Archive | March 2014

When I Find What I Find

At any given time, there will be a stack of recently purchased CD’s on my desk.  Some of them will be new to me, while others will be things I once owned, but traded in. Some will be records I borrowed from the library and, feeling a but guilty, finally bought hard copies. Often, I discover records I wanted to own years earlier, but didn’t have the money to buy, or groups from the 60’s and 70’s that my father introduced to me.

discsThis is the current stack. It represents three separate trips to the record store. Among the titles is a live record from Big Country that a friend burned for me. I found it for three dollars and couldn’t let it slip.

Another is a  live disc from Built to Spill, which includes a 20 minute cover of Cortez the Killer. I always seem to buy the live records last.

On one trip, I located a used copy of Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Live Rust, as well as a rare live record from The Mission.

When I go to Graywhale CD, I will ask the staff for recommendations. Last week, I was guided to a fantastic record by a band called Thou. Heavy stuff, but I often like it heavy.

I listen to each record at least once before putting them away. It is a simple routine, but one that serves me well. I upload the songs to iTunes, then stack the discs one after the other in the order I plan to listen to them. As I blog, write some ridiculous story, browse the same fifteen internet sites, I listen. Sometimes the songs blend into the background and I almost don’t recall hearing them. Other times, records and songs stand out, and I stop typing or reading. I love those moments. Usually, I share those songs.

There was a time when I thought sharing the music I liked was presumptuous. I worried that my friends and family would be annoyed. Then, one morning I had a personal moment of clarity. If the people I consider friends and family had zero interest in the things that were important to me, then maybe I needed different people in my life. They didn’t have to like the same things as I did, but if it bothered them that I wanted to share music or stories with them, it wasn’t on me to feel bad about it.

After that moment, the choices were easier. I write what I want to write and share it regardless. I hope people find it interesting. I share the music that inspires me. I hope it inspires others.

Have a great day.

Strayed

He woke up standing on the street corner across from the library. Small children rambled up and down the stairs, some sliding down the 100 year old bronze hand rail that separated the steps into two distinct sections: left and right, north and south, up and down, right and wrong. Teachers stood side by side, arms folded, on the landing near the wooden doors, unaffected by the sounds of chaos and happiness that careened up towards them and off the heavy stone walls. Unless someone was bleeding, everything was fine.

A couple wandered through the throng, dodging the unpredictable movements of boys and girls who were oblivious to anyone around them over the age of 12. The older man wore a smile,while his much younger partner let out machine gun laughs as he sidestepped one boy, only to collide with a girl darting in from the other side.

It was like waking from one dream, and finding yourself in another. His head hurt and something that resembled dried blood covered the knuckles on his right hand. Watching the scene unfold, he stood still on the sidewalk, unsure of how he found himself here. His last memory-putting Marsha to bed while Catherine put the dishes away. Some people called her Cathy, which bothered him. Her nickname was Nashville. She never went by Cathy, ever.

But that wasn’t really his last memory. Something else came into his mind as a school bus pulled up in front of the library and the teachers ushered their charges into orderly, but noisy lines, that one by one disappeared into the yellow and green of the bus. It was something Nashville said to him as he left Marsha’s room and turned back into the kitchen.

“I always wanted to ride the subway, alone, late at night, the sounds of the train on the track the only thing in my ears, and the dimming and brightening of the overhead lights making my vision unreliable. I imagine you there, in an adjacent car. You’re sitting against the left side, head back on the dirty glass, an etching of something vulgar directly over your head. I am unable to see you clearly through the partition separating the cars, but I can determine a few things-your hair is mostly brown, with flecks of gray, and your nose is slightly crooked. Your hands are soft and welcoming. The blue coat you are wearing is exactly like the one I have on. Somehow, I know you, you know me. As that realization comes to me, you stand and turn towards the doors that divide the two cars. I hear the click as you pull the handle and slide the first door open. For one moment, you are between spaces, disconnected and dissolved. The speed of the train car makes you wobble slightly and I worry you may fall. You regain balance, tangibility, and open the second door. The wind rushes in, a heavy smell, like history, blows in with you. Your eyes are bright blue and your leather bottomed shoes are scuffed and old. You step towards me. My heart races.”

Impossible to Understand

Sometimes, when I think about who I was as a teenager, I shake my head. That was one weird dude. He was likable enough, had good hair and great friends. I think he even managed to do some pretty amazing things at times. Still, teen aged Ryan spent a great deal of time being afraid. He was afraid of other people, places he was unfamiliar with. He was very afraid of his future, and did his best not to think about it much. Then again, he laughed more than he cried, which means he had more good days than bad ones. In the end, he was raised by good parents who let him be his own person.

teenThat’s me there, on the left. The handsome rogue on the right is one of my best friends, (still, to this day. How cool is that?) Joel Reynolds. This photo was taken just before we graduated from West Jordan High School. I remember feeling so damn grown up, like I had finally arrived. Funny, the things we think we understand. 

I am not the kind of person to swim in regret, and though I made my fair share of mistakes, all of them (along with my successes) brought me to this place, this me. I like this me. Then again, whose to say I wouldn’t like a different version of myself, one who made different decisions?

I wasted most of my educational opportunities in high school, choosing to be content with mediocrity. Because of that, I found my options significantly limited when I decided a university education was something I desired. I could attend the local community college, or nothing. I ended up really loving my community college experience, but I wish I had been able to choose between several options, rather than have one forced upon me. I think it set in my mind that I would always have limited options. That sort of thinking allowed me to believe I had to take the first jobs offered to me. When it came time to look for other sorts of work, I could never see myself as qualified for positions I really wanted. I worked blue collar jobs (which I don’t regret, they taught me valuable skills), because I thought no office would hire me. If Sheryl hadn’t convinced me to apply for the library job, I certainly would have missed out on that opportunity.

I watch my own children as they try to navigate through early adolescence. They tend to treat school the same way I did. Their grades are currently a great deal better than mine ever were, but they are below what they are capable of doing. Like everyone I have ever known, they exist under the same misguided belief. They cannot see beyond the current place they find themselves. Where they are, who they are, what they are doing, will always be this way. There is no future, just now. Sure, we all vaguely understand the concept of tomorrow. We may even think we know that years from now, things will be different than they are today, that we will all be older, changed, but I’m not convinced we really believe it.

If I could do one thing for my 15 year old self, it would be to give him a tiny glimpse of how temporary any particular moment really is. I like to believe if I could let him feel, even for ten seconds, how different he would be in a few short years, he might understand his present better.

Sometimes, I find myself talking to my boys, trying to convince them of this very thing. I tell them to not limit their opportunities by not giving their best efforts now. So much of their adult lives depend on the decisions they make today. They nod like they understand, but in their hearts, they believe tomorrow will be just like today. I don’t doubt they know what my words mean, but there are some things that only time teaches. I am certain my 65 year old self will look back at this blog, this moment and say, “If only you could take your own advice.”

I wish I could too.

Pulling

I took the dog to the Vet yesterday. She was due for her yearly teeth cleaning and wellness check. The good news, her blood work was normal, and she is in pretty good health, considering she is pushing 13. Sadly, she had to have a tooth removed. It did provide some funny moments. My poor Keyara, all doped up on morphine, wobbly and wandering, desperately looking for an exit from the terror of the doctors office. Somehow, she had the presence of mind to keep herself from peeing all over the floor. The moment we were outside, she let loose.

154I love this dog.

She has been through the wringer-Two complete knee reconstructions, had a tumor removed, her elbow stitched up after a mid afternoon brawl with our other dog, Sage.

When she was a puppy, she loved to chew stones. She broke off the tips of all her canines. It gives her a clever smile, if nothing else.

She used to play soccer with me in the back yard, pushing a flattened basketball about with her front paws and nose. Trying to get the ball by her was difficult. She could react quickly, throwing her body in the path of the ball.

She is slower now, less able to get around. She has arthritis in her elbows and hips, which makes her limp a bit, hop down stairs like a rabbit. Sometimes she looks so tired. She sleeps most of the day.

But, there are moments when she hears another dog outside, or maybe a knock at the door, and she is instantly ten years younger, bolting up the stairs, completely alert. She still gets excited, letting out a happy whine when I offer her treats, or mention the possibility of a walk.

Who knows, she may have five more years. I will be grateful for each of them.