Archive | February 2013

Because I Needed to Smile

Found my Jeep (Penelope) for sale. Made me a little sad to think of her waiting, but then pleased she was up for grabs. Such a great car.

After the past few days of me ranting (rant rant rant) about stuff I should most likely have kept my mouth shut about, I feel the need for something less serious, less controversial.

I started thinking about cleaning, which lead me to music (regularly on when I clean). When I sat down to type, Isis was on the iTunes, ready for listening, which always clears my head, sets me right. I remembered the times seeing them in concert, the heaviness of the sound and the almost trance like moments I shared. The most relaxed I have ever been at a concert.

Contrast that with seeing Erasure at the old Park West amphitheater. Nervous on the way up, nervous walking from the car to the gate. Nervous during the first act. Typical, always afraid of something, someone, usually without cause. Talking with her helped.

Still cant figure out why it took me another six months after this show to realize Andy Bell was gay. It really was a fantastic show.

I don’t even remember her name, only that she was a year older than me, just graduated, which usually meant I would be intimidated. I wasn’t. We flirted, nothing more, but it is a pleasant memory. Tiny touches bringing goose flesh and shudders. I am happy.


After a Few Pondering Hours

After I wrote and posted yesterdays blog, I spent some time wondering if maybe I had missed the mark. I read the article again and I still think I am spot on.


A friend of mine posted a different article taking about reasons certain Oscar night jokes were  minimizing women, dehumanizing them, and after reading it, I spent a good deal of time rethinking my argument.

Was I missing the point?

I am usually quick  to call BS on racism, sexism, homophobia, when I think it is hateful or misguided, not tolerating it in my home and personal interactions. I firmly believe women are still subject to a different set of rules than men, and fight to remedy that. Things are getting better, but there is still much to do.

Having spent a great deal of time as an undergraduate, studying feminist theory, agreeing with it, I understood exactly where this author was positioning herself. While this particular piece was leaps and bounds better (and more focused) than the New Yorker, with arguments centered on why the jokes were harmful, not just complaining they weren’t funny, I feel it suffers from wanting to be an indictment of Hollywood itself (which would be a much more interesting piece), rather than why MacFarlane ‘s misogyny is so egregious.

We get stats on how many more men than women won awards, of how few non-performance awards are given to women, percentages of academy voters who are male. All interesting and valid, all of which deserve notice and are very telling about the culture of Hollywood, yet none of this has anything to do with the host, or what he said.

In fact, we hear instead how the humor, though offensive, was actually not cutting edge.

“Women are nags, and Jews run Hollywood! Thank you, Seth MacFarlane, for this cutting-edge humor.”

I could argue the same for this article-“Women are seen as sexual objects and dehumanized by the patriarchy, thanks for the cutting-edge writing.”

This was supposed to be comedy. A time to take ourselves a bit less seriously. Funny for some, not for everyone.

My opinions-

“We saw your boobs” was humorous. None of the films or actors mentioned were diminished because of it. I may, in fact watch some of these movies, not to see bare breasts, but acting performances.

Saying MacFarlane doesn’t care what Salma Hayek says because she is so pretty, but leaving out his inclusion of Javier Bardem in that statement seems disingenuous; deliberately misleading at worst. He also made fun of himself, his art and films, the losers, pretentious Hollywood, the list goes on.

Both articles have a Glenn Beck moment where they draw chalk lines from a joke about ‘the orgy’ being at Jack Nicholson’s house to Polanski and child rape. Sure, it’s true, but really a bit of a stretch.

The conversation on the exclusion of women is an important one and should be the focus of the debate, not the obvious and frivolous jokes of an Oscar host.

I still consider myself a feminist, but these articles are overreactions.

Very Delicately

At one family dinner, over a game of Apples to Apples, an ongoing family joke was born.

The card was Anne Frank. Austen was choosing the winning answer. As he turned one over, he burst out laughing, declaring it the instant winner. The word was ‘woebegone’.

Most of the family, found this response equally hilarious. My father did not.

“That’s just not funny,” he said.

Austen replied, “What, too soon?”

“There are some things you just don’t joke about.”

Apparently Jewish girls who were victims of the Holocaust fall into that category.

Last night, at the Academy Awards, Seth MacFarlane hosted what some are calling a very misogynistic Oscar night. Here is one example from the New Yorker. To summarize, The night was full of ridiculous and childish humor, some focused on women. I am not going to dispute  some of the jokes were in poor taste, depending on perspective. Jokes about George Clooney liking much younger women, Chris Brown beating his girlfriend Rihanna, or women holding a grudge are certainly offensive to some, hilarious to others.

Perhaps I am misguided, but I did not sense any hateful intent behind the humor. Maybe that is what makes the difference for me.

The tone of the New Yorker blog says I am wrong. Some things just aren’t funny. What things are permanently off the table of comedy? Funny how the overused and expected joke about Abraham Lincoln was not too over the top for this article (“I would argue, however, that the actor who really got inside Lincoln’s head was John Wilkes Booth”), while jokes about boobies can only have one interpretation. Comedy with social commentary, implicit meaning,  is apparently dangerous, mean spirited and not to be tolerated.

We know that Daniel Day Lewis was not implying Meryl Streep looked mannish when he joked that Spielberg originally wanted her to play Lincoln, yet we are to take every joke from MacFarlane as evidence of his personal misogyny.

I found MacFarlane to be a good combination of smug, silly, childish, serious, and at times, professional. He was boyish and stupid, reflective and gracious.

Is  the problem the public forum for the comedic effort? I know I read far worse and inflammatory things last night while following certain people on Twitter. If you’re the least bit curious, check hashtags for  Kristen Stewart or Adele. Perhaps this type of comedy is only funny in small groups of friends and family, things we should laugh at in close company and never in public (To be fair, I bet the author of the blog never finds certain things funny, which is of course, absolutely fine.  My fear is this person thinks that any of us who might feel differently are degenerates who are clearly anti-Semitic and hate women).

Either everything is on the table or nothing is.  Individuals can choose (yes, it is a choice) to be offended, choose to write blogs, complain, throw their hands up in the air in disgust, but they do not get to tell the rest of us how to think or feel, or what we are allowed to laugh about.

Six Straight Decades.

David Bowie’s most boring moments are cooler than my most exciting.

Ok, I have no evidence that is true, but it is fun to imagine. As far back as I can remember, I have been a fan of Bowie. His musical vision is without equal and while he has found himself a part of the mainstream from time to time, I think that has more to do with the mainstream sliding towards him than Bowie trying to fit any trend.

With the release of his upcoming record, The Next Day, Bowie will have released at least one record in six straight decades. A seriously awesome accomplishment and one that speaks to his influence.

While it is very hard for me to pick a top ten or even a top twenty, there are songs that stand out and have the most relevance to me.

Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed– From Space Oddity. Threads of a signature sound are forming…

The Man Who Sold the World-Perhaps my favorite Bowie song, definitely tied with Heroes.

Where Have all the Good Times Gone– Fantastic cover of this Kinks classic.

Moonage Daydream-Classic Ziggy era song. The song writing is so fantastic here. Subtle acoustic guitars and a wonderful piano melody.

Life on Mars-Strings, strings, strings, and the heart melting piano.

Seven-From Hours. This song’s lyrics deserve some notice.

Heroes-Ok, this really is my favorite. Lyrics and music combining to send chills up and down my back. The radio edit fails on so many levels. This full length version let’s the emotion build to a proper climax.

Sunday-The older, mature Bowie Voice. Still powerful, still dangerous.

Where are We Now-The newest release. I am very excited to listen to this record. Bowie still has chops, still has something relevant to say. Few artists of his longevity can say this.



On Very Old Strings

Played guitar last evening with some friends. Music stands and instruments were everywhere. It has been a few years since I have played with anyone, especially in a setting like this one, where the intent is to collaborate, learn and share. I am always intimidated by the skill of other guitarists as I feel like a complete hack, with little knowledge and little technique, and while I cannot say I let that fear go, last night was a very positive experience.

A few hours before meeting these friends, I sat in my office (very near where I am typing this) and tried to warm my stiff little fingers, loosen the joints, fire up the callouses, anything to make my playing a bit smoother. I recalled a few fragments of songs I keep hoping will turn into something more substantial. While I enjoy how these small bits of music sound, I get stuck very easily, losing sight of where I want the song to move next. They get shelved, forgotten.

I played two of these fragments for my friends last evening.

That was nerve wracking. They really had no suggestions, but seemed to like the musical ideas.  I have always been more interested in making original music while most enjoy playing the songs of others.  Last night we did both, but it was clear the interest level was playing covers.

Still, sitting in the same room as other musicians, playing, fiddling, talking, I felt a connection, something I had forgotten about. Music is meant to be shared and even though we didn’t write anything fantastic, or even play anything very smoothly, we had a great time.

I hope to do it again soon.

Clearing Out

Took some time the other day, digging through old things, papers, memory books, photos and other riffraff  remnants. Always a jumble of memory and amazement when I root though old things that at best were meant to be ephemeral, but I couldn’t let them disappear.

Just before moving to our current home, Sheryl and I decided we needed to cut down on things littering our closets and storage space. Almost without thinking, she threw out a box of old awards and trophies. I grabbed a box containing high school folders filled with old assignments, class notes, papers and got rid of it . For pack-rats like us, that was a huge moment.

When I was more organized (or maybe had less things and organization was the default), most of this stuff was kept in different boxes. One box for high school things, another for early childhood stuff. I kept mission era letters in a large, clear plastic tub and mission memorabilia in an old suitcase. The letters remain in their tub but everything else has been pared down into one blue plastic storage bin.

This type of organization is great for saving space, but very hard on the memory. Going from item to item, time would skip a year or three, then a decade. I looked at an old photo from my first afternoon in New Hampshire, and knowing my own face pretty well, I saw the fear and nervous excitement I remember feeling. I should say this again, I have never once regretted serving as a missionary, regardless of my current feelings about religion, but those first few months were horrible. I was 19 and alone in the world for the first time. It was very striking to me to see in those eyes, evidence of the words I have written in a journal. The homesickness, the uncertainty, absolutely wishing I was somewhere else, wishing time away. Images from a few months later have happier eyes.

Next, I find an award from high school, followed by a picture of Sheryl and I in Oregon. My mind jumped from place to place, year to year, Ryan to Ryan so rapidly, I felt myself getting dizzy. Stacks of programs from high school dance company recitals (I had crushes, meh), Magazine clippings of favorite tennis players, graduation caps and tassels from three distinct ceremonies, hand made autograph books from 6th and 9th grade, day planners from the first three months of my mission (outlining each hour, each meeting, each moment), baby photos, images of my very young parents, very young me, programs from church services containing names I can’t put with faces, then names that strike at my center, nearly breaking my heart at how what matters so much can, as time passes, come to mean almost nothing .  All of this swimming in my head. I looked at each item, and though I intended to throw some things away, I put them all back where they belong.

Long, heavy sighs included.

I need a drink.




With a Second or Two of Regret

The first car I drove was a 1976 Ford Fairmont.  I was 15 and not legally supposed to be behind the wheel of any car. Unable to pass inspection, it had been sitting on the side of our West Jordan home for a year at least. Mom and dad were out, I knew where the keys were. Little brother and sister in the back seat, I turned the key and it started. Three speed standard transmission in first gear, and off I went. We drove around the block once, my heart in my throat, siblings laughing and loving every second. It was exhilarating and frightening.

I repeated this event several times on different occasions until a concerned neighbor informed the local clergy of my misdeeds. She should have told my parents, rather than a church leader, but people are cowards.

The first car I legally drove-1985 Chevrolet Citation. Power baby!

Most of my early driving was done behind the wheel of a 1970 Dodge Dart Swinger. Its claim to fame-driving me safely home after dodging my current girlfriends ex, who apparently wanted to cause me some harm. The V8 engine powered through a (just turned red) light, leaving that sucker in the dust.

I have personally owned-1985 Pontiac Grand Am, 1992 Geo Metro, 1991 Volkswagen Cabriolet, 2000 Honda Accord, 1999 Toyota Camry, 2004 Jeep Liberty, and as of yesterday, a 2010 Toyota 4Runner.

Every car has a specific memory associated with it.

The Grand Am cost 1500 dollars but was worth about 5 cents. It ran for no more than 21 consecutive days before needing a repair. The final nail-throwing a rod through the transmission. It was supposed to be the ‘hot ride’ for my first date with Sheryl. Some fuel sensor or other broke, leaving it unable to start. I drove my parents smashed up Oldsmobile instead.

The Metro was the first car to get named. Esmeralda didn’t have much get up, but she could go and go. One Presidents day weekend it drove Sheryl and I through a terrible blizzard on our way to Phoenix. I can still feel the white knuckle drive on I-70 as we were passing  freight trucks, carving fresh paths through a foot of snow. Her demise came in 1999 when her three cylinders became one. Sheryl misses her more than I do.

CabrioletThe Cabriolet, I called Maggie. It was the car of my dreams. Dark green and fun to drive,  we took it everywhere. This photo is of a favorite memory-Our drive to Canada. Long, straight roads and lots of laughter. Sheryl’s sister is sitting in the back.

I drove that car into the ground. When I let it go, it had more than fulfilled my expectations. I had always wanted a convertible, but grew tired of it after a while. The wind would blow through the roof in the winter and no matter how much I liked the top down, when it was over 90 outside, any stop was just a hot, sweaty mess.

We still own the Honda. Humphrey had 20 miles on him when we signed the papers. After 140,000 miles, it still feels new to us. Both Sheryl and I knew we were buying him the second we sat in the front seats. By far, the nicest car we had owned to that point, the leather seats, cruise control and cd player were luxuries our other cars never had.

Humphrey has been the vacation car for more than a decade. With five or more trips to Coeur d’Alene, at least that many to Phoenix, another to Portland, Oregon and a wonderful drive to Madison, Wisconsin, this car has been (still is) a champ. I have never worried about him breaking down or sliding off the road in snow or heavy rain. One year, coming home from the annual football trip to Phoenix, we encountered a blizzard just south of Flagstaff. Cars and trucks were all over the road. Some had slid into the median and a UPS truck found itself flipped on its side. Humphrey plowed through it all. I can admit to worrying about other cars sliding into us, but Humphrey never once felt out of control.

The Camry wasn’t around long enough for a proper name. We did dub him “old man car”, as that was his personality. We sold him to my brother, Dylan. He is still driving it.

We bought ‘old man car’ to replace the dying Maggie. I was excited at first, thinking OMC would rival Humphrey in comfort and performance. His downfall was he couldn’t measure up. Driving to visit family near Logan, OMC was unable to manage the canyon with the same ease as Humphrey. It wasn’t his fault, really. The 4 cylinder engine just couldn’t compare to the V6. My brother bought it 6 months later. I was glad to be rid of it.

LibertyKnowing I wanted something more like an SUV with a little more power than OMC, we used a fantastic deal from Sheryl’s employer to buy a brand new 2004 Jeep Liberty. Bright red, 5 speed standard transmission, bare bones jeep, it was quick and powerful. Off-road, it handled well and the turning radius was fabulous. The first 4×4 I have owned, it quickly became my favorite car, ever.  I knew when we bought Penelope, she would be my car for at least a decade, maybe longer.

Penelope drove us to pick up our two boys for the first time. I can still see their tiny buzzed heads, bobbing up and down in nervous excitement as they sat in the back seat, taking in all this drama that was their lives while tiny, high pitched voices telling story after story from the back seat.

Like they do, our boys have grown from those tiny 7 year old kids into 12 year-old- near- men. I recently noticed their knees pushing into the seats, not from inattention, but from just being bigger. Both Sheryl and I knew our family was outgrowing Penelope and we would have to make some choices.

Yesterday, Sheryl and I went to look at a 2003 Land Rover Discovery II at a local car dealer. It had low miles and we thought as it was bigger, and inexpensive, it could be our family car for a few more years while we saved some more money for a newer vehicle.  Sadly, it was not the answer.

Jerome was.

4RunnerHe certainly cost a great deal more, but gosh, he is pretty.

His back seat is very roomy and he has considerably more storage space than Penelope.

Again, once Sheryl and I sat in the front seats, we knew. This was our car.

So, after nine years, I swapped Penelope for Jerome. I have to admit, I was very sad when I gave the keys to the salesman.

I was more than ready to give up every other car I have owned, but still enjoyed driving Penelope. Though I know it is just a car, I felt like I was giving up on an old friend and leaving her to rot. When the dealer gave us a terrific trade in offer,  I felt better.  She would find a new home. Someone who would also appreciate her. Silly silly silly.
JeromeMy sadness lingers, but driving around in Jerome makes me feel better.

I am again sure we will own him for a decade or more. 4Runner’s tend to live forever and are always in high demand.  I am sure it won’t be long until I have a great story for him and he becomes my new all time favorite car.

Besides, look how happy he makes Sheryl and I.


What Sticks

When I first started writing-Big pictures and broad, grand strokes.

I chose poorly in wanting to only write large life altering, grand moments. When they were few and far between, I invented them, poorly. Too much of what could have been written, shared and explored lost in an insistence on stark, filtered light.

Part of growing as a writer, I guess.

Now I prefer small frames and shades of gray.

Entire stories existing in a simple moment. Choosing the blue shirt because it matches the brown pants. Coming out of a river on a summer day, covered in muck. In the coffee shop, ordering dark roast.  Pressing the bruise on my neck. The heaviness of the door when I walk out to get the paper. The beginning notes of  a song. Smell of cinnamon rolls on a Saturday morning. Opening a  window to let Autumn in. Driving  alone at night, windows down, nowhere in particular.

I wish I could convey it better, at a more fundamental level.

I wish it mattered to you, only because you matter to me.

What sticks first goes unnoticed.





Low saxophone vibration and your voice

mumbling half-sleep-talking phrases,

Is this what you want? But your

sleeping self forgets-I never want

anything-Yes please. Scrambled,

while teeth grind a symphony of

chipped enamel.


You Undress, then Dress, Get Ready for


A Pile of Saturated Imperfection,


I Adore, Fear, Anticipate.


Because it is not a dream.

Because your skin, always salty, invites .

Because I can’t think of one reason to not .

Because knowing never means learning restraint.

Because you wont say no.


Car slides off the highway, 007 soundtrack in the background, so well groomed, short hair and gunshot residue fingers still sticking, pulling imaginary triggers-click-click-click. Empty chambers. Misplaced shells. Crunching metal and plastic, an upside down scraping to a stand still-Silence. Through tumbling glass beads, I crawl out. Click. No pursuit.

In perceived distance, smoke rises. You will be waiting, tense but determined.


It was the strangest thing, Like

a memory, but not mine.

Twenty three year old song plays

on the jukebox in a corner cafe’

Where they serve fantastic

bacon and eggs on too small

plates, caked and crumbing.

You want breakfast.


Top Button of Your Jeans


Arms Above Your Head,


the Rise of One Hip,

then Another.


Already coming up with a story.

Already washing the brackishness from my mouth.

Already fabricating regret.

Already stumbling up stairs.

Already wondering when we will do this again?  


His shadow waits, avoiding the glare from streetlamps, passing cars, dog walkers. Weight of every decision pushing down, slipping from pockets and mutely, nimbly, caressing the grass. From your bedroom window drip his crumbling promises. Stains on carpet. Remorse-which is always empty, like your heart, like his gun.

Regardless, we fight through it, fight him. There will be no tenth part. I am still running towards you. Resolute.

Tell Your Secrets

I love Twitter. Some despise it. One person told me it was where 20 somethings liked to pat themselves on the back and butcher the English language.  I overheard someone call those of us that use and enjoy Twitter as among the most idiotic people on the planet.


Twitter is a social networking site where you “follow’ other Twitter members, seeing what they ‘tweet’ and responding or tweeting whatever you wish- in 144 characters or less. Part of the pull (and I have to put myself in this category) is many celebrities use Twitter. Some see it as a chance to connect and communicate directly with people they admire.

My experiences on Twitter have been good, bad, and very gray. I have been mocked, admired, questioned by people I have never met. I have been followed by porn bots, churches, marketing accounts, musicians, actors and good friends. My Twitter following history started with celebrities and sports figures. I  removed most celebrities, added musicians then deleted most sports figures and added friends along the way. I have used Twitter to share my thoughts on Library board meetings, movies I have seen, books I have read, places I have been, dreams, new music, random useless thoughts, this blog. I do not censor myself on Twitter nearly as often as I do on Facebook (or in my other interactions).

I have learned that we all tell the same joke, have the same questions, react very similarly, in certain situations. Many of us are petty, screaming for attention and being angry when we don’t receive what we think is deserved.

I have also watched writer, Neil Gaiman ask questions, hoping for inspiration and collaboration on stories he was writing, then seeing honest, poignant, clever, sometimes tragic, responses come in by the thousands.

Most important-I am learning the art of brevity. All the extra words I use, they don’t deserve space. Get to what matters, what you really want to say. I am starting to admire this trait in others.

I would like to say that knowledge has changed my writing, but here I sit, word 300+ and still going. Then again, I will edit this post, strip it down.  Who knows, by the time I publish this, it may be three sentences long.

Yeah, right.