“Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s face but their own.” ~ Jonathon Swift

“If you’re going to get into social criticism with absurdity and satire, you can’t be politically correct when you do that.” ~ John Cusack

Too good not to post:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Oh, for Fox Sake – Who’s the Biggest A**hole?, posted with vodpod

“There are mountainous, arduous days, up which one takes an infinite time to climb, and downward-sloping days which one can descend at full tilt, singing as one goes.” ~ Marcel Proust

“Les Tulipes,” by Pierre Auradon (c. 1950s)

“There are very few human beings who receive the truth, complete and staggering, by instant illumination. Most of them acquire it fragment by fragment, on a small scale, by successive developments, cellularly, like a laborious mosaic.” ~ Anaïs Nin, Journals of Anaïs Nin Volume 3

Monday, late afternoon. Hot and hazy.

"Arbre au Début du Printemps," by Pierra Auradon (ca. 1930)

I haven’t posted in a few days because, well, first I didn’t feel like it, and then I went on this cleaning binge in our bedroom. I’m halfway done, but my back has given out on me, too much bending and stretching. So instead of finishing the bedroom today, I’m sitting my butt in this comfortable chair and writing, that is, if Tillie will leave me alone long enough to get something done. Poor thing, never gets any attention.

Right.

Also, Eamonn has come home for a bit, so the room that is usually my workroom is now filled with black trash bags full of eldest son’s belongings. He says that it’s just temporary, but I’m not going to try to define temporary. It’s just nice to have him here for however long it will be.

What this means to the computer situation is anyone’s guess. After all, this computer that I’ve been using for a while is actually Eamonn’s desktop. Corey’s desktop in the dining room died several months ago, so both of us have been sharing this computer. My computer in our bedroom still needs to have the hard drive installed, which we were actually planning to take care of this summer. We may have to move up the plans to do that since once Eamonn is ensconced in this room, access to this computer will be nil.

After all, he is entitled to his privacy. He’s an adult, not my little boy, and I need to respect that. Corey and I did warn him, though, that this computer is on its last leg. It really needs to be wiped and then to have the essential programs reinstalled. Guess that’s on the list of things to do.

“Let me be something every minute of every hour of my life. Let me be gay; let me be sad. Let me be cold; let me be warm. Let me be hungry…have too much to eat. Let me be ragged or well dressed. Let me be sincere—be decietful. Let me be truthful; let me be a liar. Let me be honorable and let me sin. Only let me be something every blessed minute. And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is ever lost.” ~ Betty Smith

"Narcisses," by Pierre Auradon (1939)

Speaking of things to do . . .

Apparently, my blog stalker is still active. He/she is calling/e-mailing people and strongly suggesting that they take a look at my blog to see how insane I am, how dangerous I am.

At first, I was furious. Now, I just find it entertaining. I mean really? Dangerous? Bitch, please.

I may be a lot of things—sarcastic and snarky, bitchy and biting, moody and meandering—but dangerous?

This individual is also calling into question my parenting skills. Now this one has me baffled, really. I’ve raised three children to legal age. None of them has ever been arrested. Two are in college full time. I’ve given them basic life skills (they know how to clean, do laundry, cook a bit, manage a bank account, among other things). But more importantly, I have taught each of them the importance of being compassionate for the less fortunate, thoughtful towards those they love, and mindful of the laws of common decency.

I have instilled in them the ideas of truth, honor, and respect, and I know that I can say most assuredly, that if nothing else, each of my children has a kind and good heart.

That I have allowed them to go their own ways as individuals has not been easy; it’s never easy for a parent to first loosen and eventually cut the apron strings and to allow a child to break free. But this I have done.

Children need space and trust to become the people they are going to be. At a certain point, it is no longer about parenting full time; rather, it is about respecting that as a parent, you have done what you should and what you could, and then realizing that it’s no longer up to you as to what your child will be when he or she grows up.

“If most of us are ashamed of shabby clothes and shoddy furniture, let us be more ashamed of shabby ideas and shoddy philosophies . . . It would be a sad situation if the wrapper were better than the meat wrapped inside it.” ~ Albert Einstein

"Pivoine (peonies)," by Pierre Auradon (c. 1930s)

Has it been easy to stand by and watch Alexis floundering in her life? Most assuredly not. Do I want to step in and make everything okay for her? Of course I do. But is that in her best interest? No. If I do not allow my daughter to gain her own ground, if I continually make things easier or better for her, how will she ever learn to be strong? And how will she ever learn to respect her choices, to stand firm in her convictions? Does this mean that I do not love her with every fiber of my being, that I would not throw myself in front of danger to protect her? Need I even answer such questions.

I don’t agree with all of the choices that Eamonn has made, but I love him beyond breathing. And he is proving to be a capable young man, holding down a full-time job, planning a career. And Brett, too, is making great strides. He has been thrown into a situation for which he was not completely prepared, but he is showing grace under pressure, and I watch him day by day becoming stronger and more assertive.

These are all good things.

You birth your children, hold them close, sing them lullabies and read them stories. You salve their wounds, both physical and emotional. You feed them their vegetables and you make them brush their teeth. You take them to the doctor when they are ill, and you sit by their beds in the middle of the night when they have nightmares that seem too real. You buy them shoes to support their ankles as they learn to walk, and you buy warm winter coats. Do they always eat their vegetables? Do they always button their coats as they go outside for recess?

Of course not. If they did, they wouldn’t be children.

Are my children perfect? Dear god, don’t be silly. They have their faults, and they have their shortcomings. They have friends who I don’t particularly care for, and they do things that I don’t necessarily agree with—it’s called growing up, and it’s an ongoing process.

“Action is the thing. We are what we do and do not do.” ~ Ralph Ellison

"Pavées de la Rue," by Pierra Auradon (c. 1940s)

No one prepares a parent for those first few days after leaving the hospital. You stand there, looking down on this small creature with incredibly soft skin, and you wonder how all of this happened. I mean, how is it that you have been entrusted with the care of this incredibly beautiful, sometimes loud, and occasionally smelly little person? But it comes to you, day by day, and you grow together.

And the first time your child cries real tears, my, how your heart breaks. And the first time your child gets hurt, how you wish that kisses really did make things all better. And the first time your child looks at you and calls you mama or dada, you wonder how it is that your insides can feel like jelly and still stay inside of you.

Of course, the painful reality is that not everyone is cut out to be a parent. The statistics tell us that. For every child who grows up healthy and well-adjusted, how many children out there have gone to bed hungry? How many have cried themselves to sleep after being beaten? How many feel worthless because that’s all they have ever heard? How many never make it into double digits?

The world is actually a very scary, harsh place. It is up to us to make it safer for those we love, those who have been entrusted to our care. I have no patience for anyone who harms a child—physically or emotionally. I believe that such people should be locked up, or at the very least, have their parental rights rescinded.

Unfortunately, no one has to take a test or get a license to become a parent. And it is usually not until things have escalated that outsiders are brought in to try to fix the situation. These people, who are overworked and underpaid, cannot do it all. The courts cannot make everything right. And unfortunately, children slip through the proverbial cracks, but the pain they feel as a result is not proverbial. It is real.

I find it abhorrent that supposedly advanced societies do so little for the least among us, the children who have no voice.

“It is not the brains that matter most, but that which guides them—the character, the heart, generous qualities, progressive ideas.” ~Fyodor Dostoyevsky

"Tulipes Ouverte," by Pierre Auradon (c. 1940s)

I know. I know. I’m on another one of my soap boxes, but you have to understand that I simply cannot abide child abuse in any form. And the idea that I might be harmful or dangerous to a child, a young adult, or to any person is ludicrous, and quite frankly, insulting.

Right now, I’m simply biding my time. I am handling the situation in which I now find myself with all of the patience that I can muster. The young woman who has come under our care is flourishing: She laughs freely, and her conversation is intelligent and witty. She talks eagerly about her art, about school, about friends. I see little of the introverted, unsure young woman I was told about.

That’s not to say that she does not have moments in which she feels helpless against the forces that continue to assail her. But even in these moments I have seen a strength of character emerging. She demands that she not be coddled, that she be allowed to make her own choices.

I am standing back and simply allowing her to be. She does not need me to intervene, but I will if she asks. She does not need me to advise, but I do when she requests it. I do not judge as it is not my place to do so. Judging is for someone else.

In the meantime, I will keep my peace. For now. But only for now. It is simply not in my character to allow someone to continue to make defamatory statements about me, statements not based in fact, statements based on pure fantasy and conjecture. I will see to matters. Just not yet. Patience. Fortitude. My white whale will come to me.

More later. Peace.

Music by Mason Jennings, “The Light”

                   

“so that each day penetrates each night
so that each word runs to the other side of truth
so that each verse comes out of itself
and gives off its own light
so that each face leaning on a hand
sweats into the skin of the palm

So that this pen
changes into pure silence
I wanted to say into love”

~ Anna Kamienska, from “Transformation,” (trans. Grazyna Drabik and David Curzon)

Addendum to June 22 post . . .

Sorry, just couldn’t help myself when this came across my dash on tumblr . . .

“You will hear thunder and remember me, and think: she wanted storms.” ~ Anna Akhmatova

“The first revolution is when you change your mind about how you look at things and see that there might be another way to look at it that you have not been shown.” ~ Gil Scott-Heron

My Thursday gift to you . . .

“Ignorant free speech often works against the speaker. That is one of several reasons why it must be given rein instead of suppressed.” ~ Anna Quindlen

Oregon Coast 1 by russell.tomlin*

                   

“There is nothing more frightening than active ignorance.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Wednesday night. Still hot and humid.

Oregon Coast: Huge Surf 11-6-09 by russell.tomlin

First let me say that I have no idea what is going on with my fonts. Everything on my WordPress is smaller. The fonts on my dashboard are smaller, and the internal header sizes that I’ve been using for months are now smaller than before. Please let me know if my pages look funny, or if the formatting seems off.

Now on to other things . . .

I need to preface what I am about to write with a short background story: When I was in charge of the computer labs while teaching in the English department at ODU, I had a run-in with a colleague who had been a bit shirty with the students who worked for me. I fired off a memo to this colleague, and did not listen to my own inner voice, which said, calm yourself first.

We had a tiff. We got over it, but I felt terrible. I learned a valuable lesson: retorts need time to bake properly and should always be allowed to simmer for a while. Or as the old Klingon proverb states: “Revenge is a dish best served cold.”

However, this is actually not about revenge; this is about justice.

“I prefer tongue-tied knowledge to ignorant loquacity.” ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero

Sea Foam Explodes on the Oregon Coast by russell.tomlin

I recently learned that an acquaintance has been making disparaging remarks about me, using my blog as fodder in a smear campaign. Unfortunately, WordPress does not allow blocking of IP addresses, or I would have taken the simplest route. Having said that, I must admit to being a bit peeved that my own words, my precious, precious words were being taken out of context and undergoing armchair psychoanalysis.

Hmm . . . Things that make you go hmm . . .

When I decided to begin this blog, I knew that I was putting myself out there, so to speak, that I was inviting strangers in to take a peek at my life, that I was willingly subjecting myself to possible derision. For these reasons, I have held back (no, really, I have) on certain topics and certain events. Not everything should be open for perusal by anyone who happens to stop by. I have shared information about my family, its workings, its quirks, yet I have respected the privacy of each family member.

On a few occasions, I have written posts that I have deemed too personal, and I have made these posts private.

Occasionally, I have gotten a troll, and Akismet has protected me from a boatload of spam. But there is no protection from a virtual stalker—the individual who has no problem in appropriating sections of my life whole cloth, and then making of that cloth whatever he or she deems appropriate.

This simply will not do. Aside from the blatant bad manners of it all, what has happened borders on defamation. Trust me when I say that I hold my character quite dear, as should we all, and I will not tolerate an assassination of my character or that of any member of my family. Let’s just say cease and desist is now part of my researched vocabulary.

“If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain to be in peril.” ~ Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Big Surf Folds Over on the Oregon Coast 9-6-09 by russell.tomlin

But to be honest, what has me angrier than anything else is that I actually considered making my entire blog private for a bit, and I also considered the possibility of going on hiatus. I was going to allow myself to be cowed; I, who pride myself on my ability to reason intelligently, was going to allow this individual to affect my writing, nay to affect my life.

Nope. Sorry. I refuse to do so.

Nothing makes me angrier than when I get angry at myself, when I start to blame myself for things over which I have no control, and I certainly cannot, nor do I choose to control the actions of another person. Being the staunch believer in free will that I am, I must stand by my convictions, especially when I know that I have not acted inappropriately, that I have not broken any laws, that I have acted only in the best interests of those around me.

So, to be blunt, do with this what you will.

“Inflamed by greed, incensed by hate, confused by delusion, overcome by them, obsessed by mind, a man chooses for his own affliction, for others’ affliction, for the affliction of both and experiences pain and grief” ~ The Buddha

Five Layers of Movement by russell.tomlin

These things I will not do:

  • Stop writing out of fear of being misconstrued or in an attempt to calm waters that cannot be quelled.
  • Stand idly by whilst a human being—correction, any human being—is being cowed into submission.
  • Cease in speaking the truth, the truth as I see it, the truth as I know it.
  • Allow myself to write out of anger, nor will I censor myself so that I do not cause offense. Reading blogs is an entirely optional activity, that is the beauty of the Internet: the big X in the upper right hand corner that closes the page, thus ending the discourse.
  • Allow anyone to speak ill of my family under any circumstances.
  • Allow anyone to harm my family under any circumstances.
  • Tolerate personal, private information being disseminated in attempts to smear my good name.
  • Fall prey to the machinations of another individual.
  • Presume to know that which I cannot know; assume that everyone operates under the Golden Rule; resume my petty, vindictive streak which I have worked so hard to overcome.

“The ignorant mind, with its infinite afflictions, passions, and evils, is rooted in the three poisons: Greed, anger, and delusion.” ~ Bodhidharma

Yachats 10-9-09 by russell.tomlin

These things I vow to do:

  • Continue to be true to myself with no attempts to soft-sell myself or my beliefs.
  • Write and post my blogs as I feel the need.
  • Be a bit more mindful of the dangers that lurk in virtual reality.
  • Continue to work in my own way for truth, justice, and the common good.
  • Share information that I think my reading audience might find interesting, entertaining, or helpful.
  • Be true to my wit, my character, and my personae—both the real and the creative.
  • Remind myself not to allow negative external forces over which I have no control to affect me adversely.
  • Remember my Shakespeare: “That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain” (Hamlet I,v)
  • Kill them with kindness.

“Men best show their character in trifles, where they are not on their guard. It is in the simplest habits, that we often see the boundless egotism which pays no regard to the feelings of others and denies nothing to itself.” ~ Arthur Schopenhauer

No Fear by russell.tomlin

I have at my disposal two of the greatest weapons ever given to human kind: my mind and the truth. I have no need to lie or to stretch the truth to suit my needs. I have no desire to become embroiled in an imbroglio not of my making.

I may not have the desire, but that does not mean that I do not remain an estimable force. Having said that, at the end of the day, what I feel now more than any other emotion is pity.

As that old misogynist Nietzsche said, “one has clearly ceased to be an object of fear as soon as one is pitied.”

Music by Meredith Brooks . . . “Bitch”

                   

Hard Night

What words or harder gift
does the light require of me
carving from the dark
this difficult tree?

What place or farther peace
do I almost see
emerging from the night
and heart of me?

The sky whitens, goes on and on.
Fields wrinkle into rows
of cotton, go on and on.
Night like a fling of crows
disperses and is gone.

What song, what home,
what calm or one clarity
can I not quite come to,
never quite see:
this field, this sky, this tree.

~ Christian Wiman

*All images taken from Russell Tomlin’s photostream on Flickr. Many thanks.

“Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery, like the idle, curved tunnels of leaf miners on the face of a leaf.” ~Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Gate to the Sea

                   

“Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing.” ~ Meg Chittenden

Monday evening. Much cooler but still humid.

Ocean Archway, Amalfi Coast, Italy

Kind of a slow, sad day. Not exactly sure why, but I think that it has something to do with the disturbing dreams that I had last night. In one, I saw my father standing on the shore and fishing; I saw him so closely that I could see the little moles on his face, and then he disappeared.

Later, in another dream or perhaps the same one, I was at a funeral home, but it was a very unusual funeral home: they specialized in creating replicas of the dearly departed, and these replicas did things like talk or blink or in one case, had eyes that glowed. I kept trying to get out, but each door that I went through took me into yet another room filled with the macabre.

And then I was with my cousins on the Filipino side, and the youngest had stolen Caitlin’s soul. I was frantic, trying to get her to give back my daughter’s soul so that she could be at peace, but my cousin was possessed, and everyone turned against me, locked me in a bathroom, and I couldn’t make anyone see how wrong everything was.

Needless to say, I awoke with a killer headache, and to top it off, achy legs.

I read somewhere that people tend to remember 95 percent of their dream upon waking, and then with each subsequent minute, the dream fades very quickly, so why do the images from last night still haunt me?

“One could not say whether one goes on writing purely out of habit, or a craving for admiration, or because one knows not how to do anything other, or out of sheer wonderment, despair or outrage, any more than one could say whether writing renders one more perceptive or more insane.” ~ W. G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn

Saintes Maries de la Mer, France, kaneda99 (FCC)

Last night we had our combined Mother’s Day/Father’s Day/Anniversary dinner out. Sushi. So good. Brett and his friend Em came with us even though they had already eaten. Brett cannot resist sushi.

Even though everything was tasty, it was probably the longest that we have ever had to wait for our meal. Only one sushi chef was on duty. Still, everything was tasty.

We came home, and I collapsed in bed. I took three Seroquel last night, which is the dose that my doctor recommended; I’ve only been taking two at bedtime because this is yet another medication that can cause weight gain, so I’ve been trying to be pretty conservative with it. But last night I found myself chewing on my fingers, something I haven’t been doing for a while now, so I realized that for one night at least I needed to take more.

I slept very soundly, and perhaps that is why my dreams were so vivid. Who knows . . . I slept through two telephone calls this morning. I heard the phone somewhere in the distance, but I could not bring myself to get up to find it. This is not a great habit, but hey, at least I slept.

Eamonn came over for a while yesterday for Dad’s day. He gets along so well with Corey; they have a very comfortable relationship. I’m still trying to talk him into moving back here, at least for fall semester because it’s so important that he does well this fall so that he can get into the radiation technology program that he wants. I don’t know if he will come back, but I find myself missing him terribly.

Alexis texted last night. Big surprise there. If she couldn’t make it over for Mum’s Day, I really didn’t expect to see her yesterday. Still, it stings.

Corey brought me a card that he has kept all of these years; it’s an old Father’s Day card from Alexis in which she thanks him for being so supportive and telling him how glad that he is a part of our family. He looked at it wistfully, and I could tell that even though he didn’t say so, he was hurt.

“’I do adore music,’ she said. ‘It just seems to say all the things one can’t say oneself.’ She gave a nervous little laugh and looked from one to another with great benignity, as though she would like to say something but could not find the words in which to express it.” ~ Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out

To the Ocean by Brenda-Starr (FCC)

Truthfully, I think that part of my melancholy stems from the loss of Clarence Clemons. I know that Corey got tired of me playing “Jungleland” yesterday, but that sax solo is so full of emotion that I cannot help but get caught up in it.

So today I’m back to country music, which is also not helping the mood, but I need soft and soothing today.

I think that if Corey and I still went to karaoke it would actually help. Singing is one way for me to release emotions. Sitting here, just me and the computer, singing my heart out seems kind of counterproductive. The dogs seem to like it, so there’s that.

Music, writing, book-making, collages—these are my artistic outlets. I haven’t made a book in ages, and I’ve been mulling over making one for Brett. Now that I have a better idea as to his literary likes and dislikes, I think that I could put together something creative.

It’s funny, you know, but I made my first book years ago, when I was working at the museum. I took a blank book and pasted in pictures, odd paper scraps, and quotes. I made one for Dr. K when she was expecting her first baby. She loved it and said that I really should think about trying to commercialize it. I told her that I didn’t really think that there was a market for such a thing. Less than a year later, the whole scrapbook thing exploded in the marketplace.

Once again, another train missed. I don’t mind, though. Scrapbooks strike me as cookie cutter a bit; I know that some people create really striking visual products, but there are templates and pre-printed sheets; whereas my books are wholly individual: no one else has these pictures or these papers. I’ve made books for Alexis and for Corey. It never seemed like the kind of thing that Eamonn would like, so I didn’t make him one when he graduated. I wonder if I’m underestimating him.

“In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing.
About the dark times.” ~ Bertolt Brecht, “Motto,” from Poems: 1913-56, various translators

Walking to the Ocean by maureen_lederhos (FCC)

I have a confession: I have taken a strong dislike to e-mail. Don’t ask me why, but I find myself checking it only once a week, if that often. Perhaps it’s more of that hermit tendency in me, but e-mail, virtual mail isn’t real. I want paper. That and the fact that I get so many unwanted ad and pleas for money from someone I’ve never heard of. It’s virtual junk mail, and quite frankly, I  abhor it.

Corey is outside making home-made stakes for his sunflowers, which took a real beating in the last storm. He heard from his mom today that one of his aunts is willing to help us with airfare to Ohio for Chad’s wedding. That’s an unexpected but quite lovely gesture. Her entire family is like that—very thoughtful and giving.

Corey’s mom had offered to give me all of her sisters’ e-mail addresses for my Avon, but I just didn’t feel right about approaching them since I don’t see them often. I really don’t know if I will be continuing with the whole Avon venture as it seems to be a money pit as opposed to a money-maker. I’m certain that people who are very active and aggressive about it do very well. We all know that of the two, I am not very active. Hence, the standstill.

I hope everything works out that we can both go to Chad’s wedding as it will be nice to see everyone on such a happy occasion. I could do with a happy occasion or two.

“Artistic temperament sometimes seems a battleground, a dark angel of destruction and a bright angel of creativity wrestling. When the bright angel dominates, out comes a great work of art, a Michelangelo David or a Beethoven symphony.” ~ Madeleine L’Engle

Walk to the Ocean

You know, I probably should not write when I feel this way, when the melancholy threatens to overtake me at any minute, but this is precisely when I need to write, when the need is overpowering, the need to make real the words that are inside me.

One of the things that is making me ache is that the peripheral drama appears to be moving into high gear, and it’s hard to stand idly by, to bite my tongue, to remember that this is not my battle. My tendency to become embroiled in the battles of those I love and those for whom I feel a strong loyalty has taken me into the fray even when I pledged to stand apart.

I just find it hard to watch another person hurt, whatever the reason. I long to step in and say, “Here. Let me take that pain away.” But this is not possible. Witness my own daughter: no matter how much I long to make it so, I cannot help her to find her way, cannot help her to regain her footing in this vast world, a world that sometimes seems so completely unforgiving, so scornful of the weak, of the lost.

Too often, I lead with my heart instead of my head, and this is not always best, although sometimes it is the only way to go. Then, too, I find that I am still able to be surprised by the generosity of other people, people I have never met, people who have been out of my life for years who resurface and say, “Here. Let me help.”

“There are some things one remembers even though they may never have happened.” ~ Harold Pinter

Path to Nowhere, St. Agnes, Cornwall, by atoach (FCC)

In today’s virtual world, friendship has morphed into a page on the screen on which people list their current state of affairs, their immediate mindset, and missives that may have gone out to only a single friend in the past are now shot-gunned out to however many friends are listed on the side of the page. Close confidences are shared with everyone, almost as if the sharer longs for someone, anyone in the virtual sphere to respond and say, “I hear you.”

Like the paper letters I long for but will not receive, friendship seems to have changed its face with the continual evolution of the web. Who we are is not our icon, not our gravatar, if you will. Our online handle is a reflection of how we see ourselves but not necessarily who we are. With all of this, it is completely expected that we will get lost along the way, that we go through the wrong doors in our attempts to find the exit or the entrance.

And as a result, we have spawned a generation that will know little of the post office, of the possible beauty of a postage stamp. A generation that knows only fleetingly how to converse intimately. A generation that finds comfort in sharing everything, every scintilla of emotion, who knows nothing of self-censoring. We have a generation that is being raised knowing little of shared confidences because everything is shared.

You might find that an ironic statement coming from me, a self-proclaimed confessional writer, but trust me when I say that I know how to keep confidences. I have been told things that I have never revealed to another soul. I fear that this generation raised online will not understand the value of one-to-one sharing, the precious regard for heartfelt confession after a night of wine, and movies, and long conversation.

And this saddens me more than I can say.

More later. Peace.

Music by Kenny Chesney, “You Save Me.” For Corey.

                   

I Have Been Living

I have been living
closer to the ocean than I thought—
in a rocky cove thick with seaweed.

It pulls me down when I go wading.
Sometimes, to get back to land
takes everything that I have in me.

Sometimes, to get back to land
is the worst thing a person can do.
Meanwhile, we are dreaming:

The body is innocent.
She has never hurt me.
What we love flutters in us.

~ Jane Mead

“And the poets down here/Don’t write nothing at all/They just stand back and let it all be . . . ” From “Jungleland”

I just read the news that Clarence Clemons, 69, died yesterday as a result of complications from the stroke that he suffered last week. For those of you who don’t know, Clemons was The Big Man, the epic (at 6’5″, in the truest sense of the word) saxophone player in Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.

You might wonder why I would choose to write a post about this, but if you really knew me, you wouldn’t wonder at all.

Bruce Springsteen came into my life my senior year of high school. His song “Born to Run” spoke to us, the ones who were the outsiders, the ones who were not exactly in, the rebels—the tramps like us. I know that I played that tape at least a hundred times, probably two, in my orange VW bug, as Sarah and I rolled down the road, going wherever, on the way to school, on the way to football games, anywhere and everywhere. I beat out rhythms on my steering wheel and shouted out the 1-2-3-4 before the refrain. The album Born to Run was the backdrop to those heady days so full of drama and angst, love and loathing.

Springsteen, with his raspy voice and his motley crew of musicians, appealed to us exactly because they were scruffy, because they were tramps, because they sang and played with all of their heart. But most of all, they appealed to us because the lyrics to their songs were raw and hard and full of pent-up emotion. Even the seeming ballads, like “Jungleland,” had an edge to them—Rat and the unnamed girl:

And the poets down here
Don’t write nothing at all
They just stand back and let it all be
And in the quick of the night
They reach for their moment
And try to make an honest stand
But they wind up wounded
Not even dead
Tonight in Jungleland

I know that I’m not alone in my love for this band, for these musicians, for this music. I know that Springsteen’s songs would not have had the impact they had if not for the sax solos of the Norfolk native. Clemons added the heart and soul, and he took each song to a deeper place. I also know that The Big Man’s solo in “Jungleland” touches a chord in the hungry and the hunted, the visionaries, the lonely-hearted lovers, and the kids like shadows. I know that it still gets to me—every. single. time.

I saw Bruce and the Band twice in concert: Springsteen’s tight blue jeans and his torn off shirt sleeves and leather jacket, Clemons with his hat and his sax, Nils Lofgren and Steven Van Zandt and their head covers and electric guitars. It was perfect, and it went straight to my heart.

Even when Springsteen tried to go solo, he kept using his musicians when he cut albums, and eventually, thankfully, they all got back together to make the songs, to make sweet, sweet music. Springsteen may be The Boss, but he was always better with the boys, especially Clemons.

So when Clemons died yesterday, a piece of my past died with him. The E Street Band simply does not exist for me without The Big Man.

It’s hard when we lose family, and it’s hard when we lose friends. But like it or not, it’s also hard when we lose pieces of our past because they can never be regained. No matter how old Bruce and the boys got, they were still young to me. Unlike The Rolling Stones, or The Who, rockers who I have watched age gracelessly, lines drawn from too much booze and too many drugs, I have never seen Springsteen and the E Street Band as aging or aged. Sure the voice has gotten raspier, but the magic is still there.

Or at least it was, until yesterday.

Clarence lived a wonderful life. He carried within him a love of people that made them love him. He created a wondrous and extended family. He loved the saxophone, loved our fans and gave everything he had every night he stepped on stage. His loss is immeasurable and we are honored and thankful to have known him and had the opportunity to stand beside him for nearly forty years. He was my great friend, my partner and with Clarence at my side, my band and I were able to tell a story far deeper than those simply contained in our music. His life, his memory, and his love will live on in that story and in our band.

~ Bruce Springsteen

Rest in Peace Big Man.

And now, the best sax solo in history: “Jungleland” filmed at Hard Rock Calling, Hyde Park, London 2009

For a wonderful tribute to the iconic legend, read “The Big Man’s Impact,” by Jere Hester.

                   

Born to Run

In the day we sweat it out in the streets of a runaway American dream
At night we ride through mansions of glory in suicide machines
Sprung from cages out on highway 9,
Chrome wheeled, fuel injected
and steppin’ out over the line
Baby this town rips the bones from your back
It’s a death trap, it’s a suicide rap
We gotta get out while we’re young
‘Cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run

Wendy let me in I wanna be your friend
I want to guard your dreams and visions
Just wrap your legs ’round these velvet rims
and strap your hands across my engines
Together we could break this trap
We’ll run till we drop, baby we’ll never go back
Will you walk with me out on the wire
‘Cause baby I’m just a scared and lonely rider
But I gotta find out how it feels
I want to know if love is wild
girl I want to know if love is real

Beyond the Palace hemi-powered drones scream down the boulevard
The girls comb their hair in rearview mirrors
And the boys try to look so hard
The amusement park rises bold and stark
Kids are huddled on the beach in a mist
I wanna die with you Wendy on the streets tonight
In an everlasting kiss

The highway’s jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive
Everybody’s out on the run tonight
but there’s no place left to hide
Together Wendy we’ll live with the sadness
I’ll love you with all the madness in my soul
Someday girl I don’t know when
we’re gonna get to that place
Where we really want to go
and we’ll walk in the sun
But till then tramps like us
baby we were born to run