a ribbon between the keys

by tobias crabtree

I love writing from my brother’s garage. I don’t know exactly what it is that I love about it, something…something old and nostalgia based. Maybe it’s from the memory banks, back when all us boys used to hang out in the ol’ bus garage, when my Pa moonlighted as the mechanic at the church. I still love the smell of old engines and greasy parts, oil drenched benches with big vices for clamping things that need clamping. I’ve never been much of a mechanic, I’m the guy that will take something apart and THEN call for help, sometimes losing a part or two in between feeling confident and lost. Both my brothers are better with that kind of stuff. Cory will help me get my computer going again, over the phone. Josh is the one who tells me to label the parts, put ’em in a bag, take a picture before you take it apart. Yeah, I’m more like the guy with greasy fingers and a hammer and a weird look on my face because I just realized i haven’t a clue as to where this one extra part goes. But none of that changes anything about me liking to write in the garage. The only thing I can loose while I’m writing is my train of thought and, if you’ve ever read anything that I’ve written, you know that’s just part of the ride. If I thought I had any style at all it would be based on big, looping circles that drop down into the creek bottoms, cut under bridges, follow old deer trails, go up and down trees, and finally, if we’re lucky, end up somewhere that makes some kind of sense. But don’t count on it.

Last night I went to bed early. I read from A River Runs Through It, and promptly had dreams of big mountain rivers with monster trout, lurking in the foamy swirls. The literature that calls me most these days is the stuff that leans into an older, more loving view of the world. I am reminded, on the daily, how much there is for us to learn from the woods, the ocean, the rivers. I don’t need anything that takes batteries or a power source, I need only to give time to the world that formed me. These Wild Things put their mark on me. They put wrinkles around my eyes, muscles on my body, and memories that can stir a fire in the heart of the kids that will bury me. I wonder, as I think about the way things are, if the time of the Story Teller is over, replaced by shiny devices that give us so much pleasure through beeps and follows and likes. Let’s face it, the human being is a specie so in love with itself that it is in danger of losing it’s vision, walking head down and staring at a pretty screen right out into oblivion. Don’t believe me? Drive by a middle school when the kids are let out and count the interactions that don’t include a smart phone. Coffee shops aren’t for physical interaction anymore, they are cyber-world. I wonder what would happen if something happened, like a solar flare or something, and the ability to use the web went away. I’m not wishing for a stone age here, I don’t want us to loose knowledge, but would kids even know how to look stuff up in the dictionary? People would be lost in their hometowns because they’ve never learned about street addresses, how there’s a North and South, East and West division to every town and the street numbers increase from that point. And what would happen in coffee shops? For a while, people would talk about losing the web, but then what? Everyone would be forced to look up when they’re walking in Central Park. People would begin to say Hello again because the ol’ cop-out of pretending to look at the phone would be gone. Maybe kids who no longer have their ipad would like books and crayons again. And I’d be typing on an old typewriter (for those who don’t know what a typewriter is — and I just met a kid that didn’t — it’s a machine that hammers words onto paper by holding a ribbon of ink in between the swinging keys that have the letters of the alphabet. It’s wonderfully noisy. It was created not long after the cotton gin).

I’m intentionally sarcastic, but I’m including myself in this wave of stupidity and dependency. I don’t want things to regress, I would much rather see us progress and use what we have in a positive way. Convenience is not always the correct choice, nor is comfort. Frustration is an important part of our development, it’s good to have to deal with it.

Being smart and simple is so damn refreshing! I’ve got the simple part down, the smart part is still a work in progress. I do, however, spend time with the Ones who are marvelously smart and wise enough to listen and good enough to teach and simple enough to enjoy the moments where the only sound is the thumping of their own heart and the whisperings of a forgotten world.