Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A decade of Anna

"Anna" is another word for "life-changer." At least that's been my experience. I can still remember the shirt I was wearing to the hospital, ten years ago today, when Robin had her. I've written here before about her hearing my voice. If you'll indulge me to quote myself, it serves as an introduction, the first time I met Anna:

"When our daughter Anna was born, her left arm was a little slow to get moving. The doctors weren't overly concerned--this can happen to a C-Section born baby--but they noted it, and I went with them as they rolled her down the hospital hallway into a room to check her vitals and her arm. She didn't care for being prodded and was screaming (those who know her can attest to her lung capacity) over the doctors and nurses, until I talked to calm her. When I spoke she fell immediately quiet and moved her head and unfocusing eyes toward my voice. She stayed quiet while I spoke and the nurse commented that she knew and responded to my voice (read to your babies in bellies). Homegirl (Anna, not the nurse) had the keys to the car from there. I knew from that second, and holding her looking out our hospital room window that night as she slept that there was nothing cooler than being a dad. I've thought so countless times since."

All the moments and milestones since and my mind hangs on that moment the longest. A decade moment. A lifetime moment.

I have said before that I have enjoyed every year of our girls' lives more than the previous year, just watching them grow and learn and seeing who they become. That's true still. But your child hitting double digits gives you pause. Fuck "gives" you, it MAKES you pause.

My life over the last decade has been co-defined. Many of my greatest moments are moments Anna made--things she said or did or thought or spoke.

I have cried more, been more emotional over the last decade. Many of the tears are the good kind, but that depth of experience, of experience shared with a soul/person in your care, growing and changing and looking to me/us for opinion, answers, solace, laughter. Perhaps I neglected to read the "free tear duct fill-up with birth of baby" sign.

Over the last decade, I have watched more kids movies than I ever thought possible. I have learned the names of toys and books and TV characters because, well, that's how I roll.

Over the last decade, I have seen myself, outside myself. Anna is a morning person, like me (Ava prefers sleep, like Robin). Anna and I share some of the same hang-ups, same tendencies, same inclinations. I'm not sure what to say about recognizing yourself in another, but it is an experience without parallel.

Over the last decade, I have gained a respect, admiration and sense of wonder about my father, my parents, and how the hell they raised and dealt with us (me, really, my sister was much easier) and seemed to always be in control. We, as parents, certainly do not.

I think it's fair to call the last ten years, the decade of Anna in our house and our lives. Over that time, she has given me a new identity, a new responsibility, a new perspective and a new name: Dad. I think it is my favorite of my names.

Happy 10th birthday, Anna! Can't wait to see where you/we go next.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Put Columbus on the couch

I am afloat, adrift maybe, but for family, house, job keeping anchor.

That's a good thing. I don't particularly dig constant floating, specter-like, unable to return to earth. Those with an airy spirit can suffer that specter syndrome.

Sometimes collapsing ass to couch is a homecoming, like a ship returning to port after a trying passage, one with serpents and storms and Columbus-sailing-off-the-flat-earth drama.

Chill the sea serpent. Put Columbus on the couch.

Docking ass to sofa sanctuary and watching the girls in the evening's safe harbor. It's an imperfect metaphor, but in real life it works fine.

* Illustration by Adam Scoppa.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The pint glass as reality

I'm into pint glasses. Sure, the connotation of ale or stout contained therein is a part of the infatuation, but it's also how they re-shape and contain whatever pours into them. A pint glass is both a vessel and a lens.

Seeing a pint glass sitting on a tavern bar in front of taps (preferably of Evolution), creates a different expectation than seeing a bottle or can or plastic keg cup in whatever setting. Just like some people wear a suit or uniform to work, a pint glass is a well dressed beverage.

A pint glass is a form. It's like a poem, a song, a short story, an aphorism, a novel, a memoir. The form colors the perception and the experience of what is inside.

If experience is reality, as the Empiricists like to say, then a pint glass shapes reality. John Locke, a pint glass is reality.

We each have our own metaphorical pint glasses, in which we try to contain and order the world. Especially after a few pints.

So pour that in your pint glass and swill. Responsibly, of course...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Sipping "Volcanic Sunlight"

Perhaps poetry is irrelevant today. Saul Williams, a poet, is not. When you perform at Def Jam events, when you make an album with Trent Reznor, when you project words, thoughts and feelings like a force of nature, relevance remains. It lifts you up.

I remember hearing Williams recite poetry at the end of one of the great hip hop albums, Blackalicious "Blazing Arrow." I remember being moved by it, but not knowing who he was. This past summer, TWM71 brought him back to my attention and I picked up his book "The Dead Emcee Scrolls."

If Williams just wrote poetry and read it at bookstores, he wouldn't stand out. That's the problem with poetry. It's too easy for people to dismiss. There's no cache. Why would I want to see/hear/read/write that?

Matthew Zapruder, also a poet, wrote a great piece in the L.A. Times called "Why I Rhyme." It looks at what drew him to poetry, but also at the evolution of poetry through rhyme to today's free verse. There are some gems there.

"Poetry at its most basic level is about the movement of the mind... the leap from one thought to another... that leap, that movement is what makes poetry." -MZ

Williams makes leaps from one form to another, moving beyond poetry proper. He is an actor, he is a musician. He has a singing voice that may be kin to Lenny Kravitz's. I think Williams' reaching out, expanding the boundaries of poetry to more culturally relevant forms of expression can invigorate poetry.

Williams' art is performance. That's what connects it. It isn't content to live quietly on a page. It wants ears. On Feb. 23, at the Black Cat in Washington, D.C., it will have mine.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A moment of clarity

I was drinking a Newcastle Brown Ale in a Raleigh, N.C., movie theater watching "Pulp Fiction" for the first time. It was the first time I ever imbibed a beer in a movie theater (viva art theaters!). And the movie immediately became one of my all-time favorites, if not my singular favorite film. I don't think that was related to the beer.

HBO has been showing "Pulp Fiction" and last night I latched on early, even though we own the movie. It's a film I will watch anywhere, anytime. I am not a screenwriter; I don't dig on screenplays. But PF taught me about how I want to write--the language, the dialogue, the staccato conversation, which stays casual and funny but delves deep into philosophy, character, life. The narrative that leaps forward and back. And everything with plot twists, pacing and humor that keep you glued. I almost come out of my seat, still, when Vega gives the adrenaline shot to Mia Wallace.

I am sure I could expound on similarities between PF and my other top all-time movies ("Cool Hand Luke," "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "Snatch" are in that company). But other than being re-smitten with a late night screening of PF, I think I am on a thread where art forms and genres other than your own instruct/inform you. One of the books I have going at present is John Berger's "Bento's Sketchbook."

Berger launches off of the writing/thinking of Benedict "Bento" Spinoza, and the fact that Bento is said to have carried a sketchbook with him, which was never found (at least not that is known) after his death. Berger, an artist, writer, thinker, looks at the impulse to create/draw, combined with deep meditations, which go beneath the surface.

I can't draw. But in looking at the impulse to draw, to create, and how Berger approaches the outside world, I am inspired.

So those are my extra-genre inspirations this morning. An all-time favorite film and a new book. Add morning coffee to that, maybe a lunch-time run, and I am ready for take off.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The abstract pirate

I went through a Buffett phase. Not a "Cheeseburger in Paradise" Buffett phase, but a "Gypsies in the Palace," "Volcano" phase. I bought the box set, listened to everything and read his novels. We've seen him in Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

I still dig Buffett, but more in an island-vibe way, a waterman soul way; as someone who could happily live life in and on and around the simple, small water town. His music is a perfect arrow in the quiver of the various music that should be enjoyed thereon.

The song that reeled me in was "A Pirate Looks at 40." The simple articulation of being out of time, of standing outside what society deems financially/occupationally important. I wrote the line, "My occupational hazard is, my occupation's just not around," on my ceiling in college (part one).

That song is in my head again as we start 2012, looking ahead on the year, as this is the year I am scheduled to turn 40. It's never an age I've given a lot of thought to.

I can remember a New Year's Eve, when I was probably 17 or 18 and thinking about New Year's Eve leading into the year 2000. Thinking that I'd be 27. Wondering what that would look like. Remembering that my mom was 27 when she had me. Would I be married? Would I have kids at that point?

It was all abstract. When things/images/concepts are abstract they can never be specific. But when they move to specific, they never go back to abstract. They supersede it, take it over. With Robin, I no longer wondered what my wife would look like. When the girls were born, I ceased to wonder what kids would look like or what their names would be.

My looking forward or back at life has never really been age sensitive, but life event sensitive.

I am glad and thankful that the abstract future has revealed the life I now live. But I still feel like Buffett in "A Pirate Looks at 40." Maybe more so.