Jeremiah's School of Levitation


Sunday, June 25, 2006

sunday morning writing

I skipped out Friday, but to make amends to the blog muse, I did a ten-minute write on my next non-busy ten minutes on Sunday morning (where we are experiencing summer-like conditions here in the Great Northwest--there's going to be some rolling in the grass happening today) and I pulled out my writing prompt book and it told me to write a story about a chant. And so...


Up on the cliff, past where we could see, we heard the noise again.

"It's like a chant," Mindy said. She huddled closer to me and we sunk into the shadows. The sun had disappeared behind the horizon, leaving the sky with a bright orange bruise, that was fading into the stars even as we watched.

"That's creepy as hell," Harry said. His girlfriend, Lori, started rustling through her bag, looking for her recorder, no doubt. I was growing weary of her chronicling, of her note-taking, photo-taking, video-taking, and recording-taking. It was getting obsessive, and it was ruining the hike, the wilderness, for, everytime she took out something electronic, memories of my office came rushing back and I was suddenly anxious, thinking of projects, thinking of something I missed, some email I should have sent. It's hard enough getting the office out of my head. I didn't need reminders.

"Well, it's coming from the east. So, that tells us which way we probably should go," I said.

"Yeah, east!" said Lori.

"Wrong answer," said Mindy.

"It's dark," said Lori. "We're fine. We should go see what that is."

Harry, who always agreed with Lori because I suppose that's what guaranteed she'd keep having sex with him, actually tried to tactfully slide out of it.

"I think we should nix the Scooby Doo action tonight. I'd rather pitch camp than go chase a chant. You know? We could do it tomorrow night, hike to where it came from and camp there."

"Shhhh!" said Lori. She had her little digital recorder in her hand. I thought of the copy machine in the office, wondering if the admin assistant had ordered more toner.

Lori pushed a button on the recorder and spoke into it.

"We're hearing this weird noise, like a chant," she said, whispering into the device. She then held it up in the air, toward where the sound came from.

Just then, the chant came again. From right above us.

"Goddamn!" said Harry. "Goddamnit!" He ducked and grabbed Lori. She frowned and pulled away from him.

The chant got louder and louder and finally, it stopped.

We looked at each other, trembling.

"What the hell?" said Harry.

"Did you get that recorded?" I said, suddenly very interested in Lori's gadgets.

She was already fiddling with it. Harry snapped on his flashlight and shone it on the device. Lori pushed another button.

"We're hearing this weird noise, like a chant," came her voice from the tinny recorder speaker.

But, after that, nothing.

"Did you shut it off?" said Harry.

Lori was silent for a second. Then she said, "No."

"You didn't get that?" I said.

Lori shook her head.

"How did you not get that?" I said. Mindy grabbed my arm.

"I don't know," said Lori. "Don't know."

We made camp, quietly. Mindy was angry at me for not saying something about leaving tomorrow. Lori kept her electronics hidden. Harry kept cursing about the chant. I kept trying to remember what the chant was saying.

We never heard it come from the woods again.

But, one day, long past this trip, years past this trip, I met up with Lori at a camping and skiing store. She had long left Harry, maybe, I was thinking, because he stopped agreeing with her all the time. I had long left Mindy, because she started to get angry too quickly and, one day, she brandished a knife at me. That was enough.

Lori had an odd look. Her left eye looked wetter than her right. And, I'm sure that she noticed that only the hair on one half of my head had gone gray.

We spoke to each other, deliberately, but pleasantly. Both of us seemed eager to end the conversation quickly, as if our thoughts were pulling us out to sea.

After we spoke, we turned away, our faked expressions of happiness fading into our faces as we turned from each other. I began looking again at the snowshoeing equipment, but something made me look back to Lori. She was pawing the snow jackets, mumbling something. I watched her lips.

Just as I figured. Just as I feared. The thing she was mumbling was the same phrase that kept going through my mind. The same chant we had heard that night, 5 years ago.

I turned back to the snowshoes. I needed to get a pair because I was going to the mountains this weekend. I was going high, where the air is still, where sound travels far. I was going to a peak where there are snowboarders, other snowshoers, cross-country skiers. It was my last resort. It was, I believed, my last chance to get this chant out of my head.

I was going to stand in a high place, and I was going to wait for sunset, and I was going to wait until I could see a group of people, or maybe only one, and I was going to yell out this chant. Yell it out as loud as I could. And, keep yelling it, until it finally stopped yelling out in my head. Finally. Stop. Yelling. Finally. Stop. Yelling. Finally. Stop. Yelling.
Jeremiah, 9:57 AM | link | 3 Hit the roof |

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Thank You Falettinme Graduate

I attended my oldest son's 5th grade graduation today and it was a bittersweet affair considering that we've been part of that school and its quirky community for 5 years and, because our youngest is also leaving that school, our collective family footsteps won't echo through those halls anymore. My wife took it a little harder than I did, getting tearful and all. I classified it as natural change and that final moments in this life are equal to wide-open moments, for the most part, and that is just how it goes. "When one door is closed, another is open," said Bob Marley.

However, I was swellingly happy for my graduating oldest, so much so that after the ceremony, I caught him in the crowded hall and tried to give him a big old boa constrictor hug. Well, with me being a parent, and him being a boy within eyeshot of his buddies, he wasn't having no hugging stuff, so he tried his best to wrestle away from me. I wasn't letting him go, though, and a giggling tussle ensued whereupon, after a few seconds of this, our feet got tangled up and we both went down to the floor.

Heads turned quickly. Some of those heads hadn't seen the tussle so they must've thought that I'd just simply blitzed my son from his blindside and sacked him in the hallway. So, some faces sprouted worried frowns. My wife gasped and gave me that "Oh my God, I can't believe you just did that!" look, but my boy was laughing hysterically and whatever embarrassment that was creeping up my neck got instantly wiped away, and I laughed too, and the whole scene all turned into "A Moment." Father and son on the floor, laughing, shattering the solemnity of this stiff, weepy occasion and signifying that, really, this is a celebration. And, it seemed also a strangely appropriate way for a father to congratulate his big boy. That was great. Even my wife broke into a smile.

There was another defining moment that occurred during the ceremony, before I tackled my boy. A teacher was retiring after multiple decades of service to kid-kind. This guy was known as an eccentric of the highest order, whose classroom was a jumble of sculptures, masks, musical instruments and stacks and stacks of books and papers. He ran a loose ship, but a very unique and profound one. I had just met him for the first time, though, at the campout a couple of weeks ago. I was alone, playing guitar to the starlight and he came upon me and was delighted that I played. He said that he played as well, and that I should meet him the next night, in the dining hall, and we should play together. I tried to get out of it, since I can't really play guitar, but he insisted.

So, the next night, I brought some wine and a couple of other sleepless parents and me and the guy jammed while people read. He taught me some great moves and some great fingerings and we just jammed like we knew what we were doing. It was stupendous. Anyway, he's retiring and, at the ceremony, when he got his parting flowers, the principal asked him to speak. I figured that this guy, being a veteran of many years, would probably have a bunch of wise, lengthy ruminations to bestow upon us, so I settled in.

But, all he said was this: "Let me just quote Sly and the Family Stone. 'Thank you for letting me be myself.'" And, that was it. Rousing applause. I turned to the lady next to me and I said "Now, how many times in your life will you get to say that? Especially at your job." She gave me an amen and we both felt something.

Amen, indeed. I look forward to being able to sincerely use that Sly Stone quote one day to sum up a long period of time. As I sat on the floor of the school hallway, laughing with my son, I was thinking that maybe one day, I'll be saying that quote to him and, hopefully, he'll be saying that to me as well.

Congratulations, my boy.
Jeremiah, 12:44 PM | link | 3 Hit the roof |

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Yellowed Travel Journal, Part 1

Wherein, I take a look at notes from travels past...
Aruba, 1991

We found it hard to continue hearing the guy next to us making biting, stupid comments and, finally, we just moved to another seat. And, five minutes later, he followed us.

The tour guide talked more about the way the sharks tend to stay on this side of the island, because the hotel owners hire people to feed them, to go out in boats and dump hotel restaurant waste. This keeps the sharks from coming to the south side of the island, where the tourists are. The sharks got to remembering when the feeding time was and they'd gather and even nip at each other, already in a frenzy, ready now to eat even bubbles. The hotel workers had all sorts of stories of crazed sharks, looping out of the water like porpoises, waiting for anything at all to fall from the boat.

One time, it was one of the hotel workers that fell from the boat. He had leaned over too far, carrying the heavy trash can full of fat scraps, soiled rags, grease globules, and the detritus of all manner of animals and plants, and he lost his balance just as the can tipped over the surface of the clear water, a quarter mile from the rough edges of the north coast. He went right over, his heart sending a scream to his throat that was nearly perfectly in harmony with the gasp of the guy sitting next to him, who was reaching for a can of his own and who had, out of the corner of his eye, watched the mishap unfold. The worker went right over, and landed with a splash that muffled his scream when the water rushed into his mouth. The dumb, gluttonous sharks couldn't tell him from the globules of delicious grease.

The tour guide just shook his head as he finished the story. "We got him back," he said, "but the ravenous sharks only let us have part of him back. He can only sit down now and, he used to be right-handed, but because he doesn't have his right arm anymore, he's had to learn to use the other one. He's become a wonderful artist, though."

The tour guide then closed his mouth and turned to look out to the sea, to let his last comment settle upon us, let it wring images of blood and detached muscle from our sun-bleached minds. I put my hand on my girlfriend's knee and leaned to her, looking in her eyes, which were harboring some horrid imagined image of their own. I offered a comforting grin, and she was nearly about to respond.

That's when that guy came back and sat next to us.

"Better view here," he said, whispering, leaning his large, sweating head toward us. "Man, too bad about that worker. Gives new meaning to the phrase 'I'd give an arm and a leg for this job,' huh?" He laughed at himself.

And so, just like a gluttonous shark, the guy took another bite.
Jeremiah, 1:32 AM | link | 4 Hit the roof |

Monday, June 19, 2006

Garden of Delights

There's this lady down the block with an over-active dalmation. She comes by my house every day, getting dragged by her dog, and she looks at our garden, stares at our garden, as if she's looking for something that she lost, or looking for something shiny that she can grab. She never looks at our windows because, if she did, she would likely see a few pair of eyes looking right back at her, wondering what her pair of eyes are looking at.

I know that her father, who now lives with her, is very old, in his 90's, and that he is a gardener, and being a gardener is probably one of the things that keeps him alive. That, and the fact that he walks every day too, and he also walks past my house. He walks slowly, wearing a white baseball cap, and though he's apparently a gardener, he doesn't look at my garden. Sometimes, when I'm out there working, he stops his walk and speaks to me, asking what I have planned for my garden. I tell him, and he nods, and he may offer advice, but usually he just makes sure he tells me about his garden, about how he cleared the raspberry bushes that were rioting in a shady corner of his yard, and how he cleared some overhanging holly branches in order to reveal that corner to the sun and how, now, he's planted corn and expects a hearty crop. Or, he'll tell me that he decided to showcase some dahlias or how he strung up two poles with criss-crossing strings so that his beans would have something to climb on. He's rightfully proud of himself, and I can see that he wants me to smile, and wants me to realize that a man of 90-odd years can still declare war on raspberry bushes, and win. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, young man, his eyes say to me.

I notice, though, that he never walks with his daughter. I wonder if it's because she walks too fast because that dang dog is too aggressive a walker, too much in control of what should be a pleasurable thing, not strenuous exercise, or maybe he has thoughts and words that he wants to be alone with, not always needing to spy on the movements of the neighbors, the height of their flowers, the color of their gardens. He already has a garden, one that his soul has worked on. He doesn't need mine, like, apparently, his daughter does. Or, maybe he doesn't want to see her staring into a garden when she has a perfectly good one right at home, one that he'd crafted. Maybe that's how he's been about everything. Maybe he's been secretly grieving his daughter staring into the world, wanting something beyond what he offered in his own home. Of course, she would want the world, of course she would want to revel in someone else's color, but, it must have hurt him a bit to see her venture out, take her own walks, see the gardens of the world.

Or, it could be much simpler. Like any true gardener, you just need to be alone outdoors among the speechless flora sometimes. Taking a solitary stroll through the greatest garden of all--Earth's garden. No wonder he doesn't look at mine. Mine is just a part of the real garden, a piece in the glorious green puzzle, just a breeze in an ocean of air. Who stops to look where the breezes come from? You merely revel in them. And, lucky guy, he must feel them all.
Jeremiah, 6:50 AM | link | 2 Hit the roof |

Friday, June 16, 2006

Friday Desire

I hear the word for this week's poetic musing is "desire." I can't even come close to the depths of the things I desire. I wake up trying to peel desire off of me.

I just did a 10-minute free ramble this week. It's a mercy offering because that word actually dwarfs my years and if I were to explore it with any sort of depth, I'd need some wicked gigabytes.

A Friend I Call Desire

Black midnight wind, surfing over rustling ocean, whistling through stars. Alone again, naturally. Black sides of the house, where I sat and watched the surf. My clothes, hanging on the line, whipped like the tails of startled rattlesnakes. Startled rattlesnakes. I will try to remember that.

I get up and stroll closer to the surf, so I can feel the sting of the crashed up droplets of water, and taste them on my dry lips. In order to kill herself, Virginia Woolf just filled her pockets with stones and walked right into the water. Amazing. If only I had the courage to die so poetically. He drowned in a fit of tears, lying on his back, writing poems in the sand, staring at the moon, they'll say about me. Well, no they won't.

I walked up the sand, feeling it like a rough sponge under my bare feet. Desire. Everybody, every rock star in the English-speaking world, wants to rhyme it with "fire." You are my fire, you are my desire. There is not a bigger cop-out lyric on the planet. But, actually, desire is like a fire. Burning in your head, making you crazy, making you see futures that are not there, making you rest your body on beds of feelings that are made of tissue paper. I once fell in love with a girl who worked in a candy store. She had a thin face, and a smile like Karen Carpenter, and a strange gait, as if she had a weight between her shoulders, but she was beautiful, 1970's kind of beautiful, with waves at the base of her shoulder-length black hair, and a paleness and laughing face that was so Kristy McNichol and so Susan Dey and so like pretty skinny girls on faded film stock. That night, I dreamed of her living in my house and my wife coming in and me having to explain our new roommate, the one with the puppy eyes and the desire to always be near me, not like you anymore. My wife insisted that she would not rest until that girl was gone and so, to hasten things, my wife lit the girl on fire, merely using words and the purse of her lips. All I did was crawl under the bed. I think I know all of what that dream meant. But, I won't own up to it. I hate the truth.

The next day, the next actual, non-dream day, the girl wasn't at her job, and what was a life-sustaining love became like a greasy, empty stomach. Like desire. It's like holding your breath. You keep up with that desire stuff and you'll eventually suffocate yourself. All your vitals will fail, and the glorious sensation of breathless desire suddenly becomes merely a lack of life-sustaining breath.

So what?

I finished my walk and realized I'd gone nowhere. I had walked in circles, like the wind coming off the steel-black surf. Like the curl of the wave, clenching into a fist. Like there were boulders in my pockets, keeping me from walking straight.

Like I was smoke rising from desire extinguished.
Jeremiah, 12:37 AM | link | 4 Hit the roof |

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

(Little League) Dad

Well, the boy didn't make the All-Star Team. The combine-like tryouts were intense, with coaches with clipboards and stopwatches scrutinizing the 8-year olds like they were pro prospects. There were numerous fielding and baserunning drills, and the boy performed beautifully. His glove was sticky and his running was taut and his throws strong and long. But then came the hitting drill and, well, he only hit three out of six pitches. That was what sunk him. It was uncharacteristic of him, since he had the one of the best on-base percentages and the most home runs on his team. One bad day, and that did it.

His team sent seven boys to the tryouts and only three made it. I won't make any judgements about those who made it, except to say that my son could probably be considered a more consistent performer than, well, at least one of those chosen. But, one of those chosen put on a hitting display that made some people gasp, and even though his fielding was lacking, his hitting was strong. And, in baseball, a hit is what everyone sees and remembers the clearest.

A sports All-Star, I told my son, is not decided by a single performance on a single day, but by consistent performance over the course of a season, or a career, which, using that criteria, makes him a sports All-Star. Though I'm sure that Cowboy fans remember quarterback Clint Longley because of his monster Monday Night game years ago, the Hall of Fame remembers Cowboy quarterback Roger Staubach because of his monster career of many years.

So, though my boy was dejected, he has as much heart as he has body, and was just glad to be invited and glad to see that his team sent twice as many players to the tryouts than anyone else. Coach also assured him that he was my boy's biggest fan, and that he was indeed the best all-around player on the team. In a conversation later, coach told me that the boy has many years of baseball ahead of him. I agree.

And, of course, life is full of not making the team. I know this very well. I was a round kid and not only did I get picked last when teams were being chosen in grade school, I would then be trade bait ("Okay, how about we trade Jeremiah to you for NOTHING?") and, when the trade didn't work out, the rest of my team groaned and grudgingly dealt with my lumbering, goofy presence. Ten years later, though, after I worked my ass, and my goofiness, off, people clambered to have me on the team, but, for a long while, it wasn't that way. Not making the team just means that you need to keep working because, if you do, one day, you will not only be on the team, you just might BE the team. I know this very well too.

So, we smiled the rest of the night and celebrated the fact that my son made MY All-Star team years ago and that, when he comes home, he's got nothing to prove, no tests I'm clocking him in, and no competition. I may be a Little League Dad, but there is a clear distinction between "Little League" and "Dad" as to which one is guaranteed to stand behind my son and trumpet his abilities and, ultimately, give him the trophy he deserves.
Jeremiah, 7:31 AM | link | 4 Hit the roof |

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Confessions of a Little League Dad

Hello, my name is Jeremiah, and I'm a Little League Dad. I have become the cooler-toting, screaming at the ump, sunflower seed-spitting, grumbling and hooting fan that has seemed to forget that he's watching 7 and 8-year old kids who'd rather be throwing water balloons at each other than figuring out where the force out is, yet, the location of the force out is only slightly more important to the Little League Dad than the fact that his wife is trying to tell him that it looks like the van might have been left in neutral and is now drifting backwards out of the parking lot.

This was the thing I would have come to blows with you to deny that I'd become. No way would I ever fit into the suburban, local park ballfield crowd, chatting with settled wives and, candidly, with their husbands on the field as we suited up the kids with the catcher gear.

"Stand still," one dad said to the kid we were trying to wrap up in the catcher gear. "There's too many hooks in this thing and guys don't do so well with hooks and latches and all that stuff." When the kid left our earshot, the dad said, "That's why bras always tripped us up. All those hooks and latches."

And, some dad adds, "Yeah, and now that I've become pretty good at unhooking them, I don't get to do it anymore!"

Big, hearty, dusty-husband, side-of-the-mouth laughs all around, at the ballfield. I spit out a sunflower seed shell and wink at the guys.

But, back to the ball game. Tied. The playoffs. Top of the 6th, the last inning. If we win, we go to the championship game. I'm kneeling, growling, grimmacing at every pitch. I'm the scorekeeper, so I have to hang on every pitch, and, man does it feel like hanging.

The other team scores four runs in the top of the inning. My son drops a foul ball that would have been the last out. My stomach starts to hurt and I think I might have eaten a mouthfull of sunflower seeds, shell and all.

In the bottom of the 6th, we score no runs. We lose. Our division-winning season comes to an end. No matter--we love the team we lost to, and we vow to be at the championship game to cheer them on. And, we are. We all hate the other team--not the kids, but the coaches, who stretch the rules and have this sort of "living vicariously" through the kids thing that, thankfully, we do not have on our team.

Some faithful parents of our team show up at the championship game and we are pathetically loud. Many cries of "That's my kid!" erupt from proud fathers. Some fathers leave the bench and pace. "They're trying to see how much we can take!" one guy tells me.

(He also lets me in on the difference between rugby and soccer. Rugby, he said, is a hooligans' game played by gentlemen. Soccer, in contrast, is a gentleman's game played by hooligans.)

The game went into extra innings, calls were disputed, and coaches got hot, but sadly, the "evil" team beats the good team and the Little League championship goes to the dark side. We resist booing because we don't want to offend the kids, but in private, we curse and eye the baseball bats with thinly-concealed intentions of grabbing a few and taking out a couple of the evil team's coaches.

But, no time to grieve. There're All-Star tryouts tomorrow, and my boy, according to the coach, is the best all-around player on his team. So, I got him out to the field today to drill him on grounders, line drives, and pop flies, and some batting too. If he makes the All-Star team, he's got six games to play in the next two weekends against other all stars all over the Great Northwest. Meanwhile, I'm putting together a DVD of my son's team and that's taking a while because I want to make sure I show every kid getting a hit and making a play, and the music and editing must be just right.

And, then, there's the team party. So much to do. So much work for the Little League dad. I'm hooked. And, I know I'm hooked because, just before the championship game, which was played just a block from my house, I invited some of my son's teammates over to my house for cookies and they were all wearing their team jerseys and to see the team in my house, jumping around, wearing their colors, made this Little League dad swell up with pride. The team's in my house. What an honor! Cookies for all!

My name is Jeremiah. I'm hooked on Little League baseball and sunflower seeds. I am an addict.

Jeremiah, 1:52 AM | link | 3 Hit the roof |

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

this is an audio post - click to play
Jeremiah, 10:53 AM | link | 5 Hit the roof |

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Where Was Jeremiah? A Q&A

Where were you?

I spent the better part of the week in the Big Woods here in the Great Northwest, being a cabin leader at my oldest son's end of the year school campout. We did all sorts of outdoors activities involving water and dirt and I got to try to get a cabin full of worked-up 11-year old boys asleep! By myself! Where are my pills!

It didn't rain every day, did it?

Well, no, not EVERY day. Just about 3/4 of the time we were there. And, because the only indoor facilities were the dining hall, and the cabins themselves, and because there were classes all day and we only had meals in the dining hall and not "huddling and shivering" classes there, we were outside most of the time, getting nice and wet. In fact, I think that one of the classes was called "Stand Here and Get Ridiculously Wet--No, HERE, Right In the Rain."

How did you get the boys to sleep?

Well, I tried playing guitar, which only got them riled up ("Jeremiah, do you know any songs about 'snot'"?). I then let them tell each other stories, which I had to stop after a while because the legs of the female camp counselors began to get discussed in a little too much detail. I finally just got mean and I put my foot down, put on my "city face" and told them to be quiet immediately and that got them to sleep, about 30 minutes later.

But, did your son have fun?

Oh, yes. Being in the woods, which is full of sticks, with his best friends, who all love throwing things too, was glorious for him. I let him loose a bit and I think he appreciated being able to bend the envelope. A few things got out of hand, but I just turned the other cheek and gnawed on some bark and I was just fine. Good dad!

What were the meals like?

Well, we had another school there with us, an older bunch, and we had daily dining competitions concerning who left the least food waste on their plates. Food left on your plate, by the way, is called "ort," which is a word that 11-year old boys can find many ways to, ah, alter. I'm proud to report that our school had the least amount of ort at each meal there, sometimes weighing in at zero ort particles. We got a lot of satisfaction out of that, but the parents, in secret, all admitted that the actual amount of ort that occurs at their homes regularly outweighs the family dog, who actually, by the way, is also the ort disposal unit, so really, nothing gets wasted anyway.

There weren't REALLY any good-looking female counselors, were there?

Oh, no, no way. I can't stand statuesque women who get dirty camping, and who can wield an oar like Xena, warrior princess, and slice up a squid without the least bit of a grimmace, and who can, of course, play guitar. Can't stand them, or their legs.

So, what did you learn?

The following:
Next week: Camp with my youngest! Where are my pills!
Jeremiah, 9:16 AM | link | 5 Hit the roof |