
When I was a boy watching old Godzilla movies and anime, or listening to my dad read me the Lord of the Rings, I guess something in me wanted to be a part of that, and so I started to create.

In my head, with my monsters and robots, and with pencils and papers, I started to make my own stories. And as that young boy with my head full ideas like intergalactic robot alien wars and the cave trolls in the mines the dwarves dug too deep, I could not have cared any less what anyone else thought if they were to know what I was up to. Hell, I’d parade my drawings around at family functions, with all my cool interesting cousins and uncles, and they would give me their insightful opinions and my aunt, grandma, and dad may even have fed me some thoughtful advice Even now, I can see my grandmother lowering her voice and pretending to be some creature I had drawn up, and then she would comment on a detail she thought was particularly “interesting”, and she meant it.
Inspiration isn’t some miraculous golden epiphany you wait around for to hit you late at night or in the desert while you’re on shrooms with that friend your parents don’t like (not biographical merely making a point).

We just ignore the things in our life that feed us, we quiet the restless thoughts and questions, those things that make you think really hard, stand up out of your seat and yell in a room full of people, the things that make you want to get out of bed.
I was talking to friend recently about song writing. Somehow or another, a question came along the lines of “Where do you get inspiration? What do you write about?” and I’m sure I said something like I try and lean into my influences and recreate what I love. (Austin Kleon Steal Like and Artist reference- look it up). But I think a more suitable answer for anyone interested in trying to think about their own life more and be more creative in a broad general sense, regardless of the creative opinions someone has about themselves, that answer would go more like: Each day I struggle to look for ways to think about all the crap in my life and in my head. I wake up and journal, I carry a little leather notebook holder around searching and listening for keen thoughts, comments, questions or dialogues, I read the Bible (Christian or not it is undeniably a life giving text), I read poetry, I listen to oodles of songs, read other books, I write a song every day, I call my Dad (at least once), I record my conversations with my 73 year old grandpa. And not to mention all the bad habits I have; those are important to, just not enough share at this moment in fear of being distracted.

So I guess where I get “inspiration” is just sort of being a neurotic, anxiety riddled, crazy person who lives in a warehouse.
You are a living, breathing person, who has hopes, fears, problems, flaws, secrets, and dreams. Start listening and asking your grandma what she thinks about your drawings, and show everyone you know.


Tell Me About When I Was A Kid: The boy who caught the Bird.

As I boy, and as I grew into my adolescence and so on throughout adult hood, I heard stories about myself. Stories about the odd things I would say, and the peculiar things I would do. I’m sure this isn’t too abnormal or unfamiliar of a concept. Children in third world countries want to know what they look like in a photo a tourist or missionary takes of them, but in the developed world the children don’t want to know what they look like, there is plenty of documentation of that sort, rather they want to know what people think of them. They want to know the stories of themselves when they were younger and how they were perceived by those around them. They want to know how their existence affected the world they inhabit. And as a boy, and even now, I am no different, at least in the sense that I too want to hear my story told to me. I may even need it.

I’m often told of my first outrageous words, Godzilla and Booty, clearly a child filled to the brim with potential and genius. Or the time I told my mom if she were to die and my dad were to remarry several more times, she would be still be my favorite. Which is an odd way to tell your mom she is the best, but she seemed to understand what I meant. These stories aren’t always that interesting or exciting but they do make for some good laughs in the living room when the family is in town.

But there are others that are interesting. Some don’t seem real, despite the vividness of memory. The interesting ones aren’t just history or just information, they have formational impact.

 

When I was four or five, I walked over to my older brother, Jake, at some family gathering and I told him that I was going to go outside and catch a bird. Jake, surely frustrated, insisted it could not be done. At some point in our conversation either I or my brother implored my dad for his opinion on whether catching a bird was possible or not. I can imagine him trying to hide the sarcasm in his voice as he tried to reassure us with the reality of how difficult it would be to catch a bird out of the air. This would have made Jake more intolerable and smug, while at the same it would have only moved me in frustration being told I couldn’t do something. Of course it made me want to do it more, and fueled my need to go against authority.

So apparently I went into the backyard and did just as I was told I could not do; I snatched a bird out of the air with my bare hands. With my avian trophy I grabbed the attention of my father and hopefully my brother. Whilst parading my prize around my dad was yelling at me to let the bird go because the flock of birds getting into formation to conduct an air strike rescue mission for their companion I had captured. I’m sure I did not let go without hesitation, but I did let go in light of my impending doom.

What an odd story to echo through my childhood and on into my adolescence. Its not a long story, You might not put in a documentary of my life, but I can remember hearing it as a boy and it giving me a certain confidence and fostered a sense courage, or even a boldness. This story impacted me.

What do I need that sits back there in the boy I used to be?

When I feel totally debilitated with anxiety and depression, I need to know I can catch birds out of the air. When I don’t believe in myself or when I drive myself into isolation, I need to know I can catch birds with my hands. When I don’t think I have a story, I need to know I caught a bird out the air.

 

 

 

 

(The sweet bird painting is by Artist Vincent Sheridan, look him up)

 

You Actually Can Do Anything: Why That’s Not Total Millennial Crap

I grabbed a coffee and a beer with one of my good friends over this past winter break. This friend and I meet up every six months or so to discuss all the moving pieces and new people in our lives. We have a special sort of friendship. It’s that sort of friendship that you don’t really have to say anything at all to have a good conversation, but we do anyways because there’s always a lot of ground to cover. And I would say this abnormal friendship exists partly from how well we get along, but also because both of us believe in the other.

As we unpack our lives we both cast shadows over our pursuits and passions, doubting the things we want to do with our lives, and each time we belittle our passions the other scoffs and begins to tell of all the wonderful things we see in the other. I don’t know about her I guess for sure, but when I begin to reassure her all I do is say what I know is true in her life. I tell her how I see her, how talented she is and able she is, how she needs to pursue what she believes in, maybe fail a couple of times to see if she really loves it (which of course, she does). And what she said this particular time, after I was finished with my rant and close to the end of our conversation she said this, “Wow, you make me feel like anything is possible.”

Now, I realize that sounds like I am just bragging on myself for being a good motivational speaker, but I cannot take all the credit. I didn’t do anything too noble I just spoke truth in her life. When we hear the truth about who we are, after that little bit of pride dies down, we realize that maybe “anything” might be much more possible than we thought. This isn’t exactly the same thing as a parent saying to their kids, “You can be anything you want to be when you get older.” Parents say this to their kids to keep their imagination alive, which is good, but to an adult it can sound patronizing and unrealistic. No it’s more real than that. Taking the time to know someone, learn what they are passionate about, listening to what makes them sad, and what makes them righteously frustrated. They believe in them, push them into their uncertain passions, and they will realize that both their passions aren’t as dumb they thought, and they are closer than they think.

I think it is really easy to dismiss and criticize this sort of talk and encouragement as some sort of liberal-millennial-antinominalist-hippie crap. I know because even I dismiss the statement “anything is possible” because it sounds too good to be true, but that’s only because we don’t even really believe the things that are true about ourselves in the first place. When we start to live in these truths about who we are our outlook on reality is blown up; stuff that was impossible seems a lot closer to possible.

One of my greatest desires is to be that person for someone that helps them feel like anything is possible.

Why I Tell Stories and Eat Runny Eggs

 

When I was a kid I didn’t like the yolk of the egg and it seemed to be for no particular reason. Maybe it was the texture, or the taste, or the idea of something being different from the other part of the egg. But now, now I like the yolk. The yolk is almost my favorite part of the egg. In fact I have a preferential way I’d like it cooked. I prefer it runny and gooey, like if the egg were to be on a sandwich so it might bust-open and bleed into the rest of the sandwich. But as a boy I would carefully and surgically remove the yellow center so as not to contaminate the rest of my breakfast.

I am a very different person than I was when I was a child. Not that I think about it that often, and maybe I shouldn’t worry about it too much. But when I do, I start to ask questions about that which transpired and I think about why certain things played out the way they did, and when I start thinking about all that, I realize why I might start to like something like the yolk of the egg after years of avoiding it for so long. I get why I don’t play with toys anymore or why I like to listen to music and why it makes me cry sometimes. I know why I want people to feel loved in spite of the things they’ve done and the things they’ve been a part of. I know what it’s like to cry on the floor of a house with no one home, and I know why I want to be with someone when they are crying on their kitchen floor. I know it’s hard, because I know how it hurts. As a child I had very little deep pains and the yoke was my most daunting adversary, but as I’ve grown my experience has given me history and depth to my life.

I have little illusions that even in light of that which I do know there exist an endless supply of things I do not know, and many of those things I will never know. My knowledge is mostly of where I’ve been, what I have seen, and those things coupled with the people I have met culminating into sorts of a defining experiences. I am not saying that because of these “experiences” I am elevated in some sort of way any higher than the average 21 year old, but that those experiences have shaped my life in such a way, provoking me, almost forcefully, into a certain posture to care about people the way I care about myself. At least that is my hope. And in that, part of this posture of caring or investing into people is an invitation into vulnerable intimacy in order to build and nurture relationships, and one way to facilitate that sort of thing is by sharing stories and experiences- allowing people to know me so that they might feel so inclined to let themselves be known as well. I have little wealth or political influence, so my life and time is all I can truly offer to someone- and some might say even with all the money and power in the world it would still be more valuable to offer your time and self, considering no matter how much you work you cannot buy more time.

As boy it seemed easier to just leave the yoke out, I did not want to mix things up. I was a young creature of habit avoiding change and uncertainty, preserving myself comfortably and safely. The yolk doesn’t bother me anymore, because I am so woefully familiar with the mess and chaos of life I sort of hope to welcome it by sharing my thoughts and stories. The yoke now is almost an invitation to the mess of life. So I’d like to offer myself up to anyone who’d like to listen as I work through some things that I struggle with and share some things that have torn me up. Stories of what I’ve done wrong and stories of what I’ve done right.