tough guy

I deliver the mail.

Understanding sometimes comes through repetition…so I’ll say it again, even though I’ve said it a couple of times before in this blog…I deliver the mail to provide us with the money we need to make a living.

My job involves a lot of driving.  I see a lot of faces passing the other way on the roads I travel.  I get to interact with a lot of different kinds of people.  I like that part of my job quite a bit.

The other day, I passed a guy riding a motorcycle.  It was a tricked out Harley, expensive black leather saddle bags…a Harley load of chrome and black metal badness.

He was all patina and wind chapped skin…black leather and white beard….a stern look of concentrated coolness on his face.

I waved at him like I wave at everyone.  I wave at everyone like some needy little puppy…hurt and surprised if I don’t get the expected response of a “wave back”.

This guy looked me right in the eye and zoomed past.

He was a pretty tough guy.

I drove around shoving mail in mailboxes…thinking about this guy and what it means to be tough.

My father was a different kind of tough.  He wasn’t the “look at me” kind of tough…he was a pretty quiet man.

When I was 15, I came home from school and discovered my mother at the bottom of our stairs.  She’d fallen as a result of a spinal condition that she’d been diagnosed with a couple of years earlier.  I guess the condition had made her lose her balance and she’d spent the day at the bottom of the stairs waiting for someone to come home and find her there.

I called my father at work, he called the ambulance, and Mom went to the hospital for the summer.

For the next 15 years, my father was her caregiver.  Caregiver is a strange way to put it , really.  My father was her husband.  My sister and I were her children.  We all took care of each other.

That was my example of a tough man.

It wasn’t someone who rode a wild-looking bike…it wasn’t someone who got in a lot of fights in the bars or had a lot of women…it wasn’t any of the things that some people think are examples of toughness.

It was just a quiet man who took care of his family even when it was hard…or maybe especially when it was hard.

A child supposes that the parent’s dream is to serve the needs of the child. Sometimes, it feels like maybe children just assume that the parent didn’t have any purpose or aspirations before the child entered the world…like the assumption is something like, “here I am…now you can start living”.

I know that my father had dreams.  He told me once that he’d wanted to go to Australia and become a veterinarian.  That’s pretty “out there” to want to go down to the Outback .  I’m sure there were a lot more things that he’d dreamed of doing that I never heard about.

I know that, like all of us, my father had dreams that he owned independent of his family.

I hear talk of a life of quiet desperation…but I wonder if one of the signs of real toughness is letting your family enjoy a life that, for the most part, is as much “business as usual” as possible…no matter what your dreams for yourself are?

Toughness has a lot of faces.  Steady and calm is one of them…but it’s one that’s easy to take for granted because it’s not very dramatic or confrontational.

My father was a tough man.


windows are rolled down

It’s a sure bet that if I’m posting another YouTube video that I’m so completely uninspired to write a blog post that I’m desperate for content.

Completely uninspired…fuzzy headed early morning survival mode…not a good place to be if I want to come up with something to write about that has some “meat” to it.

Then along comes Amos Lee.

We almost named our son “Amos”…I told my wife, “how about the name Amos?” ….and she really liked it….but my daughter said the kids at school would turn it into “Anus” so we chickened out.  Man….it’s a great name, though.

This song is like a soundtrack to the world opening up…Spring is here and windows are rolled down.

So…even if I don’t feel like writing much this morning…thanks to Amos Lee it’s a complete attitude reversal.

Windows are rolled down.



“I can’t know”

When one of our children was confronted with something that was really hard to figure out, he used to say “I CAN’T KNOW”.

Of course, that was when he was pretty little…things are rolling a lot more smoothly now.

We always thought it was a hilarious and true statement.  How hard is it to get our heads wrapped around some new skill or bit of knowledge…and how tempting would it be to shut the whole “learning process” down and just say, “I can’t know”?

“I can’t know” is so much more definitive than “I don’t understand” or “give me a minute”…it’s the perfect way of saying, “just hold on a minute…why are you bothering me with this whole alphabet thing?  I need to get back to my transformers…let’s just drop this subject right now.”

At this stage of my life, I’m starting to figure out that there’s a lot that I don’t know…but I’m not apt to think that I can’t know….at least not very often.

And what I think I can’t know…I just ignore.

just a random find…fine indeed

Ah, so good.  Here’s a video from a young guy named Allen Stone.

Here’s some info about him from his official site

Like many soul singers, Stone got his start in church. He was a preacher’s kid, so whipping crowds into a call-and-response frenzy as he performs “Say So” is second nature. Steeped in gospel music and shielded from secular songs, Allen didn’t discover soul music until he was a teenager and started collecting classic albums from the 60’s and 70’s.

“Soul music from that time wasn’t just about bumpin’ and grindin’ at the club—it was a huge part of a cultural movement. That’s where my inspiration comes from,” says Stone, who was also schooled by folk records of the period.

Good for you…there’s a lot to be said for doing it all “old school”.  As soon as our three-year old won’t be tempted to scrub off the stylus, I’m going to get my turntable out and school my kids on what real music is all about.

This guy is pretty great…check him out.


where’s jimi?

What’s going on when …how many years after your death?…43 years after your death…you’re such a major influence that people are still producing cool covers of your songs?

What kind of legacy and influence are you going to have a hundred years from now?

And finally…some video of a guy actually riding Voodoo Child!  That’s the beauty of YouTube…you never know what you’re going to run across.



So…that’s just a small sampling of the videos of folks playing..and riding…. just that one song. Amazing.

kind of like soul food

“Survivalism” is kind of like “soul food”.

Soul food is just Southern cooking by a different name.  Food for the soul…good eatin’.

Survivalism isn’t much different from anything that a backwoods, country folk would be up to every day of their life.  It’s just surviving by a different name.

But… good grief…you can sure come across like a real paranoid weirdo if you take it too far.  Motivation is powerful…but if you’re motivated by the coming zombie invasion or Koreans dropping from the sky, you’re zooming off into weirdoville.

There is always something coming …and when you watch crazy North Koreans bragging about the reach of their nuclear weapons, you think it might get weird soon…but good stuff happens, too.

No need to let the unplugged fan fill your head with thoughts of everything that might hit it.

fun hogs

There was an article this morning about a young guy dying trying to duplicate a YouTube stunt that some other young guys filmed pulling off in Utah.

It used to be that we never had the chance to call anything crazy or dangerous that we did a “YouTube stunt”.  It was just something goofy that stayed in the same small group…bragging rights on a small scale…”remember when Robert climbed the crane?  Good gosh…I was scared…”.

Now, you if do something crazy and film it there’s a chance that 17 million people will see it.

That’s a lot of potential peer pressure…it used to be bad with just a small group egging each other on…imagine what it would be like to have 17 million people saying “dooooo itttttt!!!! you go, boyeeeee”.

Here’s the original YouTube video….

Read the comments…there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of sympathy for the young kid who died.  Apparently, he misjudged the length of the rope he’d need and bottomed out when he jumped.

This video makes it look so fun…with the cool soundtrack and all….that it almost makes me want to do it with a good length of clothesline…and I’m afraid of heights.

Here’s a “making of” video of the stunt….

Watching this, it makes me wonder if the kid who tried it and wasn’t successful had a chance to watch this video?

The thing about something like this is that the ropes that climbers use are called “dynamic ropes” because they stretch.  The ropes stretch…they stretch so that in the event of a climbing fall, some of the shock is taken out of hitting the end of the rope length….and unless you’re planning for it, I could see where somebody could hit the ground on a long pendulum like this.

Listen to the comments at the end of the “making of video”…the guys are talking about people doing the stunt after seeing the YouTube video.

Thankfully, the folks that I hung out with didn’t have access to any videos of other people doing crazy things.

The fun hogs had enough imagination to get into as much trouble as they could handle without that kind of help.

(A short post script…did anyone else expect a soda can to ‘splode at some point?)



waging heavy peace….talking to Neil Young

waging heavy peaceI just finished reading “Waging Heavy Peace”, by Neil Young.

I suspect that it’s the closest I’ll ever get to sitting down and having a real conversation with him.








This is a stream of consciousness “memoir”…ruminations on his past and his current life and projects that feels like one of those conversations that you can pick up anytime…like I expected to be able to say, “now…where were we before you left to plug in your electric car?”.

I’ve always had a strong interest in Neil Young’s music.  He always seemed to be willing to do whatever it took to move forward as an artist….even if the results weren’t as commercial as some of his more successful projects. I had a lot of respect for him as an artist because of both the quality and humor of his music…and the integrity that I saw in his artistic choices.

This book opened up his life and let me see that there was a lot more than just his music to admire.

The book jumps around a lot….early days to present…and, like the long walks he talks about enjoying taking on his ranch, covers a lot of ground.

He talks about his family and his environmental projects.  He talks about friends he’s had and friends he’s lost.  He talks quite a bit about his music and the people he made it with….but this book isn’t just a musical memoir…it is about his thoughts about his life and his place in the world.

I’ve read other reviews that complained that he talked too much about his cars, or his train collection, or anything else in the book that wasn’t music related…but it just made him seem like a complete and more interesting person to me.  I don’t know why we expect any of our artists to be monochromatic personalities…it’s all the side interests that make them who they are…and let them make interesting art because of all the idiosyncrasies.

Neil Youngimage from the


I’m listening to “Live at Massey Hall 1971” on Grooveshark as I’m writing this….it’s interesting to remember how young all those guys were when they were making this music.  It really was a while ago.

Neil Young has a lot to remember…but this book is a good reminder that he’s got a lot going on in the present, too.

the best thing for a child

My little boy and I both woke up early this morning.

I get up early every morning, but this morning I had some company.

When I get up with Nate, my day is different in a good way.  We have some juice and I brew up some coffee for me…and we usually have something to eat, too.

When he asked for a yogurt, I realized that we’d already accomplished something good in his short life.

When he asked, he said “please”…and when I brought him his yogurt, he said “thank you”.

That’s not so earth-shaking a thing in a lot of people’s eyes…but it’s a pretty big deal if you think about what it does for a child and his or her future.

To give a child the ability to honestly express courtesy and gratitude for the things that people do for them sets them up for a lifetime of being appreciated in return by the people doing them the kindness.

Manners are a big deal.  More than anything…more than socioeconomic factors, or physical strength, or the ability to play the banjo really well…to be able to say “please” and “thank you” covers a lot of good ground.

Nate doesn’t understand what a salad fork is at this point…or when to bow….or why he’d need to cross a t….but I was proud and pleased that he knew how to be polite.

It is a pleasure to get up early with him while everyone else is sleeping.