Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

And so the clock winds…and so the world turns…and, yet again, we slip softly (and loudly) from one year into the next.

This has been an…um…interesting (in the matter of the ancient Chinese saying I’m fond of quoting: “may you live in interesting times”, which is a delicious and subtle a curse as you might ever hope to find)…one in this quarter. In the world…in this country of mine…in the trials and tribulations, ups and downs, victories and losses that colored and shaped my own everyday existence.

2008 was filled with wonder and terror, joy and sadness, peace and passion, life and death and love and loss…for me and for all of us…and that is the way of things, the cycle of life in all of its wondrous, messy, awe-inspiring complexity and glory.

2009 dawns with the promise of new vistas to explore and new hopes to embrace: new chances to live and learn and prosper…new chances to be the best people that we can be.

And so the world turns…and the journey winds on into the unknowable future. And it’s all good.

Happy New Year, y’all.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Mom (a Christmas interlude)

Nobody in the joyfully-raucous gathering seemed to notice when she slipped away; they were too besotted with food and drink and laughter at oft-told jokes and remembrances to see her moving slowly but surely towards the front porch. The little children were playing with their new treasures and the bigger children were off to themselves sharing the things they didn’t care to share with either the little kids or the adults.

I waited a few moments and then I, similarly unnoticed, followed suit, slipping out into the crisp December night.

She was sitting in her rocking chair on the covered porch, her thin shoulders warmed by a shawl she had probably knitted herself; she was rocking idly and looking out at the bright lights decorating the homes down the lane of the small town she had called her home for so very many years.

“Mom?” I said. “Are you okay?”

My grandmother looked up at me her finely etched features…golden brown and striking…haloed in quiet fingers of soft moonlight and twinkling Christmas lights from the houses down the lane. Mom…everybody called her Mom…rarely smiled but her dark eyes never stopped twinkling (it was one of the more endearing things about her.)

“I’m fine, child,” she said, “I just wanted to get away from alla that ruckus and enjoy some quiet for a little while.” Feeling that I was intruding upon her quiet time, I was about to excuse myself but Mom patted the chair next to her rocker. “Come sit with me.”

Inside the extended assemblage of sons and daughters and nephews and nieces and grandchildren and great-grandchildren were embracing the Christmas night with loud laughter and the easy give and take that comes with shared blood and bonds of love and experience. Mom had spent two days cooking and baking and we were all full to almost bursting with the delectable results of her hard work.

I sat down next to her. My grandmother and I lived on different coasts and I rarely saw her but when I did I was always pleased to sit at the little table by the window (it looked out upon her expansive yard and her well-tended vegetable garden) in her kitchen and listen as she told amazing stories of her long and colorful life. I was very happy that I had come out for this Christmas.

“You must be tired,” I said.

Mom almost smiled. “Cooking for my family isn’t a chore, Buddy,” she said softly. She was the only one who called me “Buddy”…she was the only one was allowed to call me “Buddy”…it was a diminutive version of the nickname my father was best known by. “But I won’t mind getting upstairs to bed tonight…”

She put her thin but incredibly warm hands on top of mine. “I’m glad you came, child,” she said, her voice vaguely wistful, “we don’t get to see nearly enough of you.”

“Yes I know, ma’am,” I said sheepishly, feeling a bit guilty. Mom gave my hand a slight squeeze as if to dispel any such feelings.

We sat quietly for a few while.

“Your grandfather bought me this old chair,” she said. “When you were a little fella…couldn’t been no more than 2…this old chair was in the front room and every night after supper you would wait until you knew I was heading towards it and you would run like the devil and jump into my chair and sit their grinning from ear to ear.”

I’d heard this story many times but truthfully it never got old.

“Aw come on, Buddy’ I would say, let Mom have her chair. And you would laugh…copying the way your Grandfather laughed…that always tickled him no end…and you would get up and let me sit down.”

I smiled. “That doesn’t sound like me at all,” I teased.

Mom patted my hand and laughed softly, musically, lingering in the joy of the memory of me as a child so many years past. “It was just like you, child…you were such a scamp.”

I took in a measure of air…I lived in a huge city and the stillness of the small town Mom called home was something I never really got used to during my visits. “It’s nice here at Christmastime.”

“It’s nice here most of the time, Buddy,” she said serenely, “you city folk don’t have time to think…to time to just breathe.”

“Yes, ma’am,” I said with a chuckle, “you’re right about that.”

We sat quietly again, the laughter from inside the house drowned out by the stillness of the northeastern winter’s night.

I thought about Mom’s long life…more decades long than I would dare to attain myself…and all that she’d done as a woman and a girl, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a great-grandmother…and I felt both proud and humbled to know her…proud and humbled to have some of her vital life force flowing through my own soul. “Mom? You ever regret anything you’ve done in your life?” It was, I knew as soon as I had given voice to it, a silly question but it was too late to retract it.

Mom indulged in a small, patient, enigmatic smile. “Life’s too short for regrets, child,” she said, “you live your life…you do the best you can…and you let God sort out the rest. You hear me?”

I nodded. “Yes, ma’am.”

Slowly she rose to her feet and stretched. “It’s getting chilly out here, we’d best get back inside.”

I stood up and offered my arm; she smiled, ever so slightly, and looped her arm in mine and we moved, slowly but surely, across the porch towards the front door.

“Merry Christmas, Buddy,” she said, giving my arm an affectionate squeeze.

“Merry Christmas, Mom,” I said, taking in one last lungful of the brisk night air before I opened the door for her.

For Mom

- Michael K. “Buddy” Willis -

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Peace on Earth

It happened (it will happen) in late December…that moment. Babies recognized it first…babies and then little boys and girls…and it made them, each and every one of them, smile with unabashed delight.

Recognition spread slowly…but surely…across the span of ages and across the span of the blue-green globe…and it amazed them…each and every one of them…as the wonder of it sunk in.

It happened (it will happen) in late December…that lingering moment…a sublime whisper of heaven falling gracefully…amazingly… across the world we all call home.

Not one voice was raised in anger…not one hand was closed in a menacing fist…not one bullet tore through the yielding flesh of living being…not one tear went unnoticed or untended.

Not one child was crying…not one heart was broken…not one instant was regretted for lack of patience or accomplishment.

It happened…it will happen…in late December…a long moment filled with warm light and bright love.

In that moment…in that unimaginable, utterly thrilling moment…there was peace…peace on Earth…peace in every corner and in every heart all over the world.

It happened…it will happen…in late December…peace on Earth.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

a giving of thanks...

A giving of thanks…with heads bowed and hearts hopeful…

for the blessings of the universe,

for the dreams that dance with us eternally;

A giving of thanks…with peace and passion abounding…

for the blessings of the heart,

for humility in abundant times,

for strength in times of stress and travail;

A giving of thanks…with eyes raised and souls soaring…

for the spirits walking with us,

for the hopes coloring our days,

for the gifts of love and light and sweet laughter…

A giving of thanks…

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A Moment in Time

There are moments that history cannot…that history will not…deny; moments that are seared into our collective consciousness as citizens of America, as citizens of the world, as citizens of a universe wherein all things are possible.

The election of Senator Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States is such a moment.

It doesn’t matter if we supported him or if we didn’t, the power of the moment is, to my mind anyway, undeniable.

We know the story of his roots in Kansas and Kenya and Hawaii…the story of him being half black and half white, half African and half American…the story has resonance and the election…a moment that historians to come will point to as a significant point in the history of this country…has amazing resonance as well.

I have no idea how the Obama administration will rise or fall but however things unfold the power and significance of the moment will remain undiminished (it is, I will admit, a moment I had not really dared to dream would occur in my lifetime.)

There are moments…and this moment is heartening (and now it’s up to the next President and his administration to take that moment and move forward with it.)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Looking at the City

The city looked so peaceful from 12 stories up…a blanket of shimmering lights glowing golden in the crisp night air…a orderly jumble of movement across well-traveled avenues and byways…a soft symphony of imagined music and muted noise and rambunctious life wafting gracefully up from the Earth and out to the cosmos.

Sitting on the edge of the roof…on the edge of my world…I took it all in and let the blues shuffle off to wait for me elsewhere.

“What’re you doing?” a voice called out from the roof access door.

I frowned, annoyed at having my solitude sullied, and took a deep breath. “I’m looking at the city,” I said as curtly as I could without being unnecessarily rude (even in my annoyance I took pains to spare the feelings of other people…I’d never quite decided if that was an asset or a liability though I often leaned towards thinking of it as the latter.)

The newcomer’s steps edged closer. I didn’t know who he was and I really didn’t care, I just wanted him to go away. “It’s kinda dangerous sitting on the edge like that,” he said.

It was, I thought with forbearance, actually quite kind of him to be worried about the welfare of a stranger he imagined might be suicidal.

For a few moments a pregnant silence hung between us and then I said, “I’m not going to jump.”

The man stopped, weighing his relief against his disbelief, and waited for a couple of heartbeats. “Are you sure?” he asked finally.

I stopped myself from sighing out loud. “Quite sure,” I said. “If I jumped I would never get to look at the city at night again. That would be a damned shame.”

“It is beautiful,” he said, easing up closer to me. “But why do you have to sit on the edge like that?”

For some reason the question almost made me laugh but I refrained. “Where else would I sit?”

My question caught up unawares and he didn’t have a quick comeback.

“I’m not going to jump,” I repeated more emphatically, “I’m just looking at the city.”

He was, I was pretty sure, still not convinced about my intentions to see the next dawn. “Life is hard, friend…we can choose to deal with it…or to give up…”

I couldn’t suppress a rueful chuckle that time. “I’m sorry,” I said immediately after laughing. “I don’t disagree with you…life is a bitch but since I’m not sure of the alternative I’m in no hurry to leave it.” I paused and then added, “I’m just looking at the city…and the night sky…and trying to remind myself how insignificant my disappointments and failures are in the grander scheme of things…”

“Bad day?” he asked. He was next to me now but I didn’t turn to look at him.

“Bad year,” I said before I could censor myself. I prided myself on not taking my problems to others and the others in my life always seemed quite happy with that arrangement. “Happens to the best of us.”

“Want to talk about it?”

His concern was starting to irritate me. “Nope.”

“You sure?”

I turned to look him…his face was weathered and kindly...and he looked back expectantly. “What do you want me to say? That I have too many bills and not enough money? That I have so many dreams and almost no prospects? That love is fleeting and fickle and my heart is weary from all of it? That sometimes I want to shut myself in a dark room and make the world just go away?” I realized I was ranting and, quite embarrassed, I stopped and looked back out at the city.

“Something like that,” he replied without the slightest hint of sarcasm in his voice.

“Well there you go,” I said softly.

Silence fell between us again. “It’s getting a bit nippy up here,” he said hugging himself, “I’m going to go inside.”

Good, I thought. I said nothing.

“What are you going to do?”

I took in another deep breath of the admittedly brisk night air and let it out slowly. “I’m going to look at the city,” I said. “Maybe I’m going to feel sorry for myself if the mood strikes…” I let my words linger for a few moments and then added, “And then I’m going to go down to my bedroom and go to sleep and get up and start all over in the morning. Fair enough?”

It was his turn to sigh softly. “Fair enough,” he said, seemingly resolved to my lack of suicidal intention. “My name is Robert, by the way, I just moved into 715.”

“Christopher,” I replied, hoping the exchange of names might hasten his departure. “805.”

He moved away from me. “Good night, Christopher.”

“Good night, Robert.”

The roof access door opened and closed and the night…the city’s lights and muffled and imagined sounds…filled my senses again. I looked at the city…I looked into the night…and when fatigue started to take me, I pulled away from the edge and headed off the roof and downstairs to my apartment…to my life. Tomorrow would be another…maybe good, maybe not…day.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


It took a little while but we were both surprised to find laughter coming to us easily. Years ago we were almost something…but things happened and our paths diverged and we lost touch with each other…and now, through the most mercurial of happenstances, we were together again. Together just for an evening…but together just the same.

The lasagna was settling nicely in my belly and the wine was doing likewise in my head as we walked along the boardwalk. Our hands touched…and then tensed…and then, warily at first, intertwined.

“You remember the last time were out at this beach?”

I smiled patiently. Of course I remembered that night. “Yes, I remember it very, very well.”

“Being drunk and out at the beach at 3 AM is something that you might want to forget.”

We laughed, nervously and humidly, as the sea breezes shuddered through us. We walked onto the sand into the roaring darkness.

“It was about here I think,” I said pointing out towards the surf caressing the shore in the light of the lazy half-moon.

All those years ago when we were almost something we left David’s part feeling tipsy and silly and just adventurous enough to brave the dark night ocean on a summer’s night. We had kissed tentatively and then we’d thrown off all of our clothes and raced…hand in hand…into the icy water.

We frolicked in the icy water, laughing and kissing…night swimming…for a few long, amazing minutes. Then we swam back to shore and ran back onto the beach. We fell in the sand, our clothes as ramshackle blanket, and laughed.

Lying naked in a new moon’s light we had kissed again and then we laid back and looked up at the stars.

“We made love right here,” I said.

“We didn’t make love…we stayed on the sand until we were chilly enough and self-conscious enough to get dressed…”

“Yeah, I know,” I said with a grin, “but I created a whole other memory of that night that I quite liked and so I decided it was the true story…”

“…or at least the better story…”

“Yeah…maybe we should’ve…”

“…but we didn’t…”

I sighed wistfully. “No we didn’t…” I paused and looked out the water. “Well we’re here now…we could…”

There was a long pause. “No we could…but we shouldn’t…”

“Yeah,” I said knowing full well that the moment was back all those years ago and not here and now.

We held hands and listened to the surf until we were chilly enough and self-conscious enough to turn back to the boardwalk…back to the restaurant parking lot…back to our respective cars. We kissed…almost chastely…and then let our paths diverge once again.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Good Day

“We had some good times too, didn’t we?’

He smiled…nostalgically, humidly…and nodded. “Yes,” he agreed, “we did.”

“Then it was a good thing.”

He nodded again. It was an awkward coming together…they had once meant so much to each other…they had once shared secret smiles and tender kisses…they had once known each other’s bodies in ways that both thrilled and terrified them. And then…suddenly and not suddenly at all…they came apart in waves of acrimony and disappointment and regret.

“Do you ever think about me? Do you remember the good days?

He nodded yet again. “I remember lots of good days. We had lots of good days.”

“Which one was your favorite?”

He took a deep breath and then he smiled again. “The day the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame concert was broadcast. You remember that?”

“Yes. Yes of course I do.”

“We were alone together in that great old house you used to have…the one with all of the nooks and crannies and wonderful angles…with MTV playing the show loud and the two us laughing and drinking raspberry tea…and the two of us cooking side by side in our underwear…and the two of us tumbling in and out of your big, soft bed kissing and touching and discovering new and wonderful angles at which our naked bodies could fit together…”


“We heard only some of the concert…saw even less…and it was amazing. I’m not sure we were ever as utterly together as we were on that day. It was a good day.”

“Yes, it was a really good day.”

They laughed…remembering and regretting, almost but not quite touching each other…and luxuriated in the precious memory.

Monday, June 30, 2008

a summer's snapshot

There's a soft breeze making the stately trees in my front yard dance languidly...the sky is bright and blue...the doves and other birds are taking seeds from the feeders and water from the fountain.

In my backyard the tomatoes are ripening and the plum tree has given up its tartly-sweet bounty...the rosebushes are in bloom once again, colorfully celebrating their perfumed glory before they rest for the autumn and the winter.

I breathe deep the summer's air...I breathe deep the summer's magic and music...I breathe deep and smile acknowledging, for the upteenth (but most certainly not the last) time that it is a beautiful old world.

Namaste, y'all.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

150 Words: Father's Day

It’d been a long day and he was bone tired. It’d been an amazing day and he felt more alive…and more apprehensive…than he had ever felt before. Grace had arrived.

“Are we ready for this?” Kathleen, beatific despite her recent Herculean efforts, asked.

He looked up from the sleeping bundle in his hands and nodded. “I hope so.”

Kathleen sighed. “Me too,” she said stifling a well-deserved yawn. “She certainly picked a beautiful day for it anyway.”

He frowned and looked out the window. The gray clouds showed no signs of giving up their purchase on the Sunday sky and the rain continued to fall. “How so?” he asked handing Grace back to her mother.

Kathleen nestled Grace against her chest and smiled up at him. “It’s Father’s Day, Papa; Grace is definitely going to be her daddy’s girl.”

He smiled and sat on the edge of the bed. “Wow…”

Monday, May 05, 2008

a love story

A couple of years ago I met her in the Barnes and Noble in the mall in my neighborhood. It had started raining hard and we ended up sharing the same table at the Starbucks nook drinking hot chocolate and bonding over the fact that we’d both just bought the same novel. We talked for hours, long after the rain had stopped, and then we laughed at that. I bought her a burger at the Islands across the mall and we exchanged e-mail addresses after having spent 6 ½ hours together.

A few weeks and a few dozen e-mails later we went out to the movies…just as friends. Afterwards she kissed me and, despite a promise to myself that I wouldn’t do anything like that, I kissed her back.

A few weeks later she brushed past my misgivings and made herself at home in my company. She commandeered a drawer in my dresser and put a toothbrush, a robe, and some women’s stuff that I hadn’t seen since my divorce in my bathroom and, just like that, she was spending most weekends in my house.

A year or so later, she had a key and she had mingled some of her books and CDs with mine. I told her about growing up in the city, about getting married and having children and getting divorced; she told me about growing up with the wistful stories from her parents’ homeland, about straddling that old world they grew up in and the world they raised her in.

A few months ago, hurt and confused by my failure to commit, she challenged me to tell her that I didn’t love her. I couldn’t and she declared that we belonged together. I thought she might be right but I resolved not to let it happen anyway. The dance of emotional feints and shadows continued.

A week ago our push and pull exploded into our first real argument; seeing an opening I fanned the fire and she stormed out and didn’t come back. I wrote a long letter and sent it to her at her parents’ house.

It never occurred to me that she would just let it lie. I had hoped that she would…and I had hoped that she wouldn’t…hell I don’t know what I hoped she would do. Probably I wanted her to do exactly what she was doing.

She didn’t knock…she just used her key and exploded into the room. She slammed the door and stood there silently, hands on her shapely hips, her steel grey eyes blazing defiantly. I realized how very much I had missed her in that tense moment.

“Natasha,” I said softly. I held my place despite the fact that I wanted to rush over and sweep her up into my arms.

“Did you really think that I would just let you leave me without a fight?” she said with her voice taking on familiar overtones. I suppressed a smile…whenever Natasha got angry or excited her voice became colored with a version of her parents’ Russian accents, something I always found enormously endearing. “After all that we’ve gone through together did you really think I would just say ‘you’re right, we don’t belong together’? Did you seriously think I might do that no matter how mad I was?”

I took a deep breath. I hadn’t expected that my farewell letter…agonized over for so many hours…would be accepted without comment. “No,” I said, as ever unable to lie to her, “but I hoped you might.”

She rolled her eyes. “You should know me better than that, Gabriel,” she said with a hint of sadness in her voice.

I nodded. “I do.” I paused and then said, “The truth is that was…scared…to face you…to say what I said in that message out loud to you…”

Her face softened a bit. “You’re not afraid of anything…you’re certainly not afraid of me…”

I smiled patiently. “That’s not true, sweetheart.”

She relaxed her stance a bit and took a half step towards me. “I know that you love me and you know that I love you,” she said without a shadow of a doubt in her tone of voice, “so why are you trying to push me away?”

I took another deep breath and measured my response carefully. I looked at her and despite her anger she looked heartbreakingly vulnerable…heartbreakingly beautiful…heartbreakingly young.

I could never forget that Natasha was only 23…that she was 29 years younger than I was. All of my life I had found younger women to be too callow to merit serious romantic consideration...even most of my peers were found wanting…and thus I’d almost always made connections with women older than me. One year older or fifteen years older, I always found myself in the company of older women.

Until Natasha…until the dark-haired, grey-eyed girl whose vivaciousness and melancholy stabbed equally and deeply into my jaded heart came into my life. And despite the fact that sometimes I felt so very old when I was holding her, she moved me in ways I hadn’t ever really expected to experience.

“Tasha, you know why” I said with more of a catch in my voice than I had wanted to reveal, “I’m…look, pretty girl, you’ve got so much living to do…so much to experience…so much stuff to do that I’ve already done…” I couldn’t look into her eyes and say what I wanted to say. “You need to find someone who can keep up with you…someone to have babies with…someone to grow old with.” I looked into her eyes and smiled. “You need to be with someone who’s not older than your father…someone who doesn’t have children older that you are…”

Natasha stood staring for a long minute and then she cleared her throat. “Are you done?” I nodded. “That…was a load of crap,” she said evenly. “What I want is to be loved by you as much as I love you. What I want is to have babies with you…and if you don’t want to have babies then we won’t. I want to grow old with you.” She took a breath and another half-step. “What are you really worried about, Gabriel?” Her eyes were shining brightly, anger replaced with concern and passionate affection.

I shook my head. “I meant everything I said.”

“So this is you being all noble, eh?” she shot back.

“Not entirely,” I admitted. “I’m scared of how much I love you, Natasha. I’m scared of how much I love you and need you. I’m scared of your youth. I’m scared of waking up one day to find the love in your eyes replaced with pity and disgust…with the unspoken question of why you’ve tied your life to an old man…”

Her eyes glistened with unspent tears. “Gabriel,” she said, “I’m not going to let silly stuff like that tear us apart. I just won’t. All that we’re promised is now…the future is what we make it.” Sometimes she sounded like the young woman she was and other times, like this, she sounded wizened far beyond her years. “I’ve told you before that the only way I’m going away is if you can honestly…honestly… tell me that you don’t love me. Can you say that?”

I shook my head after another very long moment. “No,” I said in a small voice.

“Then we’re not done. Not now. Not ever if I have anything to say about it.” She held her head up those intense grey eyes waiting for my response.

My resolve…my fears and my so-called noble intentions…crumbled to dust. “What am I gonna do with you?”

“You’re gonna hold me and love me forever and ever,” she said without irony.

I nodded. “Sounds like a plan. Come here, girl.”

Natasha surged across the room and I swept her up into my arms; she wrapped her arms around my neck and her legs along my hips; I put my hands under her and held her securely. We kissed…almost shyly at first and then ardently; I held her close, greedily reacquainting myself with the sweet taste of her lips and the sweet perfume of her hair, the sweet warmth of her breasts against my chest and the sweet heat of her full body pressed so closely to mine.

“I love you, Natasha,” I said.

She nuzzled her head against my beard. “I know that, old man,” she said, “I know that.”

We held on, two people in love despite all of the reasons why they shouldn’t be.

In the next few minutes I would carry her to my bed…to our bed…and we would make love and then we would talk into the wee hours of the morning, talk as easily as we had on the first day that we met.

In the next few weeks, we would get engaged despite the freely-expressed misgivings of her parents and my children.

In the next few months, we would get married, her parents and my children in attendance despite their misgivings.

In the next few years, we would make a life and a daughter together.

In the next few decades we would grow old…together…and the light in her eyes would never turn to pity or disgust.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Tuesday 11:37 P.M.


Hi, it’s me. Did I wake you?

Nah, I was lying in bed reading. Are you okay?

Yeah… sure…

Wrong answer, try again.

I hate it when you do that.

No you don’t. You wouldn’t be calling this late unless something was troubling you. We could dance around or we could just cut to the chase. And you know which option you’re going to get from me. What’s wrong?

Nothing…everything…hell, I don’t know. I can’t seem to do anything right lately…everybody’s disappointed with me and half the time I haven’t the slightest idea why…

Well you called me…there’s something you’ve done right. And I’m not disappointed with you so you’re pretty much ahead of the game right there.

Hm. Yeah. Well, I was listening to that song…the one we decided was our song…

Kathy Mattea…yeah…

…yeah, I was listening to that song…over and over…and I kept thinking about you…

And so you finally decided to stop thinking and start talking. Good call.


Seriously, I am the best friend you have ever had…probably the best friend you will EVER have…I should always be your first call when you’re feeling blue.

I’ll keep that in mind.

Good, I don’t want to have to keep drumming that into your thick skull, it’s very exhausting. So, feeling better yet?

Oddly enough, I am. It’s starting to feel foolish to be moping about the things I’ve been moping about.

It should…self-pity is always foolish.

So glib and yet I love you anyway.

You can’t help yourself. I’m downright adorable…how could you not love me?

How indeed? “When the world outside my window goes insane, you’re here to remind me…

…a few good things remain.” Damn straight. You can still carry a tune, kiddo, so it’s not all bad…

Well, there’s that.

Look, you want to come over? I’ve got cocoa and graham crackers.

No, it’s late…and you have to be up earlier than I do…but thank you. Seriously, I really do love you.

Seriously, I really do know that. And despite the fact that you’re a part-time basket case, I love you too.

Well, there’s that then.

Yep, there’s that.

I’ll call you tomorrow. Good night, you.

Good night, you.

* * * * *

lyric excerpt:
"A Few Good Things Remain"
words & music by Jon Vezner & Pat Alger
as performed by Kathy Mattea (see below)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

You Made Me Smile

You held my hand when the world was a huge, overwhelming place.
You smiled at my jokes even when they weren’t remotely funny.
You danced with me…you sang to me…you made me privy to your dreams…
You made me smile.

You called me baby. You called me papa. You called me out.
You called me friend. You called me lover.
You called me when you needed a caring heart to shelter yours.

You held me close when the world was a dark and stormy place.
You kissed me back when my passion bade me to melt into you.
You walked with me…you stood by me…you let down your intimate shields…
You made me smile.

- for everyone who recognizes themselves somewhere in these words
(and especially for those who don't) -

It's my birthday too, yeah!

It's my birthday and I'm an unabashed fan of birthdays (especially mine) so crank up the's the Beatles, of course... and do a little long distance rock and roll celebrating with me!

Namaste, y'all.

Monday, March 10, 2008

I Thought About Brenda Today

I thought about Brenda today. This doesn’t happen everyday but it does still happen often enough to make the connection between us…as tenuous as it is these days…still feel real. Well, to an extent, anyway.

Once upon a time we were thick as thieves, friends who each other’s first calls at times of joy and, especially, each other’s first calls at times of travail (large and small.)

Once upon a time, we saw each other through new loves and tumultuous loves and broken loves…safe havens in those most stormy of seas.

Once upon a time we were as close as two people who were not…and, because it was outside the realm of our relationship, were never going to be…be lovers could hope to be…sharing mundane concerns and fanciful imaginings with no fear of mocking judgment.

Once upon a time, we folded into each other with patient ears, open hearts, and unselfconscious laughter, tears, and shy but undeniable tenderness.

Once upon a time…that time when stories (good, bad, and indifferent…real and imagined) begin and end…we were. And then…time and distance and circumstance conspired (with our compliance)…we were no longer.

But still…at random moments and from random angles…I think about Brenda…her quick wit, her fair beauty, her intense Irish eyes, her bright joys, her soft melancholies…and thinking about her soothes me in bittersweet, undeniable ways.

So I thought about Brenda today…missing her and feeling connected (however tenuously) to her at the selfsame time…and it made me smile.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

150 Words: It Was Just the Night

It was just the night…the knowing yellow moon, the sparkling impish stars, the majestic gently roiling sea…and us. We walked along the beach…hand entwined with hand, heart entwined with heart…and we imagined…we knew…that, in that tender moment at least, the entirety of the vast blessed world contained no one but us.

It was just the night…a warm blanket in the sand, the serene jazz of waves against the shore, soft golden moonlight dancing on naked skin…and us. We warmed each other…young lovers not so young anymore but still, oh yes still, so very much in love…with passionate kisses and rapturously arousing embraces.

It was just the night…the boundless expanse of the ebon heavens as witness, the beating of our hearts as guides, the sweet fire of our touching as tender reward…and us. It was just us…alone, together, two as one…alone, together, in the bright blessed world…just us and the night.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Legend of Larry

Larry constantly told transparent, unnecessary lies; lies as answers to questions that were never going to be asked. It was, as those who came to know him quickly realized, something reflexive…something born out of some need to keep his cards close to his chest even when there wasn’t a game being played.

Most of the people who knew Larry (he didn’t really have friends…chronic lying tends to make the retention of intimate friendship an iffy proposition at best) accepted it with resigned shrugs and barely concealed nods of disbelief and left him to inhabit his own insular world as much as possible.

Larry wasn’t a bad guy…but his addiction to almost ceaseless prevarication and its seemingly attendant furtive habits made him a guy people didn’t want to know too deeply. And, of course, nobody knew who Larry was…his colorful tales of his many exotic adventures and steamy romantic conquests throughout his 60+ years of life rewrote themselves with regularity depending on the occasion…and the audience…and the amount of wine Larry had “secretly” imbibed throughout the given day.

Larry had two (or was it three) ex-wives with whom he was still friends with and two to six children (none of whom apparently celebrated Father’s Day); he also had any number of beautiful, sexy ladies who, to hear him tell it so earnestly, longed to be the next Mrs. Larry.

It was, the people who knew him supposed, a gentler madness and they listened to the stories with a bare minimum of attention paid. And that, seemingly, was more than enough for Larry.

Sometimes late at night Larry, deep in his cups, would reach out…with plaintive phone calls and hopeful e-mails…looking for a sympathetic heart to give him some measure of shelter; he never found one. Failing that, he took solace in the company of more wine, fair weather folk willing to take advantage of his wide-eyed neediness, and women whose affections could be negotiated on an hourly basis.

It took a little while for people to notice when Larry disappeared. Nobody seemed to know where he went…nobody seemed to know if he was dead or alive…Larry was just gone, without a word and without a trace.

Every once in a while, Larry’s name would come up in conversation and the speculation would often become quite fanciful. In his absence, the legend of Larry grew and the fact that he wasn’t around became oddly poignant…it was a quite unexpected void…and Larry, wherever he was and whatever he was doing, must have really liked that.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Mary wanted to be a superwoman. Well, we were just children when we knew each other so I guess she wanted to be a supergirl. My friend Mary was a beautiful tomboy…with long dark hair and dark sparkling eyes (their light as often guarded and pensive as it was bright and smiling) and smooth tan skin that paid proud testimony to her Mexican heritage…just one of the guys who didn’t seem to realize that she was well into the process of blossoming into a breathtaking woman.

I, of course, had an unspoken crush on her. Nothing, I convinced myself, would come of it…I was a year younger than her, not to mention shy and chubby, and she…she was a coltish goddess…but I luxuriated in the intoxication of “loving” her with the silent passion of the young would-be poet that I was.

My family…my mother, my brother, and I…and Mary’s family…her mother, her stepfather (though, to be honest, I’m not sure they were actually married), her older sisters, and her little brother…lived in a duplex in South-Central Los Angeles (back then a great neighborhood, we were within walking distance of USC, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, some amazing museums, and a big library.) My family was upstairs, hers was downstairs.

Mary often hung out with us guys…joining us on our “adventures” and actively sharing in our boyish dares. I still vividly remember that day that she took the dare to leap off the roof of the duplex down to the lawn; the roof slanted down and the distance wasn’t that far but it still seemed like a bad idea to me. I shared my misgivings with Mary but she just gave me a jaunty wink and told me not to fret so much.

I remember Mary up on the edge of the roof, hesitating while looking down while the other guys egged her on. And then she jumped and for a painfully long moment time stopped as I watched her plummet to the lawn with gangly grace. Mary hit the ground with a dull thump and then she was still. The guys went still and quiet. I raced to her side as her sister came out of the house to see what was going on. She wasn’t really hurt… she just had the wind knocked out of her. I helped Mary to her feet while her sister screamed at her for doing something so stupid and screamed at us for encouraging her to do it.

Mary, for her part, winked at me and whispered…”told you I could do it”. I just nodded, loving her all the more while, at the same time, wanting to protect her from her impulse to take dares in an effort to be one of the “guys”. Mary’s sister sent her into the house and sent us guys away.

Mary’s family moved out of the duplex and my family moved across town into our own house (a house my mother still lives in all these years later.) Eventually the two families lost touch.

I know, without a doubt, that Mary turned into a beautiful woman. I hope, with all my heart, that Mary found someone who appreciated her…that she had the beautiful babies that, in her rare reflective moments, she admitted to wanting to have and raise and love with all of her expansive heart.

I’m not sure why Mary has come to mind of late…it’s been a long while since I thought of her so vividly…but I hope that she is indeed happy and well and fulfilled wherever life has taken her.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


The air was thick and steamy; it clung to Chloe’s naked body like a humid shroud. She hated the heat…she hated the nights so swampy that it was impossible for her to sleep. She even hated, if only idly and without true rancor, the steady drone of Peter’s husky snore. It both amazed and annoyed her that Peter could sleep so easily when she couldn’t sleep at all.

In the languid moonlight, Chloe leaned on one elbow, her breasts glistening in the pale golden glow and her dark hair lying limply behind her, and watched Peter sleeping. Peter was all rough-cut curves and hirsute masculinity from the top of his big head to his soft black beard…from his fireplug neck to his barrel chest…from his hard belly to his casually insolent sex to his thick, sturdy thighs; Chloe adored him still and always…he made her feel tiny and protected and deliriously overwhelmed when he touched her…but she still felt irrationally jealous of his ability to sleep through the sweltering.

She resisted the urge to touch him…to snuggle into that place in his strong embrace that belonged only to her…the heat Peter was radiating was palpable even through the thick air and she didn’t need or want that.

Chloe sighed and sank into her pillow turning away from Peter. Peter stirred and the sound coming from him stopped for a moment…and then he sighed as well, deeply and with satisfaction, and he began to snore again.

Chloe closed her eyes and tried to force herself to quit the hellish waking night for the cooler realms of the dreaming world. It didn’t work. She rolled over and looked at the man again. “How can you sleep when I can’t?’ she asked in a small whisper, a bit accusingly but mostly with admiration and love.

Peter stirred again, his massive arm flopping over in her direction.

Chloe laughed and reached out and touched his hand. She closed her eyes again and, feeling Peter’s steady pulse dancing through her fingerprints, she defied the heat and found her way into the dreaming world at last.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I Thought of You Today

I thought of you today...
and that thought surprised me
in subtle, delightful, bittersweet ways.

I imagine the years have been kind to you…
they could, in my most heartfelt beliefs,
do nothing less.

I imagine that you’re happy…
warmed by seasoned passion…
enveloped in the safe haven of strong, tender arms.

I imagine, somewhat foolishly and wistfully,
that, every once in a blue moon,
you think of me not unkindly,
not without a whisper of a humid smile.

I thought of you today…
and that thought made me smile

happily, ruefully,
oh so tenderly.

Monday, February 11, 2008

150 Words: Letting Go

She bid him to close his eyes; he complied. He trusted her completely.

She touched him, gossamer glances warming his flesh, and the darkness before his eyes morphed, a soft symphony of entrancing color.

“Keep your eyes closed,” she said gently, knowing that his impulse was to open them and look into her own fathomless eyes.

She touched him, fleetingly, and the color took more vivid aspect. He held his breath as every fiber of his being sparked with energy so sweet it was almost painful.

“I want you to listen to me,” she said, her hand lingering on him. “Will you do that?”

He nodded…his eyes closed, his breath held, his being sparking. “What do you want me to do?” he said, somehow finding voice.

She leaned close, her breath soft and intoxicating against his ear, and sighed. “Let go.”

And, falling willingly into a warm abyss, he did.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Making Renee Cry

When I was 11 I made a girl named Renee cry. It was purposeful thing and, briefly, I took smug satisfaction in the deed. The thing was that I liked Renee…a lot…and she didn’t seem to like me…at all.

At 11 I didn’t know quite what to do with what I would come to learn was an often recurring fact of life so I did the only thing I could think to do…I made Renee cry.

I don’t remember exactly what I said…to be honest I’m not sure that the portrait I have of Renee in my memory is accurate (it very probably is not)…but I remember that it worked.

And for a very short while I felt vindicated.

And then I felt worse…I felt like an utter bastard…and I desperately wanted to apologize…but I didn’t know how.

And so, sadly, I never did.

It should go without saying that Renee avoided me like the plague for the rest of the semester (and then she moved away.)

When I was 14 I deliberately snubbed my best friend Bobby. We were having an argument over an argument that Bobby and my brother Guy had engaged in…I had taken my brother’s part and Bobby and I stopped speaking.

The strange thing was that at the time I liked Bobby…who was like a brother to me (the short white R&B loving brother my mother could never have possibly produced)…a lot more than I liked Guy…who was a pain in the ass most of the time…and Guy was in the wrong in his argument with Bobby…and yet I still took my brother’s part. Family is a strange and paradoxical thing sometimes.

Bobby and I found our way back to each other…brothers again until time, distance, and circumstance pulled us apart once and for all…but I don’t remember ever making an explicit apology for my behavior (or, for that matter, wanting or needing an apology for his contributions to our estrangement.)

Over the years I have delivered slights…real and imagined…to people I care about, to people I loved and respected and cherished.

I like to think that I have gotten much better at making apologies when I am in the wrong.

Though, I know all too well, I am as stubborn as ever when it comes to not making apologies if I don’t think I’m in the wrong. There are those…and they know who they are…who think that I am a willful son of a bitch for this.

And maybe they’re right.

Though, in my heart of hearts, I don’t think so :-)

Namaste, y’all.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A Moment of Grace

Emergency rooms in real life are nothing like they are on television shows. On TV, things are fast paced and injured people are whisked into rooms where harried but dedicated doctors work their magic while shouting out stuff like “stat!”

In real life, emergency rooms are a whole lot of sitting around and waiting. Granted, big city ERs…like the one I found myself in this past Sunday…have lots of people to deal with and they have to prioritize…frankly I just wish that my infected finger had been a high enough priority so that I didn’t have to sit in the waiting room for four hours (A&E was showing a Godfather marathon so I got to watch the end of Part 2 and a large chunk of Part 3) and sit in the examination room for another three hours waiting for a doctor to come take a look at my throbbing, swelling digit and decide that I needed to be admitted.

That said, the waiting room stay was warmed by a precious moment of grace: a little Latina (she couldn’t have been more than 2, there with her family waiting for someone to come out…none of them spoke English) came over and took my finger (it had been bandaged at my first stop at an “urgent care” clinic) and patted it gently and looked up at me with big brown eyes full of precocious wisdom and compassion as if to say “everything will be okay.” Just then the billing department called me in to check my insurance card and when I came out the family was gone.

The finger required surgery and two rest-broken nights in the hospital (the heavily bandaged finger…the middle finger of my left hand…is making it something of an adventure to type…you never realize how much you use something like that until you can’t.

I’m home with powerful antibiotics and enormous gratitude that I can sleep in my own bed…where well-meaning people won’t be waking me up every two hours to check vitals, change IVs, or administer shots…it’s all good.