Monday, January 10, 2011

Tastes Like Channel No. 5 - Live to Ride, Ride to Live

I just wrote a blog about Jobs and living. Nothing really fancy, just a little ramble about the confusion I feel most of us face in the real world.
Then I deleted it.
It would have gotten me fired, Possibly disowned and very likely beaten with a bat. At this point in my career,  I can do without any of those things.
So, a short little moment instead.
I heard my niece call my baby brother Daddy today. It caught me off guard and I reeled a bit. Old age crept up on me and ker-plowied me right in the cerebreal cortex. I felt every single one of my years landing right on my head. All at once.
I have written many things over the years, about aging and life and living. I have tried them all myself at one time or another and yet I find myself addled this day. Wondering if I am actually living or if I am just taking up space that could be used for greater purposes than me.
I just don't know.
I cant step far enough back from life to get a clear view of it. I am always right in the middle of my own life and so absorbed in it. that that I rarely lift my head up to see.
Do this thing for me invisible reader. The next time you find your own self in a car on a sunny clear day. For every stoplight you cease moving at, look up. Look up from the road and the soap operas of those around you and look into the distance. See as far as you can.
How far away those building?
How distant the mountains?
How long do geese fly?
How close the sky?
Look up and see. Look into the distance and imagine your life, open the book of you and turn the pages back a few. Reflect on the blank pages left in the book and think of what you are going to write on them.
I am going to do it.
So should you.

The following is an article I wrote for an on-line magazine. It has since run its course and I can now do whatever I want with this story, which although some is true, some is also fiction.
But not much.

I am writing today, finding myself not really worried about rules, the computer takes care of the important stuff. Leaving me free to elucidate my ideas, to clarify and share my memories of the life I am in the process of living.
 I have this memory of an uncle; cigar smoke wreathing his head, bottle of bourbon in his hand. He looks at the wallet I have just handed him. The flying wings logo of “Live to Ride, Ride to Live” cheaply embossed on its fairground leather. He looks at the wallet, then gazes deep into my eyes, his eyes, I have been told, the same silver blue as my own. I feel a momentary discomfort at the thought that my own gaze may be as searching as his. He takes a swallow of rot-gut, cigar rolling to the opposite side of his mouth to make room, his eyes never breaking contact. He hands me back the wallet, takes a deep breath and says, “Yeah, I can see it”. Exhaling the words in a cloud of sweetly scented smoke reminiscent of dreams I didn’t really remember. I was twelve years old, dressed in dork clothes with a dork haircut, wanting desperately to please everyone. Failing in that almost constantly as my desires rarely coincided with those of my parents. I tried so hard to fit in, to belong to the herd. A wolf dressed as a sheep and fooling some. This old wolf, grizzled and worn with grey in his beard and hair, recognized his own. His sparse words were the only encouragement I ever received.
I saw a play once. It was really good. Some French play about a guy with an enormous nose. There was this guy in the play, he wasn’t the main character, I think he was a butcher? Or a baker? Anyway, this guy stood out, the rest of the people on the stage fit there, but this guy, he stood out. I thought long and hard about why. One day it occurred to me. When an actor puts on a costume, he knows it’s not him; he takes it off at the end of the night and returns to his real self. But when a person, any person who plays on the stage of life puts on a costume, if they wear it long enough it becomes them. This guy, playing the baker, wasn’t wearing a costume. He was the baker. He believed it so much that whenever he was on stage the audience believed it too. We were all willingly deceived by his belief. I wondered how many of us do that? Wear a sheep costume for so long that we forget the wolf. My uncle never forgot, he always knew who he was.
He died a few years ago; victim not of his vices, but of the stupidity of others. I sat next to him in a comfortless white room the day before he abandoned his failing body. He told me of all the things he had never done, the places he had never gone, sights he had never seen. The missed chances of a lifetime unloaded on my shoulders in the space of an hour of talk. I learned regret in that hour. I walked out of that room and looked down at myself. Dork clothes, dork haircut, Driving back to work in my safe little car to mingle with the other sheep.  The only reminder of the wolf was the wallet in my back pocket, now smooth and worn from 12 years of hiding. A not so gentle reminder to me as I walked out of that room.
There is a chain on my belt today. It stretches back to my wallet. When the wind is in my hair and a destination in my mind, I think of everything. The choices we make and the consequences that follow. I think of my wife, my patient understanding genius wife. Who didn’t scream or wail or moan when I came home with the motorcycle. I think of my family, all of whom have forgotten the wolf in them entirely. They have worn their costumes for so long that when I see them, I believe it myself. So I travel, I live life. Eyes on the road and my mind a thousand miles away. Sometimes my dreams take me even further. The motorcycle is just a part of a life. Life is just a passing dream, a small town on a long road. Blink too long, and you might miss it.

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