Summer Swam Fast

August 16, 2017


Summer swam fast this year

Now the house is dark and still

Each season gains strength and speed, it seems

Leaving voids to fill 

“Remember the good times,” they always say

But the good times never last

Life is but a ticking clock

‘Til all our time has lapsed. 

Pollock’s Mural 

August 5, 2017


I was finally able to view a Jackson Pollock. Not just any Pollock, but arguably the greatest Pollock — Mural. Certainly the greatest in stature, at almost 9’x20′, if not the greatest artistically. And if not the “best,” it was at least a turning point when Pollock, who was commissioned by wealthy socialite Peggy Guggenheim to fill a wall in her townhouse, began painting large-scale works. 

Much has been written about the painting. Pollock, a relatively unknown artist at the time, was hired by Guggenheim in June of 1943. He received a $150 per month stipend (equal to about $2100 today) and was to have the work ready for a show in November of the same year. Legend has it that when November rolled around, the giant canvas remained untouched. Pollock claimed to have completed the painting during one creative outpouring sometime in late December (later testing proves the work was not entirely painted at one time, however), and said that the painting came from an inspirational vision the Wyoming native had. “(It was) a stampede…every animal in the American West, cows and horses and antelopes and buffaloes. Everything is charging across that goddamn surface.” 

Standing alone on a hot summer day inside the cool halls of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, MO, where Mural is on loan from the University of Iowa, I was able to truly take in the artwork. While it isn’t my favorite painting, and Pollock isn’t my favorite artist, it is something to behold. I stood as far as possible and viewed the painting as a whole. I could visualize the stampede, yet was also able to let my eyes lose focus and get lost in the free-flowing, yet repetitive, form. In some way I felt as though I was being watched. It is intriguing and mysterious. 


I walked the length of the painting — back and forth — imagining how difficult it would be to keep the work consistent, yet maintain the subtle differences throughout. I stood with my face inches from the canvas, studying the lines, the splatters and perhaps unintentional drips (Mural was finished several years before Pollock started his drip paintings), the layers, the textures…and all the other tiny details hidden in the monstrous piece. 




I imagined Pollock’s studio — his apartment, which had to have a wall secretly removed in order for the canvas to fit —  and what it might have been like. The smell of paint and turpentine was undoubtedly and obnoxiously mixed with the cigarette smoke that hung in the air. Pollock’s thick, boozy breath clung to the wet paint, and his dripping sweat became forever a part of the artwork. Maybe a jazz record played in the background. Perhaps Pollock worked in silent solitude. What was going through his mind? Did he sit and eat a ham sandwich at some midway point, staring at the unfinished work and wondering what the hell to do next? Where were his first and last brush strokes? Was Pollock pleased with the completed work? 

While I’m a lover of art, I’m no historian or expert. I see what I like, and what I like makes me wonder. Art makes me think in ways that I don’t normally. I believe that’s why I’m drawn to it. Mural certainly made me wonder. It made me think. It drew me in. If you get the chance, I highly recommend viewing it. 

when love was banished 

June 24, 2017


when love was banished we had just fallen in love 

refusing to say goodbye we went on the run 

we hid on an island and played in the sun

the authorities found us and fired their guns

we died together that day…

but love won 

The City

June 1, 2017


Some people can’t wait to escape the city in their search for happiness

They drive some shiny SUV out to the countryside every weekend, breathing in the clean air, sitting alone in the warm sun, feeling the soft grass under their feet…pondering life’s meaning while staring into that vast, empty sky

That’s probably real nice and all, but many folks never get to leave the city — the bus simply doesn’t go that far 

Some of us learned to find refuge and joy right here

We weave in and out of the skyscrapers’ shadows, running our fingers over the corroding textures, counting the faded bricks placed one at a time by some tired man’s hands, nodding to the shop-keepers having a quick smoke on the sidewalk, drinking in the history…finding strange comfort in knowing that others walked these streets before us, and many more will do so long after our shoes have worn out

I guess — for some of us — pondering life seems less important than making sure to live it

Still, of course, I sometimes ponder… 

The Pier 

May 28, 2017


Summer is when we jumped off the pier

Immortal, for all we knew, as we sprang from the rotting wood, held together by stubborn rusting nails, ever so slowly losing their grasp

The pier is long gone now of course, the weary nails gave in and let go, as we all eventually do

Oh how I long for one last leap 

A Note to Graduates 

May 13, 2017


Dear Graduates,

The month of May is possibly my favorite. I love the weather — summer is trying to shove its way in with welcomed warm breezes, yet spring is holding its own, providing crisp mornings and pleasant evenings. Birds chirp outside my open window at dawn, and a late-inning baseball game glows on my television screen at dusk. There is a freshness in the air that makes me feel renewed. Life is grand.

Perhaps the best part of May, however, is school letting out for the summer. I think back to my own school days and can vividly remember the feeling of sheer excitement and joy as that final bell rang each year. Having kids of my own and working in a school now, I must admit I still feel it — maybe for different reasons — but there is still that sense of adventure that lurks at the start of each summer.

For you, this year truly is the final bell. It’s the endless summer. Social media is filled with photos of you in your caps and gowns. Smiles are plastered across your faces and invincibility twinkles in your eyes. Many of you are heading off to college, while some will opt to go find jobs. You will become our next generation of doctors, teachers, farmers, politicians, steelworkers, lawyers, carpenters, and accountants. The world needs all of these and one is no better than another — remember that. You “kids” will be taking care of the rest of us just a few years down the road. And believe me, kids, the years will go fast. So fast.

I don’t know much, but I’ve managed to figure out a few things along the way. I’d like to offer you some simple advice. I’ll keep it short, as I know you have better things to do:

1. Advance your education beyond high school. Whether it’s a certificate from a trade school or an advanced degree from a university, education gives you power and promotes the freedom to change jobs and careers. Do it now, because going back to school when you have a wife, kids, a job, and other responsibilities is really hard (trust me). Take your education seriously.

2. Happiness isn’t expensive. Yes, you need to make some money to reach a certain level of happiness and to give you and your family some opportunities. But be very aware there is much more to life than striving to “be rich” and possessing material things.

3. Despite everyone telling you who and what to be, please do what makes you happy. You may not even have a clue yet what you want to do with your life. That’s okay. You may think you’ve figured it out, then change your mind. That’s okay, too. Whatever you end up being, be a great one. Trying to be your best self will make your life better in many ways.

Look, kids, I know you’re not really paying attention. I’m trying to give advice to 18 year olds who already know everything. I used to be as smart as you all are… If nothing else, remember that regardless of our age, we are all writing our own stories. My generation has already written many chapters, and you may be searching for the right words to get started, but none of our stories are complete. No matter how much or how little we have written, no matter how many failures, hardships, and disappointments we face along the way — and there will be many — as long as we are alive, we get to keep writing. So make your stories long, fill them with love and kindness, include many crazy and wonderful adventures, and — most of all — make sure you keep writing until you are happy with the ending. It’s never too late for any of us to change our tale.

Now get out there and make a difference. Each one of you can alter the world in at least some tiny yet amazing way. We are counting on you. 

Sincerely,

A Friend

While We Wait…

April 16, 2017

The Bible makes Jesus out to be a pretty great dude. I’m not talking about rising from the dead (although this would be a totally bad-ass ability to possess), I’m talking about the less amazing things. I’m talking about feeding the hungry, helping the poor, breaking bread with sinners, and sheltering the homeless. These are things that Jesus’ apostles often questioned and couldn’t quite comprehend — much like many (though certainly not all) of his followers today. However, doing these things are a simple way to walk in Christ’s footsteps. 

I won’t be going to church today, but I will continue to try to be better at genuinely befriending and helping people of all walks of life. I hope those attending church will consider doing the same. Christians have been waiting over 2000 years for their savior to return. I’m not saying he isn’t ever coming, but in the meantime I don’t think Jesus would mind if we turned the other cheek and tried to save one another. In fact, I think he would expect it. 

Happy Easter.