What is “American Encounters”?

Yeah, it sounds like terrible English grammar, but the question is correct – what is “American Encounters”?

“American Encounters” came to me quickly. The muse of inspiration slapped me upside my head, and thankfully, I paid attention!

Photography – and pictures – have always been important to me. Photographs that we take – I feel – are documents of our own history. Since every one of us has a unique eye, the pictures we take are so different, and give us insight into our own minds – as well as the minds of others.

Traveling across America, I have taken the beaten and unbeaten path. I have sought out things that I normally would have never seen, and I wanted to protect those memories in photographs.

Pictures are never as vibrant as what we actually see. However, the development of memories relies moreso on the emotion that we feel when we see something. This is one of the reasons that I drive Sheryl crazy with some of my memories.

Although I was four years old, I can remember my Grandpa Rodgers stomping across the kitchen floor coming towards me, reaching for me. Why do I have that memory? Because of the emotion – I was excited, and happy to see him. And it still makes me feel good to recall that memory.

That’s why movies make us sad, music makes us happy, sports make us excited and we live the way we live – because of the emotions that are triggered at a given point in time.

“American Encounters” is my view of America. The America that I want to remember. The images conjure memories of where I was at a given point in time. Images of the American Southwest that I may never see again… the kitschy-ness of a nearly dead Route 66… some cool landmarks viewed from funky angles. Memories of the vast American plains… the warmth of the sun on my skin… the straight-up hugeness of California redwoods…

Our experiences in life are uniquely our own. No one has lived life the way I have. No one has viewed life like you have.

Sure, we can aspire to see things the way our idols see them – to experience things others have experienced – but it is always going to be different. “American Encounters” is my vision – my view – of life, and it’s something I wanted to share with the world.

I hope you have the opportunity to enjoy it.

Rock and Roll Music

By now, it’s no secret what an impact the art of music has made on my life. I can look back at any moment of my life and immediately associate a song or band with that time – it often drives my wife crazy!

I would have to say that music really opened up the world for me starting in high school. Sure, as a kid, our family listened to the original WDRQ in Detroit, hearing songs like Parliament Funkadelic’s “Tear the Roof Off”, or War’s “Low Rider”, “Why Can’t We Be Friends”, and “Cisco Kid”, or Bachman Turner Overdrive and the like, but it was really in high school when the walls came down.

I would get lost in record stores, often buying albums solely because of their covers. Motley Crue’s “Shout at the Devil” was one of those for sure. But it was in those record stores that I waged war on musical knowledge. I began seeing musicians appear on different albums, and it would bounce back and forth as the rabbit hole of musical knowledge beckoned me.

For instance, Ozzy Osbourne had recently become a solo artist. “I Don’t Know” and “Crazy Train” had just come out, and they hooked me. Bad. Going into the record store, I could look at Ozzy’s solo albums, then I’d be curious about that other band of his, Black Sabbath. There, I’d see that Ronnie James Dio was in Black Sabbath, too. But Dio had also been in Rainbow with Richie Blackmore, who had also been in Deep Purple – whoa!

The radio was always on at this stage of my life. Music swallowed me whole. WRIF and WLLZ were always competing for my time, and poor WABX was gasping its last breath as it swirled down towards its painful death.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner at the time consisted of music. Alice Cooper’s “Eighteen” became my tune much like it was for others who were near that age, and who could resist Van Halen – well, at least their first few records…?

When I first heard “Tom Sawyer” by Rush, I was blown away. I immediately bought the album, and was transfixed. I’ll admit, I have always been on the fence with Rush – not committing to fandom in any way. But they’ve got some songs that absolutely give me chills.

In the early 1980s, though, there was one band that I totally jumped on board with. It was a band that I never – or at best, extremely rarely – heard on the radio. They had THE BEST albums covers, too, magnets for adolescent boys.

When I dropped the needle on Side One of the “Killers” album by Iron Maiden, my jaw gaped. Hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. Like a hungry fish, I was hooked.

When it came to records, I was a passionate collector. I had what I consider the Iron Maiden holy trinity – Killers, Piece of Mind, and Powerslave. But through my record collecting years, I had also gathered all of the Kiss albums through Lick It Up, and all the Pink Floyd albums, Van Halen albums through Diver Down, a bunch of Cheap Trick albums, Black Sabbath albums, AC/DC albums… my voracious appetite couldn’t be satisfied.

My compact disc collection was even worse! When I lived in Texas, I had a lot of expendable income and no forethought of retirement. So I regularly went to Best Buy and bought CDs of absolutely no significance.

In the early 2010s, as my wife and I prepared to move out of state, I loaded my CDs and many of my albums on my computer. I gave away all but a handful of CDs and bequeathed my record collection and turntable to my cousin.

These days, I don’t have a lot of time for music, and to be honest, I much prefer quiet over noise. I still download music for no reason, and try filling in some musical blanks. I still find myself getting lost checking out videos on youtube, and wasting time in the iTunes library, but for the most part, my musical diet has been lean. And that’s okay, because when I have the time, I can appreciate music even more, and relish the memories that come with it.

The Super Bowl

As a little boy, I would peruse the Sears catalog at Christmastime, noting all of the things I wanted Santa to get me – because, of course, I was a good boy! One year, I stopped on the page that showed all of the National Football League gear for sale. My eyes quickly landed on a kick ass logo of an American revolutionary soldier hiking the football. That was all it took in the early 1970s. I became a New England Patriots fan.

Last weekend, the NFL Network ran highlights from all of the Super Bowls. When I turned it on, they were at Super Bowl 8 (or “VIII” for the pretentious…). Next up, highlights for Super Bowl 9.

As I watched those Super Bowl 9 highlights, I realized that this was the first Super Bowl I remember seeing. Steelers vs. Vikings. 1975. It was a gut shot when I realized that I’d been watching Super Bowls for over 40 years!

Although I was a Patriots fan by this point, they weren’t very good (they had a record of 26-58 through the 1970-1975 seasons). So for Super Bowl 9 and the very near future, I rooted for the Vikings.

I loved the Vikings in their purple and yellow. I loved that the defense was called the “purple people eaters“, and I loved Fran Tarkenton and their running back, Chuck Foreman. They got clobbered in the Super Bowl, though.

That Steelers team was awesome, and I quickly jumped on the bandwagon of the steel curtain defense – Lambert, Ham, Greene, Blount – and high-action offense – Bradshaw, Swann, Harris, Bleier… they were so badass!

As the Vikings kept making it to the Super Bowl, and kept losing (they lost Super Bowls 4, 8, 9, and 11), I quickly lost interest in them. Little did I know that making it to the Super Bowl and losing would officially become a “thing” in the 90s when the Buffalo Bills would lose in Super Bowls 25, 26, 27, and 28!

In 1976, the NFL expanded, gaining two teams – the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Seattle Seahawks. I never really cared for the Buccaneers, but I did become a fan of the Seahawks – I loved their logo and loved their wide receiver, Steve Largent. Their quarterback, Jim Zorn, was also a legend – at least to me.

The remaining Super Bowls of the 1970s belonged to two teams, really, the Steelers and the Raiders. Yeah, the Cowboys won Super Bowl 12, but I never (NEVER) liked the Cowboys, so I conveniently forget about that year.

The 80s were big for the 49ers, the Redskins, and Giants – also all of whom I never really cared for. But there was one year in the 1980s – 1986 – that I had waited a long time for – Super Bowl 20. The legendary Chicago Bears vs. my New England Patriots.

No team could have beaten the Bears in that Super Bowl. There was no team as dominant as that one. The loss that my Patriots suffered was worse than the one my Vikings suffered in 1975. I rooted with all my heart for Tony Eason and then my hero Steve Grogan to just score some damn points!

After that Super Bowl, it would be 11 years of teams I hated (49ers, Cowboys, Redskins, Giants) winning. I always rooted for the underdog in those games, and then, I finally had my next chance – Super Bowl 31 between the Green Bay Packers (Brett Favre) and New England Patriots.

Yeah, my Patriots lost again.

I had a chance of a lifetime when Super Bowl 33 rolled around. My friend Pat won tickets to the game, and invited me along. We flew down to Miami the day before the game, checked in to the Pepto Bismol colored hotel, and made our way to the pre-game parties. Woo-boy, we partied!

The next day, hungover, I rode Pat’s coattails as we found a place for breakfast, then made our way to the game. The Denver Broncos massacred the Atlanta Falcons, and once we filed out of the game, we quickly realized how difficult it would be to get a cab back to the hotel.

You may have noticed that I haven’t yet mentioned my hometown Detroit Lions. Although they have no place in a post regarding the Super Bowl, I should mention that I never really considered myself a Lions fan until I moved to Houston in the 1990s. At that time, it was good to root for a home team, and root for someone other than the team that represents where you currently live.

Yes, I rooted for the Oilers when I lived there. I was a big fan of Warren Moon. But each year ended in heartbreak for that team. Unlike the Lions, who have a heartbreak EACH GAME. Regardless, I consider myself a sad sack Lions fan, too.

Super Bowl 36, in 2002, finally made my dream come true. After nearly 30 years of being a New England Patriots fan, my team finally won the Super Bowl!

In Super Bowl 40, in 2006, my other dream came true – my Seattle Seahawks were playing – against the Pittsburgh Steelers, in my hometown, Detroit! Yes!

Although the Steelers won that game, I wasn’t deterred. It wouldn’t be until Super Bowl 48 until the Seahawks would win the title. Another dream come true!

The following year – Super Bowl 49, in 2015 – was the ultimate for me – Patriots vs. Seahawks! Not a lot of people could handle rooting for two teams they loved, but for me, it was easy – I felt like I had already won, and the game didn’t really matter. The best thing was that my team won! Yay, me!

A lot of people hate the Patriots – much like I hate the Cowboys. I can dig that. I think that one of the beautiful things about sports is that everyone can have passion for their own team for their own reasons. When it comes to today’s Patriots, I feel grateful every time they are successful. I wish the Lions would have similar success. But until then, as long as the Patriots are winning, I will not apologize for being a fan.

This weekend, Super Bowl 52 will commence, and I will watch like I have for  the last 43 years. Chances are pretty good I will be wearing my #14 Steve Grogan jersey, while I drink my Drew Bledsoe Doubleback wine, and root on my Patriots.

Go Pats!!

Six Months

Having grown up in the Midwest, I was a proud card-carrying member of the meat and cheese-eaters club. With one side of my family being partially Polish, and the other side squeezing mashed potatoes through their veins, I was a bonsai meat and dairy guy of the first order for fifty-one years of my life.

However, it was around this time six months ago, that Sheryl and I decided to start eating Vegan. The intent was to try it and see if we could be better to ourselves and our bodies.

Honestly, I gave myself two weeks, and was ready to abandon ship at any point after that.

Now, six months later, what have I learned?

Well, the biggest thing I learned was that not eating dairy was the best thing I could have done for myself!

Oh sweet cheezus! I loved my cheese! But it only took a day or two for me to start feeling the benefit of not ingesting dairy. I felt clearer, as if someone took a squeegee and cleared my head from the inside – and my sinuses, which always gave me problems, felt amazing!

Before I stopped eating cheese and drinking milk – my sinuses would run like they were in a race! At night, my face would hurt from my sinuses plugging up. In fact, I began going to an acupuncturist, who stuck needles in my face for the sole reason of trying to get some relief.

The thing is, I didn’t know better. I didn’t realize that dairy did this to me. No one ever suggested to me that if I stopped eating cheese and using milk and butter, I might get some relief.

Did you ever get penicillin for a sore throat or something? The doc probably gave you enough meds for two weeks, but remember that one time when you thought you felt better after a couple of days and didn’t finish taking the meds? Remember how you got even sicker than when you started? Well, that was like me and cheese.

I’ll admit – it wasn’t long before I jumped off the Vegan wagon – after six weeks, I had to have my beloved Buffalo Chicken Dip, which I reserved for the first week of football. I love me some football, and I was gonna celebrate with a fat old pot of Buffalo Chicken Dip!… but oy vey, what a mistake! It didn’t take long at all for me to start feeling all sorts of crappy! I quickly started getting a headache, my sinuses plugged up, my lips got numb, and, to be totally honest, I felt as if someone injected chemotherapy into my body. It was horrible!

This was a turning point – I could have kept eating dairy, and hoped that my body would forget how good it once felt, or, I could give up the ghost. And that’s exactly what I did – I decided that it wasn’t worth it. The remainder of the Buffalo Chicken Dip went down the garbage disposal, and I choked down some aspirin, hoping I’d feel better in the morning.

I did, fortunately. But I haven’t forgotten that crappy feeling!

One thing that happens when you start eating Vegan, is that you start distrusting any food that someone else made for you. Did they put real butter in there? Is there milk in there? Did they use egg noodles?

Yes, I’m aware that it sounds picky and even snooty. However, one time, Sheryl and I got some take out Chinese food – the veggie lo mein, if I recall correctly. Well, the noodles weren’t Vegan friendly, which I realized when my lips started to get numb. Before long, my head hurt, and I was feeling awful.

So dairy is obviously not pleasant for me to go back to. But what about meat? I think at one point in my life, bacon grease was an aphrodisiac for me. I could have made an Olympic sport out of eating hamburgers!

When we started eating Vegan, Sheryl and I instantly began joking about getting Bojangles’ chicken, just to take the edge off. For some reason, we had been yearning for it. Well, a few weeks ago, we jumped off the no-fun, no-meat wagon, and got some Zaxby’s (aka “chicken ambrosia of the gods”!). We recognized beforehand that our discretion might cause severe distress to our digestive systems, so we played it safe, and didn’t go bonkers. We had a few chicken tenders each, and that was it.

The result? We felt fine. No GI issues or anything. However, it really didn’t scratch the itch. It wasn’t worth the hassle and guilt. I realized that the memory of eating meat was much more enjoyable than the actual act of eating meat. It was totally something we could do without. Yes, it’s true, over the course of six months, meat no longer has power over us.

“But maybe it was chicken,” you may say, “try some delicious beef or pork!” Well, to be fair, I did. One day, I had the urge to eat some sweet, sweet polish sausage. Sausage was a staple of mine in a previous life. But this time, the grease drove my belly to rumbling. Again, I didn’t eat enough to cause major problems., but I was in no way proud of myself, and in no way did I want to go back to regularly eating meat!

With that all said, you would think that we are happy, healthy tree-hugging eaters of the land. Well, I can honestly say “I wish!”. Just like any diet, we still find a way to eat too many processed foods, and not enough greenery and vegetables and fruit. We’re trying, though, and I think we’ve got a pretty good shot at improving our diets.

All said, we feel better. We feel clear, and much of our joint pain has subsided. We might have taken off a pound or two, but that was never the purpose for changing our diet.

Again, we simply wanted to be better to ourselves. Our poor bodies have been through a lot in 50 years, and we had decided that it was time to treat ourselves nicer. Eating Vegan can be a challenge, but I enjoy the challenge. I feel like it’s a pretty good bet that I won’t shrivel up as a result of not eating meat, dairy, fish, and eggs.

“But what about the cost?” You may ask. Well, it’s true that organic food costs more, but once we got over the hump of changing our pantry over to Vegan-friendly food, our grocery bills actually became LESS. In fact, I’d have to say that we save between $100 and $200 a month in groceries, simply because we don’t buy meat and dairy.

The beautiful thing about eating Vegan is that we can change our mind at any time. It’s like when I decided to quit drinking Diet Coke. I know that I can still drink it at any time, but generally choose not to (talk about joint pain, I can feel it when I drink “pop” more than once a week!).

Knowing that you’re not a slave to a particular diet is in itself very freeing. I would urge anyone who has joint pain, sinus issues, memory problems, and the like, to try going without meat, dairy, eggs, and fish for 3-4 days. See how it goes… you can always go back!

Have… a Good Time… All the Time

I was sitting this weekend in a semi-fast food restaurant. On the wall flashed pictures of news and news and news. The scrolling bar along the bottom of the TV told me more news.

I couldn’t hear the vomit coming from the tube, thank goodness, but the pictures flashed between women’s marches and the president.

Even though I couldn’t hear the news, I felt my body tightening. I don’t normally watch the news or pay attention to the White House and congress because I don’t like to get wound up. I also don’t like media telling me what I should or shouldn’t care about.

While watching these pictures on the TV, I started thinking about the bigger picture – in particular, what the hell is going on with us. I thought again about the skewed media, and decided I had to write a blog post.

Although politics generated the thought process behind this post, this post is not political.

This post is about you. It’s about me. It’s about us.

Look. We live in a great country. Each and every one of us has a right to our own opinion, and a right to make up our own minds. We have a right to turn our attention to things that we are interested in, and passionate about.

On the other hand, we have a right to put other people down. We have every right to be a shitty person. We have a right to show our ignorance and plaster the mistakes of others all over facebook and tabloids.

When I drive down the road, and someone in the car ahead of me acts irrationally, I react irrationally. Usually with an expletive. My wife gets upset when I do this, by I try to assure her that I’m not exactly yelling at the person driving. Rather, I am yelling at the car.

When we stop and take the time to meet someone, and understand them, it is easier to empathize with them. Did they swerve in front of me while answering their phone because a loved one was in the hospital, and they were getting bad news? I don’t know. If I knew that, I might be a little more patient. A little more empathetic.

When I see people orating against things that I believe in, it ruffles my feathers. But I find that when I stop my crazy mind from racing, I wonder why this person thinks the way they do. Is it a result of a series of personal experiences? Are they just spouting what they heard someone else say, and they’re not even aware of what they are saying?

I don’t know.

What I do know, though, is that we – as human beings – spend a lot of time feeling bad or making others feel bad. Why? What the hell are we thinking??

Instead of feeling bad, or making others feel bad, why don’t we just feel good? Is it really that hard? We are so confused through years of experiences and media that direct our feelings… we lose sight of the fact that we CAN think for ourselves. We have the right. We can choose.

It really is that simple!

I think that if we stop focusing on all the things that make us sad, angry, upset, etc., and start looking at things that make us happy, we will find that happiness gives us more common ground to work with.

Being happy isn’t a crime. Having fun isn’t a crime. And rather than putting either one on the back burner – or in a closet or treasure chest hidden away forever – we should focus on how to live happy. How to live fun.

I think we should look at the immortal words of drummer Viv Savage, from Spinal Tap. In his wisdom, we find the words “Have… a good time… all the time.”

It should be that simple, shouldn’t it?

My Complete and Utter Fascination with Pink Floyd

In June of 1980, I was talking on the telephone with the girl who used to live next door to us in Madison Heights, MI. At the time, I didn’t know it would be the last time I’d ever speak to her, but that’s neither here nor there.

The thing is, we grew up together. She was like a sister to me. And during that telephone call, she planted a seed that grew to change my life.

With her birthday in early June, and my birthday in mid-June, she was telling me that she got a couple of new records. Since I already liked music A LOT, I asked which records she got.

“Van Halen’s ‘Women and Children First’, and Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’,” she said.

I hadn’t heard either one, as they both had recently been released. In fact, I had never heard of Van Halen at that point, but I had heard Pink Floyd.

A couple of years earlier, when we had gone to visit my uncle and aunt, I got my first taste of Pink Floyd. The opening strains of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” FLOORED me, and the rest of the album had me mesmerized.

So because my former next door neighbor got those two albums for her birthday, I decided that I needed to have them for MY birthday, a week or two later.

I wasn’t disappointed. “Women and Children First” was a killer introduction to a band that would change rock and roll forever.

But it was “The Wall” that I played over and over. And over. And over.

I think it was the 135th time I played that album that I started “getting it”. It really started resonating with me. I really understood the concept behind it, and that understanding led to deeper and deeper levels of appreciation of the album.

I acquired “The Dark Side of the Moon” shortly afterwards, and kinda dug it. Then, at a family get together, my uncle said that he used to listen to “Dark Side” with his buddies “in the old days”. I was intrigued!

Eventually, my uncle gave me his copy of “Wish You Were Here”. Many would say that by this time, I had the holy trinity of Pink Floyd albums. But I still wasn’t full-blown gonzo on the band.

My freshman year in college, I was at a party, sitting next to the radio. Roger Waters, Pink Floyd’s bassist, was touring in support of his first solo album, and a commercial for the tour came on. The radio spot played bits and pieces of classic Floyd songs, and it all started to resonate with me.

I went back to my dorm room, and fueled with alcohol and a sudden desire to space out, I threw on “Wish You Were Here”, and it was like I had never heard it before. Over and over, I played my three Pink Floyd albums, no doubt driving everyone crazy. But I was a junkie, needing my fix.

Shortly afterwards, I bought “Meddle”, and fell in love with that album. Again, I played it over and over.

My Pink Floyd addiction got worse and worse. Soon, I had “Animals”, and a bootleg recording of “Live at Pompeii”. I bought cassette tapes of their early stuff, and absorbed all of it. Then, in the late 1980s, when CDs became popular, the first one I bought was “Atom Heart Mother”.

Pink Floyd had stopped touring in 1980, after “The Wall” concerts. I never had a chance to see them.But, in 1988, the remaining members toured sans Roger Waters. I saw them twice on that tour. I bought their live video tapes, and collected every legal form of their music and then some.

In 1994, the band released another album, and I saw them in concert in three different cities on that tour.

By this time, “The Wall” had become my least favorite Pink Floyd album. I had heard it so many times, I felt that I could sing it in my sleep. My favorite songs were the ones they never played on the radio – anything off the “Animals” album, the “Meddle” album, and the epic “Echoes”.

The advent of the internet made bootleg copies more and more available, and I was in – hook, line, and sinker!

Looking back over the last 37 1/2 years, Pink Floyd was easily the biggest part of the soundtrack to my life. Even today, I downloaded some old live versions of their music.

Sometimes, I will turn on something of theirs, and I won’t even remember hearing it, because it is all so familiar to me. It’s like walking down the hallway of your house, not even realizing the color of the walls, because you see it all the time.

Sometimes, I will bob my head to the jams and really feel it. I will think of where I was when I first heard the song. I will think of my uncle, and appreciate him and the gift of music that he gave me. Sometimes, I will simply stop whatever I’m doing, and listen. Deeply. In my heart.

My love of Pink Floyd has given me amazing moments with family members and friends. I remember hanging out with college friends eagerly watching the video for “Live at Pompeii” for the first time. I remember making a trip to Ann Arbor to see the odd movie “Zabriskie Point” because Pink Floyd performed the soundtrack.

When I moved to Las Vegas, my mom came out for a visit. We drove two hours to Death Valley, and stopped at a few places to take pictures. One of those places? Zabriskie Point.

I recall many years ago, cranking out various Pink Floyd tunes while drinking beers with my sister and contemplating life. I took my mentor and friend, George Clark, to see Roger Waters with my uncle and his family. And in 2017, my brother and I saw Roger Waters perform in Greensboro, NC, which was an amazing experience for both of us.

Sometimes, as a writer, I write my stories, and poetry, and essays and such, and throw them against the wall to see if they stick. I wonder if these entities of my creative matter will inspire and become as important to someone else like Pink Floyd inspired me.

Human interactions are like spiderwebs – a tug on one end will cause movement on another end. And the vibrations of those two will affect another web. And it’s in this sense, that I bare my soul, and share the story of my addiction to the Pink Floyd.

Civilization is based on story-telling. And through sharing our stories, and sharing ourselves, we can affect the planet. When my former next door neighbor shared with me what she got for her birthday, and when my uncle shared with me some tunes that he loved, they changed my life for the better.

A Moment Alone on Christmas Night

I stood in the dark,

Snow lightly landing on, and around me.

My face was chilled, my nose ran from the cold air.

It was quiet. Calm. Silent. Holy.

I felt as if I was surrounded by family and friends.

Without intent, memories of Christmas past hit me full force.

Time with those I love and loved.

Time with those who have always been in my heart.

I smiled with the glow of beautiful remembrances.

I looked to the sky to say thanks – and a shooting star raced across the sky.

I wondered for a moment if it was Santa,

But decided that it was a small miracle instead.

I started walking towards town, the lights aglow.

The promise of warmth and love lies ahead.

A Holiday Tradition

In 1992, I was out of work and broke as a joke drinking Coke. At Christmas, I relied on my God-given talents, and wrote a poem, which I included in everyone’s Christmas card. This would be their present from me.

The tradition has continued since. As a special treat to my loyal readers, I thought I’d share the story I wrote for the 2001 Christmas card:

The Christmas Dream

I was riding my bike in Alaska,

And stopped at North Pole.

I spoke to Santa, and Mrs. Claus fed me homemade chocolate chip cookies.

The dream was so real that I could still smell the cookies.

Then I heard it again… the sound of faint whispering coming from elsewhere in the house.

I stepped into my fuzzy bunny slippers and pulled on my robe.

I reached for the baseball bat in the closet and leaped into the hallway.

Down the hall, the warm glow of twinkling Christmas tree lights bounced along the walls…

But didn’t I turn off the lights before I went to bed?

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I remembered that it was Christmas morning –

ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN!

My heart began to race, and adrenaline pumped through my veins as I peeked around the corner into the living room.

There was a quick flash of light, did I see…?!?! Nah! Couldn’t be!

Convinced that I was seeing things, I got back to business.

I cocked the baseball bat on my shoulder, ready to give any intruder a surprise.

My breath came in short bursts, and I listened intently to the silence –

After checking the doors and windows, I slowly caught my breath.

I opened the refrigerator and grabbed a bottle of Gatorade.

Hey… didn’t Santa offer me Gatorade in my dream?

I plopped down on the couch and rested my fuzzy bunny feet on the coffee table.

Looking at the Christmas tree, I became mesmerized by the blinking lights.

My eyes grew heavy, but snapped open, as I became very aware that something was different.

In the corner, partially hidden by the lighted tree, was a brightly wrapped box with a large red bow on top.

I stood up and glanced briefly into the kitchen…

Hey, is that a plate of cookies?

I walked curiously to the kitchen table.

Sure enough, there was a paper plate of cookies wrapped in plastic wrap.

Sticking out from underneath the plate of cookies was an envelope.

Gingerly, I slid the envelope from under the plate.

In thick letters, that could be mistaken for my mom’s writing, was written my name.

“Dear Matt,” the letter inside began,

“It was most wonderful meeting you last year in North Pole.

We kept tabs on you in Montana this year, and although you had knee problems, we were encouraged that you were able to help others have a terrific experience!”

I was frozen with disbelief, but continued reading:

“Here is a plate of chocolate chip cookies. I remember that you were very fond of them.

“I hope you and you family have a most magical Christmas, and your wonderful friends as well!”

It was signed:

“Mrs. Claus”

“Ho-lee shhhh…” I muttered.

I ripped the plastic wrap from the cookies. Unbelievably, they were still warm!!!

I sank my teeth into the delicious treat and turned my attention back to the box in the living room.

I kneeled down next to the box, which was nearly two-feet tall.

“To Matt”, the label on top said,

“From Santa”.

As I moved the box closer to me, I noticed it was nearly weightless.

I sat down cross-legged, smiling like a kid,

And tore at the big red bow and brightly colored paper.

I pulled open the box and eagerly reached inside.

There was a picture.

In the light of the Christmas tree, I recognized the picture from last Christmas Eve.

I smiled, remembering how amazing Christmas seemed last year.

I set down the photo and reached back into the box.

There was another picture, circa mid 1990’s.

Again, I happily relived warm Christmas thoughts.

I reached into the box again and again.

Each time, there was a single photograph,

And each photograph triggered another beautiful Christmas memory.

Near tears now, having gone through Christmas pictures that spanned my entire life,

I again reached into the box.

This time, I pulled out a card.

It read:

“May the happy memories of Christmases past

Fill your pores with the true spirit of Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

Love, Santa”

When my tears finally abated, I awoke my sleeping legs.

To my amazement, the photos had disappeared,

But the card remained in my grip.

The clock struck 6am.

I placed the card on the kitchen table next to the cookies and went back to bed,

Hoping to dream about Santa and Mrs. Claus,

So I could thank them for such an amazing gift.

Week 52 – Jelly Bean #2

Sugar Consciousness

As I sat on Easter Sunday,

I found a little jelly bean.

I considered many questions:

Where did it come from?

Why was it here?

Was it a sign?

The red mini-bomb of sugar had me wondering:

What was the flavor – strawberry or cherry?

How old was it?

How long had it been there?

I stared and had a vision of eating it.

My mouth watered,

My parotid tweaked,

My teeth hurt.

That little jelly bean on Easter sunday,

Generated so many questions

For such a minuscule thing.

It made me realize how small I was in the universe.

And how much of an impact I have yet to make.

Week 52 – Jelly Bean #1

His Name

Everywhere he went

He caused a scene

Even at school

He punched the dean

He wore shorts

When they wore jeans

He was dirty

They were clean

It’s no lie

He was obscene

“Eat Crap!” he’d say

See what I mean?

He once dated

The cute prom queen

But he was 30

and she was a teen

There was no way

anyone could intervene

This was the way he was

and his name was Jelly Bean.