I-N-D-I VIDUAL

Writing to this…

So there it is, up in the air, movements for the currency. I’m just a dude with mad problems or no problem at all, the why and the how – a fixated thing commingling with strength – a new face with armor for amour and what not. You see, I’m just a dude raised by that which makes me individual. I – N – D – I – vidual.

“Did you think too much today?”

“Yeah man, I did, shed a few tears as my car rolled through to see ya”

“What’s it mean?”

“Don’t know… I asked God in my note app for help, felt things pouring off me”

“You believe in God?!”

“I want to, I cry for God, I yearn to feel its universe take me over and set me free”

You see, we just people, without much true definable balances. We just people, fractions and experiences giving us the bumps and gold that we are ourselves asking for.

‘What do you want?”

“Want? Hmmm,..to feel this weight in something other than anger, to accept everything I cannot change, to punch a city block with my fist and watch it explode…to hug my cat outside for the first time. To stand up in a crowded space and yell “what are you really thinking?” I want a lot of things, but I already have so much of what I wanted the last time we spoke”

“Yeah its been a minute. What’s next if you don’t really want anything? You should def stand up and yell that sometime”

“I might…No clue really, maybe just some clearing for my head, for a day, maybe,… I need some new shoes fella, maybe a rich older women who will let me be a house cat”

You see, no matter what the differing languages or narratives that are fiction…Its all just a game. Others around us feed off our contemplation, life being life, an excitable risk but a hurtful immediacy for the ones living it. Although the very art of living it, means you are experiencing the major gift afforded to a human being – to know you’re alive means to feel being alive. To know you feel means you are being yourself…the rest is the rest, and the low frequencies of communications don’t stick, hell, they don’t even register a wave of any kind. So forget’m

“Are you down?”

“Yeah man, I’m down, exposed, and raw, ready to be vulnerable and tough, so I guess I’m not all the way as you said, down”

“Whatcha gonna do about it?”

“I’m going to put one foot in front of the other, and keep walking through doors dude, one day at a time”

“Ha, that sounds like a self help mantra”

“Right…I mean, everything out here is some form of “Self Help”, even the shit we do that doesn’t help, it all goes back to that place,  either way you swing it.”

“Good point”

You see, I’m a man who is still, but inside me is a current that gives, and loves, and works. Its the ocean, its the animal vibrations, the camp fire rumination, and the words I stutter when they make me nervous. And I get nervous, and I’m still here. Thats effort, that who is me, and me who is him – a complicated pulsing body of energy just waiting for the next story, in this book that has absolutely no dust on it, because its used, a favorite, A “I can’t put it down” top ten, favorite – existence, full bodied expression, a sun a moon, and the damn dirt to burry the bullshit. Don’t forget your shovel.

“You believe in Flow?”

“Like what…if it flows, then it goes?… yeah man, thats how I’m out here now, flow, or bye in all directions, but nervous, def nervous, or i was taught to be”

“How do you know though?”

“You don’t, its about listening to the awareness you’ve worked for up until now, and testing it, learning, failing, creating a remedy to improve”

“That seems like it could get too passive, or hell, even lonely”

“Well, as applied to being with girls or friends in gerneral, yeah man, it can be tricky, but you just feel it, you know, a sense of it, if its too hard, or nerve racking, then its just not happening…ha, I say that but its complicated, I’m open to all suggestions, I have no clue what you do once you step out of the philistine cage”

You see, the faces are planted in time I cannot reach anymore, no reasons, no rhymes, just bankrupt old news that fuels the epiphany curriculums for these new pathways. Give me an edge and I’ll  put it on a sword, place it into a stone, then watch it shoot out colors of imagination. Your storms are not negotiable. I am I-N-D-I VIDUAL, all the  thrills, highly original. Turn the page please.

“You ever regret things, surely you regret something, right?”

“Regret?, yeah man, I regret talking to you right now, no but for real…yeah, I regret things. I mean, I’m alive and thats gonna come with a lot of regret, a lot of contemplations, so much wonder about the “what if,” and the “should not”, but its too late for any of that. The regrets aren’t real, they don’t exist. I can be anyone I want to be, at any moment. Now that doesn’t mean I don’t feel for those situations I could regret. When we regret it means a part of ourselves is out in the world and that narrative we fear belongs to the mind of someone else, we fear those versions of ourselves that no longer belong to us, and will never be us again.”

“I think I know what you mean, like…opinion, or reputation?”

“Sure, or anything really, that moments you regret is frozen, and frankly they are gifts to others who need them to feel better about their regrets, we have to be the villain as much as we have to be the victim, or the hero, we owe debts for each”

“Now I’m lost”

“Good, because you’re too young not to be lost”

You see, its all moving and changing and circling back to a different you in this point in time. Nothing matters anymore but the next step forward, the ego is dead, so redundant in its exposure, its lack of care, its general sense of black hole dispositions, just dead. The prancing taps of your feet can pull you up from the grown swirl, then you can shoulder that shit, let it dip, push it with the hip, then brush it off with your newest versions, tighten up your fancy for the next episode in what is sure to be a regret or a win, or the story you feed yourself for your future. We just change, nothing more. We just are now, nothing more. Next phase please.

“Good seeing you man”

Yeah, it was, thanks for letting me express things, I needed it today buddy”

“Don’t thank me, Its fun to see you passionate about something” 

“I love ya”

“Love you too”

“No matter what”

 

 

One Shake To Go

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It was Black Friday – there we were in a sea of locals getting ready to watch the annual lighting of the Christmas tree ceremony. In all the years I’ve lived in Knoxville this was my first time. Not sure why in the 14 years I’ve  lived here I’ve never made it – Especially since the house is a short drive away.  We parked at my folx new condo just outside the central downtown area. Taking the short walk up the hill it felt really good to be in the mild air, faint raindrops started coming down as we took our stroll though the holiday festivities. Since it was raining we hopped in The Pharmacy for one chocolate/vanilla shake to go, we share’d it. My sons are very well behaved, you can take them anywhere and they just hang out – no fuss, no problems. A new friend met up with us just before the lights went on. We stood behind the tree on Gay st – the main show was in Krutch Park, in front of the tree, but I knew getting in the crowded mix with my little dudes wouldn’t be worth it for us. We just wanted to be close and have room to breathe. As soon as the lights went on the fireworks started raging. We all jumped out of our shoes. I had no clue they did fireworks and we were directly underneath them. The volume of each ricochet reverberated between the buildings, bouncing like a metal ball with military rhythm – Valley was scared. I held my hands over his ears for the show, pulling him close to me so he knew we were ok. At one point both of my sons clung onto me like  a gift that needed to be wrapped, it wasn’t scary but the tension was enough to bring our love together. I felt larger than life being their Father, hip even, solid like a rock. They are my guys, we are a family and I’m grateful I belong with them. Kids aren’t for everyone,  and I get that, but I can’t imagine being able to feel what I feel with them if I wasn’t a parent.

After the ceremony we strolled to the old city for east coast style pizza pie at Davincis – super clutch food for the moment. The four of us split a large pepperoni, laughing and replaying how loud the fireworks sounded. Truth be told, I’m not much for the loud banging noises. Not sure when it started, there’s something odd about a bunch of people gathering for this type of stimulus. I’m glad we went though, it gave us a reason to be in the center of the holiday spirit – People everywhere, families in the south doing what they do.

Living in a small town has always been on my old guy to do list. I picture a small loft above a hardware store, next to the local diner where everyone knows your name. I sit in my space writing, recording music, then popping around the block to catch up on the daily hellos, maybe walking my pup, or catching a coffee with my person. I never thought of Knoxville this way until last night. It’s a small city with support so it feels bigger. While it has a real vibrancy to it, you’ll see familiar faces every time you navigate an event. Its cool, feels tight knit and communal.

Our Thanksgiving found us starting a new tradition with our family friends. We’ve known them for years, but have yet to really get into the center of each other’s lives for the holiday spirit – that all changed this year. The atmosphere was comfortable, effortless, without forcing the issue. It helps when the people you’re bonding with are interesting, bringing an equal half of the conversation coin. You can feel love-growing, friendships that go beyond the small time chatter – A genuine care for each other’s welfare, freed from any one person trying to be the center of everyone’s attention. They had never met my sons, so it was nice to finally bring such a big part of my life into the circle.

There’s a security that comes with being a parent. Yes it’s hard and can be complicated, especially as a single parent. But when I’m with them I feel the strongest aspects of my individual self. I genuinely feel strength, pride, and love. My sons give me courage to walk freely, understanding who I am, while not being afraid of anything. They make me feel human on the biggest scale. They’re so kind and loving, curious, and willing. It reminds me of the attributes I seek to master – you just live when you’re with them, no thinking, no worry, just being. Maybe its just my head coming out of the scarring that has been my last couple years – like that stabbing pain in your side while laughing, months after having pneumonia- one day its just gone. Maybe I’ve finally learned how to sit up right for the big wave – existence with balance? Doubtful.  I’m not sure why I feel this way these past couple days.  Its as if the long walk through the woods finally let up and I see a clearing, a next level (if you will) in all the previous work of “self” that’s been done. I have no answers, but I feel it. The last year in my life dealt so much with patience, being still, observing, and trying to figure out which instinct to run toward. I think one day you realize you can’t always take care of other people, or try to save them. At some point you have to be the center so when you turn toward others you’re a whole person – strong, ready, capable. In this moment there’s a centering, some kind of release from the mental prison I was nestled in for almost two years, a black hole the last 12 months. There is less of a  weight on my chest, and my soul finally smiled for the first real time in a long time.  If I didn’t believe in something greater than myself I’d say at a certain point you’re just done with worrying.  Done wondering, done looking for whatever it is you think you are looking for. Thankfully, I do believe in energy greater than my own – Love on the grandest scale, God, Art – how infused as one are all powerful.

Part of me sees that my failures have been putting too much emphasis on how much I can feel from anyone else, when the whole time the context is larger – a wider lens that requires you to find the proper focus before looking. No experience is a bad one. I’m weathered from my lessons, silent still, even more laid back. Impossible to imagine the person I was before now, arriving here, and maybe it’s fleeting like so much of life can be if you narrowly see your own experience. Regardless, in this moment the presence I have prayed for, the existence I have chain smoked while starring into the dark distance of parking lots, backyards and open plains for, has shown a still shot of peace.

“Shuttering, his eyes caught a glimpse of the one he was waiting for, himself”

Of course, having my sons with me is the most obvious answer why I feel different. When they are home (with me) I can rest from wondering, rest from shame or guilt. I made myself a promise when my oldest was born, that no matter what I did in my life I wouldn’t stray from my kids – as my father did to me. The hard part is accepting that I can still keep that promise… it just won’t look the way I pictured it. The past is the past.

“We are the lab rats of our own experience”

Thankful

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So what are you thankful for?

In this moment I’m thankful for my sons. Cove (6) is a strong beautiful boy, already capable of listening to his instincts. He continues to be an individual – thoughtful, aware, and kind. Cove’s energy is sturdy with a sense of mystery. When I look at him I see his Mom, but as he gets older I’m starting to see a lot of my features. His personality reminds me a lot of myself – curious, creative, disciplined. But he’s still a little boy. When he gets shy around others, he fights his smile, until he can’t anymore and it just comes bursting out. Above the corners of his mouth he gets little dimples when his mannerism are free and reacting to the moment. Cove is gentle, sweet, emotionally aware and analytical. He’s careful, polite, and interested in making things. Cove is the moon – as it presents different looks of itself, you can’t help but notice, and be struck by how when full, its so bright in the darkest of times.  His sturdy presence gives me courage, it gives me peace, a calm reminder of how patient we are to be, because life is living and it’s wonderful if we make room for it to be.

Then there’s his little brother, Valley (3), a “wow” child. Magnificent in how he navigates others. Bursting with goodness, his smile is glued on his face almost the entire day. Valley is social – he loves people, feeds off their energy. There is no middle of the road for my young son. If he gets upset he wears it all over his face. He is the type of person that will randomly tell you he loves you, its constant – When the house is quiet and I’m reading, Valley will come up to me and say “I love you daddy”, then give me a big hug, and kiss my face. He is the Sun – a bright and energy giving human. There is no moment to big for him, he lights up the room, and dives head first into things he doesn’t know how to do. His approach to life is through love and he inspires me to not forget my own values, to not forget that I too feed off others, to not forget that no matter how hard things can be no situation gets to ruin our ability to live through love. Together, our children are growing into complete pictures, healthy, steady – they have been through the storm yet their energy remain childlike, joyful, and curious.

What else am I thankful for?

It’s been a rough couple months. The health of important people in my family has been a constant. But I’m grateful for having the chance to help, and bond through the tough times. My Mom almost died. Just typing that doesn’t feel real. She is on the rise though, her energy is moving, getting its fire back. We are closer than we’ve ever been, probably since I was in high school, leaving the nest for the first time.

Similar to this, I’m grateful for my bond with my Aunt Kazzie, and Aunt Kelli – two amazingly strong women who have been through hell and back throughout their life. But somehow they manage to muster enough courage to take on more for others. My Aunt Kazzie has the most beautiful laugh – showing up when the moment needs it most. Her ability to still feel joy when it’s hard inspires me to keep going. Her dedication to God is something I admire, while I’m not all the way in my following, I take her guidance very seriously. And because of her I talk to God almost daily, asking for the courage, wisdom, and strength to see the path.  She is my friend, like Mom to me, and I appreciate her so much. My Aunt Kelli, she’s just a force, a super human loyalist whose persistence and love shows me how much more we can do for others, even when we sacrifice more of ourselves than we really should. She’s always been the hippie Aunt, and as I’ve gotten older I see more and more of that in her, we bond on those lines of similarity. Her name pops up in my head when I think of the word “good”, she’s just a damn fine human being. Both of them have been my rock these past couple months, as they are for so many other people. They make me a better person, and I love them. We are friends for life.

Through all the rough and tumble my time with Grandma in October will always be a point in my life I remember. I got to spend two weeks with her, staying with her, having late night chats, hearing about story’s from the past I’d never heard. She persistently encouraged me to see myself, to not lose sight of how special I am, never missing a moment to say “you’re beautiful Ryan”.  She is doing a lot better, getting ready to move into a new house, excited, ordering new quilts for her room. I usually get a quilt from her every couple years. I sleep with two quilts every night, both of them were hers. Call it a safety thing, or just cozy, it makes me feel good covering up with things I know my G Ma loves.

Lastly, I’m thankful for waking up today and having the “fire” to do this. Somehow I still have the urge to work, to create, to share. No matter what happens with anything I do, I still can’t believe I find ways to motivate this way of life for myself. I have woken up to the reality that I am myself, and its pretty cool man.

Happy Thanksgiving…go be thankful today, but more importantly be thankful tomorrow too, and so on.

Coyote Rainbow

Coyote Rainbow

Getting a haircut is simple. But in my mind, it carries weight like the new era hurricanes spiraling beyond our control. If you search on google you can find just about anything you’re looking for in the world of hair. I searched “modern mullet thick hair flat tops” or “modern rat tails.” Or my personal favorite, “hipster modern mullet flat top thick hair.”

The truth is I tend to see hair through the lens of a woman. I’m always drawn to how a style looks so much better on a girl. And somehow I think I can pull off just about anything. So when I sit in Kat’s chair to get faded up, all the obsessive tendencies boil up to my mouth. Of course, this leads me to leaving the salon recently with a fairly straight forward haircut, and a huge rat-tail. Easily fixable of course, and its gone now. But the mindset going through the pros and cons of keeping the tail, has depth to it. Yes, I just said the rat-tail on my head had a deeper meaning.

I’m turning thirty-seven this February. I can trace most of these thoughts back to that nugget. The roads I have to cross right now (in my head) carry buckets of new directions, folding and shifting through the haze and blunders beneath my eye of reality. The center still holding, but everywhere a maddening exercise of being slowing nudged to the edge of losing everything I know to be foundational.

Hair, style, the whole upkeep of our appearance is important. I went in to get my haircut believing that if I lost the sense of youth, and cutoff the mohawk mullet I’ve had for seven months, then I had to lay down everything else as well, including my quasi radical leftist political bend. I’m exploring getting my real estate license. Another piece of this pie which tells me my youth is dead, and I have to stop being cool forever. All this from a rat-tail??  Yeah, pretty much.

The hair is a symbol of identity. Hell, in many cultures it determines spirituality, or religion. Sets a tone for discipline, politics, and basically how you fit into a category of societies stereotypes. I wanted to be the first  rat tailed real estate agent in my zip code, maybe even the whole city. I walk to show a house wearing my tight pants, self cut V- necked inside out T-shirt, my favorite sport jacket, and those beautiful black boots that go passed my ankle and sit below the thick paint leg roll. I haven’t even got to the hair appointment yet, and I’m so far down the road in my head, thinking about what this haircut will say about me. I don’t want a rat-tail, but I must keep it to prove I’m not getting old, and I’m bold enough not to let expectations of the general day-to-day win, ever.

I want to run wild with nature, let my body fly in the open air as my uniquely hairy self becomes one with its true habitat. This isn’t possible if I don’t have a rat-tail, and the proper blend of modern hipster, co-mingling with bohemian life, and just a pinch of stinky hippie. I want that tight wrapped rat-tail to hang beaded on my body, while some armpit haired goddess wraps my lightning in a teepee somewhere we can’t hear cars, or cheap wind chimes. This tail has its own life, its like a parrot on my shoulder. It’s so loud and clear it could have driven home when I walked out of the salon.

The drive, a familiar one. I’ve lived in Knoxville for a while, so in part, it’s a boring as watching someone else literally watch paint dry. Familiarity is cool, but it’ll turn your edge into a low energy baboon. But if you do it wearing a giant rat-tail who whispers sweet young ideals in your ear, its can be glorious for a moment.

Like a seduction expert, the tail, thick, wavy and curly, wrapped far enough over my left shoulder, I could almost put it in my mouth. Quietly it says…

“Don’t be afraid of me, you look wonderful with me on you, look at us driving this old black Subaru Forrester down broadway. The new Washed Out album is on, the windows are down, your kids car seats behind us, reminding us of our real life, yet here I am, your rat-tail, your new guardian of the real self within. You should call me something cool. You should give me a name like “Coyote Rainbow,”  or how about Bob, the rat-tail? It should be something as cool as us. By the way, don’t slow down under the bridge where all the homeless are sleeping and congregating. I’m afraid of the homeless. I’ve lived homeless several times, and it’s not pretty. I was never meant to poop in buckets, or masturbate in cardboard boxes. I might look like those things would fit in my stereotype, but they don’t, please tell me you believe me.

I come to, and turn down Central Street, the gust of cross wind from the turn picks up the rat-tail, as if it’s actually a rat holding on to the back of my head. I catch its sway in the rear view mirror. The embarrassment is damaging, my heart is racing. I look at my face, deep in my eyes and ask myself “why the fuck are you wearing a rat-tail??” I can hear the playful laughter from my homeboys back home. I can hear the word “GUY!!” be yelled from across the room. I am also laughing with them. Outside of my body, looking at myself roll around in a mind twirl over a piece of hair I’ve already named on the drive home.

I killed Bob about twenty minutes later. There I was, almost thirty-seven, letting my distant wife use kitchen scissors to kill Coyote Rainbow. Oddly, cutting this piece of hair was the closest we’d been in weeks. My youngest child crying at my feet, the long nails of my oldest dog tapping the wood floors as a reminder that I would have to say goodbye soon, and I wasn’t really that cool anymore. The dog knew me better than anyone. Her existence a symbol that I could be loyal and take care of anything for a long period of time, but not necessarily from love, but routine, and safety. The corners of your house, real or in your head, keep us consistent. The routines of life keep us balanced while slowing killing the likes of Bob, and the pink hues all around us.

The image of me on the train belonging to no one or nothing is looking at me now. I look at his face too. In the sun he stares out into the open pastures of middle America. A small handmade bag, beat up guitar, and his journal rest behind him. He bites an apple, sips his canteen. The world is wide open. The goodbye whispering in the ether, beyond the clouds. He is half of me, and I am half of him. The certain finality in both of us, simultaneously giving our stories life. I will see him again when the earth collapses us into its purpose and we become simple flowers ignored.

I turn up Harvey street and ascend the giant hill and back down it on the other side. Passing by the old duplex I rented on Churchwell. I’ve lived in 37917 for over a decade. I’ve driven down this hill time and time again. I pass the street and see myself standing on the corner with my first guitar some ten years earlier. The all white acoustic, gifted to me from my mom, who too received it as a gift from her brother years before.

That night it was cold, really cold. I remember strumming and singing in the dark. You could see my breath in the air, my fingers practically frozen, stiff, but still eager to move. I was new to Knoxville but confused like now. My cousin was about to ride down the big hill on Harvey street with his long board, as I strummed G and C, howling in the evening air. A car at the bottom approached. I watched from the corner of Harvey and Churchwell, the sounds of the small skate wheels echoing through the valley, the engine of the old car mixing in as it got closer to him. In seconds he would be at the bottom. heart beats get faster, sweat beads drizzle over the temples underneath the winter beanie I was wearing, the air still, and all the noise is gone, even while I’m playing. We’ve entered a ritual, we’ve approached death, and it was as obvious as the road was hard.

In a vision I see a large crash, I saw him smash head first into the car. He was going at a speed that would have killed anyone. He was blown up like mashed potatoes being smashed with hands, oozing between the fingers. I didn’t yell, or say anything. I just kept playing. A different car turns from the other direction, and I come back to real-time, they slow down to avoid me on the corner. A young girl in the passenger looking up at me, smiles. I see her clearly from the street light above my head. I shoot her a casual grin, and keep playing. I was proud that she was witness to me, and I to her. We collectively shared a moment together, almost a sense of pride was revealed about out neighborhood that long ago. Now a memory stuck to the old tree, and branches. I never forget the expressions, the small gifts of nature in humanity, and as simple as a chemical reaction telling muscles to move. The meaning in a smile uplifts the universe, shakes it all up for us to start again, by the seconds. I appreciate it.

I come to and turn back toward the hill, my cousin is halfway toward the car, and it’s really happening this time, no more visions of the future, or my mind predicting an outcome. The girls smile brought me back to reality, I see the tail lights of her car pulling away. I turn and look toward my cousin racing toward his death, the seconds are ticking away. Tick, tock, its about to happen, the predictable outcome is razor thin. Watching from 100 yards away in the farthest colored dusk, the pace faster and faster, my guitar and voice felt lifted by the wind, the stirring night mantra, the build, the build, the orchestral tones from nature, he was gonna die, I knew it, I was watching it. I’m wanting to scream but in a trance of pure mind and body. I was frozen but the world was thrusting and thrashing, the moment lit like an animal feasting on its pray. So long Cousin, its been real. The lion roars with thunder as it leaps toward the gazelle, the earth hand slams down the shock of stillness, as if the whole existence ended again and the elemental fury choked us all to dust.

He was able to swerve his long board just in time before the impact. But like a game of Russian roulette it wasn’t him swerving in control, it simply worked out to be the moment when the board needed to go right, because it just went left, and he just happened to start from the top in the right way. Chaos, unpredictability, instinct, pure luck, one can never really know the science or religion with these things. But he lived, it wasn’t his moment and it was a careless gamble, but as youthful and intense as you could imagine

I was far away, but to guess the gap between his knees and the bumper, I’d say it was three feet. The scene was beautiful, even with the chances of death. The street lights lit his long board and silhouette as he raced down the hill, the sounds, the temperature, the life indeed living in the moment.

A collective “hell yeah!!!” belted through the air and around the giant hill on Harvey St. Tragedy avoided, intensity and rush exemplified on a chilly Tuesday evening in the south some ten years ago. My cousin walking up the hill coming closer to me says “you wanna give it a go Ryan?” Quickly I reply, “nope, I’m good man, that’s all you.”