Sunday Free Fall – Wednesday’s child is full of woe…

1969 started on a Wednesday and ended on a Wednesday. We should have known something unusual was about to happen when Richard Nixon (later to become the infamous ‘Tricky Dicky’) crawled out of political oblivion to capture the presidency from Humphrey and Wallace. You can understand how he squirmed past us. We were still smack dab in the middle of the Vietnam War. Women inequality and racial discrimination ran rampant through the crew cut heads of white supremacy know as the government. Every street corner became a soap box and every town meeting a cry for revolution.

Things were about to come to a head when down in Hampton, Georgia Chris Cowing, Robin Conant and Alex Cooley had a brilliant solution. They would give us a release from the stress of it all by just giving us the things we did best. So we all traveled to the outskirts of the cities to commune with nature and enjoy some loud Rock and Roll music, lots of marijuana and free love. Thus, on July 4th was born the Atlanta International Pop Festival.

Now I know what you’re saying right now, “wait a minute ‘Backyard’ we all know that 1969 is known for two things…”That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” and “Woodstock.” Yes, what Neil and Buzz accomplished has never been topped for sure. But there were so many other, and if I might add, more successful concerts across our great nation.  August 30th’s Wight Festival, September 13th Toronto Rock and Roll Revival and the famous Altamont Speedway.

Don’t get me wrong, not everything was peace, weed and sex. 1969 had its low points too. The biggest blow to the music industry came in early 1969 when the Beatles played their last show atop the Apple Studio in London. So unfortunately, if for some reason, you hadn’t had a chance to catch them in concert, it was now too late. Meanwhile, out in California, some weird shit was going down. Crazy ass Charles Manson and his merry band of loonies were running around murdering people in their sleep. While back east one of the white male elite senators drove his 67 Olds right into the Pouch Pond Inlet and left Mary Jo Kopechne trapped in the car to drown. Eddy ‘Ted’ Kennedy just goes home and crawls into bed like nothing happened. He gets two months suspension and elected to the senate in every race until his death in 2009.

On the bright side, the Supreme Court ruled that we could keep our porn. Canada’s Montreal Expos joined MLB along with the Padres, Royals and the renowned Seattle Pilots. Also, ATM’s get their foot in the banking door while ARPANET starts the internet race. Oh yes, the US Government declared that there are no little green men visiting us. But come on people, we were all so stoned that there was no way we could come up with the internet, Supersonic jets and ATM’s. We were too busy thinking about the important things like; “Man, you ever wonder if maybe the earth is just a speck of dust floating around in somebody’s living room?” Hell, the little green guys probably flew off across the universe laughing their asses off at how screwed up humans are.

Short Story Saturday – Pool Party

“Man, I swear it’s the hottest summer I’ve ever seen.” I tell Jimmie “This sidewalk feels like it’s burning right through the soles of my sandals.”

It hadn’t rained a drop in seven days and there still isn’t a single cloud in the sky. The heat waves shimmer up from the street in front of us. I give a little chuckled as I think about that scene I saw in a movie; the one where some old cowboys were walking across the desert with no water. Maybe it was one of those spaghetti westerns with Clint Eastwood or some John Wayne flick.

Jimmie responded by wiping the sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand, “Right on Man, I sure as hell could use a cold one.” He took of his t-shirt and rubbed down his hair and armpits with it, “and when the hell did they get a swimming pool at John’s place?  Last time I was at his apartment, the place looked like it was ready to collapse.”

“I don’t know man, he just said to come around back when we get there. Maybe he’s having a heat stroke or something but you how he is, always scheming up something.”

We hear Tin soldiers and Nixon’s coming from about a block away. The music gets a little louder every time one of the little trickles of hot breeze hits us in the face. I hear them laughing each time the music hit a low spot. I wonder how they could possibly be so happy in this miserable heat. As soon as he sees us John gives a big wave and yells, “Water’s cool and beer’s on ice.”

I look at the group and jab Jimmy on the arm. “See what I mean man,” and nod toward a couple of empty chairs. Everybody has their shoes off and their feet dangling in the water.  So Jimmie and I make a quick round of hugs, cheek kisses, hand daps and what’s up man, then I grab a Coors from the ice chest and snag one of the aluminum lawn chairs. The nylon straps on the seat are a little ragged but they hold as I plop down and let out a sigh.

The afternoon sun is still burning my neck but I can see the sun is pushing the shade of the maple trees across the yard. I kick off my sandals and stick my feet into the cool water of the blue plastic baby pool. John puts on a new album and we all let the music from ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’ flow through us.

The shade finally reaches us and it feels like the temperature drops fifteen degrees as it slides across the pool. I look around at the circle of friends, Kim, Alice, Debbie, John, Jimmie, Danny and Kate. I’m thinking that this feels like I might be in Heaven. Kim hands me a joint…I take a hit… now I know I am.

A Peaceful Place

Each of us needs to find that peaceful place in our lives. A place where the outside world doesn’t dare penetrate. Somewhere we can recharge our batteries. For me, I love my wife, nature and Autumn in particular ( depending on the situation, not necessarily in that order).

I love that time of year when I can see my breath in the early morning air.  When nature is giving me that one last display before the big death scene of winter. The crispness of autumn tingles my imagination and makes me feel more alive than any other time of the year. I’ve always said that I can put on more clothes when it gets cold but I can only take so much off when it’s hot.  So sitting on a river bank on a cool autumn morning, the fog just starting to lift as the sun peeps over the hill top. With every minute that passes, something new comes into focus. Nature starts off with the sound of leaves rustling in the wind. Downstream a bullfrog croaks out a single bellow. As the sky lightens, birds join in and by the time the fog has cleared, a concerto fills the air. That’s as close to heaven as it gets.

But I think those peaceful moments can be found pretty much anywhere. Even late at night, with my wife’s rhythmic breathing lulling me to sleep. I’m just on the verge of dozing off but not wanting to give up a single second so I just lay there in the dark, half dreaming and half asleep.

Or after all the deadlines are passed and I’m sitting alone at my writer’s chair, free to write anything that pops into my head. Just for the fun of writing. No pressure, no hassles. With my headphones playing my favorite play list. Not caring if any one likes my work, whether or not they’ll share it, or even if anyone knows it exists.

Visiting the grandchildren and having their stamina penetrate and lift my spirit. Oh how they can wear me out with their never ending energy. But each moment is a treasure.

Shoveling the snow off the driveway early on a Saturday morning. My gloves, stocking cap and scarf tucked into just enough layers to keep me warm but not overheated. The world is so silent on those mornings. Neighbors all tucked away inside their houses. Not a single car on the street. Maybe a little laughter from a few brave children with the courage to defy nature.

Walking hand in hand with my wife, down a tree lined street with no place to go and no set time to get there. Talking about anything that comes to mind. The soft breeze blowing away our worries and the days problems crumbling under our feet.

Whatever your peaceful place happens to be, take the time to visit it often. Don’t wait until your batteries run empty to recharge them.

tbyp

Alcoholism

My daughter-in-law posed a hypothetical question on Facebook the other day. “If there was a surgery to help someone fight alcoholism and have a long term success by 80% compared to AA alone…would you support it. I have to admit, like many of the comments I was at first very negative. Some valid points were raised, from it’s a spiritual malady to teaching coping skills and strategies. But wait, isn’t that what church groups and AA meetings are all about. They teach you how to live with alcoholism but they can never cure it; once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic.

Well, you know the backyard poet, I’m never content to just stick my two cents into the comment box and move along. I need to stick my pen into the pot and stir it up so to speak. You know, ‘In for a penny…In for a pound.’ So I jumped over to the American Society of Addiction Medicine to get the full scoop on the story.

According to them, the definition of Alcoholism is: “A primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations. The disease is often progressive and fatal. It is characterized by continuous or periodic: impaired control over drinking, preoccupation with the drug alcohol, use of alcohol despite adverse consequences, and distortions in thinking, most notably denial.”

Now, if I’m getting this right, primary means it’s not a symptom of something else. Chronic disease means an involuntary disability. Impaired control is the inability to limit alcohol use. So yes, if there was a surgery to cure alcoholism then I would wholeheartedly support it.

But let’s all remember, that once you have a leg amputated, the mind can still believe it’s there. Once the surgery is done to remove alcoholism, will the mind still believe it’s there? So the need for mental health support would move from teaching a person how to cope with alcoholism to teaching them how to live without it. And wouldn’t that be a great thing?

100 Word Sunday – A Night Drive

Driving down country roads. Rocks and rubber singing in harmony. Rows of brown corn flash by and disappear behind us. You tune the radio and the melodies form images in our brains. We’re ready to Drift Away on the Midnight Train to Georgia. Your Killing Me Softly with your closeness. I whisper Give Me a Little Love, you sing Dream On. Later, lying on the hood, the warmth from the engine against our backs we stare at the stars in the sky as they dance to the rhythm of Diamond Girl. The radio croons Let’s Get it On.