Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Dysfunction of Christmas

Jacob is fit to be tied when Joseph tells him Mary is pregnant.

"Whose?" he demands.

"I don't know," is the sad reply.

Incensed, Jacob paces around the room trying to imagine Mary sleeping with someone else during her engagement to his son.

"Why would she do something so foolish? She's marrying into our family, descendants of King David! How could she give up becoming part of the royal bloodline."

A carpenter by trade, Joseph doesn't feel so royal, staring at calloused hands, he struggles to get by though his father holds on his religion during these dark times.

Jacob believes with everything inside of him God is going to raise a new King, greater than David, and he will be born as his own family!

"It could have been your son," Jacob yells though Joseph doesn't respond.

At the moment he feels ... nothing.

Shocked beyond belief Mary's pregnant, Jacob knows the baby's not his grandson.

Engagements last exactly one year for precisely this reason! A pregnancy is hard to have without sex so if she's pregnant then she's slept with someone and it wasn't his son!

Joseph stares at his hands saying nothing.

"Put her away!" Jacob screams. "She is not going to dishonor this family! She is not going to jeopardize the chance the King may be your son! My grandson!"

Joseph sighs.

"And do it quietly! We will not be embarrassed!"

And that's the last time Jacob ever sees his son ... or Mary ... and he never saw his grandson.

Later Jacob goes looking for Joseph and he's nowhere to be found.

The talk is Mary's gone too.

Jacob is incensed!

And heartbroken.

His dream of seeing his own son be the great King had not materialized.

Joseph's a common tradesman, a quiet man, with nothing hinting of royalty about him but Jacob's grandson ... there was the chance the old man could still see it happen ... be part of it as it unfolds ... advising the new King ... HIS OWN BLOOD ... as they fulfill the promises of God!

Instead, Jacob grows old wondering what happened?

The rumor is Joseph took Mary and left.

The old man has no idea where they may have gone ... or why?

Jacob lives a lot longer sadly hearing nothing of a new King born to save them all.

He dies bitter and angry at what could have been.

But this is what he missed.

Joseph and Mary are together when the child is born ... a son.

Strangers come from the East giving expensive gifts of gold, Frankincense and Myrrh, things fit for a King though they never used that word, but they do treat the baby like royalty.

Joseph goes on to have four more boys ... Joseph, James, Jude and Simon ... and Jacob missed five grandsons he would have enjoyed.

Joseph and Mary expatriate, leaving the religion of his homeland for the pagan ways of Egypt where they built their first home.

What Jacob does see is a Government crack down on population growth and every male baby two years or younger is euthanized in the most horrific display of public policy for the common good ever.

Joseph eventually brings Mary and the boys back though he doesn't return home but settles in Nazareth, three hours away from where Jacob lives.

Obviously Joseph never much cares about seeing his old man again ... or introducing him to Jesus.

It's a pretty dysfunctional family dynamic.

But if you look at Jesus' bloodline, it's pretty dysfunctional too.

Beginning with Abraham, the father of  the Jews winding all the way to Jacob himself are five fascinating women.

Women aren't normally included in genealogy lists of the time but Matthew includes them in Jesus'.

Tamar, one of Jesus' great Grandmothers disguises herself as a prostitute to seduce her father-in-law, Judah, so she gets pregnant. Honestly, Judah deserves it because of the way he treated her. It's an ugly affair all around.

Rehab's another, selling out her own people, as a spy and watches her entire city destroyed as a result and then "passes" as one of the chosen people for the rest of her life.

Ruth is a Moabite, which is far worse than being Muslim in America, because her lineage starts in incest!

Bathsheba suffered sexual harassment, abuse and the murder of her husband so that the head of the Government ... the great King David no less ... can screw her.

And Mary his own mother ... Lord only knows how she got pregnant?

That's just the women in Jesus genealogy.

Read about the men leading up to Jacob and, well, it's one gigantic completely dysfunctional mess.

And yet ...

Out of it comes the birth of the Messiah.

"For unto us a child is born ..." is how it's said elsewhere, and if that child can come from such a deviant family tree, then we have it in us too and become everything God intends us to be.

Jesus certainly did or there would be no Christmas celebration.

Perhaps, we can too. 

Maybe that's what Christmas is all about anyway.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Teaching Kids To Care

Che is crying at 5:40 in the morning but I'm waiting her out until it gets closer to 6 when I have to wake up Maddie, the clueless 16 year old who knows everything, so she can go to work at the Breakfast Club.

Sarah mumbles in her sleep beside me.

"Okay," I sigh, pulling myself out of bed.

Ecstatic to see me, our one year old simultaneously rubs her eyes, smiles, holds out her arms for me to take her and jumps up and down in her crib while laughing.

My sleepy heart melts.

Sticking her pacifier in her mouth at the last second, Che lays her head on my shoulder and sighs as if to say, "Everything's okay now."

Then she points toward the door.

"Dad," I hear her saying, "it's time to start this day. Me and you got shit to do."

The reason she says "got shit to do" is because I'm forever telling her "We gotta go. My little girl and her Daddy got shit to do."

Sarah rolls her eyes but I say it anyway.

Letting my wife sleep we go to the bathroom where I hop in the shower while Che pulls everything out of the drawer and occasionally pulls the curtain back to check on me.

It's after 6 when I'm dressed and hauling Che up the spiral staircase when I hear Maddie storming towards the front door.

Hustling in the dark, I jog with the baby completely unaware that Laurel, the effervescent 13 year old is sleeping in the Living Room along with her friends Sammy and Emma ... the fact they've placed a fan in the middle of the floor ... and they unplugged the Christmas Tree so they can recharge their cell phones.

In the pitch black morning, my foot hits the fan, slicing through my big toenail and I trip clutching Che who thinks we're playing a game and begins to cackle.

"Muthafuc ..." I cuss.

"Did you forget about me?" Maddie demands from the bottom of the stairs.

"No, dammit," I did not forget about you."

"Alright then," she says, "take me to work.

Strolling into the Breakfast Club my left Flip-Flop makes a squishing sound and pouring coffee I see it's soaked in blood.

Maddie is clocking in and Che laughs as Ryan and Caroline play with her.

I sip coffee hoping no one bothers to look down.

No one does.

Returning home, I place Che in the Living Room floor so she can wake up Laurel and her juvenile delinquent friends.

It doesn't take long.

"What'd you do that for?" Laurel asks, hair askew and wrapped in blankets.

I show her my slit, bloody toe.

"Gross," she says uncaring and they go back to sleep.

Pieces of my toenail start falling to the floor.

No one cares.

A week later, I've taken to photographing my poor toe in different posses ... as an ornament in the Christmas Tree or wearing a Santa hat ... and texting them to Laurel and her hoodlum friends every day ... with loving messages like, "I'm hope you're enjoying dinner as you look at this."

Neither Laurel or her minor Mafia cohorts bother to respond.

But I persevere.

Somebody's gotta teach these kids to care!

It's my duty as the adult in our family!

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Dreams of Christmas

They've gotten so bad he dreads sleep.

Laying exhausted beside his purring wife, he fights it long into the night.

He welcomes sleep, lusts for it really ... desperately needs it but ... he can no longer bear what slumber brings.

Each dream he vividly remembers though he tries with everything inside to forget.

That damn Angel.

Not a white, round face, handsome cherub with white wings coming out of starched flowing robes, this Angel clings to the shadows, red eyes menacingly staring as he barks orders with a gravel, dark and sinister voice.

The first time the Angel hisses, "The baby's not yours ... He belongs to God ... Yes, it's a boy ... You are to name him 'Jesus' because ... like his namesake ... he's going to save the people."

"Jesus" is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word "Joshua" and Joshua was the one who helped Moses lead the people to the Promised Land overseeing the first military victory when walls of Jericho came tumbling down.

"And don't say a word of this to anyone," the Angel hisses in conclusion.

Joseph hasn't.

He goes through with the wedding to Mary after planing to put an end to it when she told him she was pregnant.

He loves her with everything inside of him.

It's got to be his baby ... she would never have cheated on him ... but ... even if it's not ... well ... it's God's ... we were giving it to God anyway ... He didn't have to take it!"

So that's what happens ... as natural as can be ... in the most unlikely of places.

Mary's all morning sickness, back aches and "Rub my feet" a pregnant woman has while Joseph is all ... "Can we get this over with?"

The politicians make it worse by raising taxes and calling for a national registry to ensure illegal immigrants pay their fair share so, Joe hauls his pregnant achy wife to his birthplace Bethlehem where the good sense to leave as soon as he came of age ... but now has to return because the Government is making him.

Mary talks a lot.


He nods while hardly saying a  word.

The baby comes and no one questions whether it's his and Joseph cries when the boy is born.

Unexpected people ... strangers ... bring expensive gifts and it's as Holy ... as surreal a thing as he's ever seen.

Almost immediately the damn Angel returns in another dream.

The Government's issued a dictate for ethnic cleansing and all children under two are being euthanized for public safety.

"Go to another country," the Angel hisses.

Joseph knows nothing about other countries, is flat broke and, having fulfilled his obligation by registering to pay his taxes, really wants to simply go home and show the baby off to the family.

He hocks the expensive baby presents for cold, hard cash.

For whatever reason, he never explains it to Mary nursing the baby as they leave, he doesn't go home but takes them to another country where ... they settle.

No one knows them.

Nobodies heard about a possible scandal of the baby not being his.

Life is good.

Until ... the damn Angel keeps him up at night.

"Leave here and return to where you left."

Joseph doesn't want to go.

They're safe and happy in Egypt, ironically the same place his son's namesake, Joshua led the chosen people out of, but the dream comes night after night after night ... so to stop them Joseph hauls the family back to where they'd started.

It's all the exact opposite of the Scriptural stories.

But the dream doesn't stop with the damn Angel hissing God's commands, so without saying a word, Joseph packs up the family to leave.

Mary questions it this time.

"What do you mean we're going home?" she yells. "This is home! Our son likes it here! We like it here."

And Joseph can't explain to his wife that he's having nightmares every night so he keeps his mouth shut as she screams and the baby boy cries, leaving everything they've known to go ... where the Angel told him to go.

It isn't a happy trip.

The wife complains and the baby cries.

When they arrive, the Angel bitches too, "You haven't gone far enough" so, because he'd listen to every dream so far, Joseph takes the family to Nazareth.

And that's the last he ever hears from the Angel.

The dreams stop.

Joseph makes a last Biblical appearance, when Jesus runs away from home to stay in Church, and with Mary and all the other kids screaming, he finally notices the oldest boy isn't with them, and turns around.

Twelve year old Jesus is lecturing the leaders and either they can't get a word in edgewise or are hanging on his every word.

Joseph grabs the boy and makes him go home.

And that's the last we ever hear of Joseph.

If we take an honest look, Christmas was one big bad dream for Jesus' earthly Dad.

The Heavenly Father gets all the credit but it was Joseph who endured restless nights, terrible dreams full of crazy instructions, leaving his carpentry business, questions about the boy being his and that damn Angel.

They'd be no Christmas though without Joseph and his bad dreams.

Jesus wouldn't have turned out the way he did without the quiet carpenter who was afraid to go to sleep listening to Angels in his dreams and never talked about it.

It makes me wonder if there would be more Christmas in the world if we listened to our dreams, even the nasty ones, as much as he did.

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Politics of Christmas

Staring out the ornate castle window onto his greatest accomplishment ... the Temple the most monumental gift to God since the greatest King of all time.

Herod knew how to get things done.

After the Roman Senate elects him King of Judea, he banishes his wife and son so he can marry into Jerusalem royalty, though it takes him another three years to become the actual ruler.

Once in charge though, he was Hell on Wheels bringing running water to the city, the first functional sewage system, oversees a peaceful reign but most of all, gives the people what they want ... the rebuilt Temple of King Solomon!

Herod's bothered and perplexed.

Three men claiming to be Kings themselves, wise men and Magi, have shown up asking where is the new King? The one to replace them all? They're prepared to accept his reign and even brought gifts.

Priding himself on never being caught by surprise, Herod's shocked beyond belief.

"I'm the best damn thing that's ever happened to these people," he mutters continuing to gaze at his Temple's western wall.

The people of the city rush inside to worship, scrubbed and clean in the public baths built upon the water Herod makes run.

"You can't trust the people to know what's right," he snaps, pouring himself a glass of wine.

Damn religion has been the bane of his existence since getting into politics!

It's why he got rid of a wife and kid. He needed religious legitimacy to rule the Holy City so he marries into the Jews though he doesn't care for her, hates her family and thinks the religion has way too many rules.

Herod knows the secret to political success is giving the people what they want, don't establish too many rules and give all of the glory to God.

Religion, it seems to him, is the opposite ... demand people do things they don't want, heap Commandment upon Commandment upon them and proclaim the Clergy the best damn thing since sliced bread ... or flushing toilets.

He giggles at the thought.

"And who do these Orientals think they are presuming to know things I don't? What do they know? this is my Country! ... my land ... my people ... and I know what my people want and I know what my people need ... and they sure as Hell don't need another King because I'm the best damn thing they've ever known!"

"If anything happens to me it'll scare the living daylights out of them! They love me."

He'd checked out their story with his own legal team and there was piece of religious thought claiming a messiah would be born in the middle of nowhere smack dab in the middle of Herod's Kingdom.

"No way in Hell's that true," he mutters. "And even if there was, he can't touch me."

Having collected himself, Herod is smug returning to the great hall where he's kept the three wise guys waiting.

"I greatly admire your commitments and beliefs," he told the three not-so-Wise fellows, "and respect that you believe a great King has been born under my nose. It's not true! Were it so, I'd know. And I don't ... so it's not true."

The three looked questionably at each other.

"But if you find the child, come back and let me know ... so that ... and Herod snickers ... I can be wise like you."

The Magi left and never returned.

And it wasn't anything spectacular that drove the point to Herod. There were no choirs of Angels, trumpets blaring from the Heavens and he never did see that damn star.

It was the sudden realization one sunny day that they'd never returned.

"Those son-of ..." he thinks, jumping from his throne to dispatch hastily thought out military orders.

"What if they had found him?"

Great politicians know to plan for the worse and hope for the best.

"I'm not taking any chances," he thinks giving the orders.

"There's an infection in newborns ... to protect my beloved people from public health threats ... they must be euthanized so my Kingdom continues on earth as it is ..."

No one ever heard anything else from the Three Kings of Orient.

The only thing reminding us Herod was here at all are four walls of a building he had constructed for the glory of God where ... to this day ... people pray before the western wall.

But go anywhere ... anywhere at all ... and ask, "You ever heard the story of a baby in a stable?"

Odds are ... they've have.

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Beginning of Christmas

"Honey, sit here beside me. I have something to tell you."

Sounding bad because nervous energy makes her voice half-an-octave higher than normal and having just passed puberty a couple of years earlier, it's already high.

Joseph stares at her long black hair, olive skin, piercing green eyes before taking her hand as he sits.

She squeezes his arm, laying her head on his broad shoulder.

He silently waits.

Joseph's not a big talker anyway, choosing to work with his hands, figuring things out in real time manipulating wood which never talks back.

Long black hair hangs over his face too covering charcoal colored eyes that rarely betrays emotion.

The silence roars and the room's full of unspoken emotion.

"What is it Mary?" he whispers.

The teen age girl cries as she absentmindedly places a hand on her stomach.

Tenderly caressing her hair, his voice cracks as he asks, "What is it honey? We can handle it."

She sobs and his heart breaks holding her tighter.

"Mary," he says ... firmly yet softly, "what?"

Moist green eyes hold his and Joseph sees she's intensely looking at something far, far away ... a three mile stare ... perhaps a million miles.

"I'm missed by period," she sobs and her voice cracks between the syllables and his heart breaks again.

"How?" he finally says ... sounding more like a hopeless plea than a question.

"I don't know," she answers burying her head into his chest.

The silence roars as his mind races.

Of course they'd been intimate, after all they were engaged, had been public about it, but they were always careful. There was simply no way. He would never risk disappointing his family or shaming Mary who he's loved since he first saw her in worship, wearing a blue Shaw over a plain white dress.

"But ..." is all he musters.

"I don't know," is how she replies.

Joseph grows cold, no longer feeling her wet cheek on his shoulder, the smell of her breath, wisps of her hair on his face.

"There's no way it's mine," he snaps.

Mary sobs as he stands.

Joseph sobs as he leaves.

Brutal, hard time passes.

Mary's sick in the morning.

Joseph's sick all damn day ... the wood suddenly talks back and little gets done.

At this point, a miracle occurs.

God only knows where it begins.

Joseph comes back and holds Mary again.

Mary thanks God.

And a family comes together as an embryo grows inside a teenager with a lover who refuses to leave.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Suspicious Thankfulness

The holidays used to be a mountain of work as I oversaw the planning for hundreds of poor, sick and hurting people to find something worth giving thanks for.

We pulled off monumental moments of giving which was gratifying but ... when all was said and done they were still poor, sick and hurting after everyone else went home.

I'm not cynical.

For a little while, we made things better and who knows how much worse it could have been had we not mobilized so much?

Thanksgiving, for example, meant making lots of public appearances, giving every single person I encountered something of me then rushing home for our celebration.

It meant my family got my leftovers.

I was toast and had little to give my own kids.

So these days, I'm suspicious about the holidays.

They can leave scars.

Our one year old daughter Che and I are standing on the Pier watching a pod of Dolphins smile as they glide through the calm Ocean as we listen to a fellow Beach Bum explain, "So you better enjoy this Thanksgiving because when I was at Dragon Con, dressed as Yoda, a group of Christians got booed and when I was at the Bar between a Storm Trooper and Alliance Lieutenant, God told me he's had enough. There's this last Thanksgiving and those who take advantage of it will be spared but those who don't are gonna burn."

Che's chasing birds on the Pier and doesn't seem concerned.

When living on an island, it's best to nod a lot and not say much.

"Cool," I tell him.

Throwing Che in the stroller I crank up Alice Cooper as we make our way home to meet Sarah for lunch.

Barefoot wearing black running shorts and a "Club Orient" tee shirt, we listen to the Sea sloppily kiss the shore as I tell her about the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

"I've never really cared about it but, I don't know, this year's different. I'm looking forward to it being on in the morning as wait on a fabulous feast at Mary and Monty's."

Che laughs then sings before sticking a sucker covered in broken Cheese-its in her mouth.

"I have serious doubts this is the last Thanksgiving," I explain as we turn onto our street, "but let's treat it like it is."

Honestly speaking, there's more to be thankful for than the shitty stuff that happened. There was a lot of shitty stuff but ... well here we are ... living in spite of it ... loving ... laughing ... singing ... dreaming ... daring ... and enjoying things in spite of ourselves.

So, as someone wrote and tossed in the Bar Church bucket one Sunday, ... "Thank you Lord for thinking 'bout me. I'm alive and doing fine."

I'm thankful you are too.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

My Christmas List

My wife thoughtfully gave me her Christmas list, the presents she wants taking all of the guess work out of it for me so I don't screw it up as I have in previous years.

She even includes pictures, prices and the website so the chances of me getting it wrong are greatly diminished though never completely erased keeping the surprise in presents.

"Whew," my wife says unwrapping the gift, "you got it right."

This year I thought I'd return the favor and give Sarah and the girls my Christmas list.

It's a lot harder than I thought.

I already have several pair of black running shorts and UGA tee shirts that are almost broken in after wearing them for several years now.

Sarah already bought me a little fan to blow on my computer so it doesn't overheat because I blew out the internal fan from over usage.

She also got me an outdoor table for the Beloved Back Deck to sit and write because I love being outside.

Knowing I love music she renewed my Sirius subscription, got me new guitar strings, plus a new guitar ... a Martin no less ... so I can't ask for those.

My next door neighbor has a battery powered Weed wacker and blower that I lusted all summer long and when they went on sale she got them for me and I can't wait for Spring to use them!

Realizing how much Che and I love strolling around the island, Sarah found us a runner stroller with speakers we love and have logged several hundred miles having our daily adventures.

Rediscovering my love of hot country sausage infused with ghost pepper, she somehow tracked it down and keeps me in stock.

Understanding I spend way too much time with Che and don't socialize much anymore with adults, she's made a date and we're going out tonight and, as I review the things that can't go on my Christmas list, I suddenly feel pretty good about getting lucky at the end of our date.

Sooooo ... the Christmas list ... OH! ... I know!

All that walking with Che have left me with completely worn out Flip Flops. The ones I have may make it to Christmas. I think so anyway.

It's hard coming up with a list when your wife makes every day Christmas.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Eliminating Words

"Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup ..."

John Lennon had a way with words.

I do too but I'm not using them as much anymore.

I'm more into syllables.

Mum ... Da ... Lala ... and such as I speak in the idiom of the other, in my case a one year old taking her first crack at "language."

It's always good to go back to the basics, I suppose, and that's certainly what I'm doing.

Sarah's helpful with this journey too as she often says, "I simply asked you a 'yes' or 'no' question. I don't need an explanation."

I'm big on long, thoughtful responses detailing and interpreting the facts.

My wife cuts to the chase.

Plus the past several months were full of distractions.

Another Hurricane hit our home submerging bedrooms in salt water with Sea Lice swimming in it.

A Lawsuit managed by a greedy lawyer instigated by an ex motivated by the money she loved in our relationship because there isn't much more she cares for except herself.

Jobs lost, unanticipated home repairs, giving up permanent transportation so our daughter has it, and an acceptance of living in new ways provide ample material but little inspiration.

Instead I push our daughter around the island, showing her the beauties of the Ocean, island life eccentricities, giving her a hundred kisses every day and speaking in Syllables she understands.

I focus on giving Sarah simple answers to often complex questions as she manages our household because she's far better at it than I having grown comfortable without having to be the one in charge of everything.

It's not to say I wasn't good when I was in charge but, honestly speaking, my results were mixed, a perfect balance of incredible achievements with mind numbing losses.

I'm learning new ways now.

Besides one year old Che's more into music ... grinning, dancing and drumming whenever I strum the guitar or Sarah plays piano ... than books ... though she does enjoy eating the printed word.

I still deal words at Bar Church on Sunday's but they're spoken and freely given away to whoever chooses to worship but my stories are overshadowed by the beauty of live music.

Writing is a glorious world unto itself where I create the realities I choose over the one I may actually be living.

I'll get back to it in time but right now I've eliminated words from my life to live exclusively in the reality of here and now.

'Nuff said, as the old saying goes.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Burying Treasure

A pile driver is hammering a timber into the marsh mud endlessly droning causing the fillings in my teeth to rattle.

It is a beautiful day with near a puff of white in a deep blue sky, choirs of birds happily sing Hymns of Praise, the vegetation is lush and green as the slightest of Ocean Breezes hinders the yellow sun from heating the salt air any quicker.

Tanned bare feet dangle from the high top table table on the Beloved Back Deck I sit at wearing black running shorts and a UGA tee shirt.

It's a perfect Beach day at the end of October except for the damn pile driver connecting a dock from a spit of land to deep water on the Back River.

"It's progress," I mutter to no one. "Our little island continues to become exclusive."

In October Tybee celebrates Pirates but the truth is they were run off decades ago, but for a boatload of money you can dress up and act like one so long as you buy the wrist band allowing debauchery and other things freebooters love.

I don't linger on such things like I don't participate in Pirate Fest.

It's all become too much.

Parades most every month celebrate something, followed by the endless booming of fireworks, countless tickets written for expired time in extremely limited parking and Cops itching for any reason at all to ... protect us? ... generate revenue? ... stop terrorism? ... whatever the reason they're excellent at scratching until there's nothing left.

Don't get me wrong, Tybee's much better in lots of way than before. The plumbing works regularly ... the power comes on before the other islands after storms ... trash is gone almost as soon as it's dropped ... special fundraisers are executed with a surgeon's skill for anyone in need ... the bars are wonderful ... you can still walk to the Beach with a beer in your hand ... and a handful of Pirates hold on to the past in healthy ways ... and we have the best Butcher running a Meat Department in the entire East Coast.

"Thank God," I say as the pile driver takes a break.

Che whimpers so I kneel beside her crib caressing her sun bleached hair until she falls back asleep.

Outside again, Sarah sends a text saying, "I love you."

A "bing" sounds from my computer and I open the email from my Lawyer.

The pile driver may as well resume.

Things are better ... things are worse ... It was the worst of times ... it was the best of times ... the duality of living is what you make of it and how it's viewed now.

I'm a Christian by profession but a Druid at heart holding all things in common and loving those suspended in the middle ... like fog which is neither night or day ... and free of dogma or any set of fixed beliefs.

The pike driver resumes and I mutter, "Son-of-a-bitch!" and the birds stop singing.

Fridays are a big day at our house because all the girls are home and I love the "nuclear-ness" of it all, wish my grown up kids were here too, especially Ethan the grandson and only "little man" in the family.

Unless you count Winston, the little gay dog (TLGD) ... which I don't.

It was cold yesterday.

The False "Profits" on television and on-line prophesy it's gonna be cold on Sunday.

I hate that.

But I do love now.

And I truly wish whoever's building that Goddamned dock enjoys the Hell out of it ... and that Pirates bury a little hidden treasure underneath.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Everybody Hurts

Sometimes you have to stop writing, walk away from sharing your life and focus on what's best for your children ... your best friend and lover ... yourself.

It's been a week-and-a-half and the only reason I wrote then was to promote a special Bar Church service on the Beach.

That really wasn't writing for me but for others.

It was work.

Plus Che's so much damn fun! Being part of most of her moments are a spectacular way to spend a day! It's not to say she doesn't wear me out but as I fall asleep on the sofa or collapse exhaustively into bed, I am most fulfilled and satisfied.

And it's not to say I haven't been utterly occupied by other events ... a Hurricane dumping 20 inches of water inside of the house ... six people sleeping in two bedrooms make for a close family but we're a little too cozy ... relentless creditors who care less about Hurricanes ... children who struggle with the present because of the past ... a lawsuit.

Such things zap the desire to write.

Yet inspiration still finds me.

Even if it's the suck ass kind.

There are those you've been incredibly kind to, helping begin a career or starting over when life hadn't been kind and, when all's said and done, they don't care.

In fact, you're somehow blamed for everything gone wrong in life since you helped.

Kindness can begat blame.

In this particular case, I was twice kind. I hired her and she used it as a jumping block to make the life she wants and, though it started out well enough, it went to shit and bad things happened.

You go with what you know in life so she asked for help starting over again and I took her back into the corporate family.

The second chance seemed to work because after she moved on I never heard from her again.

So it was in shock I saw her sitting in court with the other side, rooting against me having forgotten exactly who it was that gave the chances.

I've lived long enough to know most people forget ... institutional history ... HELL History itself! ... kindness given ... substituting it for those liked rather than who acted ... friendship rather than conditional relationship.

"Everybody hurts," the song goes.

It's funny.

At Bar Church, where Hymns are whatever we make em out to be, I was asked to incorporate "Everybody Hurts" by R.E.M. into our canon because we already do "Losing My Religion" in services.

I remember laughing and shaking my head.

But not today.

I'm practicing instead as Che coos from her crib. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

This Sunday

If Jimmy Buffett planned a worship service it would look something like this.

Speakers sitting in the sand face the Ocean.

Seagulls flock like Angels in a deep blue sky. the Sea sloppily kisses the shore, salt air fills your lungs as the sun baptizes you in a golden glow.

Live music is from the hearts of friends complementing each other as they sing.

Hearing it, strangers meander over as an audience is transformed into a tanning congregation sitting in fold out chairs, laying on blankets or dancing in the Dunes.

There's no preaching.

The world already has far too much of that but there are some moving introductions, heartfelt expressions of gratitude, moist eyes, smiles and prayers both silent and spoken.

Dolphins grin as they glide passed in the distance.

A couple of disheveled men hungrily eat free food set up on the crosswalk prepared by Jesus loving people who believe nothing expresses God's love like Deviled Eggs or sausage and egg casserole.

There's a bucket for whoever's moved to tithe or throw in a prayer request but no offering, burnt sacrifices or sacred cows.

There's no judgment ... just acceptance ... mostly of the things God's given us ... a nice day on the Beach ... with live music ... and these people.

There is a reason though for this gathering.

We want to thank God that the island's still floating, ask help for those still suffering from a Hurricane and can't think of a better way than to get back to the way God created things in the first place.

And the Bible says to sing praises and play stringed instruments to glorify God so ... why not?

That's what I'm doing this Sunday ... 10nish ... Island Standard Time ... over the Tybrissa Street crosswalk on Tybee Island ... in the Church God built.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A Matter of Last Resort

I kneel because I don't know what else to do.

I do know I want God more than anything else at that moment.

I need God more than anything else when I'm down.

After I've tried everything else and it doesn't work so ... I get down on my knees.

It's always a matter of last resort.

On each occasion my face collapses into the padded Alter of my hands and I cry out ... into the silence.

Each time the only sounds are my own ... heart beats ... the cracking wet voice ... the sobbing moan from somewhere so deep inside that shatters every other sound ... Birds singing ... noisy traffic ... the pounding of a sledgehammer of construction ... and the never ending droning of Politicians and Preachers ... all fade as they bow before the sounds of someone completely on her knees.

I rarely get what I want when I'm down on my knees but ... I've always gotten up.

Maybe that's what it's all about anyway.

You can never truly appreciate being up until you've been completely down.

I think that's the perspective prayer gives!

It's not asking Santa Claus for this or that but it's lowering myself so there's no other way to look but up.

After seeing all of those standing over me when I'm down, I see above them to the white wisps of clouds hanging in a blue sky decorated with an occasional rainbow.

I think God's up there ... way above those standing over me.

So all of this craziness of millionaire Football players kneeling in protest of white cops killing poor, black people ... followed by the even crazier masses demanding they stand to show respect for the Flag and people in the military which have nothing to do with why they're kneeling ... and craziness breeds craziness so everything escalates and gets completely out of hand.

Maybe it's me but every times craziness escalates in my life, and I can't make sense of things because my original needs are overwhelmed by the demands of others to make things right ... it always ends up driving me to my knees.

Honestly, I don't care Football players are kneeling because I need mindless entertainment to forget about the stresses in my life for a few hours.

I don't care about patriotic zealots either because I've stood beside them in the food court during the National Anthem, listened to them glorify service while no longer serving, been caught up in such pettiness before and I'm not doing that anymore.

I've learned in life that it's far easier to stand after I've been on my knees than it is to lower myself after being on top.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

We Still Have Here

My outdoor shower took a bath!

There's nothing better than stumbling downstairs through the warm sticky and salty predawn to the warm water raining down as I stare at the stars of Orion resting in a pitch black sky listening to the waves sloppily kissing the shore.

Every part of my body wakes at once.

Before the Hurricane I wonder if it will be the last time, willing myself to remember every sight, sensation, sound and smell.

After the Hurricane I trip because the water has moved the deck so it no longer connects the porch to the shower so a foot sinks into mud and I catch myself on the wet wall of stucco.

Che thinks it's funny as I hold her in one arm and actually laughs as I barely miss slamming my head into the side of the house.

"DAMN IT!" I curse.

She giggles holding up her arms as though to say, "Can we do it again Daddy?"

Setting her down on the deck resting in the mud a couple of feet from the shower, I hand her my electric toothbrush which she happily sticks in her mouth and slide my naked body under the warm water.

"Ahhhh ..."

If you don't have an outdoor shower ... or are too much of a prude to enjoy the wonderful creation of your body in nature the way God intended it to be before Adam and Eve screwed it up for everybody ... it's pretty wonderful!

You should get one, lose the laundry and jump on in.

Che sticks one foot in the mud between the deck and the shower.

"Shit!" I grumble, jerking her up and taking off her clothes.

She giggles.

Our daughter loves an outdoor shower too.

So here we are ... after the Hurricane ... things are a bit disjointed ... but ... it's warm and sticky outside just the way we like it.

Warm water rains down as I point out the bright lights of Orion in a pitch black sky.

Waves sloppily kiss the shore in the distance as I sloppily kiss my giggling daughter.

It's okay the deck floated a few feet away, the downstairs bedrooms took on 20 inches of salt water and Sea Lice and Sarah, the girls and I are closer than we've ever been sharing two bedrooms upstairs.

We have each other.

And we still have here. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Life As We Know It

"How old are you?"

"Hmmm," I hum in a sigh.

I hate answering the question but he's older than me so what the Hell, "Sixty-One."

"Well, I'm sixty-nine," he continues ... though he looks far older to me ... sadder ... tired ...

He talks as I consider him sitting in the air conditioned cab of his very large white pick up truck ... the kind of heavy duty vehicle that's never hauled anything that Americans love so much.

"Any way, I'm upside down on the house and have to sell it for more than anyone's going to pay ... I took out a reverse mortgage seven years ago and it's maxed ... so I have to make the money to live till I die ... which I don't want to do."

"That sucks," I say, having no idea how else to respond ... even with two Master's Degrees and a lifetime of counseling experience.

"Yeah," he sighs suddenly looking even older ... sadder ... more tired.

"You got your boat picked out?" he asks changing the subject.

"Sarah's working on all that but ... no ... we're stuck for a bit on that ... crazy, unforeseen things and greedy people who want more than they've already taken."

"Sarah runs things doesn't she?" he laughs ... "but she lost her job!"

"Yeah ... well ... the Alzheimer Association forgot how much they need her."

"Is that the baby?" he inquires noticing for the first time Che sucking on her pacifier while standing in her stroller watching us.

I pick our ten month up who's smiling flashing the four teeth.

"The fact is Micheal," he plows backwards, "I can't afford to live here and don't have the money to go somewhere else to die."

There is no sound other than the sucking noises Che makes with the pink pacifier.

"I've read all your books," he changes the subject again and I know damn well he's lying because he's only talked about the one about Tybee Island.

"You should write a new book about being sixty-one raising a ... how old is she ... two?"

"Ten months."

"Oh, she looks older ... anyway you should write one about being old and raising a young one."

"I did that with the other kids," I answer putting Che back in the stroller," I'd rather spend time with her than write ... writing only got me books published and contrary to what most think, there's not a lot of money in it."

"Well," he huffs, suddenly miffed, "it'd be a terrific read."

"You gonna have any more kids?"

Horrified he slams the air conditioned white truck into drive, "ME? No ... HELL NO!"

"Yeah I'm not sure there's much a market for what I'm doing."

"It'd be great," he says driving to his unsold home.

Che stands in her stroller turned around to face me, sucking the pink pacifier with blue eyes blazing in the thousand hues of Aquila.

"He's a dick," I explain.

Our baby turns and dances in the stroller facing forward, signifying, "Let's roll Daddy."

So we head to the Beach for a swim before home for dinner with Sarah and our girls.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Marvelous Distractions

Sarah stares at her computer sitting in the dining room searching for, I have no idea, but she's been intense about it since she got home from taking Maddie and Cass to school.

When she gets like this I've learned it's best to stay the Hell away so I'm in the kitchen staring at my computer, listening to hard rock from the 70s pondering Monday.

Both of us stifle occasional laughs listening to Che falling asleep in her crib giggling, moaning, laughing and singing in syllables.

The dogs give Sarah her space too in the kitchen with me, one sleeping on the rug by the sink and the other on by sliding glass doors.

Reclining on a chair outside on the Beloved Back deck, the cat grooms himself under a canopy of majestic purple clouds.

Lush green trees dance in the winds of a Tropical Storm churning over the Ocean a few blocks from our house.

I know Sarah would prefer me to not have the music playing so I turn off the wireless speaker and stick in ear buds clicking on the diverse collection of songs on my passé IPod.

The IPod's collected dust in the red bowl where I toss things I don't know what to do with ... it's full of Compact Disks, dog leashes, glass cases and notes I've written to myself ... sitting atop the Fridge because it drives Sarah crazy so I try to keep it out of sight.

Karen Carpenter croons "Rainy Days and Monday" in my head and today's certainly that though it doesn't get me down like it does her.

Sarah meanders in wearing cut off blue jeans showing off tan, muscular legs ... a faded white Wonder Woman tee shirt I can see through ... with her long hair in a pony tail ... and her well defined arm reaches for a snack.

Turning she comments on several things in rapid order giving me no real indication of what she's so intensely focusing on but then again I only half way listen enjoying the visual delights in front of me.

Wandering back to the Living Room, I look at the dogs who are looking at me and mouth the word, "DAMN" before returning to the music and computer wondering what I'd been doing.

Palm fronds fall from the trees in the back yard, a burst of sunlight breaks through the clouds, the roar of waves crashing onto the shore grows louder and a "Club Orient sign hanging on the Back Deck flies across the lawn.

There's a lot wrong with the world and not everything is right in our lives as we're struggling as much as anybody else these days but ... it's hard to get down on this rainy Monday when I have such marvelous distractions.

Friday, August 18, 2017

No Words

Her tanned skin taste like the Ocean ... salty, wet and full of unseen life ... as she giggles, lowering her beach blond hair onto my shoulder.

Tossing her into the sun, she catches her breath and blue eyes blaze as she falls back to my arms and we splash in the Sea.

Happy until she realizes we are leaving, she lets out a cry until I say, "Let's go see what Mommy's doing."

Sticking the pacifier in her mouth with tiny brown hands clutching the stroller, she carefully watches everything we pass, occasionally standing as I push she dances and we make our way home.

I used to write during these hours of the morning but now I meander around the island with Che punctured with swims in the Ocean as the sun climbs out of bed.

For years I wrote every day because I had things to say.

Sometimes they were meaningful words but often, I now see, I was just trying to be heard ... to find acceptance of who I am by putting it out there ... taking affirmation from whoever would click "Like" ... horrified at the manipulative actions of many ... and delighted at the rare real exchanges that rarely occur virtually.

I wrote in the morning because I find inspiration easier to find as the world comes to life as God's gifted us with another day to do with what we will.

I wrote in the morning because Hemingway did and I love the crazy, mentally ill brilliance of the egotistical maniac where one true word always seems to follow another.

Now I find I don't have as much to say.

The need to be heard has diminished and what talking I do these days is for a few minutes each week in a Church meeting in a dark and dingy bar.

Mornings are now filled with a new life full of morning wanders, silent observations, baby giggles and the Ocean swims.

She's taken all my words replacing them with a two-tooth grin, eyes the size of moons exploding like a Super Nova of blues, and the humility that comes with standing before the Author of Life.

What have I done to deserve this?

"Can you believe we made her?" Sarah often asks sharing all of my own feelings and disbelief.

Neither of us could ever have imagined.

Home, Che falls asleep easily and I bother my wife who's busily managing our life full of surprises, three other girls, adult children and some greedy people from the past who refuse to stay back in what was.

Taking a few moments, I check on what's happened in the rest of the world but can't find much emotional investment because I'm already too excited for when the baby wakes up ... and we get to do it again.

Our life isn't fair but it sure is full.

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.