Monday, August 7, 2017

Homesick for a place we hardly know

"God you're going to struggle," Sarah says laughingly. "You wear ratty tee shirts, black running shorts AND EXPENSIVE FRENCH DEODORANT!"

"I'm cosmopolitan," I shrug.

"You need special lotion for the cracks on your heels," she continues. "Where you gonna get that?"

"We'll be living on salt water and that heals everything so I'll just dangle my feet in the Ocean every day."

"There won't be Internet access," she plows ahead. "You won't be connected and it's going to drive you crazy."

"I don't think it's going to be all that hard," I reply.

"It's gonna kill you," she concludes walking into the kitchen.

My wife's normally right about most things as she is about my preference of Vichy deodorant, foot care products and immediate connectivity to anything that may interest me ... which is mostly what the kids are up to, music and an array of random activity.

Truth be told I'm less connected than I've ever been but I suppose that's a relative statement.

Besides all of that, I'm anxious for a change, the clock's ticking on the amount of time I have left on earth and I'm so damn homesick for a place I hardly know.

We've seen what it's like though ... on our honeymoon in southern Belize ... San Salvador Bahamas ... Porto Bello, Panama ... and on "Chicken Day" at a market in Costa Rica.

Confession time ... years ago walking to Seine Bright, Belize ... Sarah stopped me pointing to a house for sale and said, "Let's do it now."

A thousand reasons not to rushed through my head ... we'd just gotten married ... the girls are still adjusting ... we both owned homes ... we didn't know what we wanted to do professionally.

"We'll make it work somehow," she says standing there staring at what both know we wanted.

But I said no.

And that's the regret I have in my life.

It would have been far easier to do it then than it is trying to figure it out now.

Now it's hard as Hell with less capital, older girls entrenched in their own lives, a new baby, selfish people from the past demanding more and that damn clock ticking away my time.

"You gotta do it before you die," I'm fond of telling people and now I find myself in desperate need of my own advice.

I am incredibly blessed ... far, far beyond anything I've earned or deserve ... with a wife who doesn't quit ... is already preparing me for the new life ahead and has me utterly convinced that I'd better hurry and accept these things because ... we're almost there.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Peaceful Coexistence

Grooving to the jams of "The Grateful Dead" sitting at the kitchen table pondering the words I will bring to Bar Church tomorrow, Cassidy --- the ten year old --- snuggles with her mother napping on the sofa and turns on the Disney Channel.

Disney and The Grateful Dead cannot peacefully coexist.

Neither can a mother's nap if her child wants her to "gimmie, gimmie good lovin'" which is what the Dead are jamming on.

Sarah stumbles to the bathroom and back again claiming she just needed to close her eyes for a few moments ... which constitutes a nap in her world.

Naps are wonderful things to lavish yourself in as far as I'm concerned and two or three hours are minimum requirements.

Unless you're a mother.

Which I'm not.

I struggle to define my relationship with the girls ... other than to say they're my daughters because they are that ... every bit as much as their father, though I detest the whole "Step Dad" concept as though I'm stepping in for him when he's not around.

I do much more than stand in ... I step up ... around ... between ... into ... and amongst most everything they do.

Occasionally their Mom's actually happy of my involvement.

Like last night, Cassidy, the aforementioned 10 year old, likes a boy who's liked her forever but she never gave him the time of day so he got a new girl.

Now Cass likes him but doesn't know how to tell him.

So I got involved.

"I'll text him for you," I offer.

"You will?" she hopefully asks.

"Oh no," Sarah groans laying on the sofa watching a movie.

So I send a text which leads to a Face Time convo with the boy.

"Why you like her?" Cass demands. "I'm way prettier."

He says he has to go, promises to call her back and hangs up.

"He always does that," Cass explains, "and he never calls back."

So I send another text ... "Listen, I know you and you never actually call back when you say you are. I'm okay with that but it's weird."

He immediately calls her back.

I'm feeling pretty good about my contributions to her upbringing.

That was last night.

Now Sarah and Cass are snuggling on the sofa watching the Disney Channel which cannot peacefully coexist with the Grateful Dead, Bar Church sermons or me.

So I'm on the Beloved Back Deck where it's hotter than Hell and tomorrow's words for Bar Church will just have to wait until tomorrow.

On the up side, the Dead are sounding pretty good out here.

I wonder how Cass and the boy are doin?

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

What's It Really Like To Live On Tybee Island

Almost as soon as moving to Tybee Island, most quickly forget why we came.

We get caught up in becoming a part of what it's like to be here ... permanently.

The first thing noticed is other people permanently live here too and it's a bit of a shock!

After all it is easy to believe everyone on this island is only visiting based on the number of day trippers, hotel dwellers and the incredibly large volume of people in weekly vacation rentals (so they can pretend like they live here in weekly increments). Each shells out big bucks and it's easy to believe after shooting their wad to visit for the day/night/week, they're flat broke and have to go back home to plan a yard sell.

Reality is, yard sells and other personal income generating ideas easily finance tens of thousands of people to overrun ... er, I mean VISIT Tybee for the day/night/week and this is GOOD NEWS!

Of course with the cost of Flood Insurance and Property taxes there's plenty of yard sales on island too!

That's one of the first things permanent residents of Tybee learn but the cost of Paradise is worth it so we find a place to cop a squat on this clump of sand and call it home.

Then we drive off island to buy all the things we need to live here!

Walmart, Ace's Hardware, Home Depot, Publix, Kroger and every fast food restaurant you'll crave is off island so to live on island you have to leave to get the things you need to stay.

This means consistent navigation of the Tybee Road which is a beautiful drive unless you're staring at the tail lights in front of you. Residents are in a hurry to get off and on island as a fast as possible while everyone else is enthralled by sheer beauty driving through the marshes, past the Fort and the American Flag flying from the drift wood it's been nailed to for more than three decades. This islanders push the speed limits while everyone else slows down to appreciate the views of the shrimp boats from the top of the Lazaretto Creek Bridge. So permanent residents fight for an expressway being built while everyone else is fine with the beauty of the drive. The truth is Islanders don't hate the Tybee Road, they just hate anyone else who's on it.

The exception to have to leave the island for the things you must have to live here is the meat market at the Tybee Market and the fresh Seafood at the docks. You can't find better for the price anywhere so ... no reason to go anywhere else to get it.

There are lots of distractions from leaving the island though with politics at the top of the list! Half the us who live here LOVE island politics to the point of diabolical obsession while the rest can care less. The issues on the island are simple ... protect locals from everyone else who visits ... because Forever Tybee has been this way. Within nanoseconds of moving on island, you're solicited to be one of us and one of them.

Those who don't succumb to political involvement go the Bars, listen to Live music, orchestrate fantastic fund raisers for neighbors having a hard time and find any excuse for a good time! There are lots of Bars on Tybee and they drive the economy, culture, social morays and vibe on the island.

In days gone by the groups were a coalition with most political meetings occurring in Bars but, alas, Tybee has embraced segregation and this is no longer the case as the two find themselves increasingly at odds.

In no time at all, permanent Tybee Island residents find themselves living in a vicious circle of (1) dodging the massive throngs of people visiting; (2) pricing Flood insurance; (3) recovering from the shock of your property tax increase; (4) cursing while driving off island at the car in front doing 40 Miles Per Hour in a 55 zone; (5) Trying to contain extreme road rage driving back on island at 300 cars who have no idea how to merge; (6) Thanking God for Matt at the Meat Department and J.B. for catching the Shrimp; (7) Attending the gazillion political meetings taking place each week to prove you really care about the island; (7) Enjoying life on the island with your friends in the Bars.

There are churches on the island though none are immune to the above issues and are not a sanctuary from them either. They are great though in that dress codes are pretty lax and one actually meets in a Bar.

If you're lucky and haven't been so overwhelmed by the intensity of everything, you've either fled the craziness of Tybee life or remembered what brought you here in the first place.

The humble feeling of your feet sinking in the wet sand while staring at the majesty of the Ocean, inhaling the wet salty air and watching Dolphins smile as Seagulls sing Hymns ...

Meeting friends to share cocktails while watching the sunset at Alley 3 before deciding what's for dinner ...

Reclaiming the romantic thrills of making love in the sand dunes ...

Watching the sun bubble out of the Ocean while God finger paints the sky.


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

A Lucky Man


"What should we get Mom?"

The girls are seeking my counsel on gifts for Sarah when they visit Finland.

"She likes chocolate," I finally respond, "and they have good stuff in Europe ... um ... Toblerone! Get her chocolate! You can't go wrong."

Fast forward two-and-a-half weeks as the girls return home, excited to share their gifts though they are sleep deprived after leaving Helsinki to Stockholm then London for an overnight before New York to Savannah and the drive to Tybee Island.

Of course I get three GIANT bars of Toblerone chocolate because ... somehow in their heads they are convinced it's what I wanted from Europe.

Their Mom got some too but much smaller bars, along with Milk chocolate from Poland.

I feel incredibly secure because if someone attempts to break into our house I can hurl the massive bars at them as lethal weapons.

"Aren't you going to eat it?" I'm repeatedly asked.

Eying the three pounds of chocolate, I wouldn't know where to start.

For now it occupies several feet of kitchen counter space.

"Are you ready for them to come home?" I was asked a couple of days ago.

"Hmmm," I ponder before answering. "I've enjoyed every F'ing second they've been gone ... but ... I miss them."

Now they're here and a house that was immaculate yesterday suddenly looks like a Victoria Secret's supply plane crashed into it.

The decimal level of their dialogue ... all simultaneous overlapping conversations having nothing to do with each other ... makes the dog hide under the bed covering their ears.

Each demands we do something different at the same time while making plans ensuring neither Sarah nor I will have any private time for the next several weeks.

But ... each slides up behind to hug me without warning ... throw wet hair in my face to kiss me goodnight ... asks if I can help with something meaningless ... eats the last of the cereal I'm craving ... and demand their favorite meals, each something I detest, for dinner.

Now they are binge watching "The Bachelorette."

In spite of everything that's gone wrong in my life, I know I am a lucky man ... blessed beyond imagination in spite of a complete lack of financing, an ex-wife happy to sue, bleak job prospects and a rather large contingency of people who really don't care for me.

I meander in and out to check on my girls as they're sprawled on the couch in front of the television while holding electronic devices while the baby sleeps.

It's easy to count your blessings when they're right in front of you.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Holding onto Now!

"Anne, this is Micheal Elliott."

"Nice to meet you Anne," I say using one hand to shake while holding Che, our 8 month old on the Beach with me working on her Diaper Tan.

"That's the tannest baby I've ever seen," Anne admits. "My God that girl's got baby blues!"

"My tan's pretty good," I say but the words fly out unnoticed because Che's commands the attention.

"Micheal writes a blog every day," our mutual friend Martha continues the introduction.

The fact is I used to write a blog every day!

Every day for five years I churned out musings on life inside of my skin and, much to my delight, found people read them.

Then ... Che was born and now we take long walks together punctured with Ocean swims and time with Sarah and the girls at home.

I don't have time to write as much.

"He's also a minister," she keeps going.

Technically speaking it's true.

I'm an ordained Southern Baptist Minister and the Churched that ordained me went out of business and in the bizarro universe of Baptists only the congregation that ordained you can defrock you so I'm in for life and now I conduct services in a Bar on the island.

"And he used to do important stuff in town but I can't remember what it was. What was it Micheal?"

I don't recall as Che starts flapping her arms and kicking her legs signifying she's ready to get back to the waves.

This is Daddy time at the Beach and we have our routine.

"GIVE MY LOVE TO SARAH! I just love Sarah. We were together in Key West ..." and Martha continues talking as we make our way.

Her words, all true, fade in the distance.

I hold "now" and plop Che down in the surf and she squeals in delight ... uncaring if one knocks her over while Dad is watching Dolphins break the surface.

She just taps my foot spewing water out of her mouth, not so much wanting me to pick her up as to sit down and enjoy it with her.

So I do.

When she's ready, she crawls into my lap and flaps her arms.

"Does my baby girl want her Daddy to take her to the big waves?"

She buries her head in my chest and grins ... so I slowly pull my 61 year old body out of the wet sand and we make our way.

Che loves the big waves, wanting me to hold her so her face stares at the Ocean with her back to me. I've always heard the first step a child takes is away from you, symbolizing the rest of life. I can't help but ponder if our baby's going to sail away.

She cries when I put her back in the stroller.

"Oh come on," I exclaim. "Cut me some slack. I told your Mom we'd be back soon and that was an hour-and-a-half ago. She's going to be pissed."

Che grows quiet sucking on a piece of watermelon.

"She's not going to be pissed at you," I continue. "She's going to be pissed at me!"

Though Sarah won't be.

And we slowly make our way back to a future that's coming but, somehow ... I don't know how ... has already begun arriving.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Walking with Che

Tingling in my sleep, my eyes open seconds before I hear her.

"Ahhhhh," my baby's voice permeates the darkness, filling it with a rich current of love.

Sarah giggles laying beside me forcing the slumber away from my lips too and I smile.

Che sits in her crib, anxious and happy to start her day and is flapping her arms wildly as I stumble towards her.

"I'll do it," Sarah mumbles falling back asleep.

My wife deserves her sleep and I'm an early riser any way so it's not a big deal ... besides last time she was in charge of getting up in the middle of the night we paid for it all day ... because I love her so and she functions best on ten or more hours of slumber each day.

After feeding and changing Che, we wake her clueless 15 year sister who knows everything and drive Maddie to work at The Breakfast Club.

Che's passed around by our extended family as I slurp coffee and chat before grabbing her ... mouthing a jelly container ... drive home and put her in the stroller.

Che coos as I hook my phone to the speakers and stream "The Boat Drunks" radio, and we leave her Mom and sisters to sleep and make our way to the Marsh and the Lighthouse in the distance.

The sky's painted in purples, the faintest of pinks and the bright white dot blazing from the Guidepost.

Her tiny tanned feet dance while she sticks the lid to my coffee cup in her mouth.

Hugging the Back River we pause at Ally 3, the Kayak lauch and preferred beach of locals, Pot smokers and dog lovers ... Frank Shuman would be proud ... and some mornings I strip naked, take our 8 month old's diaper off and we swim as the sun rises on the other side of the island.

Back in the stroller, "The Boat Drunks" sing, "I want to take your boat as far as it goes; feel Jamaican sand between my toes" while Che props her feet up over the side and sucks on her bottle.

Locals call her by name, tourists pause to admire her tan and the fishermen on the Pier rub her sun bleached hair for good luck.

Strolling through Tybee's "combat zone" Todd and Bobby waive as they speed by in Golf carts to blow the sand off the Pier, sleepy cops stare at their phones as they keep watch over the nonexistent criminal element, and tourists lug cameras back from watching the sunrise over the Ocean.

Che turns to make certain it's still me pushing the stroller, flashing both bottom teeth when she sees it is.

On this hot summer morning, the rain falls and I wish Sarah was with us.

My wife loves to dance in the rain and is sensuality personified when she does ... well, honestly even when she doesn't ... and I want her to see the moment so I snap a picture and text it to her.

Breezing into the Tybee Market to pick up bread, milk, Cinnamon Rolls and formula, the entire staff stop working to wish Che a "Good morning" and admire her diaper tan, causing the already long lines to back up further.

I'm glad Mike Hosti is doing his morning tour of the island and trusting his employees to handle things while he does.

Turning the corner back to our house, Che's feet dance again because she knows Mommy's inside waiting for her in bed.

Sarah takes our baby as I pour lime into Seltzer water and start breakfast.

"How was it?" Sarah asks.

Looking at beauty holding beauty ... in spite of so many things ... I know how blessed I am.

After playing with her Mom and sisters, a nap and picking out the bathing suit of the day, Che and I are going to take another walk.

I can't wait!

Damn we have fun!

And each one simply seems to get better than the last.
 

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.