Archive | May 2013

Making Memories.

The title of this post always reminds me of visiting NYC for the first time. Sheryl’s cousin, Meredith lived in the city and graciously gave up loads of her free time to show us about. Whenever we would go somewhere touristy and sometimes when we found amazingly odd things, she would say, ‘making memories’, in this perfectly honest and subtly snarky tone. Gosh, I love that girl.

Making memories and having music trigger them is a constant theme on this blog.

The first concert Sheryl and I attended was a Toad the Wet Sprocket show. She was 17 and it was her first rock show. It was my first concert after returning from the mission and though I had attended a few before leaving, I was still a novice at negotiating a show, even a mellow Toad show.

It was a Toad song my friend Nathan expertly played on the guitar that I sang along with in the ground floor apartment where Sheryl and spent the second year of our marriage. It was the first time I heard anyone play a song by a band I knew with any precision.

I took my father to see Toad play at Abravanel Hall. What a lovely place for any sort of show.

Back when people actually sent mail to one another, I would get fan club Christmas cards and tour update postcards from Toad. I still have some of them in a box of random things.  Their music has influenced me and though it often gets panned or dismissed, I still find them relevant.


Nightingale Song-This is the track Nathan and I worked on. So much fun.

Come Back Down-I find this sounds a bit haunting. Love the low-fi aspects of it.

Fly From Heaven-I like this live version. This song about family, religion and love has some personal relevance.

Whatever I Fear-Off the last studio album, which I like more years later.

Dam Would Break-A Glen Phillips live version of my absolute favorite Toad song. Lyrics here are quite good.



I am seeing a disturbing pattern. Former lovers, one after the other in succession, reappearing in my life. Friends and lovers come and go, some come again. Usually this flow is not quite so chronological. Everyone has circles with people who float in and out, and like spinning Venn diagrams, people move from one edge, outside your sphere, back to the intersection. But people are rarely static, falling into predicable patterns of where and when, even if their lives seem mundane, routine and very predictable to themselves.

I thought nothing of Marsha returning. We had dated for several years, most of which were wonderful. Even after an angry break-up where she promised never to think my name or face ever again, we calmed down, communicated through email and Christmas cards. That sort of thing never lingers for very long as life throws situations and people at us that constantly fill empty places. Marsha found my replacement before I found hers. After the third ignored email, I got the message.

Erica was different. Everything about our relationship was volatile, down to the permanent scratch marks on my shoulders. She left me because she was bored, which was her theme. Though I like to pretend her boredom was actually fear (the long line of exes seemed to confirm my suspicion), she proved me wrong by marrying the next in line.

I left Tricia (always ending in a), Rebecca and Hannah because I decided I wanted the next A more. Everyone is ashamed of some portion of their lives and the period after Erica was mine. Tricia wanted exclusivity (oh no) which is why I chose Rebecca, who was roommates with Hannah, who had an Eastern European accent and I couldn’t say no when she expertly used so many harsh consonants.

Not hard to comprehend, but after Hannah, I took some time to regroup, think, evaluate my life and the obviously horrendous choices I continued to make. I hung around near a place called depression, imagining all these bad relationships were the result of my obvious character flaws. I spent weeks doing little but going to work then coming home. I ate bad food, drank too much and found I had a taste for sleeping pills.

Marsha floated back first. I found her on Facebook one night during a guilt filled moment, wanting to make amends. She was married, two kids, seemed happy, lived within 20 miles of me. We met for coffee on a thirsty Thursday. The second sentence out of her mouth was “I’m so sorry I left you like that.” The first was either, ‘You look good’, or ‘I take the coffee black.’ It all muddies.

Within a week, Erica called me. “I have a two hour lay over. Wanna meet for lunch or something..” Which I did. “We all love airport food.” She looked the same. Short blonde hair, too much eye make up (I always loved that about her) and a skirt so short that it should have to go by another name. She put her hand on my knee several times. Fell into my shoulder laughing at least three times, and kept licking her upper lip in an uncomfortable way. When it was time for her to leave, we embraced and she traced circles on my neck, then left a too long kiss on my lips along with the revelation that she just left her husband. “He hated me as much as I hate okra.”

When I arrived home, I had a Facebook message from Marsha. Her husband had left her. Taken the kids and bolted back to Maine. She was devastated and could I call when I had the chance. I waited three days.

While I swam in this avalanche of devastated relationships, I discovered that Rebecca had been killed in a hiking accident in Spain. I felt the circles spinning with me swimming helplessly inside them. Marsha moved in (the second bedroom as she had ‘no time for relationships’ but needed some comfort), and Erica texted me photos of herself in various states of undress. My house was filled with smells from the past-lotions, body washes, and a smell like tangerine candy which I had forgotten followed Marsha everywhere, while my head was a jumble of mixed images of old and new Erica. There were never any words with her photos, just overdone emoticons or some xx and oo’s. I couldn’t sleep. I would lie in bed, certain I could hear Marsha moving breathing, and feeling like the cheating husband with nothing but Erica half nude in my head.

Making out with an all drunk Marsha the following Monday night did nothing to make things any easier.

I saw Tricia Tuesday morning, walking from the doughnut shop towards the park. At this point I was ready to acknowledge a devious, malicious, other-worldly being pulling strings. It took all my determination to let her walk away, though I could imagine her story. After me, she found the love of her life who had recently decided she wasn’t the love of his. Even I can’t ignore the patterns. Her blue dress, striped shirt, turned the corner and I let out the breath I had been holding. I was dizzy, deflated. I could feel the sweat running down my back and I completely forgot what had brought me out in the first place.

I stumbled home to find Marsha packing. “Thanks, really.” Tangerine everywhere, like I was trapped in an orchard of them. “I don’t think either of us really wants or needs this (pause), complication. We had our time. This isn’t it.” I said nothing, just did a great deal of nodding. She gave me an emotionless hug and a tiny kiss on the cheek. I wished her luck.

After she left, I sat on the sofa, flipping through Erica and shaking my head. Cycling had done wonders for her. Then the text came through. Yep, her husband had changed his mind. Apparently the taste of okra was hard to let go. “Delete the photos, love. It’s for the best.” I laughed a little, amazed at how much I wished I had followed Tricia into the park, when the phone rang in my hand.

“Richard?” Said a voice, heavy with Slovakian tones. My heart suddenly too loud in my ear.



Up then Down

patioSummer temperatures sneaked up on Salt Lake the past few days. Yesterday, for the mother’s day festivities, the temperature was in the high 80’s. Lucky for the family, Sheryl and I finally put up some inexpensive (but oh so clever) shades. The patio was ten degrees cooler than usual, making for an extremely comfortable afternoon.

Funny, we spent way too many afternoons sweltering out on that patio and making it cooler took less than an hour of work.  Lesson learned? Meh, I doubt it.

Because I don’t participate in winter, I am always glad for its departure.  This past winter will not be missed, but I have to say, the early appearance of 90 degree weather is  too much too soon.

I refuse to complain much, or let the weather pass by unused. Saturday was perfect for yard work and today was perfect for a walk in the park.

photoThe part of me that enjoys laziness tried to convince me it was too warm, that I would feel sick after only a few minutes out and about. I am embarrassed to say that part of me is often very convincing.

It works its magic in any extreme of temperature. Too cold to ride the bike, too hot, blah blah. I should tell it to shut up more often.

Today, I suckered Kat into walking with me. We both burn like worms on rocks so heavy sunscreen was a must.

And no mistake, it was hot, almost too much so. There were several runners, including one fella with the largest discrepancy between upper and lower body that I have seen in quite sometime. This guy clearly loves shoulder presses and finds squats cumbersome. Another poor fellow out walking his dog had the misfortune of colliding with a low hanging branch as he wandered into the shade. Is it so wrong to find humor in men over 70, cursing like the world will end if they stop?  My eyes ran with sweat and sunscreen, which is always unpleasant, but we kept walking. Three laps and a cloud of dust (or pollen, ugh) later and we called it quits. Still, that’s a good three miles.

Confession-The only time I really crave soda  is after being out in this sort of heat. After tennis, after riding, after walking, I have to really make myself not get a coke. I succeeded again today. Tiny victories.


So hot here in the sinking summer. August half way down and now we swelter among twelve thousand others, waiting, anticipating. They press into us and it makes me nervous, as usual, like any crowd. Someone will be angry, will push me around soon enough.

Which never happens.

Instead, I see her there, blue t shirt and faded denim skirt, sandals, which will not protect her feet from so much stomping once the music starts, once the band is all anyone cares about, but I will still think of her.

IMG_0939We speak, I am half hushed, afraid I am crossing a clear boundary. She was always untouchable in my head and though my heart has pined for her, my 17 year old body fears her like it fears almost everything, everyone. But she smiles and that frees me a little, asks how I am, how summer has been, how basketball is coming, which surprises me. She knows me, or at least about me. I ask her favorite band.

Later, when we are hand in hand, walking towards the cars, away from friends who certainly wonder what either of us sees in the other, she will lean in and whisper in my ear. I hear the happiness before I feel the chill.

Fun Ones

In the mood for something fun and fun to me often includes music. A while back I made a playlist for a party. That is always a delicate thing as you want the guests to enjoy your music. The songs  you choose set a theme and that theme sets a mood and that mood dictates the overall feel of the gathering. Think I’m crazy? Make a playlist of all heavy metal songs, then invite the church group over for brunch. Shudder to think!

Anyway, I wanted this party to be filled with laughter and smiles (as opposed to intense metaphysical and philosophical conversations, which would have required an entirely different set of songs, lots of jazz), and moments of “oh, not this song (laugh laugh laugh story as to why this song is oh so___)” and “YES! I love this one (story of why this song is so____).”  I pulled it off. It’s a gift.

Here are some of the songs I included. Feel free to use them at your own discretion. Make good choices, people.

Adam Ant-Strip (The video, man)

Toy Dolls-Olga, I Cannot (People know Nellie the Elephant, which I also used, but this song turns heads)

The Beautiful South-36D (No one thinks they know a Beautiful South song, then they remember this one)

Violent Femmes-American Music (A favorite of mine and it was my party)

Type O Negative-Cinnamon Girl (covers always make people stop and wonder)

2pac-California Love (Again, the video. Plus a rhyme with Elliot Ness gets props)

Prince-Raspberry Beret  (Oh yeah, Prince did have good songs)

Motley Crue-Kickstart My Heart (nothing brings out the hell yeah or the groan faster than a crue song)



Calm Like a…

Blissful morning and afternoon.

I woke to the ever increasing volume of the radio alarm. It seems I forgot to turn it down after listening to the iPod whilst doing some cleaning yesterday. I like waking to the radio, especially X96 talk radio. I have been listening to these cats for so many years, they feel like old pals. Usually, I will stay in bed, half asleep, half listening for a few minutes, letting my body wake up a bit more naturally. I pretend it makes me less tired and grumpy. The loud volume woke me right up and staying in bed seemed pointless.

Oats for breakfast, buried in half and half, brown sugar. Set up the coffeemaker and off to the shower. I love the scent of coffee brewing. It stirs the blood, the mind, the body. When I get out of the shower, dress and open the door to the living room, the house is filled with the pleasant coffee smell. That first cup…sigh.

The third is always the best.

Off to the desk and the daily paragraph (which has been nothing short of a brilliant idea). This morning, I wrote about a woman on the subway and her encounter with the same man, day after day. It is not finished (I love that something remains unfinished) so posting it is a while away. This is the third such instance, where a daily paragraph (or four) has sprouted into something of greater length. Without the pressure of expectation, it seems my brain actually has ideas (who knew).

Then I was off to meet Brooke for lunch. Eating burritos, swapping library stories (or tamales or Quesadillas, it’s all tortilla meat and cheese. Maybe some beans), to the point the server says “you don’t have to go”  then gives us the “but for the love of all that is holy, please go!” look.

I really enjoy spending time out and about with good friends. I need to do things like this more often.

streetThe weather has been odd. Pleasantly warm sunny mornings turning to thunder and rainy afternoons has been the trend all week (washing out three riding days. Do better).

Today was no exception. As I was crossing 300 south towards my beautiful 4Runner I caught a glimpse to the west. It demanded I take a photograph, then demanded I share it in multiple places.

The afternoon sky is beginning to clear and my boys are reading outside. I am pretty content and happy. I’m not about to let it all slip by without being grateful. Sheryl gets home soon. It can only get better.

It is a good day.

As Abstractions Go

A favorite poetry instructor gave her class some good advice.

“Poetry is a delicate thing. You are trying to impart a (hopefully) complex set of ideas in a very limited space. If you didn’t want to limit yourself, you would write fiction, or an essay, something with fewer limitations. Every word, every image, every phrase needs to earn its place in the poem. Be ruthless when it comes to editing. Avoid cliche, no one pays attention to it. It is weak writing. Avoid becoming too didactic, as preaching turns readers away. Besides, none of you are all that wise. Finally, never use words that are too abstract. They have far too many meanings, interpretations. These words include (but are certainly not limited to)-Beauty, Truth, Freedom, Reality.”

One student asked, “What if my cliche’ is used ironically?” She shook her head. The implication being-none of you are that talented of writers to pull that off (which was true).

But things are Beautiful, and some things are True, one person argued, which wasn’t the point.

I still think when it comes to writing (poetry, fiction, non-fiction), this is good advice. Edit your work repeatedly.  Avoid things that muddy ideas.  I believe once a writer puts something out to be consumed, she/he loses the right to say what it gets to mean to a reader. It makes sense then to do whatever one can(as an artist, writer, creator) to be as clear as possible.

These things carry over into more than writing.

What I always remember from this conversation, this class is the concept of individual interpretation. When I write words like Beauty or Truth, each of us conjures different images, ideas in our heads. Though many of us might share common things and if we made lists, some things would overlap, none of us agree on everything. The ocean is Beauty for me, while I think southern Wyoming is  the ugliest place on earth. Many would disagree.

How does the world look to someone who studies physics compared with someone like me, who is often scientifically illiterate? The nature of Reality is certainly fluid, less concrete than we imagine.

Truth-the ultimate abstraction.

The buzzword of the (three year old) decade (thanks to social media, I’d wager) is Freedom with a capital F. This word gets tossed about like everybody here, there and everywhere sees this word and says to themselves, “Yep, I get that, I understand that, and I agree.”  They don’t.

I have yet to meet two people who share the same idea when it comes to Freedom. I have also not met anyone who believes that any concept of Freedom comes without some personal responsibility or limitations (those limitations varying depending on the individual).

Most people think that while we should be free to say and think what we want, there are times and places where we must reign in our impulses. Shouting “Fire” in the crowded theater, when there is no fire, being one instance (what if I am being ironic?). These limitations are what allow us to exist in large groups. Imagine a culture where rather than a list of agreed social rules, everyone acted according to their desires or whims. I shoot my neighbor in the house to the west then his neighbor shoots me.


It is a difficult balance, with the will of the individual on one side, the needs of the larger culture on the other. We rarely get it right, with the weight shifting the scale one way or the other, depending on the decade, political climate. We are fickle and always want what we currently don’t have. More Freedom, more security (and yes, those things are opposites). Get out of my personal space, why weren’t you there when I was threatened?

Such uncertainty. “The center cannot hold.” Our lives are delicate and full of  self imposed trappings. We argue, we rant and rave about right and wrong. We should collapse. Yet we don’t. It’s astounding.

I would love to hear what you think.

P.S. That poem is my favorite.