Thursday, December 05, 2002

Chasing Dragons

I am not sure it is cool to be closing in on 40 and still trying to "find yourself". My life is pretty set. Great wife, beautiful kids, fairly secure job, mortgage...All the accessories of the typical grown-up. So why do I seem to feel so there is still some dragon to slay or mountain to climb? I know life is a series of challenges and obstacles but I also tend to believe that we all have one great task for which we were placed in time to achieve. I am not talking about greatness here. The task could be small and insignificant outside my own chest and yet it is the thing that drives my own heart to keep beating.

I have had lots of theories about what the task might be over the past 30 years or so. Rock Star, Husband, Worship Leader, Dad - all of these have been part of the picture of who I am at different seasons in my life (OK I was a rock star for about 15 minutes after the first Sharefest). Trouble is, every time I try and define myself by one of these labels, I am confronted with my failure in each of these endeavors. There's the rub. When I define myself by what I do, I can't help but see myself as worthless when I don't "do" those things very well. When I yell at my kids or disappoint my wife. When I remain uncomfortable with an F chord even though I have been playing guitar for 25 years. When I "lead" worship and nobody follows. Every failure kills hope that I will ever find or accomplish what I am here to do. And still, the longing to know lingers in my chest.

Maybe my hope is misplaced...

I have sought for most of my life to define myself by who I thought I was or should be...or worse, by who others thought I should be. But who am I...really?

When the prodigal left home, his pockets were full of his father’s money and he had the swagger of invincible youth. He had charisma, talent, and what seemed like unlimited resources. He could be anything he could dream or hope. But... When he came home, the swagger became a stagger and all that remained was the hope of a son. He "found himself" in front of his old home as his Dad ran to meet him and held him like only a father can. Arrogance melted into gratitude. The hope that caused his heart to beat was found where he least expected to find it. His journey ended where it had begun. His hope burned in the love of his Father.

I still struggle. I still think that there is "something out there" for me. But for now, I am nothing more than a man who has been loved, beyond explanation, by the God of the universe. He has always watched for my return during my all too frequent runnings. I am always welcome at His table no matter how long I have been away. I am a man whom He has chosen to call "Son".

I think maybe that is enough.

Thursday, November 21, 2002

CDBaby has a clip of the MCB version of "I Saw Three Ships" from the Arkansas Anthologists "Nativity" CD. Pretty stinkin' cool, huh?

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Welcome to my new look. Kinda reminds you of the Partridge Family's Bus, don't it?

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Greetings from Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey.

I spent most of today in Manhattan. Rode the subway. Went to Ground Zero. Walked around the Village. I got to go to Strawberry Fields in Central Park and even got shooed away from the front gate of the Dakota. Ate dinner on Madison Avenue and walked around Times Square after dark. Very cool stuff. Wish all my buddies were here.

Tomorrow, more Manhattan and a real Broadway Show.

More later.

Monday, November 04, 2002

"...I'm gone to New York City. Never really been there, just like the way it sounds..."
Steve Earle

See you guys on Friday. Have a great week.

Friday, October 25, 2002

Both Nate and Barber have recently blogged about the parental frustrations of bedtime and/or sleep pattern problems with kids. As a (very tired) father of four I am all too familiar with these stories. I still battle it with my 9 and 12 year olds. Anyway, I wanted to link a column by Anne Lamott on this subject. I try and read it periodically as her perspective challenges my hard-ass tendencies and confirms the worldview I claim to hold but have trouble living out. Just something to chew on.

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Stuff I'd like to do (or have)

1. Spend a weekend away with my wife.

2. Sing some jazz/standards like Sinatra or Connick. "the very thought of you...and I forget to do..."

3. Go back to Montana

4. Hang with Larry for a couple of days

5. Sleep for two days

6. Spray Dan down with a power washer

7. Drink beer on my back porch with any one or combination of the following: Nate, Dan, Roach, Darrell, or Larry

8. Epiphone Casino (Cherry w/white pick guard)

9. Fender Telecaster (natural w/ tortise or brown sunburst w/white)

8 and 9 are an either-or kinda thing

10. Taylor 12 string acoustic

11. Santa Cruz Vintage Jumbo

13. See a a theater

"...It isn't what she's got to say
Or how she thinks or where she's been
To me the words are nice the way they sound.
I like to hear them best that way
It doesn't much matter what they mean
She says them mostly just to calm me down

And I feel fine anytime she's around me now
She's around me now almost all the time
And if I'm well you can tell that she's been with me now
She's been with me now
Quite a long, long time - yes and I feel fine."


Monday, October 07, 2002

Take a look at this great site about a classic drama. Here's an excerpt:

"…… Steve Austin. Astronaut. A man barely alive." Oscar Goldman gave them 6 million dollars to rebuild Steve. He called it "chump change." Oscar told them to make Steve "better, stronger and faster." He wasn't very specific but they did a good job anyways. Oscar was kind of screwed up. He wanted to call him the "Chump Change Man" and make him wear a cape. Instead, O.S.I settled on calling him "the Six Million Dollar Man." Instead of a cape, he wore jogging outfits. My Dad bought me a jogging outfit once. It was signed by Bruce Jenner. My Dad said I looked "sharp."
It was quite a weekend, musically. On Friday, Nate, Dan, Roach, and me got to play for Jesus and about 6 of His friends at a coffee shop downtown. It was fun to play together and to watch Ms.J, A2, and Wylie dance the night away. I was disappointed that Darrell never got his groove on.

Then Saturday and the BBQ. See the list in the previous post. Nuff said.

Then Sunday Morning. Back with the boyz again. I am not sure we have ever played better. Nate was hot, Dan was like butter, and Roach kept the train on the tracks. It was a great morning and a great weekend. Got got to do everything I like to do with the folks I most like to do it with. AND, I got to eat ribs and drink beer. God truly loves me.
The Cap'n's set list at the Saturday Night BBQ
1. Kingdom Come - Pierce Pettis
2. Steve’s Last Ramble - Steve Earle
3. Heart of Saturday Night - Tom Waits
4. Goodbye - Steve Earle
5. Pancho and Lefty - Townes Van Zandt
6. Sunday Morning Coming Down - Kris Kristofferson
8. Big City - Merle Haggard
9. Can’t Let Go - Rom Weeks (Lucinda Williams)
10. Satin Sheets (If I Was a Millionaire) - Willis Alan Ramsey
11. Tecumseh Valley - Townes Van Zandt
12. Desperados Waiting For a Train - Guy Clark
13. Copperhead Road - Steve Earle

Followed by an encore / singalong of about 20 minutes including the following John Denver songs
1. Country Roads
2. Grandma's Feather Bed
3. Back Home Again

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

We moved into our house about a year and a half ago. We built the house on five acres at the western border of Outer Ferndale. During construction, Kim and the kids went out to check on the week's progress. My son Alec, who was about 8 at the time, was walking the perimeter of the foundation with his soon to be neighbor and best buddy, Jake. Jake's dad is a homebuilder/contractor and Jake is quite savvy with all the builder's lingo. Kim overheard the following exchange:

Jake: So, how many square feet ya gonna have?
Alec: I don't know...but my Mom and Dad are gonna have to share a bedroom.

Friday, September 27, 2002

Take a look at Elvis Costello's listening list taken from his web journal:

• “Alice” and “Blood Money” – the two superb new albums from Tom Waits.

• “The Cold Vein” – Cannibal Ox – hip-hop beats and harsh poetic words. Plus the “El-P presents Cannibal Oxtrumentals” version of the same album.

• “Mumu” – Steve Nieve’s lovely solo album of songs on the Silvertone label. Available from French Amazon or the FNAC sites, if you know a little French.

• “Buddy and Julie Miller” – “Little Darlin” is my favourite cut on this one.

• The “Ethiopiques” Series – cannot recommend these highly enough. There are currently eleven volumes available of a projected fifteen record series. My personal favourites are Volume 4 – the “Ethio-Jazz” of Mulatu Astatqé, Volume 9 – featuring the funk recordings of Alemayehu Esheté and Volume 10 – “Ethiopian Blues and Ballads”.

• “Sun is us” – Deidre Rodman. Unique jazz ensemble compositions from a pianist that I first encountered while performing in Roy Nathanson’s “Fire at Keaton’s Bar and Grill”.

• “Dickie Freeman and the Bluebloods” – a solo album by the mighty bass voice of the Fairfield Four.

• “Hava Narghile (Turkish Rock Music – 1966 to 1975)” – Sounds like two Yardbirds records playing half a bar out of synch with each other. Unbeatable.

• “Houndog” – Mike Halby and David Hildago’s slow groove blue masterpiece.

• “Don’t give up on me” – Solomon Burke – Anti’s upcoming record from the King of Rock ’n Soul, produced by Joe Henry and featuring songs by Joe, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Brian Wilson, Dan Penn and Nick Lowe. My wife, Cait and I also have a song on the record called “The Judgement”. Dr. Burke sings it even better than I could have imagined. Don’t miss this one when it arrives.

Thursday, September 26, 2002

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

I have a bunch of kids. That is if you consider four a “bunch”. I realize that by our parents standards (there were nine kids in my Mom’s family) that may not seem like many kids but trust me, in 2002, four is a bunch. After Ellie was born, folks would ask with a giggle “is she your last?” Kim and I would smile and answer politely, “no, Caroline was our last”. Ellie was a wonderful surprise that could never be topped so…

We decided to quit.

As madly in love as I am with my little family, I want my wife back. When I did the math to figure out how long it would be before it was “just us” again, I realized it would be far too late to matter. With this in mind, I was in complete agreement when my wife suggested a vasectomy (actually, what she suggested was that there would be no more sex until I got “cut”). We made the appointment and looked forward to the new “freedom” we could soon enjoy.

I received a set of pamphlets detailing the procedure and read each one until I felt prepared and unafraid…

I am a foolish man.

On “V-Day” I rose early and showered and shaved. Now when I say “shaved” I mean shaved. This is much harder than you might imagine and it took me nearly 20 minutes. Once I was satisfied that I looked like a 10 year old boy, I dressed and jumped in the van. I reminded myself of the Far Side cartoon in which the dog is sticking his head out the station wagon window bragging to the other dogs on how he is going to get “tutored”.

After a pleasant drive to town, my wife dropped me off at the clinic and left to run a few errands. She had already asked the nurse how long I would be and planned to maximize her time in town. I was first on the schedule and so I was taken to a room to watch a video explaining the procedure yet again. Still, no fear. Then the Doc took me into a small operating room and left while I dropped trou.

He came back in a few minutes and started to work. After admiring the thoroughness of my prep work, he made a couple of injections. I was told that this would be the worst part and so I relaxed after the initial sting. They lied. While making some idle chit-chat, the Doc informed me that he was about to clamp the area of the vas deferens to be cut. No biggie… When the clamp tightened, I levitated 4 inches off the table and my normally rich and textured voice was reduced to a breathy squeak. You might think that the pain was momentary. You would be wrong. Imagine the worst pain you have ever felt in your genitals and then imagine that pain constant…without ceasing…for 3 or 4 minutes. Finally the clamp was removed and my ass dropped back to the table. “Whew! Glad that’s over… What do you mean the other side?”

Finally we were done and I limped to the lobby. Remember my wife’s errands ? She was told to count on 2 hours. I was finished in 15 minutes.

The cell phone was on vibrate and Kim had it in her purse so it took about 30 minutes to get her to answer the phone and another 20 minutes to get to the clinic. As she had not finished her errands, I sat in the car at Kroger while she grocery shopped. She sent one of the kids out with a package of frozen peas for my crotch and I read until she got back with a lovely bottle of vicadin.

I spent the rest of the weekend with frozen produce in my pants watching the Sopranos, a Woody Allen movie, and Tomb Raider (my sadistic wife’s idea of a joke). It actually all ended up pretty nice. I’d almost do it again just to get to watch TV for 72 hours straight. I am glad I did it, I guess. I am anxious to watch the kids I have grow up and then laugh without mercy as they navigate the waters that sometimes seem to drown me.

The up side is all the grandkids I expect to see every Thanksgiving when I am old. I can just hear them now, giggling at a cute, portly old fella with wild gray hair and a gold hoop in his ear. Maybe one of them will even try and play along as I pick a tune by some ancient songwriter like Steve Earle or Guy Clark. I might even play 'em some tunes I made up myself.
My friend Danny Valenzuela (he is actually a distant relation of Richie Valenz) is suffering from some form of Narcolepsy or perhaps sleep apnia. We were having a conversation yesterday and he literally fell asleep while trying to complete a sentence. He told me today that he can't sit in my office and visit anymore as he falls asleep whenever he sits down. He also tells me he has removed the front seat from his truck so that he can stand up when he drives.
I don't have much to say today. I did want to share an excerpt from a life changing book by Anne Lamott on faith. It is the most honest and real thing I have ever read on the subject and (not surprisingly) cannot be found at your local Christian bookstore. I have shared this book with almost everybody I care about (a few people I love aren't ready for it). It is quite profound.
I have to read this column by Jonah Goldberg every few months. It is one of the funniest things I have ever read. I actually watched the finals of the competition in question and read the column a few days later. It caused me side splitting pain. Here's an excerpt...

Once again, the triumvirate of bridge club old ladies, the gay Mafia, and British empty-nesters has fixed the Westminster Dog Show. This year a ridiculous piece of punt-lint won best in show. The Papillon, as the breed is called by people who aren’t scraping it off the bottom of their shoe, weighs less than a good bowling ball and has fewer uses. It’s ears explode from both sides of its head like dueling pony tails on a spoiled baby. It has that nervous look in its eye that says "I was bred for skeet shooting, but if I prance around maybe nobody will realize."

I have figured out how to accept comments and add pictures (thanks Nathan!). Let me hear from you.

Thursday, September 19, 2002

I have an old Martin guitar that I really love. I mean REALLY love. I have heard better sounding ones (like Larry's old '59 Brazilian). My Taylor plays better. Fact is, it is all sentiment and legend. The guitar belonged to my Dad. I spent most of my young years wondering why he hadn't called or sent a birthday card or whatever. He was a pretty lousy Dad but I don't think he could help it.

What I do remember is him being a fair picker and wanting a Martin more than anything in the world. He was living in Palestine (with a long eee sound) Texas in the mid '80's. The story, or a least the one he told, was that this fella blew through town and was lookin' to score some cash for what were certainly nefarious purposes. He had a 1980 Martin D-28 (likely stolen) he was tryin' to convert. Not surprisingly, this shady character managed to find my Dad who claims to have bought it out of the fella's trunk for $400 on the street right in front of his house.

My Dad worked for a company that built power plants all over the world. In 1990, he was working up in Fort Smith when his company told him he was going to Puerto Rico for the next five years. He was limited as to how much stuff he could take and told me he wanted me to keep his Martin for him. I bee lined it to Fort Smith a week later only to find that my Grandpa had shown up the day before and left with the guitar. I spent the next year learning to love the sight of my Grandpa, who dreamed of a Martin even more than my Dad, beam as he thumb picked old Jimmy Rogers or gospel tunes on the beautiful dreadnought. I have never seen anyone so pleased as he was. As glad as I was for him, I always played the thing with a touch of longing and regret.

When my Dad came back to the states, he swung through Russellville en route to Fort Worth to pick up the guitar. I saw it a couple of times over the next few years and fell in love with a Koa Taylor along the way, but...

You never forget your first love.

It was almost two years ago to the day that my Dad called to say that he had been diagnosed with liver cancer. Just like David Crosby and Mickey Mantle. My Dad had begun killing himself over 30 years earlier when he started crawling into a bottle that he could never seem to find his way out of. When my Dad came up for Thanksgiving a few weeks later, he had the Martin with him. He pulled it out of his trunk on the gravel road right in front of the half completed home we were building. He gave me the Martin and said not to expect a Christmas or birthday present. It didn't feel like I thought it would. I felt kinda guilty. It meant so much to him.

For Christmas we got the worst ice storm in the history of the world and I got to weep over the death of my Grandpa from my bedroom in Little Rock because the storm closed the interstate to Russellville. In January I took my family to Fort Worth to bury my Dad. I also took his Martin.

I was amazed how much his buddies knew about me and my family. His best friend Butch approaced me in the funeral home (we had never met) and threw his arms around me. Through tears Butch said "I know you Mark...I know you and your family. I know your kids names, I know what you do for a living, hell, I probably know what's on your god-damn tax return. I know about the Martin too, son. Your Daddy was so proud for you to have it..."

The next afternoon, I pulled the old Martin out of the case and sang "Ft. Worth Blues" over my Father. Every bar maid in Cowtown wept as I sang a song that could have been written for him. I spent the rest of the afternoon weeping, not for what I had lost, but for what I would never have.

I can smell my Dad in that guitar. Nate and Dan have smelled it too. God I love that smell

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

My favorite Dead Guys (in no particular order)
1. Elvis
2. Jimmy Stewart
3. L.D. Eubanks
4. John Lennon
5. Mark Heard
6. Rich Mullins
7. George Harrison
8. Gram Parsons (thanks Barber)

More to come...

Monday, September 16, 2002