Dad

Dad: (n) informal for father.

It’s really two stories.

There was the story that should have happened and then, the tale that truly unfolded.

It is impossible for me to be an unbeliever. I don’t think I’m gullible, but I have seen enough surprising things come to fruition that I can no longer muster the doubt of Brother Thomas.

For you see, I should never have been a dad.

Don’t misinterpret the statement. I don’t want you to think that I despised the position or even that I wish it had happened differently.

But I also want you to realize that each time I became a dad, there was no planning, no bank account prepared and often not even a correct determination on the time of the blessed arrival.

I shall not get into all of those stories with this one essay.

Suffice it to say, I was a singer, a songwriter, a piano player, a vagabond—and I was a brat about never wanting to work for anyone else. As you can see right there, I perhaps should be eliminated for consideration for “father of the year.”

So I did it all with my children.

While I was teaching them to be better humans, they were teaching me how to be a good dad.

That’s the way it should be.

As long as you’re willing to look like an ass, identify it quickly and then change your mind, your kids will love you to death.

I drug my kids all over the country.

I had them playing instruments on stage in front of audiences.

I home-schooled some of them.

I lost one child along the way to a hit-and-run car accident.

And somehow or another, all the others arrived at adulthood, found magnificent partners, and are living full-blown, solvent, intelligent and spirited lives.

I will take credit for the fact that I was there, remained, repented and transformed.

But still—someone sprinkled something onto the mess, to turn it into a passable casserole.

What does it mean to be a dad?

  1. Be prepared to be watched twenty-four hours a day.
  2. Be prepared to be wrong—and admit it.
  3. Be prepared to laugh at your children when they act like you’re killing them because of a discipline you must levy.
  4. Have a life of your own, so they can see what you think is important.
  5. Encourage their mother in front of them.
  6. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
  7. Take them—your children—very seriously.
  8. When it’s obvious to them that you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t pretend you have a secret plan.
  9. Don’t try to be a best friend to their best friends.
  10. Try as hard as you can to never embarrass them.

Even though I was not a natural, I decided to naturally learn from the experience instead of giving up on it.

Now, my sons are dads.

My grandchildren call them that.

And I sit back in my resolute journey and watch my sons learn how to become “Dad.”

 

Chiller

Chiller: (n) short for spine-chiller.

My parents tried.

As I get older, I vaguely understand that my mother and father attempted to comprehend what was in the mind of a thirteen-year-old boy.

They didn’t do well–that’s why I used the word “tried.” Maybe I should have added “and failed.”

But once a month they would let me have some friends over to spend the night on Friday evening, and after my parents went to bed, we would gather in front of the only television in the house, which happened to be in the living room, and watch “Chiller Theater.”

The movies weren’t really scary–they were 1930′ or 1940’s ilk, chocked-full of silly props and plagued with over-acting.

But with seven or eight young boys in a dark house, poking each other and wrestling, the experience soon turned into a scream fest.

My father would appear from the bedroom, which was adjacent to the living room in our tiny bungalow, and mutter something to the effect of, “You boys need to keep it down.” But my recollection of how it sounded in my ears was: “Youwse keep the clown.”

So since the order was vague, we would quiet ourselves for a small period of time, and soon be right back to the decibels necessary to make us feel like we were really partying.

I think my parents hated “Chiller Theater” night. This was proven by the fact that they always insisted, when the fourth Friday came around, that I had added incorrectly, and it wouldn’t be until next week. Unfortunately for them, I carried a calendar with me and pointed out their mistake.

So when I hear the word “chiller,” I think of six or seven pubescent and pre-pubescent boys gathered in a tiny living room, wrestling, trying desperately not to knock over furniture, while screaming just enough to prove that we were the true “Monsters of Might” instead of those displayed on the screen before us.

 

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Children

Children: (n) plural form of child.

Four sons were brought into this world by my sexual cooperation. In other words, I’m their dad.

Three other young gentlemen arrived on my doorstep because they were no longer safe and sound in their home environment.

As I look back on it, I must be truthful–because I’m a writer, a vagabond, a searcher and a proclaimer, I may not have been the best choice of a man to have
children. Fortunately for me, my offspring generally disagree.

My approach with children was really simple: I have a life. It is my time to have a life. You are welcome to come along if you don’t complain too much.

They quickly became convinced that their dad was cool, because he wasn’t like other dads. Of course, when they came into their teen years, they became critical of me not being like other dads. The charm of my uniqueness had worn off.

Children exist for two reasons:

  1. To remind us how bratty human beings really are.
  2. To give us a chance through instruction, love and tenderness to make a better generation.

I cuddled with my children but I never coddled them.

I loved them but I avoided getting lovey-dovey.

I gave to them, but never gave into their demands.

I respected them as long as they respected themselves.

I laughed with them as long as they realized there was a season to weep.

And when it was time for them to move on, I granted them the autonomy to be themselves without feeling loaded down with ancient family history.

The Good Book says we are the children of God. It’s very true–because after all, we are a bratty group which needs discipline, but still possesses the potential of bringing new hope for a new generation.

 

 

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Broadcast

j-r-practix-with-border-2

Broadcast: (n) a radio or television program or transmission.

Like any good, red-blooded American, I reserve the right to have my own personal definition for words.Dictionary B

You can contradict me with Webster’s realities, but I will explain to you that the intimacy of my experience allows me to screw around with the vernacular.

Such is the case with two words: illusion and delusion.

An illusion, to me, is something I am pursuing which I do very well, and I am waiting for the rest of the world to acknowledge my excellence.

A delusion is something that deep in my heart I know I’m not very accomplished at doing, but I am hoping I will luck out and make a lot of money from it anyway.

When I moved to Nashville, Tennessee, in 1992 so that my children, who were now aging out of their teen years, could settle in and find lives of their own, I maintained one little piece of my vagabond creative persona by initiating a radio broadcast which aired five minutes a day on a local station which had its headquarters in a building about the size of six outhouses.

I was under the illusion that my talent was strong enough and my ideas so clever that they would draw listeners to this little forsaken location on the AM radio dial, and make myself well-known as an innovator.

Matter of fact, I did well over a thousand episodes on this particular outlet before sitting down one day and coughing up a hairball of delusion.

I admitted to myself that I was being clever in a vacuum.

Nobody was listening–and if they were, their appreciation was quite silent.

It was then that I had to define the word “broadcast.”

Broad in the sense of covering much territory.

Cast, referring to being thrown out there.

In the purest sense, my effort was certainly “broad” and “cast.”

But literally, it was more small and spilled.

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Beach

Beach: (n) a pebbly or sandy shore by the oceanDictionary B

Yet another illusion shattered for this traveling, hopeful vagabond.

As a boy, I dreamed of going to the ocean.

As a young man, I nearly lusted for the possibility of staring at the raging tide.

So as soon as I had enough gumption to start the engine of my beat-up car and point it eastward, I headed off to discover the wonders of the sea.

I arrived.

I got out of my car, adorned in what I considered my best beach wear, which really was a cut-off something-or-other, stepped onto the sand, and immediately noticed that I sank down, just a little bit.

I had seen movies where people walked on the beach. Some of them even ran. But for some reason, my stocky frame made the beach feel a little more like quicksand. So every step was twice as hard as walking on concrete, and therefore, in no time at all became discouraging.

Trying to overcome my disappointment, I attempted to jog so as to dispel the sense that the whole experience was a failure.

  • My knees started hurting.
  • My ankles soon joined
  • My legs were burning and aching.

And within about 25 yards, I fell to the ground, vanquished.

Then, to mock me, the tide was coming in and splashed in my face.

Still lying on the ground, I turned my head to the water. As the next wave gradually made its way in my direction, I thought I heard the froth giggle and say:

“Come back again, fat boy, when you aren’t so plump.”

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Axle

Axle: (n) a rod or spindle (either fixed or rotating) passing through the center of a wheel or group of wheels.dictionary with letter A

If I weren’t stupid, I would have no stories to tell. Smart people have a list of accomplishments instead of tales of mayhem.

I was a mere 24 years old and driving along in an airport limousine that looked like it should have been used in a 1940 Clark Gable movie. It had six seats in it, dual air conditioning units, and even had a metal cage in the rear to protect the luggage.

It was the most unpredictable vehicle I have ever driven.

First and foremost, you could not drive over 55 miles per hour because of some sort of “governor” they had placed on the engine.

But I was grateful to have it so that my singing group could travel across the country and annoy people with our increasing prowess.

One night as we were leaving Jacksonville, Florida, we noticed that the back passenger-side wheel was wobbling a bit. These are things a normal adult would be concerned about, but not a 24-year-old vagabond.

To counteract the wobbly wheel, I tried to drive faster. Suddenly I looked in my rear-view mirror and noticed that the back of the limousine was lighting up.

This seemed unusual.

So I pulled over and discovered that the rear of the vehicle was on fire.

I did have enough mechanical understanding to recognize that this fire was very near the gas tank, so I got the members of the group out, and we ran about a hundred yards away and watched it burn.

I thought about doing something brave, like taking off my shirt and beating out the flames, or trying to acquire some water from a nearby ditch to extinguish the blaze–but I didn’t.

We watched it like it was the latest release from Hollywood.

“Hmmm,” I thought. “The axle of my limousine is on fire…”

This was the end of my reasoning.

Fortunately for us, a truck driver arrived with a fire extinguisher and put out the flames as we gradually, but bravely, inched forward.

He was also kind enough to take his “breaker-breaker” radio and get us a tow truck.

The whole back axle was destroyed.

I guess someone felt sorry for us, and the man who worked on the vehicle replaced the whole axle, put on a new tire and only charged us $150. We even found a family to stay with while it was being repaired.

It was a remarkable event.

But still, every time I hear the word “axle,” I have the instinct to run like a little schoolgirl.

 

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Apparition

dictionary with letter A

Apparition (n.) a remarkable thing that makes a sudden appearance, especially a ghost.

I believe in ghosts.

Not the cloudy, smoky spirits of souls who have gone on to their reward or retribution. I’m talking about the ghosts of bad ideas, inclinations and fallacies that possessed our world in the past, and now have come to haunt us in the present.

  • Sometimes I just wish we could come up with new bad ideas.
  • Sometimes I just wish there was something new.

But instead we have the poltergeist of previous ridiculous concepts rising up from the grave, where we thought we buried it, only to spook us once again.

We don’t have new scandals. We have the spirit of Richard Nixon and Watergate infesting the present bodies of our politicians, making them do the same stupid mistakes he tried to pull off, which ended up with his destruction.

We don’t have music born of the spirituality and emotions of our own generation, but rather, grave-robbers who go and dig up the tunes of those who are now decomposing.

We are continually vexed by the apparitions of past failures or the ongoing celebration of victories, where the band has already played and marched away.

We spend too much time celebrating the past, forgetting the prejudice, disease and dumbness that prevailed.

I believe in ghosts because we refuse to inter the past.

So we just keep living this stuff over and over again … like a bunch of tales from the crypt.

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