Joshua – 1977… You probably don’t remember that day. Even for me it now seems like it was another universe. It was your first birthday. We called Fort Ord California home and, as it was with most Army families, we were as penniless as the winos down along the banks of the Salinas River. Your mother baked you a chocolate cake from a .29 cent box mix and decorated it with some homemade icing. We stripped you down to your diaper and sat you in your highchair while we sang birthday songs to you. You laughed as you crumbled your cake into oblivion.
Dressed in denim jackets and bell bottom jeans with colorful patches sewn over holes that never existed, we tried to be normal 1970’s youth. We listened to Neil Young, Cat Stevens, Eagles, America and Pink Floyd. Our attempt to be non-conformists only managed to create more conformity. And short military haircuts can’t be disguised in a world where the length of your hair is a status symbol. No matter how hard we pretended to be friends, it was still just a stranger that passed the hash pipe back across the table. We’d take a hit and dream we were home.
My Sunday Morning Reflection: In the 1970’s, I was in the Army and stationed in a small town in West Germany. My wife and child were 4753 miles away in Kansas City, Missouri. Since it wasn’t considered ‘manly’ to shed tears in front of your roommates, early Sunday mornings, while my comrades slept off another Saturday night, often found me walking the streets of Ettlingen alone. Feeling sorry for myself and pretty much hating the world.
I think that each one of us needs that time where we can block off the problems of the real world and reflect on who we are and where we want to go. Even today, though my life is in a much better place, I get up early on Sunday mornings and head out for a walk in search of inspiration and reaffirmation.
This song always comes to my mind as I hear my footsteps tap the empty sidewalks along silent streets. I remember the loneliness and depression of those days. How easily I could have slipped into the darkness and not returned. How narrow that margin is between who each of us are and the man living under the overpass.
I think about how we’re always complaining that the world is rapidly changing and we wish we could go back to our childhood. On my Sunday morning strolls, the church bells still echo through the crisp October fog, children still run and laugh in the city park, and the sun still manages to poke its way through the haze of the morning. In our busy lives, we just don’t see them as clearly as we did as children. But I see them on my lazy Sunday morning reflections and they make me remember also, the promise that I made to myself on those empty streets so long ago. I swore that once I was reunited with my wife, I would never leave her side again.
Well I woke up Sunday morning With no way to hold my head That didn’t hurt And the beer I had for breakfast wasn’t Bad so I had one more for dessert Then I fumbled through my closet For my clothes And found my cleanest dirty shirt And I shaved my face And combed my hair And stumbled down the stairs To meet the day I’d smoked my brain the night before With cigarettes and songs That I’ve been pickin’ But I lit my first and watched a small kid Cussin’ at a can that he was kickin Then I crossed the empty street and Caught the sunday smell Of someone fryin chicken And it took me back to something That I’d lost somehow Somewhere along the way On the sunday morning sidewalk Wishing lord that I was stoned Cause there’s something in a sunday That makes a body feel alone And there’s nothing short of dying Half as lonesome as the sound On the sleeping city sidewalk Sunday morning coming down In the park I saw a daddy With a laughing little girl He was swingin And I stopped beside the Sunday school And listened to the song That they were singing Then I headed back for home And somewhere far away A lonely bell was ringing And it echoed thru the canyon like The disappearing dreams of yesterday On the sunday morning sidewalk Wishing lord that I was stoned Cause therels something in a sunday That makes a body feel alone And there’s nothing short of dying Half as lonesome as the sound On the sleeping city sidewalk Sunday morning coming down
On The Train…written while stationed in Germany – 1976
We ride the train at night. Store front signs flash neon onto our faces through the window. Red, green, blue in words we don’t know. Just four foreigners crowded in with a hundred faces. They speak in a language we can only catch a few pieces of. We get stern looks from disgusted fellow travelers each time we speak. So we travel in silence. But I know what they are thinking. They don’t need to say it. I can see it in their anger. “You’d think if they are going to be stationed here, they’d learn to speak our language.”
She led the way up the path. I couldn’t keep from staring at her, thinking about all the things I had discovered…the things that no other person has ever known. She had chosen me to share her soul. In my hands she had placed all her trust and innocents and when you go that far, it forms a connection that can never be destroyed. Purely from the virtue of knowing how your life will never again be the same. She turned to me, smiled and dove off the cliff into the water below. I vowed I would always follow her
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