tobias crabtree

defining lines; drawing and writing

Tag: friends

My Pet Nasty

I admire the quiet ones, the ones that don’t seem to care if they’re noticed.  I have a few friends that stand and listen and smile at the things I am saying. I can be such a rager, but these folks have found a way to weather the storm, wait for the bravado to pass, and still be my friend. The quiet ones wait. They don’t pop the lock when feelings are pushing at the gate, because it’s in those moments when words run amok.

If babies had a full vocabulary at birth, I believe we would have a whole different perception of mankind. There is no sorrow or fury like that of a child. At least you can say that a baby’s not faking it. And when they fake it, they fake it with all their heart. The little ones make no bones about it, they want only and all of what they want.

Whenever I catch myself starting to exaggerate, I know that I’m talking too much. I know that, for one reason or another, I’m feeling inadequate. The person that I am is acting out and wanting more room inside the mind or minds of the people that I’m exaggerating to. I am unabashedly begging for attention. There are several reasons for why I might embellish reality but they all point back to me. I guess I could say it’s my ego, but whenever I talk about my ego I feel like I’m talking about something separate from me. Like my ego is a naughty little pet that is performing deeds without my permission. Have you ever heard folks talk about themselves in third person? “Oh, Tobias don’t like that kind of thing at all! That’ll just set Tobias off!” It really is a way of allowing yourself to behave a certain way but not lay claim to it. “Aw man, my ego acted up last night. Sure hope it didn’t hurt anybody’s feelings.” So I’ve been trading the word ego for a personal pronoun, Me. Come to find out, I’m my ego. Damn. Yeah, so it’s not my naughty little pet that did that, it’s me. And I’ll just go ahead and say it, sometimes I want attention just because. It’s pathetic. I don’t want to be blatantly adored, but adored nonetheless. I want my friends to admire what I do and how I do it. I think it’s a part of being a human animal: to desire to be needed and loved and admired. Exaggeration is just a lazy way of creating admiration, it’s creative but it lacks substance. It’s what I think I need to be without actually being it.

I guess the best way to be needed and loved is to be real. And being real will sort out who your friends are and are not. It will also force you to evaluate your actions. It will temper your selfishness with lovingkindness. In some cases, it will make you more lonely. Being a human is tricky. Life is all about dynamic adjustments. It does seem like we humans are masters at making things more complex than they need to be. Lies are complications. Truth is patient and solid and simple. It’s me that is a work in progress, Me, not my pet ego. It’s me that loves the friends that endure all my rantings and ravings. Tobias is working on himself and we’re pretty sure he’s gonna be ok. He’s got good friends and sometimes they call him out on things, and he’s ok with that. He’s a lucky dude.

Super Humble

My buddy, Hunter, is bald. He’s approximately my age, slightly younger, but who cares? Once you’re in your forties you round down when it comes to age. Hunter is a handsome kinda bald, he never messed around with trying to salvage what was left, he just shaved it all. Once, when I was visiting him at Orion Forge, I shaved my head and I said, “Look Hunt, I’m bald too!” He glanced up from the anvil and cracked back, “no, you’re shaved, and there’s a difference, homie.” Of course, he’s right about that. Shaved is a choice and bald ain’t. Choices are nice, but life is the dealer and we each get the cards we get. I try to be like Hunter but I always come up short…literally and figuratively.

I have a few friends like Hunter. They remind me to look down and check to see who’s standing in my shoes. It’s real good to see who you are through the eyes of an honest friend. My close friends are important in many ways, especially when I misbehave. Nothing like a buddy calling you out for being arrogant or petty or mean. It’s like taking a forced bath in cold water, yeah sure you come out clean but that doesn’t mean it’s fun. It’s tricky scrubbing a bad attitude off your face.

The thing is, it’s good, really good, for me to be adjusted. The same goes for the opposite, it’s really bad when someone thinks they can’t be told when they’re wrong. I like picking on Donald Trump. I love to point out that he’s just never wrong, no matter what. He’s the perfect example of someone who’s used to being correct, even when he’s off his rocker. It would be so interesting to strip him naked and drop him in the middle of a tribe that doesn’t use money. I imagine he would be largely ignored because he’s so dependent on monetary power. I wonder if he would adapt or if he would be left behind. Some people find humility to be too large a pill to swallow.

Humility is probably my finest attribute. It’s at least in the top 5 things that I do really well. I always struggle naming the things I’m good at…so many to choose from!

I’ve been wondering lately if it’s too late for me to start a mid-life crisis. I mean, 48 is pushing it. I feel like mid-life crises are kind of expensive. Maybe I’ll just cut my hair into a mohawk and dye it purple. How much is purple hair dye anyway? I should call Hunter and run it by him. I can’t afford a convertible corvette but I just bought a new mountain bike. What else? I just hope my friends stay supportive through this trying time. Life is rough all over here in America where we have the luxury of reality TV real estate moguls running for president and run-of-the-mill derelicts pondering the color of their next mohawk.

I really do like purple mohawks.

Aw, just make-out why don’t ya…

I’ve had trouble with Valentine’s Day in the past. All the lovers exchanging long-winded smooches in the park. Diamond sales and red roses. Cheesy poetry and chocolate hearts. I’ve always liked April Fools Day way better than V-day. But that’s all just cuz I can be a curmudgeon about lovey dovey stuff. The truth is that love is good, far better than bitterness or disgust or disinterest. And, even though I’m not super into wild, public displays of affection (like make-out sessions in the grocery line), it’s better than fights in the parking lot. And why should I care if someone wants to check out his lovers tonsils right in front of me…if it’s in line at the DMV I might actually like it, since I’m usually bored to tears while waiting for someone to allow me to pay for a sticker that says I own something I already paid for. I’d like to make something clear, this bit of writing is not going to be a downer. I’m not here to hack away at love or lovers; actually, quite the opposite. I’m gonna take this opportunity to say some things about the heart, yes, that thing in your chest that you probably rarely think about. The faithful engine. That very part of you that is essential because it pumps your internal oceans, pushing and pulling, mysteriously functioning even when you sleep, even when you are unconscious, even when you dream. The Heart. It’s become a symbol of love, and so, on this day dedicated to love, I’d like to honor some hearts that I know and have known.

This to my Mom’s heart, that pounded so hard when she brought my heart to bear. That has loved me across the sorrows and worries. That has never once wavered and that lights the eyes of the One that does not know how to be unkind. I wonder how it is that I am so full of fortune to be the son of my mother.

This to my Father’s old choctaw ticker. The Man who found my Ma. That alone sets his heart apart — the one who has always loved and always will love my Mother. And the iron in his blood has built his jaw to suit, Native and spiritual and gifted. I have seen his heart, upside-down, at the top of a ladder in a handstand. His heart is concussive, like the heavy stroke of a Harley. Old lines, true religion, the heart of Father.

This to the hearts of every baby born. Because, at times, I can’t bear humanity (myself included) and I think the world would be better without us, and then I remember the babies. Tiny hearts that still hold the light of the stars and the sounds of the songs of the wheels of the universe. If we can be this, then we can be. We are born with all the secrets and we spend our lives forgetting them. Maybe babies scare you, or you don’t like them for some reason, no matter, they are the purest form of us.

This to the hearts of the forgotten. To the ones shuffling and struggling and remembering when. There are some who’ve outlived everyone that cared, others that never had that in the first place. It might not even be that bad to be forgotten, maybe it’s all the same, but I feel for them and think of them. Perhaps, in some way, compassion can leak into the faltering minds of the elderly and the sick. It can’t hurt to give them a kind thought.

This to the hearts that are oppressed. Because no one should ever tell anyone who and and how to love. And because there are no exceptions to this rule. To the different colored lovers. And to the gals who love gals and the boys who love boys. To the oldest of lovers. To the rich who love the poor. To the lovers who see across the borders. To the lovers who see across the rules. To the lovers who rattle the chains and rise from the ash and allow their hearts to thunder.

This to the hearts that are open. Because this is the only way we will be ok. Rigidity leads to atrophy. Opinions are fine and even important, but our minds are too complex to ever fully agree on everything, so it’s good to give space to move. Hearts are elastic, we should be too.

I’ve been thinking about my friends, the ones who are alive and the ones whose hearts no longer keep count. In my mind they have their spaces. I can animate them and think of them and even hear them speak. I am so very glad to know them and to have known them. I am in awe of the hearts that leap in their chests. Those whose hearts have quieted, those friends that exist now in my memory, are still affecting my life. There’s a rhythm to it all, I’m sure. And every bird overhead, and the dog at my feet, the bees in the rosemary, the lizard with one eye asquint, and somewhere a fox, red and black, under the roots of a cottonwood, sniffing the wind with a button nose, and then somewhere farther a swooshing heart sends tides of blood into boneless limbs and the body of a beast slips through the belly of the sea, and beyond it all is the pulse of the world. All is thunder and wonder. Let’s face it, we are linked, all of us, by these clunking hearts.

And in a rare public display of affection, Happy Valentines Day….I guess.

Pretty Damn Good

Today I went down through the manzanitas to the creek, the sun wasn’t quite to the water and the rocks were still cool from the night. There were dozens of swifts banking in hard circles under the limestone overhang, down from sky in perfect flight on knife-like wings, their chitterings I imagine to be the language born of air and lightning and the smaller worlds of their origins.

Today I watched a black garter snake slide through the rocks, chasing the scent of something. There is a deep down feeling I have when I see snakes in the wild. I don’t feel it when I see a person with a pet snake down at the beach or when someone is posing with a snake in a picture — that just makes me kinda sad. But I’ve always loved the way they move along on their belly, so close to the earth, smelling with their flickering tongues and living in holes or in trees or in tangles. I know some folks are disgusted by them, but I feel mystery when I see them. The feeling of something way old and way strange. And the black garter snake with the red stripes on her sides was slipping into a still pool and hunting for small fish. I watched her do it over and over, finally riding the current down and into the pool below, a new school of fish to plunder. I wonder the colors in her saurian thoughts. I wonder what her mind holds.

Today I rescued a millipede from drowning. I thought it was some underwater creature at first, but then I could see that it had fallen in from the mossy bank and couldn’t climb out, the walls were stone and slick. The segmented body was pretty in my hand. The creature, cold and almost done. I set it in the sun and watched it re-animate and then crawl away with it’s many many legs moving not at all unlike the grass when the wind blows. It went under a rotted log into the subterranean pith, the mycelium stirrings.

Today I took my clothes off and sat naked on the rocks. I burned my ass but it was worth it, it’s good be naked under the sun. And I swam in the cold creek, below the waterfall, in the deep green hole where the roar of the water is big and the sky seems a long way away. And I remembered the time when I was a kid and my Pa and I were on a motorcycle trip through Nebraska and we stopped and swam in the creek because we were so hot. And my Dad stepped backward into a snapping turtle that was lying on the bottom with it’s pink tongue hanging out and it snapped on my Dad’s heel and he yelped and we scrambled from the water like a couple of buffaloes. And I remembered floating the irrigation ditches in the summers of my youth, in Montana, on inner-tubes, day after day. And I remembered other creeks and other nakednesses from this life as I was drifting in and out of sleep by this particular creek on this particular day.

Today I rode my little Honda Trail 90 down the path where the telephone poles run down the canyon. The huge, crook-legged jack jumped from under a stump and stormed off in front of me, ears up, black tail bobbing. And the turkey buzzards were drawing lines in the sky, smelling out the things that have died and will be soft enough to pull apart, and the ravens are watching with noses that don’t work quite as well. The Trail 90 is a wonderful machine, still thumping along, straight out of 1973, and so I was riding it today, these 42 years after it was assembled, down the long grassy trail where the lavender flowers were catching between my toes in my homemade shoes.

Today I thought about my friends. I thought about the collection of wonderful hearts that beat inside the chests of the ones I love. I am so glad they are here. I don’t need to think about whether I’m fortunate or not, I know I am. In all my ups an downs, all my silly depressions, I seek out moments like this and I am amazed. There are wonders left, mysteries still unsolved. There are trails to run, songs not yet written and pretty notes waiting on the strings of the instruments that are waiting for willing hands. There are nice things to be said to the ones we love. There are funny stories to be told, there are fibs and yarns unspun. There are lovers to kiss and smiles that will be sent from across the way to total strangers, and other smiles that will find their way back in response. There are times when I cannot find my footing through my selfishness, caught under the weight of my own worries. But then there are days like today, where the universe opens up and I see out of myself and into the big beyond, and it’s pretty damn good.

imaginary tendencies

i live in a toyota dolphin. it’s handy little rig, pretty small for a cetacean. i drive it around and park it where i feel like it’ll be unobtrusive. i make coffee in it. i sleep and draw in it. i listen to willie nelson cassette tapes in it. recently, i got the ol’ heater to work, so now i even kinda lounge in it. dolphins are cool to begin with, and now i have vehicle named after them.

this dolphin of mine reminds me of a sail boat. there’s all kinds of similarities.

~ to move it, you kinda got to pull up anchor, clear the decks, check for loose items.

~ it floats down the road, listing and swaying.

~ backing up is a pain in the ass.

~ speeding motorists fly around it as if it were a permanent fixture, much like powerboats do when passing a sailboat.

~ i have a dingy (my bicycle) that is very important once i’m parked (docked).

~ i took out the restroom because it was weird and i think it’s weird to carry a sloshing tank of shit around with you. (this could lead me into a story about a similar sloshing tank on a boat i spent months on before discovering the tank that had been capped for years. we always wondered what that lingering stench was, until that discovery. it made an impression on me and caused me to dislike tanks of shit.)

~ it’s slow.

~ the roof is in a constant state of repair. when you do not maintain it, it will leak. this is comparable to a sailboat and how it is always trying to sink. no up-keep, sinky boat.

these are a few of the similarities. there’s more but i don’t want you to amaze you anymore than i have already. mostly, i pretend i’m sailing while i’m in it. i see the stars overhead through my “escape hatch” and i feel the wind pushing the rig in the night. i wake and make coffee and step into the world. sometimes it’s a street corner in san francisco and i walk a block or two to the fontaines’ house. the fontaine sisters are strong supporters of my wily ways. they put up with the sand i leave in the shower and my project piles in corners and on porches. they see me living imaginatively and their eyes light up. they too, live imaginatively.

sometimes i land in the yard outside of chris and ethan. i float in and haunt their property that lies at the foot of the park in joshua tree.  there are bows and arrows with targets in the yard. there are stones all stacked with wild desert plants. chris (chrispy) is the hot mama of all things on this land and ethan walks around with shoulders as big as boulders. when i sail in, they shout and smile and throw food onto plates and tell me to stay. rowan is their boy. he’s a teenager now and still my friend. usually kids get too cool during a certain age, you know what i mean, and they create a little distance while they figure it out. rowan seems to have skipped it with me. we’ve been buddies all along. he makes me feel cool. the family listens to my same old, worn out stories and they are sweet enough to let me slide when i tell stories twice. when i stop there, their shine rubs off on me and i leave there a better looking man.

there are many ports. nick and elizabeth and the farm, where i spend part of my year in awe. tim and bonnie and the A-frame, where little ruby climbs the walls and dances for all. brian and summer and the urban oasis, where i see my old friend and we laugh. johnny thomson for the surfing and the swims. gus and amy and santiago de la trinidad, where i can be in the driveway or in the house or in the garage.  hunter dahlberg and the forge and the hammers and the shelf of books that i love.  my brother, josh, and the world into which i’m always invited. on and on and on….

so i’m a sailor. i sail to and fro. the world is an ocean and the skies are the map. there is an end out there somewhere, for sure. i picture the edge of the world, where everything dumps off into space, and that’s where i’m sailing. there’s plenty of sea ahead full of the stories that are yet to come. i’ve abandoned my compass. the charts i quarter are make-believe and i only do it for fun. these are the places i’ve been, these and others. when i’m lost, i wait for something to jog my memory, some distant siren, some floating hint. i keep track of the angles of the suns and the moons, each day slightly different, every pattern changing. i study the birds as they chase the poles and memorize stars.  the future unfolding into now, and here i am, caught in the colors that jump from what’s real.

imagination fills these sails. so much open sea!

a day.

first of all, you might have something better to do. i’m sure there is something else to read. for sure there’s something else that you can watch on youtube. someone jumping upside down, face first off of a urinal. someone talking about something that is so stupid you can’t look away. so this is a disclaimer. if you have something better to do, do it. otherwise here’s a record of a day. it started this morning at 5:30 when i heard my kid brother go out the door to work.

up when it’s dark. colorado. i have a hand grinder for my coffee beans and it’s my early meditation. so yeah, i did that. and then coffee. i bought heavy whipping cream to celebrate the new year, i guess, but it might be just because i like heavy whipping cream. i grabbed my computer and stepped over the dog gate at the top of the stairs. (my brother, josh, and his wife, farah, own a great dane that’s bigger than me…so a gate is necessary in order to keep the furniture in place and stuff). i took two steps and missed a step and fell down the stairs. ’twas 5:40 a.m.

the bump on my elbow is a by-product of falling down the stairs with two things you’re not willing to lose. coffee in one hand+computer in the other hand= bump on elbow. no worries, i like it.

i have a condition. it’s some weird thing that makes me mull over products in the grocery store. i look for non-gmo stuff because i, personally, am planning on putting monsanto out of business. i’m also obsessed with truth. truth about origins and sugar and time and fair trade. i can’t prove a godamn thing but i sure as hell do read the fine print to see if i can bust one of these businesses trying to lie to me about whether or not they shook some farmers hand or not. i’m probably an idiot, but i eat with a decent conscience…pretty much.

so you probably figured out that i went to the grocery store. i got the makings for my food for the day and the drink i wanted to have tonight. then i called my mama. she was at home. it’s my real home because it’s where i spent my entire childhood. it’s still on the same street. it’s under the same sky. what has changed is that my mom is older and my dad is older and i am older. i asked ma about using the sewing machine. she said she only had one bobbin. i went by the jo ann’s  and grabbed 10 bobbins. i was gonna buy 5 but there was a 50% off deal and the lady selling it to me had just had heart surgery. (i ain’t sure why that has anything to do with me buying 10 instead of 5 but it did…maybe because she seemed excited that i was buying bobbins for my ma and that it was a “singer 600 touch and sew” machine, which is old and cool) i bought the bobbins and some needles for other stuff.

ma was waiting for me, i could tell. she loves it when i roll in. she helped me set up the machine and i sewed up my sweater. she said i did a marvelous job and looked handsome with my custom fitted garments. ma’s cool. she really is. i found a picture of her with my older sister in her arms in the sewing drawer under the buttons. it is a tiny picture, maybe 2 inches by one. mama was probably 23 in that pic. soooo hot! i stole it and told her i had pocketed something from the drawer downstairs as i was leaving. she said what she always says when i do something like that, “tobe, you’re so naughty.”

this friend of mine is a bartender in san francisco. he works in a cool little spot called “outerlands” it’s in the outer sunset, where it belongs. anyway, christian, made me this drink once with whiskey and chartreuse and orange rind that might be the best drink anyone has ever had in the history of the world. that’s what i wanted tonight. just one of those. so i stopped and tried to find the chartreuse he had used  that also happens to be made by monks in the mountains somewhere (maybe france?), but i couldn’t find it. it’s pretty integral to the drink, christian said so and i believe him. i did manage to find an orange.

for about an hour i sat with my nephew and picked out animals that he and i are gonna draw for my buddy, brian foster. foster don’t know i have this little art project goin’ for him because he’s busy growing a baby into a person. having a baby, come to find out, is quite a big deal. like, you can’t just work on it for a month or two and then set it down. it’s like adopting a river or something. it’s like adopting the ocean. so yeah, he doesn’t know i have this huge art project with my 11 year old nephew where we’re gonna draw rare and cool animals for him. he’s going to be stoked.

i went out to dinner with my mom and dad. i tried not to rage at all about government and insurance and how i’d like to break into the whitehouse and rearrange the furniture and leave selfies in weird places. no. i tried to be mellow and talk about other stuff. ma and pa are cool. they somehow have learned to love me no matter what. ma told me i was valuable…that’s pretty cool, coming from mom. hugs and kisses in the parking lot. 2 pictures on mom’s camera; one of me and the old man, one of me and ma.

back at my brother’s house. i’m invited to the party across the street, but i stayed back. i made a half-ass drink without key ingredients that ended up being kind of a whiskey with an orange rind in it. i called my brother and had him walk me through turning on the tele because i basically have a worm’s brain when it comes to that kind of thing. i listened to a few people talk about trivial shit and how to change your life with new year’s resolutions. i turned off the tube, which is easier because you can just pull plugs from the wall to accomplish that. i drank water out of fear of the strength of my one drink. i sat down with sleepy eyes and stitched a couple of words into a pocket i’ve been making for my pencils. then i looked at my computer. the thought occurred to me that the only way i’d be able to write tonight is if i used a good bit of sarcasm. nice that i was able to avoid that at least. so yeah, no sarcasm from this sweet lipped tulip.

typing out words. wondering what the hell i have to say. there’s a fine line between a waste of time and what’s worth while, i guess it all boils down to the heart. i spend a whole lot of my time shoveling bitterness out of my gut and looking to the stars for something that’ll keep me putting letters together. if it weren’t for the lovely souls i know exist, i’d most certainly stop this business of arranging thoughts. but they do. they exist. so this was a day. tomorrow’s another. some folks march alone to the grave, i prefer dancing with my friends till the lights go out. and with that, i’m done for the night, done for this year. looks like it all worked out.

a home: from the eyes of a nomad

i am sitting in the upper level of a blacksmith shop. there is a home-made bookshelf that holds hundreds of books standing quietly and knowledgeably to my right. my bed roll is out. i’m plugged into the wall where someone else pays the electric bill.

i pedaled one of Hunter’s bikes to the bar tonight and sat with him over a whiskey and a beer. we talked easily about life and it’s rolling hills. we are buddies, Hunter and i. as we talked, i began to spew about what home is. every now and then, when i start blowing a bunch of air out of my mouth, it will contain something worth hearing. tonight i felt like something was said. it was about home.

i live an unconventional life; in america, it is a little unacceptable. first of all, i owe nothing. i am debt free. i’ve paid my college tuition off. i did 4 years as a marine. i owe nothing to my credit card company. i have very little in the bank.  i’m 45, single, strange, imaginary, and a little sad (and a little happy). as i sat next to my good buddy, having just left my good buddy, nick, i realized that home is wherever i sidle up next to those who are dear to me. it’s not just the being there, it’s the having something to give to my people. what do i have to give? and if i bring enough, i feel at home.

so the wonder is this: if i bring all i can, and i give what i bring, i am at home with the ones i choose to be with. there are names i can give who are changing the world. they are the hope that i have. i don’t really have trouble with hoping for impossible bullshit. i hope for the things that are tangible. i see the fight-scarred brows that sit over the broken nose that separates those thoughtful blue eyes of Brian Foster as he plants his fruit trees in the desert. i see the dirt filled toenails of Nick Mahmood as he digs out the dark black soil from his favorite sink hole in the woods behind his garden. i see burly Hunter Dahlberg stand in front of his fiery forge and teach college students about life’s sweetest curves. i see Joshua Crabtree lift his boys over his head and show me through his love that life is worth the living. these are tangibles.

the names of the people i name might not mean anything to you, the reader, but they are folks. they are home. i haven’t a purchased structure and yet i am never without shelter. sure, i could be resourceful, as i often am, and make my spot in out in the world; but the point is, i am most at home when i am with the ones that love me back. i have slept at the foot of many beds. i am the dog come in from the cold. i smell like woodsmoke and wool. my heart lies, in truth, down in the hollow where the cedars grow tall.

and if you’ll believe me, you’ll see that my home is bigger than anything money can buy. the corners of my home lie wherever the love of my people allow me to be. i love to live with all my might. my heart beats so that i can laugh and sing with my tribe. this is how i am able to be here, in this strange and changing world…my people are my home.

eat your heart out, donald trump. with empty pockets, i am rich.

living furiously or (i think i might smell pretty bad)

sometimes (most of the time) i stink. don’t go and pass heavy judgement on me right yet, i’m not filthy. i just like to play and i play most of the time and so i smell like a human that has been playing. sometimes it’s a little too tart and i know it and i try to get to a shower and knock the smell down a bit with soap and water. i don’t perfume up and get all snazzy afterwards…i just wash and that’s gotta be good enough. i have some friends, mostly guys, that stink as well (hunter, you know who i’m talking about) and i don’t mind their smell. the truth is, i like humans to smell like humans. i know, i know, when it gets too much it’s no good. i mean, i don’t wanna run people off. it’s hard enough for me to gain someone’s interest without handicapping myself with a body odor violation. i just don’t think we humans should be quite so finicky. our temperaments are so damn sensitive. at the very least we should not mind a little sniff of one another.

one christmas i came home from a fairly long foray out of the country. i’d been climbing and living out of a bag for about a year. i went home to see mama and the fam. i hadn’t really thought about it but i knew i’d been wearing the same pair of pants for a long time (yes, i washed them…no, i didn’t have two pairs. hey, i was living cheap, don’t judge!) and i only had a couple shirts. everything kinda smelled like a forest animal, lets say a river otter. my sister, adana, has a very sensitive sniffer and she pulled my kid brother to the side and asked him if he thought i knew that i smelled. i hadn’t quite made the shower for crying out loud! once i had cleaned up my brother, who is my dearest of friends, told me what my sister had said. we had a good laugh and i told her i’d be more careful with my stinkiness in the future.

i’m a little off track here. i’m really not that interested in writing a bunch of stories about myself; besides being a little egocentric it’s kinda boring…like, i’ve already told most of them (my stories) and in order to make them better i’d have to lie and that’s just stupid. also my friends, most of whom are the only ones reading this shit, would call me out.  and they already have enough ammunition without me lying a lick. so, umm, i’ll move on.

what i wanted to talk about was some of my favorite stinky friends. i don’t care that they stink because i know why they are that way. it is because they know how to live. they just plain rip! they don’t burn their days waiting for the big once-in-a-lifetime to come along. they live every day because it is once in a lifetime. they are cave dwellers and tree climbers. they are wave seekers and river walkers. they are lantern jawed blacksmiths who drink coffee that would float a horseshoe. they are dirt diggers and goat breeders. they are tiny sprites that wait for rides from one backcountry hideout to the next. they are squinty-eyed, desert fire keepers. they are seed carriers and flower eaters. they are wild dancers that have the music already built into their hearts. they are barefooted, long-distance runners who would be a draw at any public showing. they are the people on the cusp of what is accepted because what is accepted is, for the most part, a weird pile of words that someone made the status quo. i’m not talking about laws, i’m talking about the way we think we need to look and act. must we really be anything outside of the awesome animals we are? honestly, do we need smell like a chemically enhanced petunia? do we need to be the skinniest waif among the skinny waifs in the beauty magazine?

i’m not trying to be all hard core. if we have bad teeth and they can be fixed in order to make our lives better, then let’s fix ’em. i just don’t think every single tooth needs to be perfect and as white as a supernova. i like gaps in teeth (yes, nick, even your’s) and i like bent noses. i like girls that are happy with their shape, a set of fake boobs is not needed…it’s just not. i’m sure there’s a bunch of frat boys that would call me an idiot. obviously i’m stating an opinion, it’s just me being honest. folks, we’re pretty cool as is! i love the wrinkles around the eyes of a beautiful woman. there is grace in age. the idea that youthfulness is the only form of beauty is absurd. you think i’m wrong? go to the redwoods. go visit the ancient bristlecone pines. go walk in the fall across the appalacians. look into the eyes of an old-timer, look past the red veins and the wrinkles, look into the windows that hold the light of the soul. you’ll see the longest of roads, and personally, i find that extraordinarily wonderful.

when i go visit my friend hunter, i do trade work. i tattoo his big ol’ hairy, stinky carcass and he lets me work in his forge. he’s a blacksmith. his name is Hunter Dahlberg  but i call him heavy d. he’s all long armed and raw-boned with a thick beard and a knack for drinking good whiskey and strong coffee. he lets me crash upstairs in the library and at night i pick and choose books from his iron clad bookshelves. he’s as classic and as smelly and as real as they come here on planet earth. not all that long ago, when i was suffering from a bad case of brokenheartedness, he came to san francisco to see me. lo and behold, old Heavy D was in the same state i was. it seemed as if we were shipwrecked sailors, each from our own separate catastrophes, and we saw one another floating among the flotsam. we got on our bicycles and road from the panhandle down through golden gate park to the sea. it was raining a little and we peddled fast and jumped curbs and swerved in and out and laughed at each other because our hearts needed to be bound up and held together. hunter is a savage. sometimes, when the rest of the world is sleeping, hunter is squinting into a fiery forge and waiting for the metal to glow just right so that he can snatch it up and swing his hammer and make it sing that furious sounding song. and that is just how he lives…furiously.

give me that…just that, and that’d be real good. give me a furious life.

a little “once upon a time”

from a letter not too very long ago…

it may just be the way things are. you know that saying? i heard it a lot from older men when i was a younger man. now i say it. when i think about it, it seems to be kinda taoist. so maybe there is some natural tao in every old man, in every man growing old…and i guess that includes every man. the younger you are the less you want to pay attention to the someone with shaky old hands. chasing all those dreams with muscles bulging out from under a too tight t-shirt is just so much more attractive. but the now is always now and youth is a shooting star.

do you have time for a once upon a time? i’ll keep it short. i caught a memory this morning. from nowhere, it bubbled to the surface and i closed my eyes and let it reel past while the clock flipped and showed 5:42 a.m.  there was this time when i was 15 and my dad and i road all night to the town where he was born. we each road a motorcycle and neither of us wore helmets (they weren’t required back then in the states we road in…so, of course, if they aren’t required…). i didn’t have my drivers license yet, my dad wasn’t worried over stuff like that. he worried over things like whether my heart was given to jesus, after that everything was negotiable. but yeah, we pulled into a little town called redrock in the heart of oklahoma. it was so old. down a road, half paved, and on and on. a sign said “big dip” and there was one. a left and several miles put us in front of an old house with chickens and several dogs, the woods beyond hummed with the early morning sounds that can only be found in oklahoma. the old pond. everything wrapped in pre-dawn blue. it was cool. there was a light on in the kitchen and i saw a woman. my dad said that it was his old aunt. an old indian man stepped out on the porch and his hair was white and he had on suspenders and horn rimmed glasses. uncle edgar. i stayed for a week with them and it was the only time i would ever see any of them. they are long dead and i imaging the house still sits at the end of that road…for sure it does in that blue morning memory that came to me in the dark…..

that’s it…t.

and then, i was dancing

when bobby brown came out with My Prerogative, i watched him dance on MTV and decided i wanted to learn to dance. i didn’t quite know how to do it but, by god, i was gonna figure it out. that’s right, i was going to buy a video or watch MTV until i got it down. there was a dance studio near my mom’s house that i drove by all the time and i stopped in…i stammered and hummed and hawed and signed up for a street dance class. the teacher was hot, so i was pretty faithful. and i started finding some rhythm, kinda…i think. 

years passed and so did my cavaricci’s. the dance clubs where i haunted and flaunted whatever i thought i knew changed ownership, and then changed again. some were torn down. some just got boarded up and stand as a stale reminder of “hammer time”. 

when grunge came to town i felt it down deeper than i felt the music from before. Nine inch Nails and his Head like a Hole made me stomp and rage. the Chili Peppers screamed. the flannels filled the dance floor, and i was there, grunging away with rest of them. i had a buddy named craig white and we never missed a thursday night at our favorite club. the lines were long and we all looked the same because we wanted to be different. to me, dancing was being on the dance floor and looking bad ass and looking around at everyone else who believed they were looking bad ass as well. all smooth and cool and rhythmic. but let me just say right here, i was not really dancing. i was doing whatever that was…whatever you want to call it, but i wasn’t dancing, not yet. 

time went by, like it tends to do, and i went into the marine corps where i didn’t do much dancing (none). grunge left and took it’s flannels with it. craig white shot himself in the head and i cried. i gotta say, i didn’t feel much like dancing when i came back from kuwait. i was tired. i left the country and went to Chile. it was coming up on new years and i was there with a buddy who got out of the marines when i did. i hadn’t been to a country like Chile. i began to learn Castellano when i got there…so i sounded like tarzan, at best. we made our way to Valparaiso where Pablo Neruda had a house. the streets were old. it was new years eve. we walked with the high that comes from nights like those. we had a piscola and a beer and a buzz. we were old pals, arm in arm, in a foreign world. a dog ran by with a butchered goat’s head in his mouth; happy new year for him, for sure. in an alley, down some stairs, there was some singing. christian led the way and we walked into a song. the bar was hot and the music was live…so alive…so damn alive. the bar had no room but the entire room raised their glass and yelled us to come in. an older, very round, chilena stepped up and grabbed me and pulled me into the movement through sweating, cheering, drinking throngs.

and for the first time in my life, i danced. and i didn’t care how it looked. and i didn’t care who watched. and i loved those people in the room with their grand smiles and their wonderful clapping. and i thought maybe i would never do anything else. 

when the sun came up, we sat on a stoop. christian was smoking a cigarette and he looked at me through those blue, bronx-born, irish eyes and said simply, “yeah, man.” and i smiled from ear to ear.   yeah, man.