Forever and a Day

 RomanticLove

Absolutely nothing lasts forever.

Nothing lasts forever.

There may be some things that last forever.

One thing lasts forever.

You’re waiting for me in the cafe.  The place beside the old church and next to the cemetery.  The only place in the city where I can sit next to the fire and feel warm…on a night like this.  We have so much to talk about.  It’s been so many years since we’ve had a chance to sit and think of the days gone by.

You’re waiting in the cafe–I just can’t remember how to get there.

I was very young and you had an uncanny ability to determine when my diaper would be wet.  You would change it for me.  I couldn’t talk to you.  You just knew when it was time.  You held my hand when I could barely walk.  I never said a word.  You cooked my food for a thousand dinners.  You sent me off to First Grade with a clean, freshly ironed hanky in my pocket.  No matter what my grades were, you dutifully signed my report card.  On those many nights when I couldn’t sleep, too many times for a child to fear closing his eyes, you would allow me to sit with you and we would eat crackers with chives and cheese.  The black and white television blinking away in the dark living room.

You were in third grade when I looked over at you–two rows away–and watched while you tried to open an ink bottle.  You pressed it hard against your green school shift.  You’re bangs fell away from your forehead.  Years later, you allowed me my first kiss.  Still later you wore my corsage on your taffeta prom dress.  Then you would find someone else and you broke my fragile teenage heart.

I was curious about the color of your hair beneath your stiff white habit.  Your black rosary hung from your black belt around your black dress–your habit.  You taught us to be kind.  You taught us to feel guilty.  And once, you told me: “Don’t ever be afraid to say no.”  It’s taken me many years to really understand what you meant.

I lit your cigarettes.  I bought you drinks.  I slept in your bed.  We made love under three quilts when the winter was cold and dark.  We sweated on the sheets in August when it was bright afternoon and hot.

I kissed you only once.  I kissed you many times.  I kissed you in my daydreams when you were thirty feet away on the Boardwalk.  Your hair was blonde, then black and red and brown and straight and wavy.  Your eyes were blue, gray, brown, hazel and green.  You were older.  Then you were younger.

You walked down the aisle of a church to meet me at the altar.  We were happy, sad, angry, contented, miserable, joyful and jealous.

We came and went through each others lives.  My hair slowly turned from brown to white.  Your’s from jet black to salt and pepper.  You sang to me.  I couldn’t carry a tune.  We sipped ale in England and wine in France.  We walked on muddy glacier ice in Alaska.  You watched me watching the topless twenty-somethings on a beach in Jamaica.  You never missed a trick.

You said you loved me when I didn’t think I would ever be loved again.  You saved my life, not with a toss of a rope but with a phone call.

You’re waiting in the cafe.  I’m trying to hurry.  I can hardly walk.  When we sit next to each other you will somehow know if I have wet my trousers again.

Is this a hallway or a street in Paris?  I can’t remember.

But, all those memories are so sharp and clear, like everything happened yesterday, or this morning.

You will still be waiting for me, won’t you?  I remember what I said so many, many years ago:

“Nothing lasts forever.”

I was wrong.  Love lasts forever.  We love each other, don’t we?  Still?

Love last forever.  Forever and a day.

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Let It Be

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I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea

Sometimes I turn, theres someone there, other times its only me…

                                                        –Bob Dylan “Every Grain of Sand”

Parents, send your children to bed (or the media room).  Men, if your wives are of a delicate nature, take them away from your laptop.

I am going to expose myself, my soul, fears and hopes in this, my 200th blog post on WordPress.  Yet again, I will fall into the bitter pit of memories—some bad and some good.  That has become my blog “theme”, I guess; trading in on old dusty thoughts, lovers long gone and the cracks in my heart.  Here I am again, standing in the rain at the corner of Bittersweet and Nostalgia.  It always rains here.  There’s no atmosphere without some discomfort.  It could be rain, snow or tears.  Doesn’t really matter, though.  I turn my collar against the wind and go back to the Hi-Ho Motel to wait for the next train for El Paso.  Then I remember.  There’s probably no more trains to anywhere anymore except some open-pit coal mine providing good clean green energy for us all.  No more whistles that broke the heart of Hank Williams or Box Car Willie.  Now, it’s the next Short Line coach to Toledo.

Last year, on the RV trip to Orting, Washington, I did hear the occasional train whistle.  But the long line of flat-cars never stopped.  They only slowed down to obey the speed limit as the tracks crossed empty streets and country roads.

Yes, there’s no authentic atmosphere without some discomfort.  No one lives in a world of warmth and protection (except, hopefully, children) without living through periods of self-doubt and a tablespoon of dread.  I once had a great deal of faith that got me through the night terrors, but after heart-breaking losses, deaths and illnesses, I often feel like I live in a city populated by millions…alone.

I fall in love quickly and easily and that is a serious fault.  That has led to too many broken hearts in my chest cavity.  When a very close friend died in my arms (he had lived all of twenty-three years), I realized that there really isn’t a lot of time for us, on the earth, to wait for the most perfect choices.  So, I made decisions based on the old trusty phrase: Carpe diem.

But, as usual, I digress.

It’s change that obsesses me now.  Yes, our house could burn down tonight…that’s a big change.  But, it’s the slow insidious change that happens to you during life that frightens me.  I was born on May 31, 1947.  That is 67 years and 6 months ago.  I never was a victim of amnesia.  I was never abducted by aliens (that I recall).  But, I look at a childhood photograph of myself and then quickly stare into a mirror.  I have changed.  But I haven’t gone anywhere to undergo this change.  I can’t say it happened when I wasn’t looking, because I always looked.  I look different and I think different (I used to be a Conservative, for God’s sake).  And, all this happened without a break in the flow of my life!  All the changes I see happened during a day to night to day flow that was never broken.  The lines on my face came slowly, never overnight.

There are years I lived and yet somehow missed.  Students I loved, taught and counseled…I can see their 6th grade faces but do not remember their names.  Women I have slept with are memories now…not out of disrespect…just the passage of time.  I was numb with shock when I heard that one of my long-ago lovers is now dead.  I know that this is trivial and self-serving to many of you, my friends, who have lost a spouse or future partner.  I can only speak to my own experiences.

Somehow, it would make more sense to me if all these changes happened one night.  I’d wake up and be middle-aged.  But, it didn’t.  It happened as I was looking—but I never noticed a thing until one day…

“Hey, that’s life.”  This is what is going through the minds of many of you who are reading this.

I taught with someone many years ago.  Her husband died part way into the school year.  She was the Head of the Middle School and it fell on her to give the graduation speech that would send the 8th grade girls onto the high school.  One sentence will remain with me forever.  She said: “Change is inevitable.  Growth is optional.”

I stood there with the other faculty members.  I cried.  I knew what she had been through even though I had not lost anyone in my life…yet.

What she said was absolutely true.  I knew that then, but I was into my early 40’s and had no idea what was in store for me in a few short years.

I guess I catch on slowly—just like when your hair starts to turn gray.

It’s never overnight.

ME AND MY BROTHERS—AGING SLOWLY

birch tree 1

[Circa 1954]

birch tree 2

[Circa 1970’s]

birch tree 3

[Circa late 1970’s]

Birch tree 4

[Circa early 1990’s]

How Three Moments From An Evening With Bob Dylan And His Band Will Stay With Me

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It was December 1, 2014.  The mild afternoon had turned into a chilly evening. A light rain was falling on the gritty sidewalks of the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

The marquee of the Beacon Theater on 75th Street told the story of the next few hours in my life:

TONIGHT-AN EVENING WITH BOB DYLAN AND HIS BAND-SOLD OUT

PERFORMANCE BEGINS PROMPTLY AT 8:00 P.M.

The tickets hawkers were wandering amid the crowds who were amassing at the front door;

“Tickets? Need Tickets?”

~~~

I took my seat on the aisle in the first row of the balcony.  Next to me was my son, Brian.  My wife, Mariam sat in the third seat.

Great view of the stage, I thought.

I posted a picture on Facebook of the unattended instruments on the stage.  “8 minutes to go,” I wrote.  At 8:10 the house lights went down and a gong-like tone rang from the large speakers.  A guitarist stepped into the dark from stage right.  A dark curtain behind the drums and pedal guitar parted.  Four or five men walked out.  One man wore a cream-colored suit and a planters hat with a black band.  It was Dylan.  The lights came up slightly and the crowd cheered with intensity.

There is no need for a total recap of the songs.  I knew that when the show ended, Bob himself wouldn’t make it out of the stage door before the set list for the evening was posted for the world to see on bobdylan.com.

I’m not a music critic.  I have nothing to offer in the way of commentary on chord changes, lyric alterations or technicalities.

This was probably my 16th or 17th time I’ve seen Dylan in concert.  The first: the early ’70’s when, backed by The Band, he filled Nassau Coliseum.  I’ve seen him at Jones Beach in the heat of a summer’s night.  I sat in Madison Square Garden at least twice and saw him once with Tom Petty and later with Paul Simon.

I saw him at Roseland Ballroom when the audience stood for three hours.  I was so close to the stage that I could see drops of sweat collect at the end of his reddish-blonde curls.  It was at Roseland that I bent over to scratch my shin.  I stood up and Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen were on stage with him.

I last saw him in the summer of ’13 at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.  He seemed tired.  The sound was poor and the stage was quite dark.

I was disappointed.

~~~

But this night, this rainy night of December 1st, he was solid, strong, not too raspy-voiced and in control of every step and every note.  His band was “infinitely listenable.”

Here was a hero of mine who, at the age of 73 was singing songs that helped define my own view of the world, relationships, life and death.  There were three sublime moments that night.  Three moments that rose up and flew to that place in my heart that taps a reservoir of memories and emotions.

The First Moment came quickly and simply.  Therein lies the power of that Moment.  Early in the show Bob walks from the center stage microphones and sits at a baby grand piano.  If you turned your head to say something you would have missed it.  If your attention had wandered…you would have missed it.  The audience had stopped cheering, the lights were down.  Bob sat in a shadow at the key board.  Then it happened.

A woman, below me in the orchestra section and to my left yelled, plaintively two words:

“Thank you.”

Her voice was not a GO BOB voice.  It was quiet, almost pained…lonely and singular.  It could have been the parting words of a heart-broken woman to her lover who has just walked out the door after gathering his blankets from the floor.

The people near her heard her.  I heard her.  I wondered if Bob heard her.  The moment was over in about six seconds and then the lights went up and he started a song.

I felt overwhelmed by how she, speaking on an impulse, spoke for a billion people who listened to Bob for over 50 years.

She spoke for me.

The Second Moment was during the first song of the encore.

Signature riffs and chords did not announce the song.  You listened to hear a recognizable phrase amid an altered version of the original piece.

Then there it was:

“How many roads must a man walk down before they call him a man?”

“How many deaths does it take till we find that too many people have died?”

Written a thousand years ago but all about what happened in the last few minutes…somewhere.

And, the Third Moment…it was NOT a Dylan song.  But it worked and it was a perfect end to an emotional night.

The words were written by Jerome Moross and Carolyn Leigh.

“Like the lamb that in the springtime wanders far from the fold,

Comes the darkness and the frost, I get lost, I grow cold…

All I can do is pray, stay with me,

Stay with me.”

~~~

I said good-bye to my son at the subway stop.  Mariam and I walked back to where we were staying.  We walked back in the drizzle.  Christmas trees lined the sidewalks…over priced but smelling like our own backyard.  That balsam scent stays with you.

I miss my son already.  I wanted his company.  I wanted him to stay with me.

My wife held my arm…my back was sore…she’ll stay with me.

In a lifetime of good-byes and loss, death and divorce, aging and illness, graying hair and arthritis…it’s heartbreakingly comforting to know something and someone will stay with me.

Thank you, Bob.

MeAtTheBeacon

The Odyssey Westward: Travels Part 1

Go my sons, put away your books.  Buy yourself stout shoes.  Walk the hills, the mountains, the valleys and the deserts.  In this way, and no other, can you learn of the world and its ways.

–Paraphrased from a quote on a 3 x 5 index card clipped to the dashboard of a ’60s VW driven by a California fellow named Fritz.  I spent two summers camping and working in the remote regions of the Juneau Icefield, Alaska.  We were field assistants for two geologists.  I have not seen or heard from Fritz in over forty-five years.  Fritz, if you’re out there, you challenged me to give meaning to the quote you had in your car.  The passage was credited to a “Severinus”.

–I would like to dedicate this series of posts to:

  • My brother, Chris.
  • My daughter, Erin, Bob, my son-in-law and my grandson, Elias Muir.  They are on a journey as well.
  • My son, Brian. who is on the pier, ready for the voyage of his life.
  • My wife, Mariam, for being beside me and sharing this trek, in life and on the road.
  • All my family, friends, lovers and followers who have stood by me.

I don’t know why you say good-bye…I say hello.

–The Beatles

I am at the beginning of a cross-country drive to Orting, WA, near Tacoma.  I am going to visit my daughter and 8 month old grandson.  My wife and I are pulling a small RV (an R-Pod).  It’s cheaper than dozens of motels and we can eat the food we want to eat.  I’d like to say we can shower, but a shower it isn’t.  I can wash my hair if I get on my knees and worship the plastic booth and toilet using the spray extension.  [Memo to self: keep the toilet and booth clean].

So, why am I doing this? After all, I’ve driven from the Seattle area back to New York State before.  Several times.  But I was young then, and stronger and more able to stay awake for long stretches of time.  I just turned 66 years old.  I don’t have the stamina I had then.  Tent camping was an option, but the schlepping factor and the rainy nights on the Great Plains put an end to those thoughts.

I want to use this opportunity to see the heartland of the USA, in the way John Steinbeck (Travels With Charley) and William Least-Heat Moon (Blue Highways) did.  On the “blue highways”.  I want to see the silos, the endless cornfields, the infinite acres of wheat, the amber grains, the greasy-spoon diners, the cowboy bars, the honky-tonk, the music festivals, the fruit stands, how Autumn comes to the grasslands and Rockies, the virtuous farm girls sitting on split-rail fences wearing bandanas around their sun-burned necks (and those not so virtuous with partly unbuttoned calico blouses) and to see the sunset and rise from vantage points I haven’t seen in decades.

Friends! Stick out your thumb and hitch a ride with us.  We have no backseat, but we’ll squeeze you in somehow…and together we can point out the interesting sights together.

You only go ’round once in life…or maybe twice.

But who really knows?

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To be continued.

Now It’s Time to Get Real

For a number of months now, I’ve been posting short blogs that were mostly fiction in nature.  Among these were a few that were based on memories and dreams (reality or wish based?). Today, I’m going to begin to mix it up a bit with non-fiction ramblings and musings.  

This is where I get to mention my absolutely brand new book titled “In All The Wrong Places.”  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CJG0BXY

 

I am very pleased to offer this work to you.  I’m proud of the content I’ve chosen.  It is a collection of short stories and non-fiction.  In this book, you’ll meet Gnomes, Ghosts, Wicked Women, Loneliness, Loss and even a Mountain Nymph.  And there’s more, of course.  Seventeen pieces in all for you to sit back at the beach (don’t forget the SPF), curled up in bed, under two trees in a hammock, in a tent hidden in the forest or while stretched out on a cheesy mattress in a cheap motel outside Del Rio, Texas.  

So, come with me while I walk forgotten trails, sit on cliff-sides, pace city streets and wander dark alleys.  But you’ll be safe with me.  After all, the things that creep alongside us, hide in the shadows behind us exist only in my head.  In my brain that can’t stop wondering about lives and destinies of everyone I pass on the road or watch from a trolley window.

We are all held together by some kind of unknown chain…come and be a link in that chain.

I would like you to share your own dreams via my website:  http://www.patrickjegan.com

Love to you all on the eve of May, the month of my 20th anniversary, my birthday and the rebirth of the flowers that finally have a place to grow without the incessant snow. 

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