Letter to my Son Sunday, 25 January Good Morning
My new rule
for writing is to find what I mean and say it. I've often cluttered my thinking with words posed as literature. Often I have to make several passes at a
thought before I know what it is I’m trying to say. Sometimes I never get there. It isn’t easy. I don’t even like it. It’s sitting on a wooden pew that agitates the boil.
to draw these days. There’s always some
mimicry involved, but mostly it’s about portraying something I can’t find with
words. They suggest whirlwinds. Shadows cast by clouds move quickly across
uplift faces as would be caught with time-lapse photography.
happiness in here somewhere. There’s
also the feeling that everything is about to break – a carnival ride going
berserk, swirling down a drain. Yet,
this isn’t doomsday. Sort through the
emotions you have when you first discover you've fallen in love and this
feeling will be among them.
conjure lab room logic. We’re closer to
the mumbo-jumbo end of the spectrum. The
imagery, music and poetry created are ruled by the heart. Anything holding to a blueprint or formula is
fakery – painting by the numbers.
I start my
drawings with nothing in mind. Images
begin to congregate on the paper. Connections
are made. Color adds energy and
dimension. After all is done there is
little sense to it. If it works it’s because
it’s a drawing that merely feels like something.
last campaign I got to know Amos McClorey, head of the Cabarrus County NAACP. I soon joined up. Saturday morning was the MLK Prayer Breakfast
at Bethel Baptist Church. Amos sat
across from me at a round table that seated six. At one point Amos asked me what I thought of
the event. I’m afraid my mind went
blank. I could think of only stupid
things to say. After some time waiting
for my response he gave up and changed the subject. Amos mentioned that he and I nearly crossed
paths long ago in Vietnam. We discovered
he arrived at Hotel Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines
just as I was leaving in January, 1969.
I like to think that we had at least once seen each other there.
Amos was an oh-3-11 – infantry rifleman. Had he been an oh-3-31 – machine guns, or an oh-3-51
– rockets, his talent would have been wasted.
Platoon leadership was drawn from the 0311s. These guys called the shots as squad leaders
and platoon sergeants. A machine gun
squad leader was an onlooker by comparison, useless as a third tit. Amos had to become comfortable making decisions
in his role in Vietnam and this talent has been with him since.
A portion of
a Martin Luther King speech was played at the occasion. He spoke of the fear he felt early in his
career. Shortly after his first child
was born he received a chilling call in the night. If he and his family were not out of the
county within three days they would all be dead. Fear kept him awake nights. He also battled with despair. There was no foreordained course for civil
rights. For Dr. King there was no
running from the setbacks and hardships that resulted from mistakes he may have
made. At critical moments during the
civil rights campaign he struggled with self-doubt and gloom. Martin Luther King prevailed over his doubts because
he had the courage that comes with conviction.
It’s never just about ability.
Character always plays an important role in the decisions we make. If we are to prevail over great challenge it
is because we believe what we do is true.
Gossips focus only on flaws, ignoring the fact that strength of
character is behind every act of making a difference for the better.
There is a
large fictional river outside a small desert town out west. I was the uninvited companion of a former
wife as she crossed the bridge on her personal journey. Once across I decided to go back and retrieve
something that was lost. I planned to
catch up with her later but I was waylaid by events.
having a confrontation among some large lily pads with one of my children. Finally, he left to join his mother. I found a lost watch. On its face was a splendid animation of
molecules welling up from a nuclear furnace.
Later I found myself within the labyrinth of a great university
library. The book I opened had no
words. With difficulty I found my way to
Now I am at
a dance among sophomores. How ridiculous
I am to think of winning the heart of one of these young ladies. I hurry out the door where bikes stand
waiting among the racks and I awake in the evening light.
resolution – believe no more than ten percent of what I say. That’s my advice to myself. It’s a good resolution.
This is a
big year for you – turning 21. That
makes you old enough to be legally insane.
Now you join the rest of us and find out what all the talk has been
about. And here you thought fairytales
ended with Santa Claus.
There are at
least a couple of different parts to us.
Freud talked of conscious and subconscious. The ego fits in there somewhere. Then there’s the idea that everything is
about sex, except sex itself. It’s about
power. When I was 21 I had to refer to a
book to find out how I felt about things personal. I didn’t trust my own opinion. Because I thought I didn’t know enough. Because I was angry and I had many bad
thoughts. I knew it, too. I kept my mouth shut or I lied. I would wait it out.
years later. I’m glad to be here. I’m glad to be who I am. Life baffles me. That keeps me busy. The most impressive things happen just a few
feet from the end of my nose. Too often
I can’t bear to look. We’re all
real. People are easier to take when
they are characters in a story of a book or movie. Fictional people are far less complicated and
we don’t become entangled with all the human comings and goings of their lives. Fall in love and you double the number of
people you need to care about.
strictly about people. Even the most
emotionally detached hermit must deal with who he is – just another human
being. Everything we do outside personal
survival is undoubtedly done with the thought of another on our mind. Of course, it is not always positive. We can be murderous when thinking of
others. It’s shocking. Break open the veneer of civilization and a
calculating animal emerges. We are
naturally ruthless. It’s when we turn
our predatory talents on ourselves that brings a chilling fear to the heart.
horrors are the exception. Look at all the
rewards resulting from civilized behavior.
This was accomplished by people no different than those we have around us. There is so much that is good within us. It’s positive to focus on mostly these human
characteristics. I think, though, people
such as Pope Francis and Mother Teresa are who they are because they also
appreciate that which is dark within them.
Their uplifting message is all the more compelling because they hold few
delusions regarding the nature of the human heart.
What is most
likely to bring disaster to a relationship?
Insecurity – there’s a usual suspect.
Look in a mirror and see a frog. I
don’t want anyone to know I eat bugs. The
whole thing makes for difficult relations.
I’m horrified to find the one I love has an equally hideous character
quirk. I should be relieved. We make a normal couple. If the romantic potion is strong enough we come
to love each other’s warts. It can make
journeys in bed all the more fascinating.
is Navajo and on it [has an inscription to you.]
transitional drawing for me. I got it
done yesterday – just in time. Ka-
ching! I just put a house on Park Place and a nickel in the
This is an
important time for the family. You’re
the youngest of three boys. I’m sure the three of you
and your sister are taking good care of your mother. I know your mother pretty well so I can say
she keeps her docket filled with many things to do. When she’s home it is up to you guys to make
sure she’s not overdoing it with work around the house. I needn't bring it up though, do I? I can imagine you big guys taking care of
figured you to be the kid in uniform, waving along the sidelines and saying “Hi
Mom!” You’ve been that kind of kid since
you learned to walk. You couldn’t have
been more than three when your sister teased you, saying: “Manny Ramirez is no longer with the Red Sox.” You cried.
This is a few years before it actually became true. You were the kid in T-Ball that ran from
short stop to right field to help chase a ball.
You couldn’t imagine why they would want you to stick to one
position. My last memory of you was of a
big-hearted boy with spaghetti stains on your shirt. That image goes a long way.
little business to speak of New Year’s Day.
People were having a late breakfast while maybe watching the Rose
Parade. It’s still a New Year’s
tradition for college bowl games so Pizza Hut was already up and running, even
if it’s only to scan Tweets while you wait.
Earnhardt resides on a permanent pedestal at the center of Kannapolis, North
Theatre has a real, old-time balcony. You
don’t have to be a kid on a date to love making out there.
When was the
last time you saw a pick-up ball game in the park – one requiring bats? The Hispanics brought the real love of soccer to Kannapolis. New
Year’s Day is time off to get in some footwork.