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joyeux anniversaire

Bloged in friends by rod Monday February 28, 2005

Happy Birthday dp and BAM!
From your cyberdeck community.
Thanks for being a part and contributing.
Please click here or here to load me into your computer and I’ll serenade you with that ubiquitous tune.

promise of spring

Bloged in luna see, seasons by rod Saturday February 26, 2005

Had to drive into “town” this morning to get a special fan clutch removal tool. As I was heading down Irmo Drive, I saw the two tulip trees beginning to open their blossoms. I immediately remembered their first appearance last year because I blogged about it then. I also thought that it wasn’t this early last year. February? When I got back home, I got to work on the truck, but kept thinking about the tulip trees all day.
I took Allison to work this evening so I’d have a way to get to church in the morning and then came home and built a fire on the deck, got the kids some roasting sticks and hot dogs, put the condiments on the counter and told them to fend for themselves.
Dan and Esther came over and fended for themselves as well and when things settled down inside, we sat by the fire under the partially veiled, just-past-full moon and listened to Norah Jones and The Blind Boys of Alabama while I silently lamented that Allison wasn’t there.
When I came inside, I googled tulip trees on my blog to find out what the date was last year. It was Saturday, March 6, one week to the day later than this year. I wondered what the difference was this year until I read the post. It seems that the full moon was precisely one week earlier this year as well. I wonder if Full Snow Moons and tulip trees have a connection? But the day similarities didn’t stop there. It seems that on that tulip tree/full moon day last year I also built a fire on the deck, though there is no record of what music accompanied the moon rise.
I probably won’t expect to see lots of blossoms on the way to church in the morning, but I will believe the promise that spring is on the way. Perhaps even a little early. God knows I need it. It has been a long cold winter, even here, in the Palmetto State. I will welcome and embrace some fresh color, warmth and new birth.

it could be worse

Bloged in life, random by rod Friday February 25, 2005

Isn’t there some clever proverb that says something like, “it could be worse”, but in a much more eloquent way? It almost seems like a false optimism to always be saying that regardless of how bad it seems, it could be worse. I can almost hear Marilyn, Dr. Fleischman’s receptionist, responding quietly to his complaining with this remark.
But honestly, if you seriously examine the situation when challenges strike, you can often see what you’ve been spared. This has been especially evident to me in my rickety vehicular life lately. You’ll remember that back in January we lost a transmission only 3 hours from home, at the end of 19 hour drive from Austin. We had driven through hours of nowhere, nothing but fields, no exits, no cell towers, no nothing. We could have broken down in Mississippi and been 10 hours from both ends of the trip and no way to get help.
You’ll also remember that on my birthday, Jack and I drove up to see Switchfoot in Allison’s truck because I didn’t trust mine to make the trip. Of course her truck broke down and cost us a long night and morning trying to get moving again. As it turned out, the part I needed was easy to find and I was able to repair the truck with a single cheap wrench and a sore thumb. Though, I was grateful that it was fairly simple, and that it had happened to me rather than Allison, I couldn’t help but thinking I’d wished we’d have taken my truck instead.
Well yesterday I realized why we didn’t take my truck. 12 days, and fewer miles than the trip to Clemson later, my truck broke down on the way to work. This time, it wasn’t a single wrench and sore thumb job. My water pump all but exploded, spraying down the engine and sending billowing antifreeze smoke all over. Now this was on my way back to work for he first time all week because I’ve been down with the flu, and this is the thanks I get for making the effort? It was also pouring rain and downright ugly outside and I’m sitting beside the interstate with smoke billowing and an engine light flashing. When I peered under the hood to attempt a diagnosis, I remembered that when I couldn’t find the right part in Anderson to fix her truck, I’d considered asking Allison to take it off my truck and bum a ride to bring it to me. That memory struck me then because when I looked under the hood, I noticed that the tensioner and idler pulleys on my truck were in opposite places than they were on her truck. I would have explained to her, by location, which one to bring, and she’d have come 100 miles to bring me the wrong pulley.
So the moral of these stories is that next time you hear me say, “it could be worse,” rest assured that I know what I’m talking about. As a matter of fact, I probably won’t say that at all. From experience, I’ll probably know exactly what that worse thing would be, and I’ll just say it, specifically. It could be worse, it could be my motorcycle.

b-day 3

Bloged in family, life, parenting by rod Wednesday February 23, 2005

It is raining again. A single warm, sunny day and a second, warm, overcast day and the full moon is blotted out and the rain falls. Hard. Just like Monday, Will’s birthday.
My second son turned eleven at 4:30 Monday afternoon while I tossed and turned in the sick bed. After Allison brought the Motrin and I began to think again, I was able to hear them sing “Happy Birthday” and I made my way to the kitchen door to say it myself. Will said, “Thanks dad, I love you.” Later, he brought my gift to the bed; a pound of Sumatra and a 16 oz. thermos. O how I love Sumatra. Maduro caffé. Thanks, kid.
But what does Will get? Third in a line of three birthdays in eleven days. His day invaded by an ill dad, an all-day electrical storm, and a science fair project. All the while, he smiles and gives.
You’ve got the patience of Job, son. All your life, you’ve had to wait for the squeakier wheel to get the grease. Never demand, never cry.
Well, I know what I’m giving you next year for my birthday. I’m giving you my birthday. Next year, you get the first birthday of the year. You will turn twelve, eleven days early and I will turn forty-two, eleven days late. We both win. You can have your lemon marangue pie first and I’ll wait for my peanut butter meltaway cake.
Despite the fact that I involuntarily missed your birthday, I have done a lot of reflecting on it. I believe you’ve grown more this year than in any other single year, both physically and otherwise. You’ve learned so much about yourself and about everyone around you. Even I, the fighter of time, am excited to watch you continue to grow this next year. You’ll have to be quick because this year, you only have 354 days.
I just realized that I’ll have to give you two gifts next year. I’ll give you my birthday and then it will be your birthday, so you’ll have to give me a gift too. Then on your birthday it will be my birthday, so I’ll have to give you another gift. Sheez. That sounds like a thought sequence that you would have.
I’m sorry your birthday blog comes two days late. Early next year.

24 hours of midnight

Bloged in life, metaphor by rod Tuesday February 22, 2005

I just awoke from spending 24 hours in Poe story. I woke up yesterday morning with a knot in my gut and within a couple hours, I was freezing and every muscle in my body was aching. I went back to bed and turned on the electric blanket, and drifted off to the sound of heavy rain and excruciatingly loud thunder. All afternoon, I drifted in and out, continued to hear loud thunder and at dark, lay there with the room flashing with lightning, but couldn’t quite figure out how to call to Allison for something to kill my headache or calm my muscles. Finally I figured it out and she brought me some Ibuprofen. In no time, I broke out in a sweat, my head eased a little and quit spinning, and I was able to think 5 words in a row that all seemed to be a part of the same thought.
I got up and walked slowly about for a few minutes, ran a bath and submerged myself for a while. When I got out of the tub, I was all weak and wobbly again, and my heart was racing so hard I couldn’t stand up. So I grabbed a towel and stumbled to the bed, soaking wet, where I found myself 16 hours later with a splitting headache and sunshine beating in from the window beside me.
That is where the Poe story doesn’t make sense, because a few minutes later, as if she sensed I was back among the living, Allison came in, opened the bedroom window so that I could hear the birds singing, washed a spot on my face and kissed me. The Poe version would have ended with the lightning eerily illuminating my delirium.
I’m not yet sure where this version ends, as I am still weak and am not yet sure what the absence of Motrin would allow. But at least I’m typing.
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary…

some days 2

Bloged in apprenticeship, life, poems by rod Saturday February 19, 2005

In every day there is beauty,
and joy.
In every day there is everyday,
and melancholy.

In life, they exist simultaneously, each as powerful as the other.
But in a life, they seem to manifest themselves separately,
one eclipsing the other. Overwhelming. Smothering.

Is one able to choose which emerges today?

In some days there is an everyday joy,
without need of beauty.
In some days there is a melancholic beauty,
a pervasive gloomy silence through which
filtered sunlight glistens in foggy mist,
dampness dries the noise of the world, and
far-off whispers are warm lips at our ears.

13 februaries since I was 28

Bloged in family, parenting by rod Friday February 18, 2005

As of today, at 5:35pm, I am the father of a teenager. Jack turned 13 as soon as track practice was over. He got me a tee shirt that says, “Not all who wander are lost,” and a Life is Good cap with a cup of coffee on the front. His chosen birthday dinner was tacos, and his cake choice was that peanut butter chocolate thing that I always choose. Like father like son.
I gotta tell you, this is a very difficult birthday blog. Usually I don’t mind putting my reflections, feelings and emotions out there on the blog, but I am honestly speechless in this one. Thirteen. This is a milestone. And I sit here at the end of the day in humble silence. Some of you know the gravity of the job that is ahead for me as model, mentor, emotional punching bag, ATM, dad. Those of you who do, I’d appreciate your prayers, support and advice.
On this end, I am overwhelmed with dichotomous emotions as I mourn the loss of a little boy and am overjoyed at the emerging of a young man. Grief and pride. Fear and anticipation.
Last night, in anticipation of the changing of the number, Allison got out the photo album that documents much of Jack’s first few months. There are dozens of pictures of him decked out in his striped bib overalls, his Mickey Mantle number 7 uniform, only a diaper, in his birthday suit. We left the album on the kitchen table for him to find this morning. Allison said something to Molly about being sorry we didn’t have as many pictures of her as a baby. She didn’t seem too bothered by that, she said, “well mom, when you have your first baby, you don’t know if you’ll ever have any more babies, so you take hundreds of pictures.” I think she’s on to something there. But the truth is when Molly was a baby, we had two boys hanging from our arms and constantly needing. There was absolutely no way to pick up a camera and take photographs. When Jack was a baby, we would sit and stare at him for hours with no distractions or interruptions. I could use an entire roll of film before he changed positions. Try and sit and stare at a baby with two boys running around the house looking for trouble.
So Jack, I know that this cheesy blog post is not worthy of such a momentous occasion as this. But what I feel can’t be expressed in words. It can be expressed in hugs though, don’t make me stockpile them. Please don’t ever grow too big to lay your head on my shoulder like you did last week at the Switchfoot concert.
Reach for my hand, I honestly think I can help you through these next 10 years. I’m growing too, you know.

double shot

Bloged in music by rod Thursday February 17, 2005

This summer, I attempted to see Rush twice – in Irvine and Atlanta. I actually heard them twice, but alas, I had to sell my ticket at the gate and listen from the parking lot in Irvine and wait 3 more weeks to see them in Atlanta. I’d have seen them in Charlotte as usual, as well, but somehow, the tour began earlier than I thought, and that one slipped by me. So out of 3 possible concerts on a single tour, I saw only the Atlanta show.
I was not about to let such an opportunity pass me by again. So, tonight I headed back to the second Brubeck concert. I was sure it would be different enough to make the second night worthwhile. Different it was. Both nights, they played “Take Five” as the last number. The similarities between the two nights ended with that piece. It was the only thing they played both nights, otherwise the entire set was different, and the title, motive, and meter, were the only similarities between the two performances of that piece. As a matter of fact, the entire set and personalities of the players tonight was from a very different era. The set tonight was much more progressive, and some tunes, even contemporary. The solos, even Brubeck’s, were more daring, varied, mind-boggling. Brubeck played a lot more solo piano with some outrageously inventive versions of a couple of popular tunes that caused the drummer and bass player to look at each other and raise eyebrows. Last night’s spoken wit, was reserved for witty musical quotes in improvisations, and humorous melodic and rhythmic phrases that caused Brubeck to get tickled with himself several times. Another magic concert.
Tonight I sat on the front row, less than ten feet from the piano, where I could see Brubeck’s facial expressions up close and hopefully become the recipient of some morphic resonance.
Have you ever listened to someone improvise and wonder just how much of it is actually improvised. Wonder if you hear it again tomorrow if it would be just about the same. At least based on the same bag of tricks. These guys tonight, played from completely different personalities and characters than they did last night. Rather than make the whole experience more plain, tonight’s concert just raised last night’s on the magic meter, as a moment that will never happen again. Can’t be repeated. A screen capture destined for the memories of 200 fortunate individuals who happened to come together on a particular night at a particular place where this particular magic happened. A different magic than tonight. A different magic than tomorrow. A rapid in the flow of time, never to be repeated.
Why would someone go to hear something that was unpredictable, risky, shifting, changing? Something that promises to be different from anything that has proven safe and foreseeable? Why would someone wake up tomorrow and walk out into an unpredictable, risky day?
Jazz is a lot like life - flowing – each day may have essentially the same motive, chart and changes, but we’ve got to play it as it comes, responding and improvising according to how the other players are responding and improvising. As unpredictable as it may be, it has the potential in the end to come together as something beautiful. I guess you just have to practice.


Bloged in life, love and marriage, nostalgia by rod Wednesday February 16, 2005

As you look back over the years, do you have memories engraved indelibly on your mind that consist of so much more than a mentally visualized still-life snapshot? Memories that consist of smells, sounds, temperature, emotions that aren’t remembered, but still felt as strongly as ever?
Do you remember with each of those memories, being in the moment, or the next day, thinking, “That is a moment I will never forget”? Gathering around you all those smells, sounds, temps, and emotions so that they would stay with you forever?
I’ll bet everyone has those memories, but few of them could have been anticipated. In any given wonder-moment, we bask, we absorb, we gather, we dream of reliving it for years; but often it is a different moment entirely that stays with us and causes us joy years down the road, and these often take us by surprise.
But this should be of no surprise. Art is the same way. We think we know now what will last, what will stand the test of time, but we can’t possibly know how it will play against what is to come. In this way, we can’t even know in ourselves, what memories will mean for us down the road. At the least, we experience a moment with our current circumstances, emotions, situations, etc. At most, we experience a moment based on what we’ve known so far. Gee, that’s the best I’ve experienced in my whole life. But we can’t know what experiences are to come and where any given moment will fall in the scheme of importance in shaping who we are years from now.
On the other hand, there are memories of a type that are born of other memories. Categorical, maybe. We feel that a moment will last because it brings to mind other memories that we have. Often these moments do last because they get added to memories in a particular category. Sometimes, deeply lasting impressions are made when two or more of our categories converge. I have some very important memories of musical experiences. The most important of these memories are the ones I shared with Allison, who has a category of her own in experiential recesses of my mind. So certain music can trigger specific memories with her, certain memories can bring to mind specific music. Both bring back atmosphere and emotion. We both have memories of hearing Harry James, and James Taylor, in concert while in college. The Pittsburgh Symphony at Heinz Hall centered an evening that no other subsequent Pittsburgh Symphony concerts could equal except that they bring to mind the memories of that first one. I have musical memories without Allison, but they are only half memories without the support of the categorical context.
Last night, we made a memory together, and I am sure that this one can be manufactured and preserved if only (and maybe preferably) as a booster memory for some older ones that needed some reminiscing about now. We spent two hours last night sitting and watching and listening, from 20 feet, to whom I believe to be the coolest musician of the century, Dave Brubeck. At 84 years old, he adds carefree joy and experienced wit to his coolness. He speaks to the piano and causes it to sing back whatever his ear asks for, drawing from the hidden recesses of his improvisations, quotes and manipulations of every composer imaginable, nodding to his influences, manifesting his memories, adding himself to a categorical memory sequence and drawing from our minds every magical memory that we ever experienced. How is it that you can check off one guy on your “old geezer concert tour”, and feel like you’ve experienced an entire generation of performers?
Allison, thank you for experiencing Brubeck with me. Please engrave “Take Five” on your aural memory, never forget that blue-bird-flute-flutter on “Over the Rainbow”, or the excruciatingly slow, longingly bent note on “Stormy Weather” in the Harold Arlen birthday tribute. I hope the smells of coffee, realm, and the sound of a stormy sax improvisation, all combine to create an entirely new memory that is only yours and mine.
Didn’t that flute flutter sound strangely like a butterfly emerging?
That’s where you’ll find me.


Bloged in apprenticeship by rod Monday February 14, 2005

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

No matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

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