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Fred, mother, Chaco, Queen of England etc.

Posted by on Apr 16, 2019 in Blog | 0 comments

When Fred was with us at Lake Morena up the road from San Diego, he said that our mother was an alcoholic, which was news to me. I said No, she wasn’t, and he looked at me cockeyed, ‘Ja-ack, come on, of course she was and when you grow up with a drunk you run a good chance of becoming one.’

I said, Fre-ed, she drank, she was a party girl but she wasn’t AA material. There are people who drink everyday and still aren’t addicted.

He didn’t know if I was for real on this, it seemed so obvious to him, and for me it was the first I’d heard of this from anyone. So we stared at one another, my mind running fifty years of files on her, him running fifty years of suspecting I was retarded and now finally and forever knowing I was.

I remembered a conversation in this house where they were arguing before dinner about who was smarter. It was just like two kids, No you’re not, I am. You? Ho ho. Both loaded and me with my jaw dropped realizing for the first time that my mother and brother were very dumb people. Here I thought I was the one and they are light years ahead of me. It’d gone beyond ferocity, bulging eyes and stabbing fingers. I walked to her library to look at books as they ranted. Mother had gotten a degree in her fifties at UNM. Now she was yelping about her papers on T-shaped doorways at Chaco published in the Archeology trades, Fred about being Head Reference Librarian at the London Library after graduating from UW at Madison with honors, she about winning the Pulitzer, he the Arthur T. Anderson Award, she about being the first woman president of the US, he about being the King of England.

I’d been a pool cleaner and woodcutter. Once I read a Reader’s Digest cover to cover just to see if I could.

When I’d try to hang out with the two of them before five they were too rattled, and after 5:OO needing a faster delivery than I was capable of. I couldn’t keep their interest with my stories so they’d gang up. Marian finished my sentences, corrected my grammar, facts, place and background and Fred the legitimacy of whatever situation I was talking about. Fred interrupting, saying That’s so naive, Jack, Jesus!

Here I am telling my story that happened with neither my little brother nor mother within two thousand miles of me about meeting this woman at her apartment on Lexington and 46th in New York 2O years before. She’d called me at McGarvey’s and my apartment on the Lower East Side and invited me over, said she knew me but I didn’t know her. She had been watching me for months and now she wanted me to come meet her. ‘She opened the door and I didn’t know her. She was beautiful. (Marion says Of course, and Fred grunts.) ‘She knew me, but I’d never met her’, and Fred is saying how this is either made up, exaggerated and that there is no walkup building at 46th and Lex, and besides how could I not know her if she knew me? And what did I mean by beautiful? What the hell did she look like? And how many women call up perfect strangers and invite them over to their place? You see a movie or something? ‘That’s my point, Fred, it was like a dream, she is this ravishing, open faced woman, deadringer for the young Lauren Hutton, and I felt so at ease with her.’ He shakes his head and looks at Marion and their eyes connect, in silent agreement, Jack’s lying his ass off again!

I say, ‘Her place is beautiful, all candlelit, she even knows what I drink and makes me one without having to ask. The perfume she has on, the white blouse and long skirt, hair just right, and this voice.’ Marion says something about male sex fantasies and safety issues in New York tenements late at night and the clap, and Fred’s cutting me off at every turn trying to trap me in inconsistencies so the spontaneity of the story sputters out. It does sound made up. These people are arguing over who is smarter?! I feel like Einstein and Plato with enough smarts left over to power the Dallas Cowboys and an Emu or two. High IQ does not make smart. Heart makes smart.

Fred is saying our mother was an Alkie and it was all her fault he’s one. I’m still trying to deal with the first part, but there are some things fitting together in spite of my disbelief. How is it possible I wouldn’t’ve noticed at least when I’d grown up? You weren’t there, Jack, he says. Fred is ticking off all the evidence on his fingers and has started back on his first thumb with number 11 in the people’s case against her. I say, Okay, okay, maybe she was, what the hell, she didn’t make you do it. You lived in England for the last quarter century.

I didn’t think of it then but the reason Fred started to drink heavily was for the pain in his leg after he got hit at 7O miles an hour on a country road in Cornwall when he jumped to push his wife out of the way of the car and took the full impact on his legs. They took him to the amputation ward but the surgeons saved the leg. Splinters of bone surfaced through the skin for the rest of his life. He was walking on steel rods where femurs once hung out…

Helping the World

Posted by on Apr 16, 2019 in Blog | 3 comments

When we get old we begin to look for ways to give back to the world some of what it has given to us, to humanity.

Recently I was wondering how I could do this. A few years ago I was part of a volunteer Habitats For Humanity crew redeeming a house in The Twin Cities, and it felt good. But I rediscovered that I’m not a crew kind of guy, just a short-coming I guess. So I’ve been wondering what I could do solo that fit in with my abilities, and this morning found a way. I’d vacuum the floors in all the world, one by one, personally. By the time I got back to my starting point they’d be needing another vac and I’d start over, probably a lot better at it than when I’d begun.

After thinking it through better I decided that repairing public drinking fountains in town parks might be better in that it’d keep me out in the sun and fresh air, and I’d see children playing and dogs romping and meet other old-timers to chat with while I made with the wrenches and pipe fittings. This thrilled me, it was something I could do very well because at heart I’m a plumber, and I enjoy fixing things so they work again.

I’m starting tomorrow. I am so happy!!

Who’s Fooling Who?

Posted by on Apr 10, 2019 in Blog | 1 comment

Truth & She-roud of Turin  6/17

Holy as she is Marilyn doesn’t cotton to the idea that she is wrong from time to time. She has a way of reconnecting the dots of an argument to her own advantage. Well, why not? I know when it’s going on but don’t know how to keep from getting tangled up in it. It’s like I crack open an egg and dandelion seeds spill out.

There’s enough right in the general weave to pass for real and because I am not quick enough to multitask at thinking, at least under fire, she usually wins. Not by my being convinced, just by surrendering in playing verbal chess.  Or shooting verbal craps:  Snake eyes, I win! She says. I say, What? You were trying for a six, and got two. She says, Snake Eyes beats a full house! Hold on, I say, you’re mixing poker with dice, and Marilyn explains to me it depends on the game you’re playing, and I say Where’s the cards? And she says, You didn’t take them out, that’s why I win.

The Catholic Church decided once and for all to prove the Shroud of Turin was a fake. American scientists had examined it and in the end could not decide what made the image. They knew it wasn’t paint or pigment of any sort they were familiar with. They weren’t trying to prove it was the burial cloth of Jesus; they wanted to know empirically what left the negative image of the man buried in it, whoever he was. An explosion of intense light seemed to be the only possibility they could come up with after several years of study.

This team and some others kept after the Vatican to take samples of the shroud to get a Carbon 14 reading on them and suggested they be taken from different areas, from the inner older fabric as well as the rewoven outer margins damaged in fires. The church refused to take samples from anywhere near the figure on the cloth claiming it to be too threatening to the integrity of the image. At the same time they were claiming it was not Christ’s image.  They ended up taking three samples from the outer margins and sent them off to labs in different countries. All came back with a date from the fourteenth century, and the church considered the matter closed: Shroud of Turin is a fake: Over and out.

But they didn’t count on the Knowing. The Knowing is the cumulative memory bank all life has contributed to, a trans-cultural, trans-species hard drive of collective truth. Deep down we all feel the force of truth, and no man-made legerdemain can fool us. Our sense and senses you can be sure, but not the Hayseed deep within us sitting on the fence sucking on a stem of grass. His gristle is our core being. He knows.

So the church’s findings only made many hungry to know more, to have the image itself sampled in several places. If it was the fake the Church said, then what was there to protect by testing the image itself?

The Church replied that there would be no more tests, too many people were worshipping this thing, it was idolatry, no one in the Catholic church practiced idolatry; well, maybe a little, like the icons in any cathedral, but that’s traditional, this isn’t, this is too mystical and no one in the Church likes mystical. Except a few legends and stories and some history and ancient reports of weird things, but again these are grandfathered in. Christ’s burial cloth is not.

It was a solid argument. Who can argue with that? Ignore the Shroud and people will no longer worship idols. Case closed. Two Snake eyes beats a full house.

Sweet

Posted by on Apr 4, 2019 in Blog | 1 comment

‘Be Kind & Amazing Things Will Happen’

I saw this sign driving past a church on the way home. I’d been out to where we park the RV by Ham Lake to see if I could find some missing things in there, keys, computer tablet, hope, some other stuff. Didn’t find any of it but on the way back through a neighborhood near Egret this message jumped out into the corner of my eye and wormed its way quickly into my heart, a distance of maybe 9 inches, though the way it bit in you’d’ve thought it had meteored to earth from the fifth dimension.

I started laughing a block or two later, not at the message but because of some sort of resonating going on. Some pastor had fitted those black block letters into their grooves in the sign box to advertise his next sermon, dusted off his hands, closed the glass door and locked it so no one could mess around making a new message with the letters. Done this 100 times, and then some guy drives by and glimpses the message and is spiritually transformed two blocks later.

Into what?  Dunno. The domino blocks are still clickity-clickitying in my heart, but the gist of it is that if we’d just be here and have the time to really see the lads and lasses and woofers and cats and birds and trees and flowers and the mighty miracle of it all…if we’d really be here we could skip his sermon this Sunday and reinvent our own religion on the saved time. We could make our own sign to put out front of us: We are Love. Let it show.

So what amazing things would happen? Dunno, but really starting to be alive might be a good start. I’ll get back to you on how this plays out for this member of the congregation, though.

Manchester, VT.

Posted by on Mar 21, 2019 in Blog | Comments Off on Manchester, VT.

Santa Barbara, Blue Sands, Manchester VT  

A bunch of things come to mind when I think of getting to Santa Barbara in’85. Staying at the Blue Sands Motel on East Beach is one, and the next morning going out at sunrise and seeing a pod of dolphins wrangling a young whale away from the beach to the open water. Standing on the grass next to the sand I knew I was in the right place. My vision quest was over. For the time being. I didn’t figure it out till just now that the young whale was me.

I think of walking down the dirt road from the cabin I was renting in Vermont near Manchester Center and that awful odor that dropped me to my knees. I’d been picking wild raspberries when this smell blew into me. My first reaction was that it was some nerve gas from a ruptured tanker upwind. Next thought was that I was dying. Next thing was figuring out which side my profile would look best when they found me dead. Next thing was I saw a small snake someone had run over, its guts squeezed through a tear in its side coiling in pain trying to get away from it. I welcomed having a pal for my journey. I was the snake. I didn’t know that then. We died together. But I got up and felt alright. Walked back up the hill to the cabin and lay down on the bed. Had a dream where some old gents told me about heading out, I’d been here long enough. I was to drive west. That was enough for me. i packed and left the next day, gave a call to the Russian woman who found me the rental. She was so friendly the month or so before driving to the turnoff, drove up a half mile and turned around. She was scared of me suddenly, big guy with a beard, dirt road far from the nearest town, no one to hear her screams for help. She didn’t say so but the flirtation was over for sure. We returned to Manchester in silence. I signed up for the place unseen at her office, drove back with the keys in my old green Cadillac. The one the garbage truck would shorten in Santa Barbara in a few months when I moved up the hill to a rental on Del Mar Street.

Manchester Center. People living there outside town were retired Washington. Starched, opaque, folded and laid into drawers carefully. Rich. Odd place. The Stepford Husbands. They all looked alike, spoke the same lines, played the same golf, drank the same drinks. Odd place for my vision quest to bring me. My cousin Tom Brockway was Headmaster at Bennington College south of there, I guess that’s what brought me this way, going by to see him and look at the girls. I fell into Manchester. Fell on the road with a dying snake. Was allowed to leave when I fell from the tomb. Two decades later I returned there with my new wife and had a devil of a time finding that road. The whole countryside was spooky, like out of a scary movie, that sort of setting, muted colors of greys and blacks and greens. When I found the road I began to feel like the Russian realtor and turned around more or less where she did. Something ungood was up that road. Maybe me, the one that didn’t get away. I felt so freed to turn around, telling Marilyn about the Russian and how I felt her fear and was so glad we were getting out of there. The cabin had fleas in the carpet I could see jumping backlit by the low morning sun. They attacked my bare legs, stalked me around the place.

The owner manager of the Blue Sands was a Vietnamese woman, only there a year. Iron Maiden they called her, the others in the neighborhood whose property she was trying to buy. While I was there she bought a motel on upper State Street at a bargain and set it straight. She had good rooms, charged low prices and stayed full. She was happy. But not so happy that she would smile. Still there was a calmness there. i liked staying there. i trusted her to bring me what i was ready for when it was time and then i would move somewhere else. This was the right place, the sister city of Santa Fe where I’d grown up. I came here in the 50’s when I was a ditch digger in Lompoc up the coast helping put in the Naval Missile Facility that later became Vandenburg Air Force Base. Visited my grandfather Laddie French who was retired Cavalry. He looked like a cavalry officer. He was glad to see me in the same way the Iron Maiden was. I was some proof he was alive. This time i didn’t even bother to call his widow. She was his second wife and didn’t like that he had another life and wife and child. She stared at me with glass eyes. They both may have been related to the Manchester Center people.

But the dolphins weren’t. They were having a fun time cowboying that young whale,  me laughing on the sandy grass and hearing their excited cries, the sun lighting the whole show.

(From the book Marilyn & Me, by Jack Underhill)

Percolation…

Posted by on Mar 8, 2019 in Blog | 1 comment

Santa Barbara, Blue Sands, Manchester VT  

A bunch of things come to mind when I think of getting to Santa Barbara in’85. Staying at the Blue Sands Motel on East Beach is one, and the next morning going out at sunrise and seeing a pod of dolphins wrangling a young whale away from the beach to the open water. Standing on the grass next to the sand I knew I was in the right place. My vision quest was over. For the time being. I didn’t figure it out till just now that the young whale was me.

I think of walking down the dirt road from the cabin I was renting in Vermont near Manchester Center and that awful odor that dropped me to my knees. I’d been picking wild raspberries when this smell blew into me. My first reaction was that it was some nerve gas from a ruptured tanker upwind. Next thought was that I was dying. Next thing was figuring out which side my profile would look best when they found me dead. Next thing was I saw a small snake someone had run over, its guts squeezed through a tear in its side coiling in pain trying to get away from it. I welcomed having a pal for my journey. I was the snake. I didn’t know that then. We died together. But I got up and felt alright. Walked back up the hill to the cabin and lay down on the bed. Had a dream where some old gents told me about heading out, I’d been here long enough. I was to drive west. That was enough for me. i packed and left the next day, gave a call to the Russian woman who found me the rental. She was so friendly the month or so before driving to the turnoff, drove up a half mile and turned around. She was scared of me suddenly, big guy with a beard, dirt road far from the nearest town, no one to hear her screams for help. She didn’t say so but the flirtation was over for sure. We returned to Manchester in silence. I signed up for the place unseen at her office, drove back with the keys in my old green Cadillac. The one the garbage truck would shorten in Santa Barbara in a few months when I moved up the hill to a rental on Del Mar Street.

Manchester Center. People living there outside town were retired Washington. Starched, opaque, folded and laid into drawers carefully. Rich. Odd place. The Stepford Husbands. They all looked alike, spoke the same lines, played the same golf, drank the same drinks. Odd place for my vision quest to bring me. My cousin Tom Brockway was Headmaster at Bennington College south of there, I guess that’s what brought me this way, going by to see him and look at the girls. I fell into Manchester. Fell on the road with a dying snake. Was allowed to leave when I fell from the tomb. Two decades later I returned there with my new wife and had a devil of a time finding that road. The whole countryside was spooky, like out of a scary movie, that sort of setting, muted colors of greys and blacks and greens. When I found the road I began to feel like the Russian realtor and turned around more or less where she did. Something ungood was up that road. Maybe me, the one that didn’t get away. I felt so freed to turn around, telling Marilyn about the Russian and how I felt her fear and was so glad we were getting out of there. The cabin had fleas in the carpet I could see jumping backlit by the low morning sun. They attacked my bare legs, stalked me around the place.

The owner manager of the Blue Sands was a Vietnamese woman, only there a year. Iron Maiden they called her, the others in the neighborhood whose property she was trying to buy. While I was there she bought a motel on upper State Street at a bargain and set it straight. She had good rooms, charged low prices and stayed full. She was happy. But not so happy that she would smile. Still there was a calmness there. i liked staying there. i trusted her to bring me what i was ready for when it was time and then i would move somewhere else. This was the right place, the sister city of Santa Fe where I’d grown up. I came here in the 50’s when I was a ditch digger in Lompoc up the coast helping put in the Naval Missile Facility that later became Vandenburg Air Force Base. Visited my grandfather Laddie French who was retired Cavalry. He looked like a cavalry officer. He was glad to see me in the same way the Iron Maiden was. I was some proof he was alive. This time i didn’t even bother to call his widow. She was his second wife and didn’t like that he had another life and wife and child. She stared at me with glass eyes. They both may have been related to the Manchester Center people.

But the dolphins weren’t. They were having a fun time cowboying that young whale,  me laughing on the sandy grass and hearing their excited cries, the sun lighting the whole show.

One

Posted by on Mar 8, 2019 in Blog | 2 comments

Eight billion threads of wool on one loom by one weaver.

How can there be a mistake in a design s/he alone imagines?

Spain 1959

Posted by on Feb 26, 2019 in Blog | 1 comment

SPAIN & US AIRWAYS 

Marilyn lined up a timeshare on the Costa del Sol in Spain and got a great deal on tickets. I’d been telling her about living there and a trip three of us made at Easter from Seville along a Roman Road built two thousand years ago, riding through country that was little changed from the Middle Ages. There were no schools or electricity or food other than what they grew and butchered, no outside news. The people had never heard of the United States, or even the New World for that matter. We’d ride horseback into a village and people would drop what they were doing to follow us to the plaza or inn where we’d dismount and sit and talk with them. They were simple as children, wide-eyed, sometimes touching our garments to make sure we were real. I was ahead of my time and had long hair and they’d never seen long hair on a man. Dimitri had brass colored hair and Tim was blonde with blue eyes, his face Scottish pink and strange looking, even to us. They watched us like kids do cartoons on television.

One time a stallion galloped up to the mare I was riding and danced around biting her, then mounted her so his front hooves were dug into my legs. He was so turned on he didn’t even notice me. She kicked with both back feet and knocked him over and took off faster than I’d thought she could run, the stallion right behind and more interested than ever. He was circling around to cut her off at a bridge coming up but she made it across and he didn’t follow. We heard his whinnies for miles. I heard that story in all sorts of convolutions for a year in Madrid.

Anyway, Marilyn wanted to travel to the places I’d known in my twenties and hear my stories with a visual reference. Deep down I wanted to leave Spain the way I’d known it, a country cut off from the modern world until the year before we students got there when the borders that’d been closed for 20 years were opened. Generalissimo Franco was still in charge, his troops goose-stepping through the streets of Madrid while Hitler’s Messerschmitts flew in accolades overhead, but his reign was over. The people were waiting for him to die and Prince Carlos to assume the throne. Long wait.

When I lived in Torremolinos after Madrid it was a village on the south coast of a few hundred fishermen. It had one sit-down restaurant, the Bar Central. Now it is part of a resort bandwidth stretching from Malaga to the Straits of Gibraltar. This is where Marilyn and I were headed. We would land in Malaga and rent a car to drive to our timeshare and from here travel to Seville, Granada, maybe even Madrid. I secretly dreaded it. It was like meeting a young lover after fifty years, you have that one look from the heart and then the mind kicks in with a Good God!! What happened to you?

At the University we studied with some of the country’s cultural heroes. One was Joaquin Rodrigo who taught a course with his wife on the history of Spanish music. She played Nacisso Yepes’ recording of her husband’s most famous composition with the Madrid Symphony Orchestra. The two of them sat in folding chairs in front of us, hands in their laps, his eyes unseeing, hers closed, listening to soaring music the likes of which none of us kids had heard.

Marilyn plays the Concierto de Aranjuez a lot. It matters to her that I knew him, that I breathed the same air as him, that I heard his soft voice and watched his wife select the records he called for to illustrate something he was saying about Albéniz or Tárrega or himself. Imagine the simplicity of the country’s greatest composer sitting there with a group of young Americans, wearing a tattered, worn shiny suit with three blind mice black glasses on and speaking to us of the influences on his music, of its roots in his region of the country and the Spanish need to be free.

Marilyn and I flew out of Minneapolis on a late April afternoon en route to Philadelphia where we’d change planes for the Atlantic crossing. We got caught in a storm and circled over the Great Lakes to let it move through, but it didn’t. We landed at Pittsburg to refuel and took off flying in lightning. We were the last plane to land at Philly before the airport was shut down.

The airline had a thousand passengers who missed their transatlantic flights that night and by the time we got to the desk the next day’s flights were booked, and the day after that. They said our luggage was lost along with everyone else’s and for us to check by every hour in case something turned up. How could it turn up when it was on a plane to Spain, and they knew it. But we didn’t. They’d transferred suitcases to the overseas carrier from our flight when we landed, then not waited for us. Our luggage got back to us in Minneapolis three weeks later.

Out over the Atlantic we noticed the light of the sunset changed from one side of the plane to the other. I thought it was a miracle but then the Captain came on the intercom to say there was a small problem that was really nothing but regulations made them head back to have it checked out. Wouldn’t take but a few minutes. Ten minutes later he said we were heading to Boston airport where they had better mechanics, then later said the better mechanics were busy so we were heading to Philly.

The head stewardess announced that no one would be permitted to leave the plane when we got in and Marilyn and I looked at one another and decided we’d see about that. We agreed that our trip was doomed, we’d missed three days of our timeshare, had no luggage and by the time we nestled into our hotel room we’d have three days left. So we had one of the younger stewardesses call back the big, old and ugly one to talk with. She started talking before we did saying she understood how terrified we were but that this was nothing, she’d been through it a hundred times and was still here, big and ugly as ever. She had some travel sickness pills that’d calm us, and turned to go get them. We called her back and explained that we were not afraid, we were giving up the trip, there were only three days left for our visit and so we decided to get off the plane. She repeated that no one was getting off, and the look on her face reminded me of the head nurse in the movie One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest. I get calm at a time like this and told her that the rest of them could stay on but we were leaving. The airline had lost our luggage, stalled us three days, now they were turning back and it sounded to us like we were not being given the facts about this emergency. She tried staring me down for a minute, said it was not an emergency, then went forward to describe what she’d just been through with the other stewardesses.

Marilyn and I decided we would get up as soon as the plane was at the gate and get off, opening the door if we had to. We didn’t have to, but we were the only two of 300 passengers who disembarked, and that plane was still parked there three hours later getting a new engine or something when we took off on our flight to Minneapolis. To its credit USAir refunded our money on all tickets, and paid for our way back home. The older man at the desk was a sweetheart, and we took this as another sign that we’d made the right decision.

Out in the sticks near Tucumcari

Posted by on Jan 16, 2019 in Blog | 2 comments

North of Tucumcari, NM

I was at that trashy rest stop on the Cimarron River, you know the place off highway 54, the one with the railroad span to your right headed south?

I was talking with a tree about how things were and it said it couldn’t complain. Said its mother and father used to be up the road a bit either side of a barbed wire fencing the highway, and they never had it this good. They had full-on wind 365, and the only water they got was what run off the highway twice a year. They made do with what they got and seeded when they could.

This tree said its particular seed blew into this rest stop on a rare north wind, rather than the trades that almost always doomed elm seed to the wastelands, with no chance to sprout and root. Those that did through sheer grit didn’t reach longer than ankle high to a coyote pup before they keeled over and blew away.

The tree said it really liked the community of plants here, they was family, real strong though most every one of’m stunted, starved for love, and cripp’d up pretty bad. But they was alive, that was the thing. The parents never promised them a rose garden, only a chance to root & find out just what-the-hell kinda thing they might be.

That cactus over there found out and’s been complaining ever since, all the time grousing about what a rough deal it was dealt, how it didn’t ask to be a prickly pear bastard, how-come not a yucca with pretty flowers and stuff? Now that yucca was a cactus, not a Mickey-mouse-eared thing everyone talks down to. The elm said the whatever-it-was slept late and got up cranky, you’d think its spines was sticking more in than out.

Now the elm had a real story of deprivation and hard times, being an orphan down the road from its folks’ graves and all, brothers and sisters parched to dust, but you never heard it rankle about it. Elms was tough, they thrived on bad times, they loved bad times because then elms really feel alive and get to dream of turning things around and someday looking like one of them elms down there on the banks of the Cimarron. Runs sand on the surface, but deep down is lots of water. No, up here is good, real good, strong winds, get to see traffic whip by and the train loco-moting cross the span, maybe some horizon even.

I said maybe what that mouse-eared, down-home ugly, bitchy little cactus needed was for another like it to grow nearby, and it’d court it with pollen hauled over by bees and butterflies. Two uglies could make a pretty…

The elm said could be, could be, but… I waved, said I had to get back on the road to Borrego. I went over to the cactus and looked it over. Not bad, really, it had its beauty, the lopsided symmetry, the shriveled-up Mickey-mouse ears and buds and poisonous tiny barbs at the bases of thousands of long sharp spines promising a better yesterday, though not tomorrow. I mean it was saddled. But someone has to be a cactus, y’know. Guess I’d bitch too

Marilyn and The Kids

Posted by on Jan 12, 2019 in Blog | 5 comments

Marilyn & the kids—Heart of the story

Heart of the Story 

The decisions Marilyn and I made in our new life together were based on what was best for the children. Before I really got it I carried around a few Excepts and Buts but in time forgot them. I’d lived by Buts and Excepts and that was okay when I was alone but once we had kids they got tossed out the back door with the dishwater. The Buts and Excepts.

She made sure I kept this credo as my guiding light. I’d run out on my first born son Ben and his mother years before, when he was still a toddler, and Cristina and Zack from their mother 20 years after, so it was clear to Marilyn that this thing called fatherhood and sacrifice were not more than learned lines for me. When I needed reminding she’d say something that made me feel fatherhood, at least as a responsibility if not a heart centered feeling. She could have gotten my attention by raising hell but that’s not her way, she gently maneuvered my infant sense about what is right, to educate me. She is a teacher, in the spirit of Jesus. It was a long haul and so painful for us both that there were times we both would have gladly died instead of going through what we had to in order to make a mom and dad home for the little kids.

It wasn’t that they didn’t have a home with their mother, they did, but she didn’t want to share them much. When I met Marilyn I’d already adjusted to that. Marilyn un-adjusted me to that. She felt kids needed fathers as well as mothers. You’d think I would’ve figured this out with the three of us boys raised by the angeldust of our mother in Santa Fe. But here I was perpetuating an identical drama reenacting the same things as my father. Kids are chameleons, everything goes into them and serves as blueprints for when they can finally think for themselves, and it may be that even their thoughts were downloaded into them. We are tattooed and pierced in utero.

So this is what I was choosing when I hitchhiked into San Diego from the Pacific Crest Trail. I was going to find The Connector who had come to me in a vision as I slept and accepted my prayer for help. That was what we were talking about in that dream meeting, although I didn’t know it till just now. I didn’t know I’d asked for any help. The vision had stayed in my memory as a mystical thing. I totally missed the part about my asking her to come be the straw boss in my life to work on an impossible project—being a full-on father.

The decisions we made, especially in those first seven years in the furnace of family law, were directed by the intent, mainly on her part, of saving Zack and Cristina from a catastrophic dominoing that my choice to walk away from them had set in motion. I couldn’t undo that but together Marilyn and I could redirect some of the lines of dominoes so they all wouldn’t be tipped over. That meant getting shared custody, something I’d signed away in Santa Barbara when their mother came with them from Fiji where they were living. She wanted two thirds of my income and full custody. She needed it to establish residency. I signed the papers. I’d hit bottom, or thought I had. If the legal papers demanded my soul I’d’ve turned over all fragments gladly.