Monday, June 12, 2017

What's So Good about being a Samaritan?

Jesus could have made it up.

Maybe it actually happened though it doesn't really matter.

He was answering a question.

"Who is my neighbor?"

The asker is a highly degreed, respected authority on the Scriptures and he's playing a game of "One Up" with Jesus who had just agreed with him!

Some folks live to argue.

Rather than debate, Jesus tells a story.

"This guy was robbed, beaten badly, they even took his clothes, and left him to die on the side of the road."

So far there's nothing extraordinary about this as it happens most every day.

A Priest and a Rabbi happen along, both religious leaders, see the poor guy bleeding in the ditch and keep going.

Yep, nothing unusual about this either ... normal human behavior which each of us constantly practice.

Then a Samaritan comes along sees the dude, cleans him up best he can, loads him up and takes him to Emergency Med where they don't take insurance ... pays in advance and guarantees to cover things if things end up costing more.

 A Samaritan?

You know who those people are ... someone you hate with everything in you.

If you're a Trump supporter it's Hillary. If you love Bernie then it's Mike Pence. Could be ISIS, the Liberal Media, any member of Congress, Lawyers, Bankers or Cops ... whoever you hate is who the Samaritan is.

But it's the person you hate the most doing the right things after those you respect and follow didn't.

Jesus ends the story here and turns the question back on the asker in the game of One-Up-man-ship ... "Who's the neighbor?"

I'm stuck on the Samaritan because God knows things didn't turn out so good.

First off the health care system was involved so of course it costs more!

Don't for one moment believe a measly two denarii covered things!

The whole matter was likely turned over to a debt collection agency who hounded the poor Samaritan for years until things were settled.

Second, the guy probably never said "Thank you" after he woke up in the care of a Health Care system designed to perpetually keep him in treatment.

Counting his lucky stars, the poor Dude likely got the Hell out of there as fast as he could before the Billing department started holding him accountable for the mounting debt Health Care is built upon.

In actually, not much good came to the Samaritan.

I really want to believe in Karma ... you do good things then good things come to you.

And if you do bad things then watch out because we're going to cheer when you get yours.

But I don't.

The Samaritan got nothing out of the whole things other than the personal satisfaction he'd done the right thing and nobody gives a continental damn.

Except maybe Jesus who told the story when it came in handy in a game of One-Up-man-ship. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A Knack for the Just the Right Time

"Travis McGee's still in Cedar Key. That's what ol' John MacDonald says."

I wish Travis was still there.

John MacDonald too.

But John died and took Travis with him and damn I miss him.

On a cold day flipping through the sales outside of Hawley Cook Book Sellers in Louisville, Travis reached up and grabs me.

I'd been in Louisville, Kentucky for 8 cold years, attending Seminary, graduating twice, inexplicably leading a Church that became famous and becoming a minor celebrity.

I hated it.

My son Jeremy and I hung out at the city's premier bookstore, hiding from everything anyone wanted which was, of course, every single thing.

He was a toddler and I'd leave him sitting on the floor in the Science Fiction section and meander around for hours finding other worlds to live in so I could get through the one holding me down.

Longing for salt air, Ocean breezes, weather that never turns cold, waves crashing on the shore, Seafood, girls in bikinis Dolphins ... I was depressed in the confines of institutional religion, pious friends, an unhappy marriage, living on the edge of poverty ... all with no end in sight.

Then a blue covered, five volume collection of novels caught my eye and standing on the sidewalk with a bitter wind blowing I shuffled my feet to stay warm and met Travis.

A "salvage consultant", his residence is "The Busted Flush", a Houseboat won in a poker game, in slip 18 at the Bahia Mar Marina in Fort Lauderdale, Travis lives a life where the rules are bent way, way ... WAY ... over but never broken.

I buy it, retrieve Jeremy and start reading the 21 novels John MacDonald wrote about Travis McGee.

By the time I finish, my feet are in the sand, Pelicans dive in the Ocean, my skin is reddish bronze, I don't have a job, the marriage is ending, my kids play in the surf and I'm happier than I've ever been.

By now I can't bring myself to read the 21st and last Travis McGee novel and wait until April of 1990 ... three years later for my last encounter with the man who helped bring me here.

A lot's happened in the ensuing years and today I find my feet shuffling again as I long for other things.

Then Monty Park's bring up Travis McGee the other day having no idea we're mutual friends and I grab my copy of "The Lonely Silver Rain" on a rainy day on island and smile as Sarah, the girls and I get ready for the next adventure.

Travis always had a knack for showing up at just the right time.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Plausiable Deniability

Strolling in three-quarter time even Monty Parks easily can catch me as I push Che, our 7 month old tannest baby on island.

Wearing a head wrap covering a perfectly full head of hair so there's little danger of his scalp getting sunburned and his brain's been fried ever since he was elected to public office so it's bewildering why Monty's prevents heat from escaping his body.

The dog jumps on the stroller licking  Che reaching out to touch the slobbering furball of happiness.

I'm sure there's ordinances preventing such behavior on Tybee Island, because there's fines for most everything on this clump of sand, so Monty jerks his dog's head in the other direction.

It strikes me it was a purely political maneuver.

Embracing in the middle of the street in plain view of God, locals, tourists and feral cats we rush to say as much as possible in as little time as possible before he jogs away dragging the dog.

I have no idea what he said.

"We should have texted," I tell Che who's bathed in dog slobber, "so I could read what we talked about."

That's how communication happens these days.

The President told me so ... er ... I mean texted it from on high or some stupid shit like that.

If you text you don't have to talk.

It's one dimensional dialogue devoid of emotional investment while documenting what's said to detail denial of actual commitment.

A text is plausible deniability.

A text may not be FAKE NEWS but it's shallow communication.

There's no heart in a text.

Texts allow you to hide from investment in the other while pretending to converse thereby guaranteeing proof of ambiguity.

"Wha?" one of the girls asks at dinner staring at her phone having not heard her Mother's question.

Kids today eat with their phones.

Sarah repeats the question and the honor roll, already enrolled in Collegiate courses in High School mumbles, "I dunno. Let me Google it."

My Dad would have backhanded me with such force I would have triple summersaulted slamming into the wall before sliding lifeless into a houseplant had I not given my Mother full attention during dinner.

But that was then ... this is now.

"It's too much," I say to Che as we turn onto Alley 3 pausing at Back River.

We see a boat.

She's silent.

I'm silent.

The boat bobbles in the High Tide in a warm breeze blowing from the south.

"You thinking what I'm thinking?" I ask out loud.

Sucking her bottle, Che is contemplative and doesn't answer.

"Soon," I say, turning the stroller towards her Mother and home ... wherever that is.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Chelsea and Sam,

Understand that we're already offering much lower than we know we can get but this is what we will do for you. This is also predicated on not using a relator which drives the price up substantially (if we're listing on the market we'd be asking $420,000).

With you covering all closing costs - $375,000
If we split closing costs - $385,000
If we cover closing costs - $395,000

Again the luxury is that you can have rental income to basically cover your mortgage which adds significantly to the value of the house.

It really is the last great deal on Tybee. Let us know.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Another Road

This is the view from the end of our road.

It's pretty spectacular.

Green marsh grass with the pungent aroma of sex in the tropics at Low Tide ... a gorgeous Lighthouse flashing simultaneous warning and welcome ... Docks leading to hidden deep waters ... boats tied to them waiting for released ... lovely vacation rentals that are former homes to locals ... miles and miles of clear blue skies and slow moving cotton candy clouds.

It's as beautiful as it's always been but nothing's the same.

Just as the Beach is different every single day with the ebb and flow of the tides, the creation and erasing of Tidal pools, treasures washed ashore only to be carried away again ... a whole island has changed though on the surface it looks very much the same.

I've called it home for 30 years now and it's been my safe harbor as I was the one changing the world ... partners ... vocations ... and myself.

That's a long time chronicling more differences than I can list in a single sitting.

Thirty years of anything can leave you worn out, tired, cynical and disgusted.

It can also leave you thankful that you've survived decades and appreciate who's still with you staring straight into the fall of life.

I've never been one to settle, forever chasing the rainbow, but truth is I seem to have gotten stuck without meaning to or even realizing what was happening.

Then Sarah comes out of the past baptizing me in love and out of that Che is born bringing new life into one slowing down ... new wine in old wineskins indeed.

Suddenly everything is new again ... including me ... and it's time to stare at what's out there on the horizon.

The other day I was in Tybee Market with Che picking up dinner and baby food when I ran into another Island Old Timer.

"Micheal, I have to tell you Bud, I ran into your ex-wife the other day and mentioned I'd seen you and the new grandchild."

"Ouch," I wince, grinning.

"Yeah," he agrees. "But I gotta tell ya Man, you're fucking nuts."

"Yeah," I agree. "I wouldn't change it for anything Tommy."

He smiles then erupts into a laughter that lacks confidence before saying, "I couldn't do it. I'd never want to."

"I know," I reply, "but I do ... and I have ... and I am ... and I will."

Boats are built to carry us to new places far on the horizon, away from the past and straight into the future.

You may never make it everywhere you want to go ... it's one of the risks of not settling ... but then again you might ... you never know until you try.

One of my favorite songs ends with those words.

You never know until you try.

I'm eternally grateful looking over the horizon to this island all those years ago, not settling for where I was to get here and enjoying the Hell out of this ride in spite of the mishaps.

But right now, I'm looking over the horizon at the end of our road, wondering what's out there. Sarah and I talk about it often.

Where our road ends, another begins.

One of sand and not asphalt.

Coconuts in the Palm Trees.

Clear water of aqua blues and greens.

And houses that floats.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Pushed Around

"Hey! Is that your grandchild?"

"No it's my daughter!"

"I got four," he replies halting his slow jog ... really a fast stumble ... down the beach.

"Four what?" I ask shaking his hand.

"Grandchildren," he beams! "They're great! I can give them back when I'm done with 'em."

"This is my daughter," I repeat.

"She's got a nice tan," he says actually looking at her.

"My oldest grandchild is in Georgia Tech," he continues, "and my second oldest got into UGA a year early in the Honors program. The other two are finishing up Savannah Country Day."

"Well I'm sure NASA will want them before they even have to apply for College," I smile.

"You think?" he asks leaning his sweaty body towards me.

"Oh yeah," I reply rolling my eyes at Che who's blissfully sucking on a slice of Watermelon in a contraption Sarah bought to prevent seeds from being swallowed.

"Your daughter huh?" he says placing his hands on his hips and staring at our six month old.

"Yeah, this is Clare. We call her Che."

"CHE!?"

"Yeah ... Clare Hope Elliott ... C ... H ... E ... Che."

"Oh I thought you meant like Che Guevara," he smirks.

"Exactly," I answer hitting him on the shoulder. "She's named after him."

"You know," he says standing straight obviously ready to move on but looking at the baby, "it won't be long at all before you're pushing your Ol' man around like he is you now."

I stare at him.

Che stops sucking her Watermelon.

He limps away.

Che and I continue our stroll listening to Bogs Scaggs and watching the waves.

My daughter sighs so I stop to kneel in the sand and check on her.

The truth is she was checking on me.

"Hey Che," I say laughing, "as you grow up, you're going to learn that there are times when it really is okay to take a man's testicles and stuff one up each nostril."

Her smile melts my heart as we continue our walk down the Beach.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Waking Up To Now

For little while it was Tybee as it used to be.

In a grand old Beach Cottage with a massive porch full of views, waves crash in the South Channel between Tybee and Little Tybee, Hatman plays live music, the bar's stocked, great food's downstairs and friends occupy rocking chairs if they're not dancing.

Lots are missing ... Trolley Joe, Chicago Bob, David Ring and of course Roma ... but enough are present recapturing feelings of what it used to be like when we gathered at Fannie's or on the Pier.

Stories bring the dead back to life ... at least for a bit.

David Ring's epic wardrobe malfunction at the "Best Buns on the Beach" competition and his wife correcting things in mid-dance on a pool table in front of hundreds of screaming fans.

The mysterious appearance of hundreds of "Clothing Optional" stickers plastered on damn near everything on the island.

Chuck Courtenay's impromptu concert in front of Fannie's ... Dirty Dan in a thong popping out of Roma's birthday cake ... Bill with 2 L's firing a flare gun during Barbara's funeral over the Pier during the Chamber of Commerce's "Taste of Tybee" ... streaking behind Jim Contore doing a live remote for "The Weather Channel" ... the things we once did!

Six month old baby Che's completely accepted as part of this crazy collection of people in spite of crying every time someone tries to hold her and I quietly tip a toast to our friends who have gone.

Then I tip another for those who are here.

We've had good times and, hopefully, there's a few more like this one in us.

I appreciate what I got to be part of while loving the things I do on this clump of sand now!

Making live music with friends every Tuesday night during Monty Park's Acoustic Jam ... Church in a Bar ...  long Beach walks with Che and occasional reports of our "Current Situation" ... living incognito especially off island ... planning "The Great Escape" with Sarah ... and eating fresh Shrimp.

Tybee's been home for thirty years now!

It's funny to say because it's hard to do thirty years of anything ... be married ... work at the same place ... live in the same house ... or be the same person.

I'm certainly not the same person.

If you're lucky, you're no longer the same as you were 30 years ago either.

You've grown ... moved on ... learned a lot ... gotten better ... slowed down ... appreciate little things more ... know the difference between getting everything you want and wanting everything you got ... more mystified by love than ever in your life.

My current situation is I'm writing waiting on Che to wake up from her nap so we can hit the Beach ... I'm taking pictures of her sleeping and sending them to Sarah who's at work ... Birds sing Hymns though open windows ... Jim Morris sings Beach music over Spotify.

Mindful the past is a dangerous trap that'll prevent you from full living life now, I appreciate everything I've done and who I did them with.

But, I wish Che would hurry up and wake up.

We got more shit to do!

Friday, May 5, 2017

God's Finger Paints

I call it God finger painting the sky because that's what it looks like to me, a wonderful swirl of colours, one bleeding into the other resulting in a larger than life portrait of Sand and Sea and Sky.
"It's the Grand Cathedral God Built" I say when we worship on the Beach which is bound to happen in some glorious desconstruction of religion when pretense gets out of the way so we're baptized in the awe of creation.
I think it's why we come to the Beach ... why we long for the Ocean ... because we can see it better here. In the city it's obstructed by buildings, monuments, power lines and pollution.
I believe Earth is mostly water because God wanted to limit the damage we would do to this marvelous place though Heaven knows we're managing to do our damage there too.
So God finger paints every day to remind us that the Garden of Eden never went anywhere.
 
And if we stop to look, we can still see it all around us.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Story Of My Life

Sarah hands me a present with the explanation, "This is something for you to do for me and Che so we'll always have it."

It's a book ... "The Story of my Life", full of blank pages with questions at the top like ... "What did you do that your parents didn't want you to do? Did you get caught?"

I could write an entire book on that question alone!

"Well," I exclaim flipping through the pages, "I'll do it ... and hope Che reads it for the first time at my funeral and it makes her laugh out loud and that makes you mad at first but then you laugh and she doesn't get in trouble."

We laugh and a few days later Sarah asks if I've started.

"I will," I explain ... never one to give a simple "Yes" or "No" answer ... I delve into other things I'm writing, where I'm stuck, things I'd like to write and the favorite things I've written.

"That's a 'No'?" Sarah sighs, overly frustrated with me.

The next day I begin answering the questions and now have really gotten into it.

While I've covered a lot of this territory in other things I've already written ... I've never done it in this particular way ... with the conviction I could very well be dead by the time Che gets around to reading it ... if I even finish it!

Mortality's a bitch to the 60 year old Dad of a 6 month old precious little girl!

Ah well ... "it is what it is" to quote my Mother ... as I thoughtfully write what is a love letter to my wife and our daughter.

My story's got everything ... lots of sex ... little bit of drugs ... overdose of rock-and-roll.

There's incredible highs ... devastating lows ... betrayals Judas could never have managed ... an undying love of the Ocean ... trips around the world ... sandy bottoms ... ducted taped hearts ... whole lives that broke ... and broken lives made whole.

At it's core though it's my journey to get to Sarah and make Che ... against all conventional wisdom!

Thank God it's not done yet!

I'm still working on it ... rearranging priorities ... making new plans ... dreaming new dreams ... casting off the pains of the past ... completely embracing the pleasures of the present ... hoping there's one more day to celebrate now.

Sarah also told me we have to redo our will now that Che's here and she'll make all those decisions.

I think my only real contribution will be the film rights to the story of my life.

If it's ever made into a movie, in the right hands, Sarah and Che will make lots of money which would please me immensely.

Should that never happen though, I hope it makes Che laugh at my funeral and when Sarah makes eye contact with a death stare ... they burst out laughing together ... and know how very much alive they made me.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

A Family Meeting

"All right! This family meeting is called to order."

"Growl."

"Stop growling dammit!"

"They're dogs honey," Sarah says.

"Whatever!" I answer rolling my eyes. "You two have gone absolute nuts since the baby's been born."

Goddess plops on the tile floor, lays her head on her paws and yawns.

Winston, The Little Gay Dog (TLGD), wearing a fuzzy black jersey with pink letters reading, "I play baseball for the balls" stands at attention, ears perked and watching me intently.

"You are so gay!" I sigh.

Winston flashes a smile with the whitest teeth I've ever seen.

"Since Che's been born you two have been insanely jealous and acting crazy! It's got to stop!"

Neither dog moves.

"Goddess," I snap, grabbing her face while staring in her eyes, "You've got to stop knocking over the trash can at night and eating everything in it. The kitchen's a freaking mess and the noise scares the baby."

Goddess licks my hand flashing her golden eyes.

"And you! ... you little son-of-a-bitch (and I mean that literally), stop protecting us from anything that moves! It's annoying and we hate it!"

Winston, TLGD, curls up and licks his genitals.

"I don't think they're listening," Sarah sighs.

She's right.

She's always right.

"Get out!" I frustratingly exclaim to the dogs.

Neither moves.

"Now!" Sarah says and they jump up rushing outside.

"Well that didn't work!" I sigh.

"You tried," she lovingly replies squeezing my hand on the kitchen table.

The dogs scratch the screen on the back door wanting to come back inside.

"Don't you dare!" Sarah says staring at me.

"What'd I do?"

"As soon as I walk out of this room you'll let them back in."

"I will not."

She leaves.

I let them in.

"Guess who's not the Alpha in our family" she sings from the other room.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

I'll write when I can

"What do you do all day?"

Taken aback, I assume she knows.

"Mostly I take care of Che," I answer pointing at the five month old baby.

"Did you talk with anyone today?"

"No," ... "Wait! Jeremy and I had a nice chat".

"Nobody else though ... unless you count those Che and I visited with on our walks ... Susan ... Ray rode his bicycle beside us carrying his grandson and we talked about Cuba ... but other wise I haven't spoken with anyone."

There's silence.

"I wrote Monty an email."

Smiling, we move on to talk about the good and the bad of island living.

Long after it was asked, the question lingers.

"What do I do all day?"

Today started at 12:30 am when I drag myself out of bed to turn Che over so she'll go back to sleep ... resumes at 4:00 am when she wakes and I feed her four ounces ... at 6:00 am I startle myself awake from a dream squeezing Sarah who yells for me to stop ... after a quick outside shower, I kiss my wife who's showering inside, see Che's still asleep and make the quick ride to The Breakfast Club for coffee and back home turn on soft music, post a status update and pour my wife's Orange Juice.

Sitting with Sarah we watch Maddie, the clueless 15 year old who knows everything, play with Che while getting herself ready for school.

They rush out the door and it's just me and our baby.

Eating apples, she gleefully dances and smiles strapped into her chair listening to the Beach Music I crank when the girls leave.

Bath time's fun as I pour soapy water over Che's head and she makes faces and laughs.

Music time follows as I play guitar and sing as she laughs, dances and screams in delight if I get loud.

Throwing her in the magnificent stroller with speakers we listen to "The Boat Drunks" strolling down front, on the beach and around Back River until it's nap time.

When she sleeps I eat leftovers and fire up the computer, see what's happening in the world and if Che sleeps a while I write ... it takes a few days to finish what used to take a couple of hours ... though I'm no longer in a hurry.

Hearing her cry, I sneak beside the crib, rub her leg and ask, "Is my little girl needing her Dad?"

She smiles without seeing me melting.

The afternoon is sort of the morning in reverse.

I feed Che ... we play ... take a long walk to the Pier ... run into Uncle Johnny O who asks the baby to pull his finger ... meander back home ... start dinner ...wait on the girls ... greet Sarah at the top of the stairs and then it gets crazy!

It's girls, homework, boy drama, clothes explosions, crashing calendars, unbelievable things people do at work, interpretation of Catholic dogma in the real world, number of police stops/searches on Tybee Island, United Airlines and understanding Sean Spencer.

Occasionally Sarah and I steal a moment here or there.

My days are full of Che ... working on our tans during long Beach walks ... making up stories for her ... enjoying her enjoying me ... genuinely having fun in Church in a Bar ... and when the outside world intrudes into ours, I say "No" more than I ever have in my life.

At sixty, I feel good about the things I given to make the world a better place and it's a fascinating part of my journey to now be in a place where a little baby girl, and her mother, the constant distractions of three girls, bemusement at the ways of the world and the wonder of the Ocean fill me up.

Of course I've had to empty out lots of other things to make room.

Che and I are lathering up with Coppertone ready for our Beach walk!

I'll write when I can and let you know how it goes.


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

NOT The Drummer

"He's gonna play drums right?" Bob asks, tuning his guitar befre Bar Church.

"Who?" I ask.

"Bill Berry," he answers.

"He doesn't play the drums," I scoff at the image.

"I thought he was the former drummer for R.E.M."

"Who told you that?"

"You did!"

"I did not," I say. "I said he's NOT the former drummer for R.E.M."

"Why would you say that?"

"BECAUSE HE'S NOT!"

Church talk can be so exhausting.

"Look," I explain, "A long, long time ago Bill Berry traveled a lot, got hold of some stationary embossed "From God" so shortly afterwards, I started receiving letters randomly postmarked from around the world explaining to me why I was going to Hell for this reason or that ... it drove me crazy trying to figure out who was behind it ... until one time I was Bill's house and he went to the bathroom so I searched his bedroom and sound the stationary."

"That's pretty funny," Bob laughs.

"It was not," I snap. "I had to get him back, so I started writing him letters ... all from the same address but postmarked "Daughters of America's Revolution" ... and the drummer for R.E.M. is named Bill Berry but it's not the same Bill Berry as my friend and I explained it to him in a letter."

"And that got him back?"

"Well no, but I thought it was funny."

Huh-huh," he says strumming a song bored with my explanation.

At that moment, Monty Parks burst in the Bar wheezing, "Where is he? I want to shake his hand."

"Who?" I ask.

"Bill Berry."

"I have no idea," I reply knowing my old friend has disappeared as he's apt to do whenever needed.

"Oh," Monty sighs, taking the dog walking him elsewhere.

As Bar Church begins, Bill Berry strolls in from The Breakfast Club, spies the food spread on the Pool Table and fixes a plate of Sam Sahr's Shepherds Pie.

"We are called to feed his Sheep," he explains.

Shaking my head, I marvel at our friendship ... humble and eternally thank for it actually ... I love the man ... and know how rare it is to have someone who's always there.

Bill's on island to meet Che and hang out with Sarah but broke away to see Bar Church for himself.

"What'd you think?" I ask driving us home afterwards.

"Bout what?" he answers.

"BAR CHURCH!"

"That's some damn good Shepard's Pie," he says licking his fingers.

"Jesus," I sigh.

"You think Sarah and Che are up?" he asks.

Afternoon Prayers

"Oh Micheal! Is that your grandchild."

I'm holding Che, our five month old daughter, in the front yard on an idyllic island afternoon when his car pull slows to a halt and he asks.

My initial reaction consist of a verb followed by a pronoun.

The pronoun is "YOU!"

I refrain from verbalizing my initial reaction, stoll to his open window and introduce Clare Hope Elliott.

The old man's red face is scaly as flakes of skin fall on his shirt as he burst into tears.

Instinctively I jerk Che back.

"May I hold her?" he cries.

Sticking my arms towards him, he place his cheek next to hers and she coos.

"She kissed me," he screams ... then burst into tears again.

"What is it?" I ask hugging my daughter tight.

"I don't know," he sobs. "I do know," he continues pushing himself. "I'm sick. I'm selling my house. We're moving ... I've been here my whole life ... but we can't afford it anymore ... selling everything ... leaving the only place I've ever known ... my wife ..." and his head collapses onto the steering wheel.

Che recently discovered she has a voice and loves to gurgle, a warm, wet, sloppy release of happiness from deep inside, and take this moment to do so.

His head snaps to attention.

"Your granddaughter's beautiful!" he says wiping tears from his red face causing more flakes to shower his dark blue shirt.

"She is," I sigh.

"Will you pray with me?" he ask, appearing more seven than seventy.

With one hand I hold Che and the other I hold his and in the middle of the street on a warm spring day, I invite God into the unfolding mess.

His phone rings and keeping his eyes closed, he tightens his grip on mine saying, "I ain't answering!" so I finish the prayer.

"Thank you," he sobs.

"Yeah," I answer.

Che gurgles again.

"She's beautiful," he sobs away.

  

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Flying Higher Than A Kite

Pulling the chord to the Lawn Mower I get nothing.

Repeatedly I jerk the chord until Sarah says, "I've never seen anyone do that before to an 'Easy Start" mower."

"Must be broke," I reply whipping sweat from my brow.

"It's only a year old, You sure you have gas in it?"

"Of course I have gas in it," I snap, leaning over to check.

"It must be the spark plug, I'm gonna ride my bike up to Chu's and get one."

"That'll take you all morning," my wife sighs strolling back inside.

Chu's is the closest thing to a Department Store on Tybee Island and if you know where to look you can most anything ... except they're forever moving things around so nothing's ever where it was last time you were there.

I love riding the bike around the island and slowly coast down Tybrissa to the Beach into the Parking Lot "down front" before taking a right by Spankey's to the back door of Chu's.

Strolling inside I literally stumble onto a man putting a kite together on the floor.

"Micheal Elliott!" he exclaims, jumping up and startling me to jump back. "It's like the Holy Ghost just showed up!"

Never being called that before I don't know what to say ... "Hey."

"Remember me?" he grins. "From Grace House?"

Grace House is a homeless shelter I helped start in the late 80s and, over time, I met a couple of thousand of people there.

"Oh yeah," I said not recalling him at all, but I'd received a message from someone from back then on Facebook who was coming to the island so ... this must be him.

He embraces me leaving the kite sprawled across the floor in front of the cash register.

His text indicated he and his wife would be on Tybee and would love to "catch up" as his life's completely different and it's thanks to me.

Words shoot from his mouth as though it were a machine gun and I catch he's in management at Publix, lives in South Carolina, his wife's German, they're going kite flying on the Beach, she want to meet me and they're coming to Bar Church to make it happen.

I'm exhausted when he finishes.

Smiling, he retrieves the kite, embraces me again and skips outside in the bright, windy day.

Strolling the aisle I see they've moved the Spark Plugs again so I wander around thinking.

There was a time I believed I was changing the world one person at a time, immersed in a revolution to end homelessness in a country as great as the United States only to learn our nation doesn't mind them at all.

Neither does the Church for that matter.

In the scheme of things we didn't make much of a difference.

But, like the little girl throwing starfish that'd washed on the shore back into the Sea, we made a difference to some.

Thank you Darin for reminding me. It was a joy meeting Wilma and it's joyfully humbling to witness someone who's come so far to fly higher than a kite, enjoying every second of this gift of life.

Finding the Spark Plug, I find myself smiling as I make my way home to Sarah and a Lawn Mower that may or may not crank.   

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Catching Up

Micheal Elliott seems to have gone stealth and in addition to hiding from the public he now only sporadically post his blog which no one seems to have noticed. The blog was populated with the heartwarming characters who comprise Micheal's life ... Winston, The little little gay dog (TLGD) ... Goddess who's typically stoned ... The Cat Lady who lives with Feral Cats ... a drunk Guardian Angel ... and Bill Berry, not the former drummer for REM, but the other one.

Perhaps Micheal's most infamous blog was "Jesus: The Rolling Stone Interview" in which he asked the Savior ... "Beatles or Stones?"

While no one misses Micheal, these characters and topics remain dear to many! In addition there is a new baby ... Che, who thus far has not denied he is her father.

We recently caught up with Micheal before Monty Parks Tuesday Night Acoustic Jam, a collection of people with guitars, drums and a fiddle, to find out what in the Hell is going on!

"Is Goddess Dead?"

Why would you think that? I mean she's 80 in dog years but Sarah (Micheal's wife) has her on some crazy organic diet causing her to act like a puppy and crave cat food which she steals from our next door neighbor.

"The Cat Lady?"

Yeah ... the Cat Lady who's apparently dumped her string of lovers and is back to moaning with the cats at night ... she did get a new bathrobe though ... but it looks and smells just like the old one.

"How's little Winston TLGD?

The little Son-of-a-Bitch, and I mean that literally, is fruitier than ever, still wears little wife-beater tee-shirts with slogans like "If you don't like Gay People Hate the Straight Couples who keep having them!" but he's insanely jealous of the baby.

"Che!"

Yep, our baby girl is something.

"Are you really her father?"

Can you think of anyone else who would name our baby Che? It was actually Sarah's idea because she's our little revolution! I was walking her yesterday and someone yells, "How long you had that?" ... pointing to the stroller. "Four and a half months," I answer ... "The rest of your life is planned!" he snears ... "Nothing about my life's been planned!" I answer. "Che's the latest wonderful proof! Why in the world would you want a plan?"

"I see. Your Guardian Angel?"

Drunk.

And angry.

She's angry too.

"You haven't talked about Bill Berry in a while."

It's the craziest thing. Bill's actually on Facebook now and even though people are understanding he was never the drummer for R.E.M., they love him. It makes me kind of proud cause I've loved him a long time and as far as I know he only knows how to beat one thing.

"How's your lovely wife Sarah, who wasn't available for this interview so we had to talk to you ... how's she holding up being married to you?"

Hmmm ... she's fine ... at work ... wearing a stunning Ivanka Trump dress she got at The Dollar Tree.

"Well thank you for catching us up."

Aren't you going to ask how I'm doing?

"No."

Oh.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Post Death Planning

Tom Petty tells the story of Roy Orisbon dying and George Harrison calls to check on his friend.

"I'm alright," Tom sighs. "just numb."

"Aren't you glad it isn't you?" the former Beatle asks.

After an awkward moment, Petty laughs answering, "Yeah!"

While honesty is refreshing, it's sometimes not in good taste to say what you really think regardless of how true it is!

Ultimately Harrison fought for life with alternative treatments until his time finally came to the obvious conclusion ... Living's better than dying!

Sarah often gets mad over my cavalier attitude towards death.

It's going to happen and I don't worry about it too much.

This isn't to say I'm in a hurry as I find life fascinating, joyful, frustrating and always unexpected that it'll take an entire a lifetime to explore all the facets of being here.

I'm fond of describing the number of lives I've lived, constant reincarnations during the same lifetime ... the growing up in a small town life, High School and the discovery of sex life, married in College life, Fatherhood as a child life, radical Seminarian life, Corporate Life, Jet set life, author and public figure life, Suddenly-Single Life, Beach Bum wanna-be life, Happily married with Children life ... as my rebirthing continues into my sixtieth year.

It's both funny and true that each of these life episodes came to an end, tiny episodes of death shoving me on to the next adventure in living.

Lots of folks remain focused on what was rather than moving on and, while there are certainly people and things I miss, and it's hard as Hell to put one foot in front of the other, I'm living this new life now that's radically different from each of the others.

I try to celebrate the good times and people I've been blessed with mixed with gratitude for surviving the bad times and near death experiences.

Of course the grand finale of every life is the end ... not much different from a play, song or movie ... and they finish in a blaze, abruptly stop or continuously repeat an every softening refrain until it's over.

Working with Hospice made me realize mechanics of the end are all the same and it's what we bring to it that makes a difference.

I'm also trying to learn from the life I've lived so far and, it seems, there's already been a lot of little tiny deaths preparing me for the big one.

Some things are going to end, never to be repeated, recovered or resurrected. People will forget my greatest accomplishments, accolades and achievements though they may occasionally be referenced. Those I believed would always be with me won't and when all's said and done, it'll just be me being carried off the stage.

But each time a part of my life came to an end and it was just me starting over, there's never been an ultimate finality because ... something else happened ... and like a Timex Watch, I kept on ticking!

Making it funnier is each subsequent life I've lived has been better than it's predecessor!

So while I'm glad it's not me yet, I'm not too worried.

This song keeps running through my brain ... O Bla Dee! O Bla Da! Life goes on!

Just as I had no idea how it did before, I have none of how it will when I die though looking back it seems I've been training for it my whole life.  

Monday, March 13, 2017

One Hell of A Story

For years I was pretty compulsive about devouring books one author at a time. The first was C. S. Lewis ... I read "The Screwtape Letters" and I was off polishing off everything he'd ever written plus several biographies of him. At the time I was in College.

Lewis led me to J.R.R. Tolkien and there's so much more than "The Lord of the Rings" and he led me to Charles Williams, he and Lewis' dark friend writer.

The 3 formed a group called "The Inklings" cause the didn't have an inkling of an idea about much anything. They met for lunch and pints every Tuesday at "The Bird & the Baby" and read each other what they'd written that week ... sort of a literally Acoustic Jam.

Then it was Hemingway. God the man was crazier than most anyone but he could surely write. I really began to learn how to write from him, copying the ways he did it and forever striving for the "one true sentence."

One of the reasons I like one sentence paragraphs to write a blog is the never ending search for simple, complete honesty in as few words as possible.

He wrote the shortest novel ever!

Here it is.

"For sale! Baby shoes. Never worn."

Doesn't that send your mind reeling?

Afterwards it was John McDonald and the world of Travis McGee, a self-described "salvage consultant" who recovers others' property for a fee of half of the worth.

Travis lived on "The Busted Flush", a houseboat won in a poker game moored in Ft. Lauderdale. There are 21 novels and I plowed through them all and to this day want to live on a houseboat.

Somehow I juxtaposed this with theology, especially the Third-World brand with authors mostly unknown in the United States ... Gutierrez, Dorothy Solee and ... Leonardo Boff ... who teach if salvation's coming we'd better get started helping it by overthrowing social, political and economic oppression ... which naturally led me to Che Guevara.

At the same time, I found Frederick Buechner ... my favorite author ever ... who happily bounces between fiction and non-fiction, combing his life dark through lenses of faith in a God who exposes himself beginning in a father's suicide and leaves one longing for  what's next.

Around this time, I wrote my own books ... ten of them all told ... combining ... or stealing ... elements of each of these heroes of mine.

"Your problem," a Publisher tells me, "is you won't stick to one subject and build on it until you get it right. That's why we won't do your next book."

"But I don't want to write what I've already written," I counter.

"That's how you build your audience ... your buyers," she snaps over lunch in an elegant restaurant that sat on top of a mountain with panoramic views of Pittsburg and the Allegany and Monongahela Rivers.

I didn't listen to her and it's probably why I'm not a famous author.

I kept writing what I wanted to write.

Just like I kept doing what I want to do.

Sure there are things I should have done though I'm not sure I'd be any better off.

"Your writing is so honest," I'm told as Sarah, Che and I march in the Tybee Island St. Patrick's Day Parade with our friends John and Judy.

 It's nice to hear because it's so hard to write that way.

Course it's hard to live that way too.

And I'm not saying I always do.

Sarah and Che remind me though, along with a Holy Host of others, that stringing together one true sentence after another makes for one Hell of a story.

Maybe even one Hell of a life!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Never Too Old To Learn

In the check out line in Publix, I'm pulling items out of the cart when a man rushes up to admire Che, our 4 month old daughter resting in her car seat in the buggy.
"Can I eat her feet?" the grey haired fellow asks through a smile.
"What?" the clerk and I ask at the same time.
And he proceeds to imaginary chop on her toes.
Che laughs and coos.
He's magically transported into another world full of joy.
Sarah Elliott, the clerk and I can't help but laugh.
A baby is an easy thing to love. Never asking for anything or chidding, a baby is beautiful to look at and fills one full of hope even if things are bleak or desperate.
Not everyone loves them of course.
"Glad it's you and not me," I'm often told or when Che cries in a crowded restaurant it's easy to tell who loves babies and who doesn't.
Yesterday I stroll her to the Beach and we sit in a swing as I point out cargo ships, channel markers, seagulls and let her play in the sand.
Traditon holds God came as a baby as an example of how to love someone unconditionally and receive it in kind.
The older we grow the less we're unconditional about much anything.
Babies remind us though if we let them.
Who could have guessed that after 60 years of making my mark in the world, I still had so much to learn about love.
It's a good thing you're never too old unless you choose to be.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Unlikely Love Story

"Do you believe it?" she asks with blue eyes blazing full of wonder.

"No," I softly answer in utter disbelief.

Our heads almost touch as we kneel side-by-side on the floor staring at the bundle on the sofa.

"We have a baby," she smiles.

"We do."

The blanket around our daughter kicks and a soft squeal emulates like a happy sigh, "Aahhaaa ..."

"Do you believe we have a baby?" she asks, her eyes blazing now into mine.

"I don't."

"Me either," she grins.

Yet the physical embodiment of our love giggles, toothlessly grins with blazing blue eyes of her own, keeping us mesmerized and wondering what in the world were we thinking!

I read Millennials  wait to have babies so we fit right in though in our case, we've both "Been there! Done that!" yet like Sarah and Abraham in the Bible, we had a baby way after conventional wisdom dictates.

But ours is the most unlikely of love stories anyway so the miracle of a baby born to the already father of three grown-ups and the mother of three pre-pubescent girls getting married shouldn't come as a surprise!

Before her girls were born, we'd worked together for a year. We were both recently married, she to another Northerner and me to a refugee from Alabama, had different cultures, expressions of faith, senses of humor and purposes in life.

Yet working together, the chemistry clicked and we made magic until she returns to Fundamentalist-Religion-Land in Houghton, New York while I seek refuge from a bad marriage in the Caribbean as much as possible.

Ten lonely years pass.

Out of nowhere she calls and, after impossible obstacles were overcome, we stood alone on the Beach one night after the fireworks and ... caged love erupted ... sandy kisses opened the first door.

It wasn't easy.

I was a drunkenly obstinate bachelor and she had three little girls to protect but ... by God's grace and stubbornness on both of our parts ... we somehow overcame.

Our love was like seeds we discovered in desperate need of the other but fragile and in danger of blowing apart by the winds of societal expectation and individual selfishness.

On the same beach we shared the first sandy kisses we married surrounded by the few who believed love's possible in spite of the odds.

Lots of family and friends didn't come.

It was okay ... we had each other.

Over the years, in retrospect, we've worked hard stripping away defense mechanisms, exploring our scars and giving space to grow and accept each other's quirks, craziness and differences.

"Can you believe it's been five years?" she asks after we put Che to bed.

"No," I reply lost in her blazing blue eyes.

"I can," she shoots.

"Yeah, well," I laugh. "I bet you can."

"Can you believe we have a baby?" she asks in the dark as we lay in bed.

"No."

"Me either."

And we fall asleep blanketed in more love than we've ever known.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Holiness In Publix


I'm in a hurry to pick up Cassidy, the ten-year-old, from school so I throw Che, the four-month-old, over my shoulder to rush in Publix to purchase Alfredo sauce and Pita pockets for Maddie, the clueless-fifteen-year-old-know-it-all.

It's 2:59 and Marsh Point Elementary School lets out at 3:10 so the middle school can let out right after because the High School lets out right after that creating a cluster-fuck of traffic built around poor planning, buss schedules and parental inconvenience, so I have ten minutes.

Che loves when I'm running and she's bouncing and slobbering on my grey UGA tee shirt as I race down the aisle.

"HEY!" he gleefully screams.

He ... is a rotund, African-American with a baby's smile, pushing a broom which he steers away from my feet.

Stopping on a dime, frustrated because I'm running out of time, I glare at him.

His baby smile grows and large brown eyes glisten.

"AHHH," he gasps, taking my own breath away.

"I'm going to have one," he smiles. "Can I please hold her?"

I stare at a child in an overgrown body, happily working, wearing the Publix green on a head too large for the cap.

Che smiles and coos, leaning towards him in my arms.

He claps and eyes me in desperation.

And I hand him our baby.

"Hold my broom," he smiles as he takes her.

Time stops.

Tenderly he cradles our tiny Cherub in thick black arms and they share a language I don't understand.

Shoppers shove loaded carts pass as I watch the two touch foreheads and share a laugh.

It could be a minute but it feels like a thousand years.

"Thank you," he cries handing her back. "I can't wait until I can ..." and his voice trails off into another time and place.

Salt water's running down my cheeks as Che resumes slobbering on my shoulder.

Not knowing what else to do, the three of us hug in the middle of the Bread section while people stare.

I'm not certain how but the next thing that happens is Che and I watch Cass walk across the street with a hundred of her friends under the careful watch of the Crossing Guards.

She's oblivious because she's staring at her phone ... just like the other hundred.

I have no idea how we made it on time.

Che and her friend took forever and neither were in a hurry to let go.

"Hey!" Cass bellows climbing in, absentmindedly throwing her backpack on me to climb in the back with her sister, "how was your day?"

She's just being nice because she's cooing over her sister, sticking a bottle in her mouth and critiquing how I dressed her.

"You wouldn't believe what just happened," I answer driving away.

Honestly, I still don't.

Holiness doesn't hit as much as it slaps you in the face.

My face still stings.