Midnight Radio (3)

The blackness of space is translucent.  It’s a window that allows light of all different wavelengths and frequencies to pass through it without impediment.  The light comes at you through the vast void so fast (or slow) that it can travel through time; piercing light that is decades, millennia old.

That blackness is neither window, or door; it’s just absence.

I’ve had the fortune of going out to the places where you can look through that great nothing (everything) and just staring, studying–losing myself–in the truly awesome:  the curve of the sky; the sharp brightness of the stars; the seemingly endless nature of the night time sky; the madness of contemplation of infinity.

I imagine that that blackness is silent; there is no air to let sound swim through waves and to my ear.  Pure, unrequited silence.

I’ve written myself into a corner.  I have nothing to say about silence.  Or space.  Or darkness or light.  I have no words.  I have only gravity–heavy weighted full force of gravity pulling my shoulders, and my gut, and my head and my chest, and my spirit.

I tire.

My dog stares at me from his bed, licks his lips, yawns, shifts his position in the little round sanctuary  and lays his head back on his paws.

The boys are in their room, strewn across their beds and floor, tangled in sheets and toys and they grow in their sleep.

My wife sleeps, wrapped around a pillow, fighting to stay asleep.

The radio is on.

‘Cause I’m just holding on for tonight
Oh, I’m just holding on for tonight

I get up and mix a drink.  I had too much coffee earlier; I didn’t have enough sleep the night before and need to combat it and push fatigue down into nothingness.

The Translucent Blackness.

I find myself wanting to be sitting on a deserted island in the middle of the ocean, staring up at the infinite sky, contemplating…

Could I be a better father? Could I be a better husband?  A better friend?  A better patriot?  A better human?  A better man?  More patient, more Black, more successful? Could I be more accountable?  Fearless?  Cautious?  Callous?  Indifferent?  Fearful?  More alone?

Could I feel more alone?

I have words.  I am often filled up with words.  But I don’t have the right ones for anyone these days.  Child, wife, friends, myself.  I’m drowning in words–from others–and choking on my own.  Choking on words and phrases like:

The Translucent Blackness.

The clock says it’s a minute after midnight.  The dog needs to go out. I need sleep; I need to find a way to get rest when I just want to pop and overflow–preferably before the two and a half year old gets up.

I leave the radio on, albeit softly.  I want to see what it plays as I go outside, let the dog take a shit, and then try and contemplate things bigger than me.

Prescribing Joy: Wild Is The Wind (2)

My wife asked me to pen something for her guest series, Prescribing Joy; she wanted me to write an essay, thoughts, or a poem based around those so-called guilty pleasures that bring us joy and in which we find deep wells of happiness.

It took me a while.

I finally found some words to cobble together approaching thought.  Sadly, I found them at 2am on a Friday morning.  I emailed them to her, fell asleep, suffered through the next day by mainlining coffee and napping while wrapping myself around my 2 year old son while he watched YouTube videos.

My wife posted it on Friday, 5am, as is her custom; she prefaced it with sweet, honest words and not much other preamble.  She thought they were good enough to share, so I’ll do the same.

Roll over to Prescribing Joy: Wild Is The Wind (2) for a read.  Tell me what you think, there, here.  Then click through the series.  You should.  It’s a good prescription for finding joy.

Desireless (2)

[Read this out loud, if you can.  All the way through.  Don’t read the brackets out loud; just do what it says]

He crosses the floor, looks into the old shoe box and pulls out an old 45 record from his modest, but meaningful collection.  He slips it from its paper sheath, and smiles to himself as someone who has such a thing in a time when few people still have such things.

He calls over his shoulder to the sleeping figure on the couch, and he stands.  “You awake?”  He is only answered with a soft snore and the shifting of a body on the couch.

He pauses for a moment, flipping the black single over in his hands–ever vigilant and careful to not put his fingers anywhere but on the very edge.  He smiles to himself, takes two breaths and then steps to the record player.

Holding the record carefully in one hand, he lifts the lid of the player with the other, switches it on, and sighs.  He puts the album on the turntable, drops the needle on the record and then strides into the kitchen. [Open this in a separate window and press play now and continue reading]

It plays the first scratchy sounds of nothingness before the rhythmic tapping begins, and a few moments later, the song starts in earnest.  Robert Smith.  The Cure.

He opens the cabinet, pulls out a glass, puts it on the counter with a soft click; reaches for the freezer door, gets a couple of ice cubes, deposits them in his glass and absent minded, puts the half full tray on the counter.  He reaches up into the cabinet, pulls down a bottle of whiskey, pours three fingers of the stuff and puts the cap back on.

He sips it, feels the hot dragon blood of the liquid set fire to his mouth, his tongue, that one sensitive tooth in back and then his throat.  He swallows hard, holds his breath for a few moments (tick tick tick tick) and then lets it out slowly, evenly.

There is little other noise in the house, other than a few soft snores from the couch, the constant hum of a fan, and the click of ice cubes as he drinks (drip drip drip drip drip).  The music is the center of it all, driving, heavy, repetitive.

He finishes the drink, sip by sip by gulp.  Repeats the process of filling it: Ice cubes, whiskey, sip, burn, sigh swallow.

He walks back to the living room, moves her feet to one side, sits down, and then places them, gently on his his lap, closes his eyes and listens.  He listens, sips, listens, and attempts to clear his mind of thought, or for that matter, of care.

It’s all about something, he thinks to himself.  It’s all about something.

It was shaping up to be a much different Saturday evening than he’d imagined.  But that was par for the course, wasn’t it?

He sits and listens until the song plays out, the player arm mechanically, automatically raising and returning to ready position, the turntable slowly spinning to stop.  He rises, puts the song back on, and heads back to the kitchen, pours another.

He sits at the table, sipping fire water, listening to 10:15 Saturday Night and thinks of just what he was expecting of the night.  It’s all about something, right?  It should be about something.

He finishes his drink, sets it down on the dining room table with a soft clunk, stands and walks to the bedroom.  He kicks off his shoes, tears off his socks and flops onto the bed, which is wide, empty and cold.

“You coming to bed?”  He calls out to the dark room beyond.  There is no answer, but the soft stir of a body shifting on the couch, heavy breathing and echoes of a Saturday night.

As his eyes slide close, he drifts into numbness that can only come from the nothing of sleep.

He is stirred from sleep only once, by a distant, mechanical click; if he dreams, he won’t remember them in the morning.

The Universal

When I was a kid, like so many of us, I used to dream about the future.  Where would I be in thirty years; what would I be doing?

Who would I be?

I find myself using Star Trek: The Next Generation technology on a daily basis; The world political stage is just as chaotic and draconian as any universe penned by Phillip K. Dick, George Orwell or Robert Heinlein.  Every day, we seem to get a little closer to a world where Mad Max could be an actual person, in a world where the sky has been burned, we’ve run out of time, water, resources and hope.


My wife often worries about the world that we’re leaving for our children, and our children’s children, should they be lucky enough to still have world that would sustain their continuation.  It’s real, her fear.  It’s immediate, and pressing, and frightening.

And then I look at my sons, my two beautiful sons; both full of love, and wonder, and able to think, and embrace ideas and change, and imagine.  I sometimes wonder if they’ll fix our problems, or have to bear the brunt of it, and ride the storm until it’s end, whatever that might be.

Will they have to fight for every inch?  For their humanity?  For the rights of others to survive and be?  For my mistakes?  For me?

For me?

When I was a kid, the nights used to seem eternal, and not unlike my son, I would ask “How much longer until the day comes?”  I’d wonder how much longer would it be before It’d be my turn to wake when I wanted, sleep when I wanted and to do the things that I wanted.

I’m forty two and I find myself, not for the first time in the last decade, when that time would finally come.

Sometimes I hold on tightly to an idea, to a hope, a dream, to a pain, or worry, and I let it gnaw and gnaw and gnaw and gnaw at me until I find that I’m stuck in a loop, a time pocket–a future that has been sold off to the highest bidder and the bidder isn’t me–a future that has been written, and not written into the story that I want, or hope it to be.

It’s enough to make you stay up at night–wake you up in the middle of the night; tie knots in your shoulders, and wrench at your guts, until you find that your whisper has turned into a scream, that you can only let out in the car en route to the grocery store at 9:36 pm on a Tuesday night; or odd flowing tears while washing dishes; or a moment of dazed contemplation as you’re sitting on the toilet wiping your ass while your wife tries to talk to you through the bathroom door.

It’s that one extra glass of wine when you probably are done; that one last set of reps on the free weights when your arms are already shaking; that one last kiss when you really ought to have already said goodnight; that one more level when you should have just saved your progress shut down the game and gone to bed.

It’s coffee when you’ve not slept enough, when sleep is the much better choice.  It’s hugging your child so tight that they say “Mommy, I can’t breathe.”  It’s punching a wall hard enough to break the drywall.  It’s dancing so hard you sweat your drunk ass sober.  It’s laughing until you piss your pants; crying until you can’t catch your breath.  It’s trying to sneak that one last fart out, only to discover that it’s something more.

It’s scatological.  It’s fear.  It’s sexual.  It’s promises upon promises upon promises of tomorrow.

It’s a child wondering what tomorrow brings.  It’s a grown man wondering if there’s a panacea for what ails you.

It’s universal.

Things never truly, completely turn out how you think, expect or hope for them to turn out.  Not life, surely not tomorrow, and to that end, even this blog entry.

The best you can do, for you, or me, or that kid, our kids, my kids is to take the next thirty years day by day, changing what you can–for the better–and *being* the person  you hope that you’ll be later on.

It keeps me up sometimes, wondering; worrying.  It blasts me like so much information that I freeze up, forget to live and just be.

“Who are you going to be?” I ask myself.  “Are you OK with where you’re heading?”

“I’m just along for the ride,” I retort.  “I’m enjoying it, best I can and holding on for dear life, screaming, giggling, pissing my pants.  It’s a ride, you know?”

“But, aren’t you worried that…you’ll run out of track?”

“I worry,” I say to myself, shrugging.  “Sure, I worry.  But who doesn’t?  I’m doing my best to just enjoy the ride.”

Without thinking about it, about the next turn, the next drop, the next, the next, the next:  I throw my hands up, close my eyes, and wait for what happens next.


This will be the least pretty thing that I’ve written in a long long while.  It may not last a day, but I kinda need to just write this out to keep myself from freaking.

I’m currently drinking a half assed Manhattan so I can chill my nerves and maybe go back to sleep, though I’m going to wager that won’t be for a while, since my adrenaline is pumping pretty hard right now.  It’s pumping hard and fast and I’m strangely calm, but at the same time freaking out a little bit, and slightly angry, and scared and I’ll just say it, a wee bit paranoid.

At about 10:30ish, I was lying on the couch trying to will myself to doze so that I could get in the bed early, and just sleep there, even though the toddler had decided to insert himself into our bed yet again.  I’d just stared to doze, eyes heavy, sinking down into that place where you just pass the hell out when I heard a series of bangs, a screech, a louder and larger bang, shouts and then screaming.

My eyes popped open and I sat up, and headed straight for the front door.  I flipped open the locks, stuck my head out and through my fuzzy eye-glassless eyesight, saw a white car in the intersection a house down from me; it was on its side, like a half assed turtle struggling to right itself.

“DEB! Call 911–a car flipped over!”  I quickly threw pants on, grabbed my glasses and my folding knife (you never know) and ran out into the street, no shoes, of course.

Folks had gathered trying to push the car back right.  I joined in.  The car was on, the smell of gas was strong, and the car was smoking…wrong…it smelled like something was burning.

The girl was inside, screaming.  A bunch of kids (20somethings…I’m “old.”) were seemingly all piled in the front on top of the driver seat.  To be sure, I have no idea who was driving. It was like they were stuffing a phone booth or something (Look it up, it used to be a thing when kids were dumb but safe and there was a thing called a ‘phone booth’ for ‘public pay phones.’)

We pushed, the car teetered and then fell, righted. Someone opened the door and then people piled out like a clown car.  Two guys drug a girl to the corner, and our back neighbor–a nurse–jumped in and triaged.  Another guy was standing around digging in the car and came out with…a pressurized tank???

“Are you OK???” I asked him.

“I’m cool.” He said, cradling the tank in his arms.  And then he ran down the street.  Something shattered as he beat a retreat.

Another guy had gotten out and was looking in the car.

“Are you OK?” I asked him.

“Yeah, I’m cool. Shit!” he said, looking around.

“Turn it off,” I told him, looking down at my feet and noticing, not for the first time the gas and the glass all over the street.

“What? I’m cool”

“Turn off the engine.  Turn off the car.”

“Oh, thanks.”  He reached in and turned it off, pulled out the keys and stuck them in his pocket.

My neighbor the nurse worked to keep the girl conscious, and try and figure out her vitals, injuries, etc.  The two guys paced and, I think for a minute were considering running off.  One guy dialed the girl’s mom, talked to her in Spanish for a bit and then hung up.

The police arrived and then very quickly, the paramedics/firemen.

Who saw what, did you? Did anyone see the crash? Yeah, what happened? She hit two cars? Any other cars? How many people were in the car? Did you see who was driving? Did you see when they pulled the girl out? Did anyone see when they pulled her out?

I don’t want to get involved.  You know they’re going to have to check for alcohol, right? No one wanted to push the car over, but I was saying just do it.  Cars will catch fire when they’re on their gas tank like that.  I smelled the smoke.  How old? 20? Oh shit.  Did you see the bottle over there? I don’t know, I didn’t see anything, I’m not going to get involved.  Did you see it? No, I heard it.  No, I came out and helped push it back up.

And then they got her on the board with a bunch of screams, one guy got in, and the other guy decided to “just walk to the ER and meet them there.”  And then the police looked around asking questions and then–

“Look, beer bottle, balloons…”

“I saw one of the guys get out and run up the street.  He was carrying a tank.”

“Yeah, nitrous oxide…that’s what all these balloons are for.”

I gave a statement of what I saw, heard and noticed.  Gave my info.

I hope the girl is OK.  Someone said (was it Deb? She came out a couple of times, hugged me….I was…hyper focused?  What do you call it?) she lived down the street.  Seemed like someone recognized him.

Why do I feel like I’m going to get shit later for actually, I dunno, doing my civic duty?  They could have gone through someone’s front door–my front door, they were close enough.  The car could have exploded, caught on fire.  They all could have died.  They, mostly walked away from it, but it could have could have could have…

I did some stupid shit in my twenties–hell, I’ve done some stupid shit in the last year, but now I have kids.  That changes the level of stupid shit I’ll put up with.  But at the same time…Blargh.

I just want to keep my children, my neighbors and folks around me safe.  And that might mean actually telling the police what I saw (See, this is the part of where while I’m all BLACK LIVES MATTER and mean it, I want folks to know that I do, and always have appreciated the JOB that police do–what they largely do–PROTECT AND SERVE); the suck part is that these kids, through doing stupid shit will probably do time. Possibly serious time. Serious stupid is serious time.  But then, you know, some guy with rich parents gets a slap on the wrist for “boys will be boys! Now go enjoy college!” for much more horrible shit.

I dunno.  Sleep is coming on and out and I need another belt of whiskey and sweet vermouth so I can sleep. Because, man, I’m awake.

Shit. Fuck.  Shitfuck.

Absolute Beginners (1)

The kids woke us up at an unreasonable hour this morning.  It pained my wife as she’s been waking and sleeping in fits and starts for eight hours to the point that she just got up.  It pained me because I’d gone to bed just some 4 hours before, being the night owl that I am, have always been.

“I keep telling you,” my wife said, “if you just try to go to bed earlier, it won’t be as bad.”

“Yeah, and then I’ll wake up and be–” I began grumbling before my wife cut in.

“I know, I know, you’re always saying, ‘I’m not wired that way…‘ ” she turned her voice into an odd mockery of mine.  “It takes time.  You have to transition into it, you have to at least try!”

Letting the red clear from the edges of my vision, I grumbled into my cup as I brewed coffee and went about my morning.

I stewed on her words, not so much because she is correct, I can go to bed earlier, or that I can make the transition.  I stewed because I’m set in some ways.  And I abhor transitions.  Especially when they fundamentally change who I am and how I define myself.

Right now, for all intents and purposes, I’m a stay at home dad; and while my wife lauds my performance as our hausfrau, this is all new, scary, and overwhelming.


The morning hadn’t started off the best.  We had only been back from our schedule shattering road trip for a day and a half, and both the kids were revved up in the mornings.  The little one was going off on the early morning trip to daycare, and the big kid and I had errands to run.

He was dragging his feet.  Being purposely (to me) obtuse or contrary.  He wiggled.  Capricious.  Arbitrary.  Fickle.  He was being a six year old.

I yelled.  Daddy yelled, filling the cabin of the car.  Just a mundane question like “YES OR NO, PLEASE PICK ONE?!?!” but it was loud, and horrifying in that way that only a parent can be to a child in what would otherwise be a playful moment.

There were tears, and comforting words, and sobs, and sighs and silence for a few minutes.

“Hey,” I began when we got home.  “I know you don’t want to talk to me right now, but, how would you feel about taking off your training wheels and we get you riding your bike like a big kid?”

He turned his eyes up to me, nodded vigorously to the affirmative and sniffled.  “Yes.”

“Would you like that?”

“Yes, Dad, I would.”

So we went in back, I got my meager but workable set of tools and got his bike.  Together we took off the training wheels, dusted off the cobwebs (it was literally covered in them) put his helmet on and gave it a go.


The little one sings now.  He sings in that little, sweet toddler voice “Daddy finger daddy finger where ARE you? Here I go Here I go, HOW DO you do?” and “There’s a farm has dog and Bingo name who I-N-G-O! and Farmer Bingo!”

He hits the syllables all wrong, and misses the words, but it’s sweet, it’s recognizable and he’s learning.  He’s making who he is as we watch, listen, hear.

He has friends at school (when he gets to go), he’s learning shapes and numbers, and loves to say the names of trucks and the color orange “ORANGE EXCUH VADER DADDY!!!”

Potty training moves slowly.

Every once in a while, he looks at me and with the sweetest look on his face, he headbutts me; and while I stand stock still, in a daze, he runs off giggling.


I dropped the big kid off at school yesterday for the first day of second grade.  It was seamless, simultaneously a new start to a new school year, and familiar and well learned–like so much muscle memory.

He kissed his baby brother, and wandered over to his class bench without so much as a wave, a look, or a “love you dad.”  Just started his day and the new year like it was a normal day.

Last year this time, it was an event filled with tears and too long hugs and good lucks and sudden excitement and resolve.

I turned to his friend’s parents and said “Was it just me, or did you not get a goodbye?”

“Nope, our kid just went to class without so much as a nod.”

“Mine, too!” chimed another dad.

We stood around the parking lot for a moment, looking bewildered.


After a shaky, but successful start on his bike, I piled L’il D, his bike and a bunch of water into the car and headed for the bigger park.  Noon on a Thursday afternoon even in the summer would leave the park wide open and to us.

I set him on the bike path, helped him figure out the pedals again and without much help from me, got him off and rolling.

He peddled off into the distance, a little rough at first, but getting stronger with each push of the pedal; he rode without fear and with growing resolve.  A beginner, no doubt but becoming more…becoming more with each yard gained.

A dragonfly floated into my field of vision, right in front of where L’il D was racing into the distance, and for a moment, a brief moment, its wings were superimposed on my son’s helmet–both the insect and his helmet a bright red.  Wings in flight for my child flying off into…

My eyes grew watery, and in the back of my head I heard a refrain that I’d forgotten:

Too scared to break the spell too small to take a fall

I blinked the growing tears away and looked at my son, remembered that he still needed me and I shouted for the second time that day.


He put on the breaks, wobbled, toppled over and then quickly waved at me, yelling as he stood “I’M OK DAD!”

He turned his bike around and peddled hard, racing for me, smiling in the confidence that he can do this thing, this glorious, difficult wonderful thing.  You could read it in the joy on his face that he knew, knew, knew who and where and what he was at.

It was getting easier.

He rode towards me, and then past, and I found myself running, struggling to keep up.

The World Is Stone

I sometimes wonder what the soundtrack to my life sounds like to other people.  It’s an odd supposition, I know, but I wonder about it.  Do they watch me walk down the street and hear a silly Allan Thicke theme song?  Do they hear a sweeping Jerry Goldsmith musical score, or an eclectic Quinton Tarantino 70s Mix Tape Soundtrack? Or do they hear some ELO/Vangelis synth-pop orchestration from the 80s.

Or do they hear heavy peppy beats of De La Soul, Arrested Development; the smooth styling of Boys II Men?

I only wonder this because I’m the hero of my own story–at least the protagonist.  We all are–we’re the center of our own story.  It’s how we’re wired:  we see from our own eyes and the timeline revolves around our own experiences.  We are, to the extent of things, our own Movie–or at least a long running TV series.

Movies have soundtracks.

When out and about, I sometimes have my own theme music, my own score.

It’s what plays in my head, the song that I hear either through my personal player, my car stereo, or more likely, from the huge library in my own brain.

But I sometimes wonder what other people think plays in my soundtrack.  How do they perceive me?  Am I a thunderous villain?  Am I the bumbling sidekick? Am I some vague romantic hero?  A thug?  A monster?  Comic relief?  Each has a different tune that plays when they appear on the screen, and, much so, on the screen of our life.

It was shortly after the L.A. Riots (or L.A. Uprising, depending on how you view it) began, not long after the verdict on the mis-named Rodney King Trial came down.  We had to go shopping for something, Mom and I.  My Grandmother had stayed home to mind the house, shotgun close by.

Mom went into the store, and I waited on a bench.  There was a middle-aged, graying Caucasian woman already on the bench when I sat on the other end.  I smiled slightly.  The day was odd, the mall eerily uncrowded, quiet, and sterile feeling.

I saw fear in her eyes.  Fear at my very Dwayne Wayne, preppy shirt with pegged pants self.  She forced a smile, and then moved her purse to the other side of her, and scooted further–unnecessarily further–towards the far end of the bench, where she was already sitting.

I was alone.

When the verdict was first announced, I and my friends were busy trying to set up for our Spring Musical at our high school–42nd Street.  We’d spent the better part of an hour trying to figure out how to get a 9ft tall dime through an 7ft door (You take both swinging doors off their hinges, remove the frame and then push the damn thing through on the diagonal, scraping a little of the rented prop off in the process).

“The verdict just came back.” One of the kids had been on stage, painting a flat and listening to the radio.

We looked at him, our rainbow of faces looking at him expectantly, all with the same question.

“Not guilty.”

“Shit.”  Someone gasped from behind me.

We finished loading in, rehearsed some, cried some and then waited for our rides to arrive.  Mine was late.  I dropped a quarter in the payphone (remember those?) and dialed home.  Fast busy.  Called my mom’s pager.  Fast busy.  Called my mom’s number at work.

“We’re sorry, all circuits are busy.  Please try your call again later.”

Smoke was rising from the north somewhere.  A siren blared in the distance. My best friend’s mom pulled up and suggested that I come home with them.  My mom was almost an hour late, so yeah, I did.

I think Les Miserables was playing in the car.

“Man, did you see 7th street?” someone called from down the street.  “It looks like the DMZ! Bricks and glass everywhere!”  It was an exaggeration, but it was happening, a store or two.

Mom pulled up to my friend’s house, in a firmly white, middle class neighborhood in Long Beach.  I’d been sitting in stunned silence watching the news. A long haired, blonde biker cum surfer dude was lighting fire to a palm tree next to the freeway.  A black man and a mexican man stood shoulder to business suited shoulder shouting, “No Justice, No Peace!”  Someone sang We Shall Over Come.

I was in college, my freshman year, months after everything.  My Korean Suitemate and I argued all the time over racial politics-his Long Island sensibilites clashing with my Compton ex priori life.  I was in a play about death and dying; I played in turns a Vietnam surgeon, and later, his ghost/guardian angel.

We’d wrapped the show, and were moving props and set pieces back into storage.  I was at the front of the line, carrying a heavy, prop Payphone, while the rest of the cast, lovely blonde and brunette actors and actresses of paler persuasion carried electric equipment, speakers, clothes.

I was humming Goodnight Saigon, as I’d taken to doing to get in character.  It was stuck in my head.

A siren blared, red and blue lights flashed and a spotlight shone…on me.  Only me.

I snapped. Stupid.

“Yes, very suspicious!  A black man, in a black man’s city, wearing a Yale T-Shirt carying a pay phone.  There are eight of us here! Why me?”  I was running off of no sleep, and was probably still pissed about an argument over whether it was reasonable for an older Korean shop owner to have shot a 14 year old black girl in the back of the head, punches thrown or not.


“Very fucking suspicious! Officer, I’m tired, this is heavy.  If you want to stop me, shoot me.”  I turned and stomped off as the spotlight trailed off of me, and onto someone else.

“He’s tired officer!  Sorry!  He’s with us!”

“We’re just finishing up a play.”

“What play?”

“Cold Sweat–over at the Yale Rep.”

“Oh yeah…”  I felt the light on the back of my head.  “I saw that last week.  Good job.  Be safe.”


I got pulled over one night, after a punishing eighteen hour day on set.  It was the second night in a row of that, and I was fading quickly; I changed from my usual audiobook to something by The Decemberists, “This Is Why We Fight” I think.  Loud, dissonant, singable.  I saw the red lights of the parked patrol vehicle parked to the side of the long offramp, and tensed, but knowing that I was almost home, had nothing to fear and had a long way to go to get to the end of the ramp, it was all good.

I stopped at the sign, turned on my blinker and then pulled to the right, prepping for my turn.  It was a block and a half down when the blue and red lights came on behind me, and the spot shone in my side view mirror (it’s on purpose–to put the driver into disorientation and keep the her/him from seeing the officer’s approach).

Honestly, not having any idea why I was being pulled over, and quite frankly, starting to panic (exhaustion does that), I turned off the car, turned off the radio, rolled my window down, put my elbow in front of the mirror (so as not to lose my night vision) and put both hands on the wheel at 10 and 2.  And, were my skin of a lighter complection, most likely would have been white knuckled.

“Good evening officer, how may I be of assistance?”  No sarcasm.  Just lots of years of knowing better.  My voice was rising in pitch.  Fear?  It was only the police, right? Right? Long Beach, PD.  Highway Patrol? Signal Hill PD!? Signal Hill didn’t have any issues with traffic stops that I heard of.

“I pulled you over because you ran that stop sign back there.” Not the usual pre-amble.  No calming “Do you know why I pulled you over?”  No “sir.”

I ran no stop sign.  “Um…what stop sign officer?”  I don’t think I looked up from his name tag.  Willing myself to memorize it.  No eye contact.

I heard the irritation in his voice.  “The stop sign back by the freeway there.”

Suddenly, I found myself pissed.  “No…I stopped.”

“You blew right threw it.”

“If you say so officer.  Apologies.”  I was far more curt than I would normally ever be when getting pulled over.  Usually, I would thank the officer for pulling me over, keeping me safe, and wish him a good night–never with any sarcasm.  That night, it was just.  Heavy.  I quickly got back on script, beginning to shake.

“May I get my information for you, sir?”


“I have to reach inside my glove compartment for my insurance and registration, is that OK?”

“Go ahead.”

“My license is in my back pocket, may I reach for it?”

“Go ahead.”

I fumbled about.

“Have you been drinking?”

“No, sir.  I’m just really tired…and police make me nervous.”  I pushed my fedora back on my head, loosened my tie, handed him my ID.

“I’m going to write you a ticket for running the sign.  Be more careful, sir.”  His voice softening, as he peered into my car seat filled back seat.

“I will.  I’m only a mile from home; heading home now, actually.”

He waited for me to pull out.  I sat there for a minute.  Calming down.  He waited.  I waited, and then, finally, un-usually, he pulled off first, turned around and then drove off into the night.

I rode home in silence.

When I walk around, there’s almost always some song in my head.  Sometimes I overlay the song with the show that’s playing  in front of me.  Sometimes, I put a story to the people that I see, write dialogue in my head and give them a soundtrack.

This one is having an affair with that one.  He is secretly supporting a family in Borneo with the money he makes from his side job as a bouncer.  She is a member of the Norwegian royal family on a quiet vacation and rendez-vous with the ambassador to Eritrea.  She’s actually a DJ/Journalist/Bartender on a coffee break.  He’s an aspiring poet who hates his day job as a stock trader.  She’s really a He, but is hiding from the mafia, her ex-girlfriend and her parents. He’s actually a time traveling dog named Rex who’s wearing a robotic person suit–Badly.

All the while, a song is playing, music from all sorts of artists.  The Who.  The O’Jays.  New Order.  The Commodores.  The Verve.  D’Angelo.  Dolly Parton. Puffy Amiyumi.

I wonder how people see themselves as they navigate through this world, over this water covered stone we call Earth.  Through this country we call The United States of America, in their town, on their street.  What’s playing in their heads.  Are they the hero?  Is there soaring music playing?  Is their heart heavy and can it be lightened with song?

And then I wonder, what music do they hear when they see me?


I took my two year old son out for a walk this morning,
and in the grass of our front yard
I saw a broken butterfly wing;
I picked it up without thinking
(or malice)
while my child pointed elsewhere, exclaiming
“Butterfly!  Look! Hurt Butterfly!”
I gently stroked the wing in my hand:
Orange, and black and yellow,
soft and velvet,
almost not there
save for the realness of its broken gone-ness.

We walked around the yard,
and I noticed all the fragile little things
littered in the browning grass:
A humming bird nest
Rose petals
A spider web
The shell from a bird’s egg
The white crown of a dandelion,

ready, waiting, calling to be blown
dispersed and carried on the light breeze
like the soul of a flower
to be shared and grown again;

We walked;
the whole while, my son singing
in that lisp-y, high pitched slur
that toddlers do,
“Ashes! Ashes!
All Fall down!”

After a while I carried him;
I crushed him close to me,
smelled his breath
felt his heartbeat,
the curl of his fingers
and the softness of his skin;

All the fragile things
Precious and rare,
Like the wings of a butterfly



So here’s a contest, just for you.  Yes, you.  Click the link…go on…


Writing To Reach you

There’s the trick, really.
A turn of phrase
A syllable or two
a sentence with aftermarket parts and
shoehorns used to squeeze words into meaning
like so much simile
painted on a page with a typewriter paintbrush;

harsh letters stamped under the glow of
incandescence and little else
I ask you to allow me to
Assault your sensibilities for a minute
(or five)
and hold onto your attention for a gap of
one thousand words or so;

You stop, and for a moment
(a brief moment)
You’re hearing my voice
in your head
telling you nothing about everything
and everything about nothing;

My wife tells me stories
of how her mother would
put together a sign
some price tags
and lay out a garage sale;
People would come by
look at her wares
and and maybe talk to her;

To have someone reach out and touch her
Human Being to Human Being
To reach and be
with people.
To Be;

Sometimes the words,
They take their own path
in the wee hours
and they wend
and wind
and reach out
searching to you
or you, or you, or you
hoping to touch you in the ether
and in the world.



So here’s a contest, just for you.  Yes, you.  Click the link.  Do it!

Twenty Years

Twenty years ago, I sat in gown and silly hat (they were Mickey Mouse Ears with a tassel) and listened to The Fonz himself, Henry Wrinkler talk to my graduating class about how he worked through severe dyslexia to get through college, and then later on into Yale Drama school.  He spoke of how he got past being an “artist” to be a “working artist” taking roles on TV shows and commercials and not “legitimate roles in The Theatre.”  He spoke on how luck, as much as eagerness and hard work played into his success.

Twenty years ago, I would, the next day, stagger through our actual graduation ceremony–a ceremony which very much was filled with all the pomp and circumstance that you can believe an Ivy League school can muster.  I was hung over, and sleep deprived, and recovering from my last hook up of my college career –a hook up that literally was four years in the making, and didn’t actually come to fruition until our last night as college undergrads.

Twenty years ago, I sat in my residential college courtyard (a throwback to Cambridge and Oxford) with the other 100 or so kids in my graduating class that had lived in the same set of dorms for four years and waited for our names to be called.

Twenty years ago, my name was called and the world went silent as in a dream, and I walked up the flagstone path, shook the hand of our dean, the hand of our college master and was handed a little roll of paper with my name of it; and while it would be another year before I would get the BIG paper with my name on it (stupid 2 classes to make up), I would get to walk with, and forever be associated with, my class.

Twenty years ago, I gathered down in the courtyard with a couple of friends, stuffed my clay pipe with a handful of tobacco, lit the bowl and smoked it.  Upon finishing it, my friends and I participated in a tradition that goes back to the 1860s and smashed the pipes on the stones of our college: a semi-sacrament representing the end of our Bright College Years.

Twenty years ago, I turned to my mom, cried hot tears in the realization that the world had ended; that the world was new; that I had accomplished something huge; that I had taken the steps to something even bigger, something that would end with the waxing of my own light–that I was a baby starting life.

Twenty years ago, I graduated from college.

A world of things have happened in the intervening years.  A lifetime has passed.  No time has passed.  It was a life a way.  It was just yesterday.

I’ve had seven very different careers.  I’ve had fifteen minutes of fame with millions of people seeing me on a SuperBowl commercial and then on a huge reality show.  I was saved from a horrible accident by the grace of God and really amazing automotive engineering.  I’ve danced, and drank and screwed, and laughed and loved, and cried, and hated and forgave; I’ve fallen in love.  I’ve married a wonderful and sometimes frustrating woman.  I’ve had children, beautiful children, who both amaze and infuriate me.  All love.  All love.  Movies and books, and music and writing, and games and smarts and stupidity–and LOVE  all the bloody and wonderful and horrible and perfect and confused love.


I’m missing my Twenty Year College reunion as I type this. Twenty years of living, and life makes it really crazy to attend things, sometimes.  Big things.

I’m missing my classmates, roomates, and beer, and pizza and families and stories and catching up and love…but I’m not missing the love, not really.

The love never left me.  It’s here with me.  It’s in the friendships that I’ve carried with me, the insatiable love of learning that I still carry in my brain.  It’s in the conversations that I have, the things I try and instill in my kids, and the mind blowingly elegant and intelligent conversations that I have with my wife.

Twenty Years, and my college years still gleam bright for me.

Bright College years, with pleasure rife,
The shortest, gladdest years of life;
How swiftly are ye gliding by!
Oh, why doth time so quickly fly?

The seasons come, the seasons go,
The earth is green or white with snow,
But time and change shall naught avail
To break the friendships formed at Yale.

In after years, should troubles rise
To cloud the blue of sunny skies,
How bright will seem, through mem’ry’s haze
Those happy, golden, bygone days!

Oh, let us strive that ever we
May let these words our watch-cry be,
Where’er upon life’s sea we sail:
“For God, for Country and for Yale!

My name is Anthony Robinson, Calhoun College, Yale University, Class of 1996