Thursday, August 25, 2016

For the Love of an Island

My neighbor comes out every morning and gardens.

He's shirtless, wears grey shorts and is barefoot as he tenderly waters a massive Camellia, taking his time to admire and appreciate it stretching towards the sun.

I like watching him.

Paying no attention to me, sitting on the Beloved Back Deck, wearing less than he is, listening to "The Doors" with my fingers dancing across the keyboard writing, he remains exclusively focused on the Camellia.

The sky is a pale blue without a cloud as the rising sun blazes through the branches of the Palm Trees and the Ocean breeze is brisker than it's been in months creating a false illusion of a coming Fall.

Reaching up, he cups a white Camellia in both hands, pulling it down to his face and breathes in deeply.

"People are strange," Jim Morrison reminds me, but I'm utterly captivated by his childlike wonderment finding it completely beguiling.

A choir of Cicada burst into Hymns of Praise.

The sound of the Ocean sloppily kissing the shore hangs in the air.

Tybee Island is a crazy place full of the distractions of Government, paramilitary Police, an overabundance of Stop Signs, more rules and regulations than are in the Old Testament and completely overrun with tourists desperate for what residents have.

But in moments like this, when the Bullshit of living here isn't a constant distraction, you get to what this Island really is.

A massive green Lemon drops from the tree in the yard separating his house from mine and, hearing it, he un-cups the Camellia and sees me watching him.

He waves and smiles before holding his naked arms towards the Heavens as if to say "Thank you."

It makes me laugh.

So I raise my hands towards Heaven in response and it makes him laugh.

This is the island at it's best.

Apart from the Bullshit we're constantly hurling at it, Tybee Island somehow remains as beautiful as when God made it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Church and State

"Listen ... God's in need and asked me to tell you to fix a parking ticket."

Clearly understanding the Devil's in the details waiting on Bar Church to begin, our musical guest is a poor musician from Texas who is aghast it costs .25/15 minutes to breath without moving on Tybee Island.

Keith Rea's here for God and the Lord wants to make sure he's taken care of so I text Monty Parks, full time Politician and Musician ... an oxymoron ... but I've learned to accept such things on this clump of sand.

"You want $10 from me to feed the meter? Easier on me that way," he writes back.

Just like a politician to take the easy way out!

"Does it seriously cost that much to breath on this island?" Keith asks.

"No, my friend. You can stop anytime you want! That's why there's so many Stop Signs on Tybee. It's an attempt to reduce the number of day visitors by reminding them not to breath as they aimlessly make their way looking for parking."

"Oh," he says tuning his guitar.

"This is what it's come down to," Monty text, "fixing tickets for God?"

The Baptists, Catholics and Methodists all have parking lots on Tybee so parking tickets are not an issue for them.

The Episcopalians park on City right-of-way so it's not an issue.

At Bar Church, there is no parking except by meters and most of our folks ain't got a quarter having spent it sometime the previous night ... or early this morning.

"I'm going running ... or trundling as it may be," Monty writes but I don't read it till later because the service begins.

I don't know if anybody got saved but the food was good, the coffee hot, the music was great and Jimmy Cochran delivered the Gospel "According to Pinocchio".

It was great!

Afterwards, lugging the sound system and guitars to the cars, I spy that Keith wasn't ticketed.

Immediately, I text Monty.

"God doesn't need you after all! Apparently got another City Council member to fix things."

Thanking Keith for coming, we embrace in the street as thousands of cars aimlessly drive around looking for a place to park.

My phone buzzes and it's from Monty ... "??"

I don't respond ... perhaps leaving him hanging in the air ... full of questions.

But Bar Church is over and I've punched out.

I'm off the clock and ready to go skinny dipping with Sarah.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Tybee Island's Latest Religious Controversy

I know what happened with Tybee Island's latest religious controversy.

There's a book Preacher's buy called "Silent Words Spoken Loudly" which is filled with cute sayings to put on their Church sign.

 They pray people driving passed will think, "This is a cool Church which we must alter all of our plans to attend because it says ... 'THIS CHURCH IS PRAYER CONDITIONED.'"

There's another titled "The Little Book of Church Signs" which great theological funniness like "Tasting forbidden fruit creates many jams."

There's no scientific knowledge to prove cute sayings on Church signs even get people to slow down ... much less attend.

The reason these books exists is because Preachers can't think of anything to put on their Church Signs week in and week out ... they're too ... busy ... not thinking for themselves.

THAT'S NOT TO SAY they're not thinking Preachers because some of my best friends are thoughtful Clergy and I read everything they write because ... they can write.

Unlike Preachers who buy little books with cute sayings like "Under the same management for 2000+ years" ... the Pastor's 24.

I'm sure this is the root of Tybee Island latest religious controversy where the Baptist Sign reads, "The Last Time Things Were This Messed Up, I Sent a Flood ... God."

It could be construed the Baptists do not like people in Louisiana ... currently being flooded ... with numerous people drowning.

I'm pretty certain it's little more than the next page in "The Great American Book of Church Signs" filled with wonderful encouraging words like ... "FREE TRIP TO HEAVEN! Details Inside."

The Baptist Preacher merely turned to the next page in the book and changed the sign.

Islanders however are in an uproar ... having just paid the Flood Insurance Bill ... which the Government increased again this year ... because poor North Carolina can no longer pay it's own way ... so the entire East Coast was asked to help ... at gunpoint.

I'm pretty sure the Baptist have no idea whatsoever they are the scorn of a religious controversy ... again.

I think everybody should just calm down.

Next week, the Baptist Preacher will flip the page in the little book he bought, and the sign will read, "Experts Made The Titanic! Armatures Made the Ark!"

Passerby's will probably not even notice rushing to get in line at The Breakfast Club.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Island at Night

Topping the Thunderbolt Bridge on a warm summer's night with the window's down, the first thing you notice is the full moon hanging in a black sky amidst purple clouds of majesty.

There are no stars.

Just the Lady in the Moon, draped in purple clouds standing in front of infinity.

The aroma in the sticky salt air is the pungent smell of sex in the tropics emanating from the Marshes.

Bringing my gaze down, I see the stars on the water ... lights from houses, boats and docks punctuating where the Low Country ends and Heaven begins.

"It's a perfect night to open the windows," I say to my wife who's driving.

"HA!" she laughs, patting my hand resting on her swelled belly, "No way!"

I sigh and resume looking at the wonder of islands at night.

"I need a hair tie," Sarah says, driving with one hand and holding her long, lush hair with the other.

"I don't have one," Maddie says, typing away into the glow of her phone.

I roll my window up, though Sarah keeps the sun roof open and her window cracked.

This is my favorite time of year.

The Marsh is at it's zenith with beautiful colors of green and gold ... summer reigns supreme ... the Rivers are flat and the water's warm ... Ocean breezes kiss rather than blow.

"You can roll the window down," Sarah smiles as we slow down rolling on to Tybee where cops hide in wait.

Immediately I do and ... it's Heaven on earth.

The stars sleeping on Bull River are breathtaking ... on that crazy unplanned island of congestion, construction, gated communities and fast food.

To the left, the stars on Hilton Head are equally stunning ... in the land of a planned development of Golf courses, toll roads, bike paths and resorts ... with only a hint remaining of the simple beauty if used to be when little was there.

Rolling on to the clump of sand we call home, it's a place much like it's always been ... aside from the explosion of Government, Police officers, regulations and permits.

If you live here ... you know where to slow down and to speed up ... when to take your dogs on the Beach ... take beer in a cold bottle to watch them frolic ... park for free ... make love in the sand dunes.

Tybee people with a heart agonize at the thousands who come here and to pay for these simple pleasures with tremendous fines, arrests, court appearances and the countless circling of the streets searching to park a car for $.25/15 minutes.

Islanders without a heart could care less.

As far as they're concerned it's all there's anyway.

Turning on Jones Avenue to make a complete stop at the sign where they cops lay in wait.

Stealing once last glance at the wonderment of an island at night, I rub my baby growing in my wife's belly, suck in the smell of the marsh, blow a kiss to the Lady in the Moon, thank God for this life already wishing Sarah would let me open the windows tonight.

Island at Night

Topping the Thunderbolt Bridge on a warm summer's night with the window's down, the first thing you notice is the full moon hanging in a black sky amidst purple clouds of majesty.

There are no stars.

Just the Lady in the Moon, draped in purple clouds standing in front of infinity.

The aroma in the sticky salt air is the pungent smell of sex in the tropics emanating from the Marshes.

Bringing my gaze down, I see the stars on the water ... lights from houses, boats and docks punctuating where the Low Country ends and Heaven begins.

"It's a perfect night to open the windows," I say to my wife who's driving.

"HA!" she laughs, patting my hand resting on her swelled belly, "No way!"

I sigh and resume looking at the wonder of islands at night.

"I need a hair tie," Sarah says, driving with one hand and holding her long, lush hair with the other.

"I don't have one," Maddie says, typing away into the glow of her phone.

I roll my window up, though Sarah keeps the sun roof open and her window cracked.

This is my favorite time of year.

The Marsh is at it's zenith with beautiful colors of green and gold ... summer reigns supreme ... the Rivers are flat and the water's warm ... Ocean breezes kiss rather than blow.

"You can roll the window down," Sarah smiles as we slow down rolling on to Tybee where cops hide in wait.

Immediately I do and ... it's Heaven on earth.

The stars sleeping on Bull River are breathtaking ... on that crazy unplanned island of congestion, construction, gated communities and fast food.

To the left, the stars on Hilton Head are equally stunning ... in the land of planned development of Golf courses, toll roads, bike paths and resorts ... with only a hint remaining of the simple beauty if used to be when little was there.

Rolling on to the clump of sand we call home, it's a place much like it's always been ... aside from the explosion of Government, Police officers, regulations and permits.

If you live here ... you know where to slow down and to speed up ... when to take your dogs on the Beach ... take beer in a cold bottle to the Beach ... park for free ... make love in the sand dunes.

Tybee people with a heart agonize at the thousands who come here and to pay for these simple pleasures with tremendous fines, arrests, court appearances and the countless circling of the streets searching to part a car for $.25/15 minutes.

Islanders without a heart could care less.

As far as they're concerned it's all there's anyway.

Turning on Jones Avenue to make a complete stop at the sign where they cops lay in wait.

Stealing once last glance at the wonderment of an island at night, I rub my baby growing in my wife's belly, suck in the smell of the marsh, blow a kiss to the Lady in the Moon, thank God for this life already wishing Sarah would let me open the windows tonight.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Jam

"I teach English," she explains throwing her hair over a shoulder and taking her glasses off to emphasize what she's saying, "but I'm really a singer/song writer."

Having already performed a couple of her originals, no one cares she teaches English.

What's that got to do with anything?

Looking around the room, everyone here does something else we don't care about either.

There's a politician, a cleaner of Beach Vacation rentals, a psychotherapist, a Hospice Nurse, an electrician, a guy who used to drop bombs from planes and ... a few who provide no clue whatsoever they do anything else.

It doesn't matter.

On Tuesday nights at Doc's Bar "Monty Parks Tuesday Night Acoustic Jam" occurs, which almost sounds like "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" ... but it's not.

At the Jam, for an hour or so anyway, everyone becomes who they truly are ... musicians ... singers ... songwriters ... lead guitarists ... conga players ... blues harps ... beautiful souls.

Making it magical is the Jam is "a little like religion and a lot like sex" (to steal a line from another singer/songwriter).

We are a faithful lot who attend the Jam and we notice if someone's gone too long having grown to genuinely care about the permanent fixtures, seasonal members and occasional visitors.

That's the religion part.

The sex part is we really get each other off at the Jam ... encouraging and pushing each other to be that musician and singer/songwriter they really are but buried under the other things they do.

Some nights it's just orgasmic.

Thomas sings "Blue Lights" leaving the room hushed ... Chip tells tourists to get the "fu#k out the way" and we explode in laughter ... Lona brings happiness to the saddest of songs ... Cousin Itt sings about us drawing us together even closer ... Monty sings about his dog and eyes grow moist.

Slo' Bass shoots rhythmic jokes slapping a steady beat in a crazy dance with Conga Dave and the precisionist.

It gets pretty hot in the back room at Doc's.

In the Bar they drink and watch "Wheel of Fortune," shoot Bumper Pool or work on getting laid pretending be someone else.

But in the Back Room, during the Jam, there's a weekly gathering of people being who God created them to be, which is not necessarily who we are.

And it happens with the sweetest encouragement and support.

Nobody cares if you screw up because, we've screwed up trying to become who we really are, and we're gonna do this together.

Sometimes, not all the time, the sounds are so incredibly holy coming out of the back room that the Bar grows as quiet as a Church on Monday morning.

That’s what happens when you finally get to become who you really are anyway and stop pretending you’re someone else.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

What In God's Name has happened to us?

"Micheal Elliott," she writes calling me out, "why do you write this stuff? ...  what has happened in your life to hate the police so badly?"

I don't hate the police.

Privately I write and tell her so, explaining I pray for them and for her too for caring about them so much.

I pray they don't get killed or kill anyone either doing their jobs.

Death comes soon enough and certainly doesn't need our assistance.

I do poke fun at Government ... and the police is part of that ... because politics has become a sanctimonious corruption that treats itself as Holiness in action.

Politics has made us a nation of "US" and "THEMS" ... the good and the bad ... the enlightened and the ignorant ... the rich and the poor ... the living and the dying.

Politics is the largest employer ... producing "Prisons" as its biggest commodity closely followed by Government buildings ... creating rule after rule to take care of us because obviously we're incapable of taking care of ourselves and ... in a brilliant twist of manipulation ... taking care of their own above all else.

On Tybee Island where I live, if the cops pull over a City Councilperson, the outcome is largely different than a Mom rushing her three children to school and slowly rolling through a Stop Sign.

It's now politically incorrect to poke fun at the Government ... the Police ... Firefighters ... Parking Services ... and the Department of Public Works that blocks off two miles of traffic to water plants.

What in God's name has happened to us?

I refuse to become a pawn in Government ideology and the doctrine of political correctness.

So I poke fun at people and institutions who take themselves WAY ... TOO ... SERIOUSLY.

And people get mad!

It's alright ... I've survived lots of anger in my life.

But ... there's something more going on here.

"My soul magnifies the Lord," a knocked up teenager with an illegitimate baby in her belly once said, "and my Spirit rejoices in God my Savior for he has looked down on my humble state."

"He shows strength through his arm," she sings, "and scatters the proud in the thoughts of their hearts."

Not the thoughts in their heads.

The thoughts in their hearts.

Sometimes, the only way to get people to think, is to poke fun when they're thinking without using the tools God gave them to use.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

IT LIVES!

I saw a living Dinosaur the other day.

At the First Baptist Church of Hinesville, Georgia!

In full disclosure, I haven't been to a First Baptist Church ... or a second, third or forth Baptist Church ... in decades having sworn them off..

 I took issue with a logo the Southern Baptist Convention once released ... "A MIND IS A TERRIBLE THING! LET THE PREACHER DO ALL YOUR THINKING!" and quit.

Until this week, I hadn't been back to a First Baptist yet ... there I sat ... cushioned pew ... gold offering plates ... Organ to the right, Baby Grand piano to the left ... men in three piece suits ... ushers ... Baptismal Pool ... an Old Rugged Cross with it's own spotlight ... and teenagers copping feels on the back row.

This is the Baptist Church I grew up in.

I couldn't help but notice the modern differences ... a sound system The Rolling Stones would covet ... two massive screens on either side of the Pulpit that could easily accommodate Donald Trump's ego (there were Trump brochures beside those for the Church Building Fund and upcoming Pastor's Appreciation Anniversary) ... a manicured parking lot equipped to host a thousand cars, trucks and  RVs for the most dedicated Christians.

Late for the funeral, the Preacher was talking when I arrived so I checked Face Book on my phone until he finished.

THEN ... it happened!

A living, breathing, relic slowly made his way to the Pulpit wearing a wrinkled grey three piece suit, asked everyone to open the Hymnal to page 409 as the Piano and Organ wailed and started singing ... "In the Garden."

I couldn't believe it!

A live Minister of Music still roams the earth!

Shaking the cobwebs from my memory, I watched him keep congregational time by raising his left hand straight up and straight down.

I dropped my phone on to the padded pew as my mouth dropped open.

"Holy Baby Jesus," I mutter, "It's alive."

Not quite a Preacher ... not really a layman ... it's a Minister of Music ... some genetically flawed mistake of creation.

God must have looked the other way for a second during creation.

Mistakenly, I'd believed music loving Christians had killed off all the Ministers of Music in the 1970s in Satan's last great attempt to conquer the Church through Polyester suits and sock ties and believer's revolted ... and went Kaki.

"Well," I mutter out loud.

"What?" the Lady wearing a red paisley dress and orange blue hat asks, still singing "In the Garden."

"What's the fastest way out?"

She nods over her left shoulder towards the "Enter Only" door with the sign above it reading, "The Most Powerful Position Is On Your Knees."

I flee like Israel getting out of Egypt ... meaning I went to the wrong door ... twice.

That was on Thursday ... and I still can't shake it.

His hand goes up and down ... up and down ... up and down ... for no apparent reason ... not in any keeping with time ... as he leads us in ALL FIVE VERSES!

The poor woman died twice that day.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

My Way (Not the song)

"I AM NOT STUPID! I AM NOT STUPID! I AM NOT STUPID!"

It was the first meaningful thing I ever wrote.

Directed at an audience of one.

In the bedroom of our place in the Red Barn Trailer Park with my new born son sleeping in the bed as I studied at the tiny Formica desk, I didn't understand what I was reading.

My mind refused to recognize the dots ... much less connect them.

I looked at Jeremy sleeping, realizing I hadn't accomplished anything in life other than learning to play some guitar and failing to understand birth control, and I burst into tears.

Then I grabbed my pencil and wrote "I AM NOT STUPID" over and over and over, repeatedly breaking the pencil, sobbing but determined to change ... something.

Later in Dr. Mosley's history class, the assignment was a paper on a Civil War skirmish, "The Battle of Bull Run."

"Wearing wool coats, the Rebels slogged through the mud listening to the Yankee's victory yells, sweating like bullets while wondering if bullets turn to blood."

It came back circled in red.

In the margin, also in red, Dr. Mosley scribbled, "Excellent!"

I brought it to the tiny trailer and showed it my son who gleefully stuffed it in his mouth.

And at that moment ... everything about me changed.

I began to read ... everything!

Book after book after book.

And I wrote ... and I wrote ... and I wrote.

Later still, in Louisville, Kentucky attending Seminary and inexplicably in charge of an inner city Church ... I kept a daily journal on ... life as I saw it.

After four filled notebooks, through Divine accident, Holy intervention or damn good luck ... those journals became my first three books.

Writing became my way of processing everything.

"You know Dad," a newly abandoned and adult Jeremy tells his old abandoned Dad on the beloved back deck, "you have this way of writing everything out of you ... so you don't have to hold on to it."

It reminds me of a Jimmy Buffett lyric, "You put the book, by itself, on the shelf with your heart in it."

All the hurts, joys, things gone right and massive failures ... I write em out.

In  the pool, Sarah floats doing her pregnant laps as I sip wine bobbling in the warm water under the Palm Tree with the oyster eyes, coconut bra and grass skirt.

Goddess pokes her head between the picks of the Beloved Back Deck to check on us and Winston, the Little Gay Dog, whines behind her because he wants to be with Sarah at all times.

Our talk isn't pleasant.

Sarah's protecting me ... LOUDLY ... from things at work that aren't quite right and other people who want me to do things for them that they won't do for themselves.

I'm quietly intense.

"What do you think?" she asks, wet face and intense blue eyes staring an inch away from mine.

I remain quiet.

"Well, I'll read about it with everybody else," she laughs swimming away.

Everybody's got to find their way to, "Let it out and let it in", as the major prophets the Beatles admonished the struggling.

Well ... this is mine.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Killing Yourself

"How thick is your skin?" Mayor Floyd Adams whispers in my ear.

A woman in the audience is screaming at me seated at the head table in the amphitheater at Memorial Health University Medical Center.

She's pretty vicious, pointing yelling things about how I've hurt so many others by not sharing and things are worse because of me ... on and on she goes.

"Tell you what," the Mayor continues. "I'll buy you lunch at Manuel's sometime soon."

Lots of people didn't like Floyd but over decades I grew to love the man.

We had two fights in time ... I won the first ... he creamed me in the second.

After that we figured we'd accomplish more working together and, given both of us were intense competitors, our relationship was predicated on who would outdo the other.

Over time he took to calling me "Stormin' Norman" after the great general and while I called him "Mr. Mayor" in public, he told me he's just Floyd.

"Lunch would be nice," I whisper back to the Mayor as the woman continues berating me.

People in the audience who don't like me are gleeful while those who do check their phones.

"She's just having her moment," he whispers. "It could be her only one. You may as well let her have it."

"Yeah," I sigh.

"Besides you'd look stupid if you tried to say anything."

I stare the hate coming from her eyes.

"Just think about lunch," Floyd says. "Tuesdays are spaghetti day."

It's hard to not laugh.

"Don't you laugh," he whispers wearing the same face Floyd always wore, a strange combination of bemusement, curiosity and defiance.

Of course I laughed which sent the lady and the audience into a frenzy ... those not likely me licked their chops while those who do appear empathetic.

"I told you not to laugh," Floyd whispers staring straight ahead without moving his lips.

No longer able to stand it, I turn away from the woman and audience and look at the Mayor who continues looking straight ahead.

"You're killing me," I say as the room grows quiet.

Slowly turning his head towards mine, he leans forward so that our foreheads almost touch, and there's laughter in his eyes while his face betrays nothing, and whispers "Naw ... you're killing yourself." 

I learned a lot that day.

If people don't like what I write or say and are compelled to say so, it's alright.

They can have their moment.

While they're shooting their was, I've got plenty more moments to come.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Inching Forward

Because I live with little girls, I am forced to endure the horrific culinary cuisine of McDonalds.

I can honestly say there's not a damn thing they serve that I like.

Years ago, I liked Big Mac's when they were ... two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.

Who knows what the Hell it's made out now!

I think it's the same material used to make the cardboard box it's served in!

AND ... if your life is cursed and the closest McDonald's is on Whitemarsh Island where the special sauce on a Big Mac is on the side of the cold bun that took twelve-and-a-half minutes to get ... and that's if you didn't go through the drive through ... which starts in Thunderbolt ... and when you finally get to the window for your food ... a punk ass kid on his cell phone looks pass you and says ... "Pull over ... we'll bring it to you."

Finally ... PISSED ... I stroll inside to find over half the employees sitting in booths staring at their phones ... arguing over who's going to mop up the mess from the Frappe machine ... AND ... doing their homework ... or studying English.

Anyway ...

Here I am waiting in the Drive through at the Whitemarsh Island McDonalds because I ... LOVE ... MY ... LITTLE ... GIRLS!

I will get them back later in life.

It's a pleasant morning so the sun roof's open and the windows are down ... Radiohead is blaring from the Boise Sound System ... Maddie, the clueless 14 year old who knows everything, is happy I caved to her demand for McDonalds ... and that brings me joy.

"Hey Micheal," he says, tentatively waiving, carrying his sack of whatever it is to his car.

Older, grayer, sadder ... he's a relic of my past.

Then, we were pinnacles of power ... he at the Hospital ... me as a Change Agent ... and for a while our world's collided ... and we  did lots of good things for lots of people in desperate need of anything good.

"Hey," I smile.

Climbing in his  car, Maddie asks who he is.

I tell her as we inch forward for her Frappe and pancakes.

His car pulls beside mine and he rolls down a window.

"What did you think of the Convention?"

"There was a Convention?" I reply. "I don't do those things anymore. They took everything I gave them and never gave anything back."

Shocked, he grimaces, rolls his window up and slowly makes his way into the past where he lives.

"What was that about?" Maddie asks.

Sighing, I answer, "It's sad. He's forever imprisoned by a past he'll never have again. I think he'd like to move on but ... well, the past is powerful and, in his case, I think it's won."

"Your order is almost ready," an unseen voice says from a speaker.

"Son of a Bitch!" I mutter.

Maddie laughs as we inch forward.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

A Thing of Beauty

It's interesting watching people die.

After a while you begin to notice the human body just naturally wears out and starts to shut down.

Sometimes the mind's already gone ... or remains sharp as a tact causing great frustration because the body lags so far behind ... and occasionally the two seem to be in sync.

Watching, I can't help but think.

A deteriorating without much of a mind is pretty bothersome to others.

In a dirty trailer in the woods or an expensive, state-of-the-art assisted living facility ... drooling is drooling ... awkwardly sleeping on a sofa on top of someone else facing a blaring television for entertainment has never been under Doctor's orders or recommended by Emily Post.

As common place as it is, it's painful to see.

Knocking on the bedroom door of dirty home on a farm, I tap on the window per his instructions and watch as it takes a full five minutes for him to collect himself to open the front door.

"Hey Micheal!" he beams. "Why can't you visit more? I love our talks!"

So we talk ... about everything ... he remembers the past clearly ... is current on today's events ... wistful over things he'd wished he'd done ... proud of each accomplishment.

"Awe don't leave," he sighs as I stand and hug a body that may as well be slumped over on a sofa drooling.

"I'll be back soon," I smile.

"Please," he says in desperation as I leave bringing on a sadness as I drive away.

Occasionally there are the blessed who go at the same time ... body and mind just quit ... just after dinner with his of wife 52 years and he sits in the recliner to watch "Wheel of Fortune" while the love of his life fixes desert and when she brings it ... he's gone.

I prefer the last way to die but ... damn I'd hate for Sarah to find me that way just after she made me home made Apple Crisp.

I'm noticing it's taking me longer to do things ... cut the grass ... string my guitar ... find my glasses when I'm cussing too much because I can't make the Goddamn screwdriver fit into the screw ... climb out of the car after a drive ... clearly hear something without asking for it to be repeated to make certain I understand.

These things bother me.

I seem to be slowing down and it reminds me that my body may be wearing out.

Sarah will quickly say I no longer take care of myself as I should ... she's like to be in charge.

But I don't mind the way I am enough to take any drastic action ... it's taken me a long time to get to this point ... even in spite of my new deficiencies.

Watching people die mostly makes me grateful for all of the life I have ... the others in my life who make it interesting, bring joy, challenge me, comfort me and shower me in love.

It's not always going to be this way so I'm sure as Hell enjoying right now.

My Dad's last words were, "It was beautiful," and we had no idea what he was talking about.

We'd been joking and he'd been slurring his words and mumbling but, in crazy moment of clarity, "It was beautiful!"

I believe it's a perfect way to sum things up.

When all's said and done ... what I have ... what you have ... what we're not going to always have ... it really is beautiful.

A Thing of Beauty

It's interesting watching people die.

After a while you begin to notice the human body just naturally wears out and starts to shut down.

Sometimes the mind's already gone ... or remains sharp as a tact causing great frustration because the body lags so far behind ... and occasionally the two seem to be in sync.

Watching, I can't help but think.

A deteriorating without much of a mind is pretty bothersome to others.

In a dirty trailer in the woods or an expensive, state-of-the-art assisted living facility ... drooling is drooling ... awkwardly sleeping on a sofa on top of someone else facing a blaring television for entertainment has never been under Doctor's orders or recommended by Emily Post.

As common place as it is, it's painful to see.

Knocking on the bedroom door of dirty home on a farm, I tap on the window per his instructions and watch as it takes a full five minutes for him to collect himself to open the front door.

"Hey Micheal!" he beams. "Why can't you visit more? I love our talks!"

So we talk ... about everything ... he remembers the past clearly ... is current on today's events ... wistful over things he'd wished he'd done ... proud of each accomplishment.

"Awe don't leave," he sighs as I stand and hug a body that may as well be slumped over on a sofa drooling.

"I'll be back soon," I smile.

"Please," he says in desperation as I leave bringing on a sadness as I drive away.

Occasionally there are the blessed who go at the same time ... body and mind just quit ... just after dinner with his wife 52 years and he sits in the recliner to watch "Wheel of Fortune" while the love of his life fixes desert and when she brings it ... he's gone.

I prefer the last way to die but ... damn I'd hate for Sarah to find me that way just after she made me home made Apple Crisp.

I'm noticing it's taking me longer to do things ... cut the grass ... string my guitar ... find my glasses when I'm cussing too much because I can't make the Goddamn screwdriver fit into the screw ... climb out of the car after a drive ... clearly hear something without asking for it to be repeated to make certain I understand.

These things bother me.

I seem to be slowing down and it reminds me that my body may be wearing out.

Sarah will quickly say I no longer take care of myself as I should ... she's like to be in charge.

But I don't mind the way I am enough to take any drastic action ... it's taken me a long time to get to this point ... even in spite of my new deficiencies.

Watching people die mostly makes me grateful for all of the life I have ... the others in my life who make it interesting, bring joy, challenge me, comfort me and shower me in love.

It's not always going to be this way so I'm sure as Hell enjoying right now.

My Dad's last words were, "It was beautiful," and we had no idea what he was talking about.

We'd been joking and he'd been slurring his words and mumbling but, in crazy moment of clarity, "It was beautiful!"

I believe it's a perfect way to sum things up.

When all's said and done ... what I have ... what you have ... what we're not going to always have ... it really is beautiful.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Checks and Balances

As the sun commences it's descent, the dinner dishes are put away, Sarah props her feet on the sofa and rubs our baby and the girls busy themselves with whatever girls do, I make my way to the Beach for an Ocean swim.

Shuffling my feet through the cool soft sand, I marvel at the giant purple clouds hanging in the sky, stars on the water from distant boats and channel buoys as the Sea settles down for the night.

At the high water mark I place my glass of wine in the sand, lay my I-Pod on top along with my cap and sunglasses and slide into the salt water.

Slumbering waves softly roll in taking me up and tenderly letting me down.

I turn my back to the island and the mainland behind it ... the telephone poles and satellite dishes ... politics and nightly news ... organized religion and reality TV ... criminals and police cars lying in wait for victims ... noise.

The Ocean bubbles and slaps ... ebbs and flows ... rises and falls.

A pod of Dolphins smile as they slice through the water.

A pelican dives into an unsuspecting school of fish grabbing dinner.

Stingray swim by in the same V formation pelicans fly pass overhead.

I am baptized in the same Holiness where God spawned life in the first place.

Remaining in the water, I lose track of time ... it could be an hour ... perhaps just ten minutes ... "with the Lord a day is a thousand years and a thousand years but a day."

Slowly making my way out, I grab the wine, put my hat on and shuffle through the sand to one of the swings on the beach and resume prayers.

I love this time.

So when the old man waves at me with a smile, shuffling his feet quickly towards me, I groan at the interruption.

He is Indian, old with the nicest of smiles without a single tooth in his mouth. A red smudge adorns a dark brown forehead.

"Hi," I mumble being nice pulling the buds from my ears just as Brian Wilson is reminding me "Guess you had to be there."

"How tall you are?" he smiles. Tell me."

"What?"

Holding one hand above my head, he repeats, "How tall you are?"

"Oh! Five feet ten."

"Hand me your phone," he toothlessly grins in an infectious sort of way so I hand him my phone and he calculates standing on the beach.

"You are overweight," he beams. "This is what you should weigh," and he hands me my phone flashing a ridiculously low number.

I scowl.

"But," he smile, "you have all of your teeth. I have none."

"Checks and balances," I think.

"Okay," he smiles and shuffles away in the soft sand.

"Only on Tybee," I mutter, grinning a toothy grin.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Catching Magic

Sometimes in life, you're part of something special and, if you're lucky or blessed, you know it as it's happening.

There's not a single Sunday that passes, when at least for a second or two, I don't remember Jeff Street.

It was the first time I was part of magic and, once something so Holy touches you, well ... you never forget.

Jefferson Street runs through the middle of downtown Louisville, Kentucky where, in those days, housing projects and homeless people lined the road ... the stench of slaughter rose from the Stockyard ... and the banks of Ohio River was a garbage dump.

In a building called a Church, with Bars on the windows to keep people out ... so homeless people slept in the dumpster in the gated parking lot ... or huddled in the doorway on frigid winter mornings ... I was a lost 22 year old Seminary student inexplicably hired by the Baptists to be the minister.

I wasn't much of pastor but I was cocky as Hell, had a heart for people sleeping in dumpsters and little old ladies who still believed in God in spite of the horrors they were living through.

"We can change the world," I said.

I don't know why ... or how ... but others believed too ... Bill Berry ... Claude Drouet ... Beth Bell ... Diane Reel ... Sonny Broughten ... Chester Fawbush ... Pouche ... Mitch Wesley ... and my little boy Jeremy ... my little girl Kristen.

And maybe God believed too because, for a little while anyway, we did change the world.

It's hard to recognize when it's happening, you're too busy living life ... changing diapers, going to class and washing dishes to make money ... but the moment it's over ... you know.

You know because you ... miss it.

But you never forget it.

I've been to lots of Churches since then ... frequent one in a Bar now ... but what I'm really doing is trying to recapture the magic of what happened then ... when for a little while anyway ... the Kingdom came on earth as it is in Heaven ... and we did change the world.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

My Salty Life


Growing up, whenever I got a scrap or cut ...

say by slamming on the brakes and flying off my bicycle because Gene Prevatt, Robert Mixon and I sped away from stealing all the fire extinguishers out of the wire factory in Port Wentworth ...

and I saw my Mom driving towards us so I hit the brakes so she's knows it's Gene and Robert and not me ...

my Dad believed the best remedy was to throw me in the Ocean.

"Salt Water cures everything," he'd say driving us to Tybee Island.

He and Mom would have alone time sitting in the car parked down front as Angie, David and I hit the beach.

Dad's gone now but he sure left me things to love and I love salt water.

It swims through my veins ... sticks to my skin ... falls from my eyes when my heart fills or breaks ... soothes my feet when they're sore ... seasons every pot I put on the stove ... kills ants ... heals my wounds faster ... makes things taste better and ... brings me luck when I throw a pinch over my shoulder.

It's impossible to hate salt water.

We were in Key West recently and the pools are all chlorinated salt water which, of course, I prefer over the bland stuff.

It's the time of year when, after the dinner dishes are put away and the girls are busy being girls and Sarah's got her feet up on the sofa rubbing Che in her belly, I make the short trek to the Sea.

Laying the glass of wine on the Beach, placing my I-Pod and hat on it so the Ocean breeze doesn't blow it over, my body slides in the salt water and there's a peace that passes all understanding.

Out of the Sea all life came.

It sure is nice to go back to be reborn on a consistent basis.

"You are the salt of the earth," Jesus says. "Don't hide it."

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Monty's Flag

In full disclosure, Gene Prevatt, Robert Mixon and I stole the flag out of every classroom and the auditorium/lunchroom in the Port Wentworth Elementary School.

Bored on a Sunday after Church we're innocently checking to see if any windows are open at the school we'll attend on Monday.

We're suave six graders ... we know everything.

Low and behold, one window's not locked, we shimmy inside and have the whole school to ourselves without Mr. Eiler or one single teacher to tell us "No."

After the initial rush of "HEY MAN! LOOK WHAT WE DID!" we wonder what to do next.

I'm uncertain who had the idea, though I clearly remember it wasn't me, but we take the American Flag from every single classroom and the lunchroom/auditorium so no one can say the "Pledge of Allegiance" after "The Lord's Prayer" thereby suspending school from happening on Monday.

It's the middle 1960s and American Flags are hot commodities because people are burning them in protest of the Vietnam War, wearing them, using them for album covers (a'la Jefferson Airplane) and using them for blankets at rock festivals.

Monday morning at school's a riot when Mr. Eiler lead us through "The Lord's Prayer" and calls for students to face the flag with our hands over our hearts. 

I don't remember if Gene Prevatt or Robert Mixon laughed first but it was one of them as a couple of hundred 1-6 graders turn in circles with hands over their chests looking for something to salute.

It's Wednesday before the cops knock on Robert Mixon's door and find his room decorated with American Flags ... he gave one to his brother and sold the rest for $5 a pop ... big money in the 1960s.

Robert Mixon immediately confesses that Gene Prevatt and I made him do it with wild threats to beat him up if he didn't comply ... he was in fear for his life or otherwise wouldn't have been part of such a blatant disregard of love of country.

Gene Prevatt is questioned in his room with his mother looking on and calmly replies, "I was here the whole time studying my Sunday School lesson and practicing my sword drill ... shaved two seconds off Proverbs."

At my house, Dad says, "Of course he did it."

So when Monty Parks sends a text asking if I'm on island, I immediately respond to my friend asking "Why?"

"I'm in the ditch down from your house," he replies.

Now Monty Parks is both a musician and an elected official ... the man has serious issues ... I figure he's in bad trouble, wrecked his truck in the ditch speeding to a committee meeting and is drowning as the tide's coming in because he has a history of almost drowning ... both on his boat looking for Shark teeth and politically.

Doing what any good friend does I say, "Shit!" and drive half a block because it's too hot to walk.

Monty Parks is fine.

He's surrounded by good looking women sweating and cleaning trash from the ditch cause ... God knows ... good public servants like trashy sweaty women.

"Look at this," he says when I stop in the middle of the street blocking traffic,  roll down the window to stay cool and shake my head because it's a false alarm.

Monty holds up an American Flag still on the pole someone threw in the ditch.

"It was Robert Mixon," I immediately confess.

"What?" he asks.

"Could have been Gene Prevatt," I nod getting out the car, further blocking traffic.

"Can you believe this?" Monty Parks says holding the mud caked American Flag.

"Bastards," I say snapping his picture.

That's it.

Vote for Monty if you're going to vote.

And if you need a flag I bet Robert Mixon still has a couple.

A Dearly Loved Friend

Sometimes your past comes crashing into your present reality and it always goes one of two ways.

(1) "I AM SO SCREWED!"

(2) "Well, isn't this special."

Thankfully it was the later.

At the Acoustic Jam at Doc's Bar I'm pretty mesmerized by Ricky Stokes flying fingers making magic on a guitar ... Chris Desa dripping beauty from his strings ... Clark Byron singing like the Angel he is ... Holly Campbell bringing new life to old rockers and Monty Park's acting as a benevolent jester orchestrating joy.

I love this time.

It's happiness far away from whatever's ailing you and, for a moment anyway in a collection of wonderful support, you are the Rock Star you really are.

It's all just so great but ... strolling in after an 8 hour drive from Richmond, Virginia is Bill Berry (not the former drummer for REM but the other one).

"HEY EVERYBODY!" I yell as Gregory Bell viciously attacks a Simon and Garfunkel tune, "THIS IS MY MATE BILL BERRY!"

In unison they reply, "You're not the former drummer for REM are you?"

Bill smiles, doesn't say anything while waving and sipping his beer.

Like me, he is older ... bigger ... weathered and worn with more scars than I remember ... but it's my friend.

We go way back and share incredible things no one else will ever touch try as they may to understand.

Ah, the adventures ... jumping a fence to break into Bertesgarden (Hitler's private retreat) ... him throwing me over the wall of Gethsemane with me landing on two Monks who'd taken vows of silence which they immediately break ... hitching a ride on a British tour bus at Auschwitz in Poland and walking out at night with no way back ... busted in Cuba because he forgets to give me letter from the US authorizing our visit.

I could go on.

Later, at home, Sarah wonders how true these stories are.

A staunch vegetarian, one night we're drunk in Berlin and I have to pee. Bill takes the opportunity to order a fish sandwich with cheese in McDonald's of all places ... when I exit the bathroom he's preparing to take a bite ... one hand above his head ... mouth open ... grease and cheese dripping.

"NNNOOOO," I scream rushing across the room, tackling him, ending in a twisted pile on the floor in front of German customers but ... somehow ... the fish sandwich with cheese remains in his hand ... so he looks at me ... and takes a bite.

The German authorities throw us out.

"Yeah," Bill grimaces to Sarah, "haven't had a fish sandwich since."

My wife groans and shakes her head.

Friends are one of God's greatest gifts.

Old friends ... lifelong ones ... those who shared adventures and secrets ... the ones who go for long periods without seeing each other ... even communicating ... but remain closer than brothers or sisters because they are ... well ... a Hell of a gift from God!

Most people don't have one.

I am so blessed.

Bill's here to be with Sarah and the girls, who he desperately wants to know ... he already loves them ... because I do ... and he loves me.

"You think we ever gonna do anything again?" he asks as we swim in the Ocean early in the morning, under massive purple and blue cloud formations over a flat, glassy Sea.

"At least one," I say.

Of course it could be when he does my funeral or I do his ... either way we'd enjoy it at the expense of the other.

But it'll probably be sitting on the Beach ... or around a fire on a farm outside of Richmond ... with our wives and our kids ... expanding the deep love good friends can share.

Bill's gone now but Sarah home and we've just got a weekend full of celebration planned with no real agenda.

Whatever happens happens and we'll enjoy it.

I learned how to do that a long time ago from Bill Berry ... and while he may not be the drummer from REM ... he remains my dearly loved friend.

And when you're blessed in life with a friend such as this, it's good from time to time to stop and say, "Thanks."

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Rolling Stone Interview: Micheal Elliott

In the past, Micheal Elliott had it all! Sex, drugs and rock-and-roll! But he crashed and burned. Today he lives quietly on Tybee Island, his home for 30 years, with his wife Sarah and a steady diet of ... sex, drugs and rock-and-roll ... that all seems wetter now than during, what he refers to, as "The Dry Period."

We caught up with the now reclusive Micheal lying in a Hammock in Key West, Florida for a short but un-insightful conversation.

"First Question: Why are you in Key West when this is an interview about your life on Tybee Island after you crashed and burned?"

Hey man! What's your problem with Key West? Are you homophobic? The only real difference between the two islands is here it's mostly gay guys and on Tybee it's mostly Lesbians but ... if you've a problem with either then this interview's over.

"Uh, no ... actually I'm gay ... er ... so no ... I'm wondering why you live on an island and vacation on another island?"

Oh! Let me ask you this ... you been to Disney World? A vacation mecca right? And they make man made islands full of crap like shipwrecks and castles with overpriced restaurants on them. Why would I want that when I can have the real thing?

"You mean wrecks and overpriced restaurants?"

Well ... yeah ... but no ... not at all ... I'm talking about the real thing man ... staying in touch with reality.

"So what is reality to you these days?"

That's a good question Dude ... I have no idea.

"None?"

Well ... my wife's pregnant and is hotter than Hell's ever been! ... I cut the grass but didn't weed whack in protest of Tybee Island's oppressive policies concerning grass ... I meant to go to the beach yesterday but the girls taught me a new card game ... Hook and Foot ... it's a lot of fun ... oh year! ... we watched "Dirty Grandpa" the other night ... IT SUCKS A BIG ONE but ... it represents the island the way local leaders want it to be.

"Yeah, what a suck ass movie! All the beauty of Tybee Island and ever scene is at the pool of the sleaziest hotel there ... well getting on with the interview ... what are you up to these days?"

Quiet a lot actually! On Tuesday nights I go to Monty Parks Acoustic Jam at Doc's and try to choose things to sing that aren't love songs from the 70's ... on Sunday's I lead Bar Church and try to choose sermons no other minister would ever consider ... I go to work on weekdays to help the living die ... and I kiss Sarah's belly a lot.

"Um ... why do you kiss Sarah's belly a lot?"

We're having a baby man! Clare Hope Elliott ... gonna call her "Che" ... it's like killing two birds with one stone ... I'm kissing my wife and our baby at the same time!

"That is pretty efficient ... harkening back to your days as a famous public figure."

Yeah well, now I'm a pretty famous private figure which is why no one knows what I'm up to.

"Is it true that you write a blog most days ... post something really beautiful and spiritual for Tybee Bar Church ... then something really crass for Benny's?"

Who?

"Benny's"

No man ... that's not me! I've seen his work! The Dude's pretty funny ... the reason is everybody on Tybee is too damn serious these days ... they take themselves so damn serious ... but that Dude is funny.

"But it's not you?"

Never met him.

"Okay last question ... I've never interviewed anyone laying naked in a hammock before ... have you ever been interviewed naked in a hammock before?"

Oh yeah, Sarah's forever walking out to ask me why I did this or didn't do that.

"Alright ... well there you are folks ... Micheal Elliott today ... famous private figure. 

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Chasing the Garden of Eden

"You still trying to find the perfect place?" he laughs while breathing deeply into his Nebulizer.

"Isn't that the goal?" I reply.

"Hell son," he laughs, "perfection is wherever we make it.

"Is it now?"

He laughs and nods while sucking the white smoke in and out.

"Hell no!" he coughs, "I'm in this God damned place, sucking on this machine, coping feels from nurses, wondering how much time I got left."

"Which Nurses?"

He laughs sending him into another fit of coughing.

"Your problem," he continues after several deep drags from the machine, "is you live in the freaking Garden of Eden and you vacation in another Garden of Eden."

"What is your point?" I ask.

Coughing out laugher behind a layer of Holy Smoke he shakes his head and says, "You're incorrigible ... and you're selfish too."

"Selfish?"

"Yeah selfish! And you've put on weight."

"Don't go changing subject," I chide.

He laughs continuing to suck from the machine before continuing, "It's gonna cause you heart and back problems."

"Going to the Garden of Eden?"

One hand emerges from the Holy Smoke giving me the finger like Moses parting the Red Sea.

"Okay so I live on an island," I explain, "and love other islands, believing that God got it right the first time with tiny islands and should have stopped then before going on and making continents. So what if I live in the Garden of Eden ... why would I choose to vacation at some lesser place than another Garden?"

"Aren't you bored watching me do a breathing treatment?" he asks as the Holy Smoke dissipates.

"Not really," I grin.

"Oh," he sighs.

"Well you brought my vacation choice up," I reply leaning forward, "not me."

A knock on the door interrupts the conversation and a Nurse smiles as she walks in.

"You can go now," he smiles at me.

"Jesus," I laugh standing up.

"Exactly," he grins as the Nurse touches his arm, "you work for him ... not me. Why don't you go do something useful for your company, which is screwed up by the way, I'm not even sure Jesus himself could fix it."

"Next time," I grin giving him a hug.

"Later," he says. "Get out."