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.

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."


"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!