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“It’s so hard to forget pain, but it’s even harder to remember sweetness. We have no scar to show for happiness. We learn so little from peace.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk, Diary
I came across this quote while I was trolling the web this evening, and I can’t stop thinking about it.
Pain seems to stick harder than sweetness in life, and try as I might, the fear associated with pain often trumps the joy associated with sweetness.
There’s a saying in sales that pain is the greatest motivator. That is, a potential client will respond most quickly to pain avoidance than an investment in pleasure. Present pain is more tangible and real than some theoretical future pleasure.
That’s why it costs so much more to get a busted pipe fixed in the middle of the night than it does in the middle of the day. They sell you on the idea that you’re paying more for inconveniencing some poor plumber, but the reality is that you’ll pay just about anything to get your busted pipe fixed during off-hours because your house is being ruined by the minute.
On the other hand, spending some time and money every few months on preventive maintenance is something only a minority of folks bother with because of the power of denial. My father-in-law was warned to watch his diet after a heart attack, but he never really adjusted his diet…and ended up dying of a heart attack.
Fear does more damage in this world that just about anything. Why is this? I can’t believe that God designed us this way. Is this part of our fallen nature?
The most uttered phrase by Jesus, according to the New Testament, was “fear not,” and that should give us some clue as to the power of fear, along with God’s view of it. We are so prone to forget God’s track record in our lives and rely upon our own power and understanding of the world to work out our hopes and dreams and disappointments and failures.
Because we are frail and forgetful, we are overwhelmed by our troubles and the pain associated with them. Though some may have higher thresholds, none are immune to the crippling power of fear.
So, what are we to do? How do we live in the sweetness?
I don’t think there are easy answers to these questions, else everyone would be happy and well-adjusted, but I’ve found that one thing helps to keep me focused on the positives – counting my blessings.
I’ve written about here before, and as simplistic as it seems, for me, this practice helps me – especially when fears snare me.
I’ve come to think of fear as a cancer or a lie, and treat it as such. To indulge in fear is to go from a two-pack-a-day smoking habit to four, or to live with liars.
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In 1981, I turned 15 years old. That winter, me and a couple of buddies snuck into Body Heat, an R-rated movie that introduced us to Kathleen Turner, William Hurt, Ted Danson and, most important to me, Mickey Rourke.
Rourke’s part was small, but he made the most of it as an oft-incarcerated arsonist. His big scene, when William Hurt comes to him for advice on how to burn a house down without getting caught, was talked about by me and my buddies almost as much as Turner’s nude scenes. The movie launched his career.
From that point on, Mickey Rourke was an object of fascination and admiration as I fantasized about becoming an actor myself one day. By the time he starred in The Pope of Greenwich Village, I was also obsessed with all things New York and associated him with the city and great actors who started there, like Brando, DeNiro, Dean, Pacino and others.
Mickey Rourke was different from the other rising stars of that time. He has like a wild animal. Grimy, intense and quiet, with a feral sexuality. But also good looking and vulnerable. Sean Penn may have acted tough, but Mickey Rourke seemed like the real deal, a genuine badass.
I read everything about him I could get my hands on, which in those days meant Premiere magazine and maybe something in Rolling Stone or Interview, Andy Warhol’s oversized tabloid. When a friend handed me a copy of Playboy with a long interview with Mickey Rourke featured, I immediately made a photocopy at work (which I still keep among my prized possessions).
I don’t know what it was about Rourke that made him stand out above the rest. God knows I’m nothing like him. Maybe it was a desire to be self-possessed and cool, but still vulnerable and sweet. Who knows?
What I do know is that his early movies are rock solid. These days, if he’s mentioned at all, it’s often as the punchline to a joke. That’s too bad, because he’s a great actor. Here are five films to watch that prove this:
Diner is easily one of the best movies of the 80’s, as well as one of the most influential. Don’t believe me? If there was no Diner, there might not have been a Quentin Tarantino, the most influential director of the 1990’s and perhaps the early 2000’s.
Diner was one of, if not THE first talky guy-movie. Take one of the scenes with the guys in the diner and lay it next to the first scene of Reservoir Dogs and you’ll get the idea. Tarantino to the inspiration and ran with it.
Anyway, Diner, directed by Barry Levinson, is set in the late 50’s in Baltimore and tells the story of a group of lifelong friends who are negotiating that weird no-man’s land between high school and adulthood. Most of the guys are nice, middle-class Jewish boys except Mickey Rourke’s character, Boogie, a womanizing hairdresser with a gambling addiction.
When the rest of the guys argue over who’s best to make out to between Frank Sinatra and Johnny Mathis, pompadoured Boogie breaks a tie by quietly declaring “Presley.” With that line, you get the whole character – the danger, the vulnerability, the tragedy and humor.
Diner is a great film in the vein of American Graffiti, touching on universal themes that will never grow old.
Rumble Fish (1983)
During Francis Ford Coppola’s wilderness years, he made a couple of movies that came from books that were passed around in middle school and fawned over like classic literature. The first was The Outsiders, featuring a who’s who of up-and-coming teen stars of the early 80’s, and Rumble Fish, featuring more of those 80’s kids…and Mickey Rourke.
Both movies were based on novels by S.E. Hinton, and though the books might not rank with Fitzgerald and Hemingway, Coppola treated them like they did, making serious movies that were deeply appealing to teenagers like me, if not film critics.
Rumble Fish is my favorite of the two. Shot in black-and-white, it features Matt Dillon, Diane Lane, and Rourke as Dillon’s older brother, Motorcyle Boy.
Dillon is Rusty James, juvenile dilenquent trying to live up to the legend of his mysterious (read crazy) older brother, a tortured soul alienated from the streets and toughs of the dying town where he is a legend.
Once again, this role is custom made for Rourke’s own sense of alienation and otherworldliness that makes the character, no matter how flaky, seem so real. So heartbreakingly broken.
I haven’t seen the movie since I was in my 20’s, so this recommendation is given from that perspective. But regardless of how well the movie holds up, it’s Coppola and it’s Mickey Rourke, for crying out loud. Just see it.
The Pope of Greenwich Village (1983)
This is easily my favorite Mickey Rourke film, and probably his best. When Rourke was on Alec Baldwin’s Here’s The Thing recently, he said this is his favorite movie.
The Pope of Greenwich Village is the quintessential New York movie. Rourke and Eric Roberts headline this story, which features a terrific supporting cast that includes Geraldine Page in what had to have been one of her last decent roles.
Rourke plays Charlie, a former wiseguy and cook who’s trying to go straight as a restaurateur. Roberts is Paulie, Charlie’s fuckup cousin who can’t keep a job or keep his mouth shut.
Charlie manages a restaurant in the Village where Paulie waits tables. When Charlie warns Paulie not to overcharge his customers one night, Paulie does it anyway and gets them both fired. This puts Charlie in hot water with his waspy girlfriend (Darryl Hannah), who hates Paulie, and Charlie’s ex-wife Cookie, who sends her brothers to collect late child support payments.
Paulie tries to make it up to Charlie by letting him in on a big score – a robbery so easy, a coupe of kids could do it. You can see where this is going, right? They pull in a semi-retired safe cracker to round out the team and, against Charlie’s better judgment, plain the heist.
They get into the targeted warehouse easy enough, but when an undercover cop accidentally dies during the robbery, things go downhill quickly. It turns out that the warehouse – and money – belongs to a notorious mobster, Bed Bug Eddie, played by Burt Young.
Paulie is quickly identified by the mob and a prime suspect, and when he won’t crack, Bed Bug Eddie has his thumbs cut off. This sets Charlie on a course of revenge that takes us through the thrilling third act.
It’s a great story filled with memorable characters and lines. Rourke is at the top of his game as Charlie, and conveys Charlies tension between the streets and the good life that his waspy girlfriend represents. The chemistry between him and Eric Roberts, who steals every scene he’s in, is palpable. The guys really seem to love one another, and they both seemed to be having as much making the movie as it was to watch it.
The Wrestler (2008)
It’s hard to believe it’s been eight years since The Wrestlercame out. Before that, it seemed like an eternity since those early great roles. Thank God for Darren Aronofsky and the vision he had for the character of Randy “The Ram” Robinson, who couldn’t have been played by anyone other than Mickey Rourke.
The movie plays as a metaphor for Rourke’s career. Randy is a has-been pro wrestler who can’t catch a break to save his life. His life and career are riddled with self-sabotage and a string of bad decisions. Despite enough wreckage to make the most Pollyanna-ish person disillusioned, Randy always manages to pick himself up and stumble forward, with some vague hope of a better tomorrow.
It’s a heartbreaking role that Rourke put everything into. It’s a towering performance that, sadly, didn’t usher in a late career surge. That may as much to do with Rourke’s appearance (too much bad plastic surgery and weightlifting) and boxing as it does with his reputation for being difficult to work with.
Regardless of all that, The Wrestler will no-doubt be Mickey Rourke’s legacy picture, the one that is used to encapsulate his strange career.
Angel Heart (1987)
John Huston said that Angel Heart was one of the best films ever made…until the third act. Who can argue with the great director? It’s a noir styled thriller that stars Rourke as Harry Angel, a private investigator hired by a mysterious Robert DeNiro to find a missing singer.
Alan Parker directed this frustrating mix of wonderful design, good cinematography, wonderful acting (except for Lisa Bonet) and a story with an undeniable hook. It’s too bad that Parker couldn’t land the plane on this one, because it could’ve been a classic. Instead, it devolves into silliness, completely usurping a great performance by Rourke.
I won’t spoil the movie here, but it’s well worth watching, even knowing that it goes to hell. If it would’ve been shot in black-and-white, you’d think the movie was made in the 40’s or 50’s, and Angel’s pursuit of the singer is filled with violence, humor voodoo and sex.
Speaking of sex, Angel Heart was as notorious for the steamy scenes between Rourke and Lisa Bonet as it was for the third-act breakdown. Compared to Game of Thrones, Angel Heart is pretty mild stuff, but back then it was a different story.
There’s one bonus movie I’ll toss in, though most will probably hate it. Probably my second favorite Mickey Rourke film is Barfly, a good natured story of life on L.A.’s skid row, taken from the stories of Charles Bukowski, another favorite of mine.
Rourke played Henry Chinaski, the Bukowski alter-ego, who inhabits the seedy bars of his low rent neighborhood when he isn’t writing or earning some money at a shitty job.
Rourke’s portrayal of Chinaski is borderline cartoonish and over-the-top, which suits the character perfectly, for that is Henry Chinaski, a loser with the ego of a champion, who picks fights with the muscle bound bartender, not because he hates him, but because he’s got nothing better to do. Well, not until Faye Dunaway’s Wanda comes into his life.
Barfly is a delightful comedy that is, oddly, a celebration of life, albeit a strange and foreign one to most people. Once again, Mickey Rourke is the only person I can imagine pulling off the role of Chinaski because so much of Chinaski’s charm and hubris and tragedy is what makes me love Mickey Rourke. Both are flawed men who you know will never end up on top…but you love them and root for them anyway.
Today, for the first time this Spring, I saw clumps of daffodils as I drove home through Anchorage. With a week left in February, they’re a bit early, but who cares? The sight of these harbingers of warmer weather to come make me very happy.
Years ago, as part of Mayor Jerry Abramson’s Operation Brightside, thousands of daffodils were planted along the grassy easements of the interstates leading into downtown, and in the next few weeks, I’ll be reminded of this when I’m on my way to work and see blankets of yellow that will bud, bloom and expire just before Easter.
The older I get, the more I understand why old people go to godawfully hot places like Florida and Arizona, and while I’m not yet ready to totally abandon Louisville in the winter, the idea is germinating in my mind, like one of those daffodil bulbs, waiting for the right conditions to send it popping out of the cold soil, looking for warmth and light.
Until then, I’ll content myself with discovering more clues, scattered along the roads and trails, foretelling of warmer days to come.
Yesterday, we were able to make it down to Asbury to see the Eagles play their first home game. Unfortunately, Asbury didn’t get the win, but Hadley played all but a couple of minutes of the game.
It was a beautiful afternoon, and Mom and Dad made it down. It was great sitting out in the sun, watching Hads and her friends play and talking to Mom and Dad and Angell. Here’s some photos from the game:
After the game, we hustled back home because Hadley is working on a film project for her multi-cam class. Hadley directed, and her friends/teammates Jenny and Kat shot, lit and did sound. The project involved interviewing Angell, her mom and sisters about Angell’s dad (there’s a good/weird story in there for another time).
It was fun to watch Hads and her friends set up their gear and talk and kvetch about school, class and Angell’s family. I’m more than a little proud of this kid, and I can’t wait to see what this documentary short ends up looking like. Here are some pics from the shoot:
Last night, I received a text message from a buddy telling me to check out Alec Baldwin’s latest podcast, which featured a conversation with Molly Ringwald (Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Pretty In Pink). He’d recommended the podcast before, but I hadn’t thought to subscribe until today.
This morning, as I was getting ready to go for a run, I subscribed to the podcast, and the first thing I noticed was an interview with Mickey Rourke (The Pope of Greenwich Village, Diner, Rumble Fish, Angel Heart, The Wrestler), a hero of mine back when I was in high school and dreaming of being an actor. I listened to the interview while I ran, when I got home and ate a sandwich, and while I took a shower. Baldwin treated Rourke with great respect, and the conversation was easy-going and free-flowing, even as it moved into the more troublesome aspect’s of Rourke’s career and private life.
I was sad to get to the end of the interview. The storytelling was so raw and unguarded, I could’ve listened to it for hours. From there, I moved on to an interview with Dick Cavett, the bookish host of TV interview shows from the ‘60’s and ‘70’s. It turns out that Baldwin and Cavett are neighbors out on Long Island, and the conversation, though a bit formal, seemed natural, like I was eavesdropping on a private conversation that ranged from Orson Welles to Marlon Brando to Cavett’s struggles with depression to the media landscape of today vs. that of 50 years ago. Again, Baldwin was spot-on in the questioning of his subject, knowing when to press in and when to sit back and let a moment breathe.
At this point, I was hooked…and on my way to see Hadley, my oldest daughter, play her first home lacrosse game. I was in the car with my wife Angell and our youngest daughter Avery and one of her friends. The hour long ride to and from Asbury gave me the opportunity to listen to the Ringwald episode, as well as conversations with Carol Burnett (The Carol Burnett Show) and Dustin Hoffman (The Graduate, Rain Man, Kramer vs. Kramer). Alec Baldwin, who, like Mickey Rourke, has a reputation for being difficult and little nutty, was nothing short of sweet to his guests, and in the case of Burnett and Hoffman, he was gushing in the way a true fan, completely devoid of ego and posturing.
My only regret is that my daughter doesn’t go to some west coast school, which would’ve afforded me the time to listen to the entire backlog of episodes while driving. Baldwin loves to dish the dirt, and gives as good as he gets, without getting too nasty or self-serving, and because of his status in Hollywood, the celebrities he interviews treat him as the equal he is. On top of that, he seems to seduce them, through his great charm and enthusiasm, causing them to open up in ways that we don’t see in the typical, sound-byte driven talk shows.
If you listen to podcasts, look up Here’s the Thing and check out the lineup of guests. If the names are familiar, hit the subscribe button. It’ll be the best treat you give yourself this week.
A couple of years ago, I went through some deep shit of my own making, and having come out the other side of it all in one piece, I’ve learned a few things.
For starters, I’ve learned that most, if not all, of the chaos that happens in my life is self-created. There’s almost never anyone out to get me. I either do something stupid, or when something happens, I have a self-destructive reaction to it and compound the original incident with my own nuttiness.
One of the ways this happens is by buying into lies that swirl around inside my mind most of the time. I imagine we all carry around a headful of lies and fears that originated around the time we had our first conscious thoughts: you’re not good enough; you’re not smart enough; nobody likes you. And on and on.
In my experience, those lies have always been there, and most of the time, I’ve been able to overrule them with rational thought and a boot-strapper’s mentality towards life. I got into trouble when a couple of bad things happened in succession, around the time of the big recession back in 2008, and I gave into those thoughts. Once you start buying into lies, they quickly pile up on you.
At first, the lies were about what I was lacking, and then they morphed into what was wrong with my life and those around me. I suppose that morphing was a survival impulse that kept me from getting overwhelmed by the accumulation of accusations – a kind of blame-shifting that made some outside force or forces responsible for what I thought was wrong with me.
As the spiral tightened on all that negativity, the lies grew worse until I finally crashed and had to deal with truth.
At first, the truth seemed like a lie. And then, it just seemed impossibly hard. And then, one day, I had an insight. I realized that by buying into a reality where everything was wrong, I was closing myself off to the possibility of what was right to the point where I couldn’t even see it anymore. I realized that somewhere along the way, I’d stopped counting my blessings.
Once I realized that I wasn’t taking the time to consider all the positives in my life, I immediately began to take a daily inventory of things that I was grateful for. If you grew up going to Sunday school, you may remember a song called “Count Your Blessings.” The refrain goes like this:
Count your blessings, name them one by one
Count your blessings, see what God has done
Count your blessings, name them one by one
Count your many blessings, see what God has done
“Count Your Blessings” – by Johnson Oatman
It’s amazing the amount of perspective I gain each day, just from pausing to think about the many blessings are contained within it. Even when I’ve had the shittiest day imaginable, I can point back to the love of my wife and children, a decent job, good friends, good health and a host of other things that are abundant in my life. And when I’ve remembered to do this, I’ve never failed to gain a new perspective on the problem that was causing me so much stress.
I was reminded of this tonight, after dinner, when I had a conversation with my 15 year old daughter about a stressful time she’s having with a close friend. It’s so easy, as a 49 year old, to look at the problems of 15 year olds and shake your head and laugh at how dramatic they’re being over what seems so trivial. But when I remember back to how high the stakes seemed to me at that age over the same kinds of trivial stuff, that’s when I begin to take my daughter’s problems more seriously because this is the first time she’s dealing with this stuff.
At a point in our conversation, as we were talking about how to approach this friend, we talked about this business of counting blessings and I was so blessed to hear that my daughter had heard a message like this from my wife not too long ago, and it was a key in pulling her out of a bad spell. Hearing that was certainly one of my blessings for today.
My prayer is that she’ll somehow be able to communicate this wisdom to her friend who’s also having a hard time seeing anything positive in the world. If this negativity is simply a matter of buying into lies and negativity, I pray that this individual will stop and consider everything, rather than just what’s wrong. Maybe in doing that, a new perspective will be gained that shines enough light to overcome the darkness.
So, Saturday night, I posted a video that I made for Angell – a timeline of photos that span the 25 Valentine’s Days we’ve spent together.
When I uploaded the mp4 to YouTube, I grabbed the link and embedded it into the post and hit “publish” before I went to bed, because I had to get up at 7:00 the next morning and go to Phoenix for a conference I was running.
The video uploaded, but with no sound. The reason? I used a Beatles song, “Two of Us,” and unlike most artists, Beatles songs are LOCKED DOWN.
I got back from Phoenix late last night, and when I finally dragged myself out of bed and watched Walking Dead and grabbed something to eat, I started looking for a replacement song – cover of the same song. I love the one I chose. The fellas who sing it don’t speak English as a first language, which you can tell. But it’s a lovely version of this wonderful song, and it times out perfectly.
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Valentine’s Day is in two days, and today, I’m scrambling to make something for Angell as a token of my love. As I’ve been doing this, I’ve been combing through old photographs, looking for specific images that will accomplish my purpose (I’m being vague because Angell will read this before the 14th).
Looking through old photographs is to climb into a time machine. I’ve read where smells are the most evocative of the senses at triggering memories, and while I’ve found this to be true for myself, the combination of my eyes and old photos is mighty strong.
Take this photograph of me looking like I got jumped in an alley. This was taken in the summer of 1995, when Angell and I were living in New York. Her friend Rhonda had come to town to stay with us a few days, and we went to Central Park with her and my friend Suzy, who was in Elizabeth Dillon’s acting class with me.
The previous Christmas, Angell’s mom got us each a pair of roller blades for Christmas. I have no idea why she bought us those things. We’d never expressed an interest in roller blading or any other activity that involved footwear designed to make one fly like the wind.
Before Rhonda’s trip to New York, I’d used my roller blades exactly once. Angell and I took them over the Juniper Park, a few miles from our place in Queens. The park is a rectangle, 1.3 miles in circumference. I made it around once before giving up. I’d never ice skated, and couldn’t quite get the hang of it. Angell, on the other hand, picked up on it rather quickly. She was a skate rat in middle school, so maybe that had something to do with it.
I don’t remember who suggested roller blading in Central Park. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was me. We had no blades for Rhonda, and she was very much okay with that. We drove into the city that day, and picked Suzy up at her apartment in Manhattan before heading over to the East Side to find a parking spot somewhere in the 60’s. We packed in our blades and put them on after we’d walked around a bit and gotten past the Alice in Wonderland statue by the Boat Pond.
Rhonda followed on foot as we made our way toward the Bethesda Fountain. I remember Suzy being quite good on her blades. Angell was next on the depth chart, followed by wobbly me.
When we passed the Band Shell and crossed the road just before the Bethesda Fountain, I looked to the right to see if we could avoid all those steps. I noticed a sidewalk snaking up into the trees and then down to the pond where you rent the row boats.
I skated past the girls and told them to follow me. As I made my way up the little hill, Suzy said she didn’t know about that path. When I got to the top of the little rise, the sidewalk turned to the left before plunging down a short, steep hill that dead-ended at a sidewalk at the bottom. Just past that was water.
For some reason, I felt no fear or caution, which is not like me. Instead, I paused a brief moment before pushing off just as Suzy and Angell were making the top of the hill.
The impulse to skate down this hill was done without a thought to how I’d stop at the bottom. I could barely stand upright on the stupid roller blades, let alone stop on a dime at the bottom of a steep hill. As I gained speed, this thought raced through my mind as I comprehended the stupidity of my decision.
My knees bent, I stared ahead of me at the T-shaped intersection at the bottom of the hill. I’m not a panicky person, and in a split second, I formulated a plan. I noticed that to the left of me, it seemed soft and spongy, with vines and other plants bordering the sidewalk. The plan was to simply skate off the sidewalk into the viney stuff and have a soft landing.
The problem with that plan occurred when I took my eyes off that T intersection. Me being the novice blader, I was wobbly on my feet when I was barely moving. At this ever-increasing speed, I was a disaster waiting to happen, and when I shifted my gaze to my left, my feet flew out from under me.
In the moment when I crashed, time slowed to a crawl. I saw my feet shoot up as though being jerked by a rope. As this happened, I threw my arms back reflexively to soften the blow of falling on asphalt. As I did this, my body somehow spun in the air, and as my left elbow hit first, splitting the end of my radius bone, my left cheek was next to hit, emitting a shower of starts, and drug behind me a bit before I rolled over and gave the right side of my face a go. As I spun around, my knees got all scraped up too.
As I slid off into the dirt, time resumed its normal pace, and I began laughing and cursing as the girls made their way to me. Angell and Suzy, afraid of suffering the same fate as me, side-stepped their way to me as Rhonda was able to run.
They tried to get me to take it easy as I sat up. At first, it didn’t hurt, but as the blood began to move into the banged-up areas, the stinging started. I assured them I was fine. They were all wincing at the look of my face, and none of them had mirrors, so I didn’t know how bad I looked. My elbow felt weird, but I figured it was just a bruise.
As I sat there, I pulled off those rollerblades for the last time and got back into my black high-top Chucks and got to my feet and told them it looked worse than I felt.
Rhonda was wanting to rent a row boat, and me being me, that’s what we did. For the next 30 minutes, I rowed the three girls around the Central Park Lake in a rowboat with what turned out to be a slightly broken arm. At that point, the swelling hadn’t started, and I felt okay. The next day, my arm stiffened up and hurt like hell.
The photo above was taken when we got back to the car. I love it. The Preservation Hall t-shirt was a memento from our honeymoon to New Orleans. The sand cammies are still in my wardrobe, and when I’m not fat, I wear them.
The next day, I showed up for work looking like I’d been beaten up on the way in, and my boss sent me straight to St. Vincent’s, down in the Village, to get looked at. That’s where I learned that I’d broken my arm.
A day or two later, we drove Rhonda to LaGuardia and put her on a plane home, and over time, the scrapes scabbed and healed, as did the arm. These days, the elbow aches when I do yard work or swing a hammer or use my heavy duty drill for any length of time – a little reminder of the time when I went rollerblading in Central Park.
Whenever I visit New York and get a chance to walk through Central Park, I always head over to the Band Shell and the Bethesda Fountain and watch the street performers work their hustles. But what most attracts me are the skaters.
I love the roller boogie skate dancers, with their smooth and rubbery moves that make skating look so easy, but what I really love are the young daredevils who usually congregate over at the steps that go from the road down to the fountain. They’ll take turns getting up speed at the top of the stairs by backing off from them and sprinting at them as hard as they can before leaping in the air just as they reach the top step. As they sail through the air, they’ll do a 180 and get into a crouch, looking behind them and anticipating their landing spot.
The successful ones stick the landing and continue to click-click-click down the remaining steps at break-neck speed. If you can’t see them land, you know they made it by the oohs coming from their peers and spectators.
The unsuccessful ones wipe out and go spiraling out of control down the remaining steps, cursing and yelling. Their failure is usually met with howls of laughter from those gathered, especially when the skater gets back up on his feet and shows that he’s okay.
I admire the successes, but relate to the failures. I know just how those guys feel.
Tonight, the house is quiet. The kids have a day off from school tomorrow, and have gone home with friends from school for sleepovers.
Angell and I took advantage by having an early Valentine’s Day date at Outback Steakhouse, where we had a gift card leftover from Christmas. Sexy, eh?
But now that the shrimp and burgers have been eaten and we are back home, the vibe is off. There’s a wobble in our night. Thing’s ain’t right. No kids means:
No late night showers
No being evicted from the TV room
No wanting us to look at art projects
No needing help with homework
No bedtime prayers
It’s good to have a quiet night alone in an empty house. When the house is full of noise and activity and heavy utility consumption, there’s no time to reflect and be grateful for the women they’re becoming.
Our oldest, Hadley, is out of the house nearly full-time. She’s away at college, and I couldn’t be prouder of how she’s doing.
She’s doing a much better job than I did at that age at managing her time and studies. She’s balancing school, lacrosse and a social life and making good grades in the process. She’s got a great work ethic, and she’s super mature and serious about her responsibilities.
Speaking of sports, Hadley is the only person in our family that I can think of who’s played sports at the collegiate level. Her second season opens this weekend with an away game down in Tennessee. We’ll get to see her play next weekend at her home opener, and I can’t wait.
If all that weren’t enough, Hadley is a genuinely good person. She’s awesome. She loves people, and is fair-minded just like her mother. She’s a deep and soulful person who loves deeply. I love this kid.
Our middle daughter, Daisy, amazes me with her quick mind, bottomless talent and big heart.
Daisy’s smarter than I thought about being at that age. One measure of this is how well she takes standardized tests. Another is how quick she is. She’s much faster than I am at thinking on her feet. Her brain processes at a super-quick pace that is hard for me to keep up with. I wish I had that timing.
Like Hadley, Daisy has a great work ethic. Her standards for herself are very high, and she gets physically ill when she can’t or doesn’t perform up to them. That kind of pressure can have its downside, but suffice it to say that Angell and I have never had to get on her for not working hard enough.
Like all my kids, Daisy’s a much better person than I was at her age. Though she is very much a typical hormonal teenager, she’s loves God, she’s involved with two youth groups, she’s sensitive and she cares deeply for her friends, and because she’s VERY empathic, she feels their hurts deeply. She’s got a big, beautiful heart.
She’s maybe the most like me, and we have many shared tics and interests.
Daisy’s got an offbeat sense of humor. She loves puns, irony and papaw jokes. I never go more than a day or two without her tracking me down to show me some funny Vine or Snap that has her crying from laughing so much.
She loves good movies. A Wes Anderson freak, like me, she’s undertaken an art project for school that involves painting the poster art for every Anderson movie. Over Christmas, she and Hadley and I watched The Godfather together. Hadley fell asleep a few minutes in, but Daisy was locked in, asking me questions throughout the movie. It was cool. She picked up on so many references that have been echoed in the entertainment of her generation.
She also loves good music. She grew up listening to my stuff in the car, but she’s evolved into her own person, and though she still likes the stuff she grew up on, she’s got her own bands that she’s discovered on her own, obsessing over their biographies and lyrics just as I did when I discovered Dylan or Townes Van Zandt. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for her.
Avery, our youngest, is our big-hearted, sweet girl. I’m in love with this kid so much, and love to hang out with her.
She’s such a sweetheart. She has a big circle of friends, and though she’s very funny, she’s also very sweet and sensitive to their needs and quirks. She’s very generous and fair, and doesn’t impose her will.
Avery’s may be the most selfless of the kids. She freely shares with others, and she always has. She puts herself out for others, and is very good at reading people and knowing what they need. She’s got a sweet, sweet heart.
All that sweetness is salted with a wicked sense of humor. She may have the best comic timing of us. Daisy’s quick, but Avery always has the right funny comment that comes without the slightest hint of missing the beat. She’s always made us laugh.
Like her sisters, Avery is a hard worker. She hates doing anything poorly, and puts too much pressure on herself to succeed. Angell and I actually have to take the pressure off this one. She’s worse than Daisy about pushing herself.
Now that Avery’s playing field hockey, it’s cool seeing her work ethic being applied to athletics. I just built her a field hockey goal box in the back yard, and she gets out there every chance she gets to hit the ball.
One of my great joys is going to Avery’s field hockey games and seeing her play. It’s our thing, and I can’t wait for the season to start. Maybe we’ll end up with two college athletes in the family. Who knows?
Yeah, I’m grateful for the quiet night at home with Angell. And though I miss the noise and chaos of having the kids around, it’s good to be apart and be reminded of just how much I love this bunch of mine and just how full my heart is with love for my family.