Monday, January 31, 2011

The Diary of Anne Frank

“Memories mean more to me than dresses.” - Anne Frank

Colton came to me last night again in a dream. Little dirt road up in the trees past the Tavern across the highway, somebody dumped on old busted up couch. I saw John Bring sitting on the side beside a garbage bag full of cans and bottles. Just sitting like it was his living room while the ferns and briar vines and thistles sprouted up around him and John Bring looking out like the world was passing by on TV.
“I don’t want to moan about myself, on the contrary, I want to be brave.” - Anne Frank

There was always something wrong with John. He was a road walker. A highway logging truck dodger. Stumbling along milk creek picking up cans in a black sack, this little gray dot along the silhouette of evergreens. Thrown in the remedial class with the retards, he could spend all day in the shop and nobody would notice if he wasn’t there for roll call. Fact is, nobody probably ever explained to him that he was different at all. Long greasy hair. Acne pocked-up skin. Standing there in a red and black checkered flannel shirt like some part of the wall paper. Stoner. Alien-life wasteoid. Above it all.
“On the surface, I seem to have everything, except a one true friend.” - Anne Frank

Spent most of the day thinking about him. It was a Saturday and that meant waking up and making breakfast with the girls. How could you beat it? Pancakes hot of the griddle, and the Empire Strikes Back. Today my daughters were going to find out who Darth Vader really was. That afternoon was the most perfect moment, sitting on the little warm rug in Xian’s room next to the big glass window overlooking the city. Piping hot water radiator steaming along with a porcelain pot of barely tea slowly brought to boil. It filled the room with this sweet scent and fogged up the glass as we sat on the floor playing UNO. Just Xian scheming and Kinu monkeying around and little Rebekah’s sweet laugh. She never stops laughing, that one.
“Paper has more patience than people.” - Anne Frank

Growing up in Colton in the 1980’s was weird. We were these isolated kids in trailers and farm houses, church basements and barn lofts. We came home from school off the yellow bus and walked through tall grass fields and long rows of Christmas trees to unlocked front doors and our parents who plopped us down in front of television sets and said, “Dinner will be ready when I call for you.” There were only five channels and it never dawned on us as we sat through episode after episode of The Brady Bunch or The Partridge Family that kids all over the country in Baltimore and Scarsdale and Peoria were doing the same. We just thought we were alone. That the only person we were sharing these moments with were Tom and Jerry, Gilligan and the Skipper, Barney Rubble and the Great Gazoo.
“But, still, the brightest spot of all is that at least I can write down my thoughts and feelings, otherwise I would be absolutely stifled!” - Anne Frank

It would never happen like that today. I taught in America for ten years before returning back overseas and because of Facebook and Twitter the days of… “I’m the only person in my high school who is…” are gone. People are just so connected now. And a kid today…? There are more options reaching out to him than hands beneath a trust-fall exercise.
Gay / Straight Alliance, Mathletes, Gamers, Marching Band, whatever social group you desire. In fact, chances are that inside the same houses I drove by as a boy looking out little eyeholes wiped in the steamed glass windows of the passing school bus, there are now farm kids having deep and meaningful online relationships with middle aged Ukrainian women or trading stocks on the Hong Kong Index.
“In the long run, the sharpest weapon of all is a kind and gentle spirit.” - Anne Frank

Kids grow up so mature these days. The average 16 year old American kid is not lost, not confused, not hopeless. They are encircled by support. They find it. I have so much faith in this younger generation. I feel they see the world in ways we did not. They’ve learned from our mistakes. They know to reach out, to take hold of one another, to keep that touch permanent and not to let go. We didn’t know we could live that way. It is only now that I am reaching back to my friends from high school. We come back into each other’s lives in such unusual ways now. Even in dreams.
“In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.” - Anne Frank

About six o’clock that Saturday, that wonderful Saturday before we fly out to Korea for a long overdue visit, Xian and Bekah were horse-playing on the counter and Xian pushed Bekah and she fell hard on the drawer, a good three foot drop right onto metal. In the screams and sobs I began to feel it, a baseball sized swelling that sprouted out of the back of Bekah’s head. It threw us into a complete panic and a rush to the Emergency Room.
Saturday night in the city is not a good time to be rushed to the hospital. Bloody faced taxi drivers and their crash victims. Drunken brawlers with jaws hanging in hands. Beaten wives with burn scars and broken arms. Doctors in white lab coats just running back and forth in complete insanity.
We needed a CAT-SCAN. X-Rays wouldn’t show internal bleeding.
One doctor said Bekah was too young and the other said it was possible if she drank a radiation substance that would show up on the screen. I’m standing there holding this child, biting a bleeding scar on the inside of my bottom lip and trying not to shake. I mean, I could just fall apart at any moment. Xian pleading, begging how sorry she was and no one listening. I keep thinking, if Bekah dies… if Bekah dies…
And so I prayed. There in the ER lobby, amidst the metal rolling beds with squeaking wheels and the frantic sirens and the weeping relatives covered in their various relative’s lost parts, alone, completely cut off, I called out to God.
“In the meantime, I must uphold my ideals, for perhaps the time will come when I shall be able to carry them out.” - Anne Frank

I’ve made good friends in this life. I’ve known people who have inspired me and kept me from hurting myself, really known me inside and out. But I am alone here. I work with wonderful people who are so kind and informative and helpful. Really good people. Yet there is not one single person within five thousand miles that can understand me, but you. And that is why I write this. To you. My one true friend, to you.
That night I laid next to Bekah in her little bed and watched her sleep. She was okay. Just a bump. No concussion. No internal bleeding. Good appetite and a good scare. Now resting. Finally peace after hours of worry. We were to leave the following morning for Korea. I must have been asleep while my brain was still thinking because I remember sitting next to John on the sofa watching the weeds grow and thinking, this is my life, right here in my arms, hold tight, never let go.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

ep. 28 "Chinese McDonalds"

After a couple of weeks back in Taiwan wrapping up the semester, we're now officially on the winter Lunar New Year two week vacation. What? Are you serious? Oh, yes! Which means time for capers and adventures. In this episode, Xian and I attempt to find American breakfast at a Chinese McDonalds. Enjoy.

What Steve McQueen Knew

What Steve McQueen Knew
"I live for myself and I answer to nobody." - McQueen

1. Sometimes a ball and a glove are the best friend a guy ever had.
2. Whether you’re locked in a cell or hanging on for dear life atop a speeding train, all your days are just chalk lines on the wall.
3. Race the German army across grass fields on your stolen motorcycle. Jump barbed wire.
4. Love one woman all your life, even if she ain’t yours.
5. Never stop smiling.
What Bukowski Taught Me
"Endurance is more important than truth." - Buk

1. Free Verse Means Free.
2. When in doubt, punch the horse.
3. In a silent room, be the guy who farts out loud.
4. Always open the door at 3 a.m. if someone knocks.
5. Spend as much time as you can alone.
The Lies Picasso Sold
"Everything you can imagine is real." - Pablo

1. There is no ‘Bull in the China Shop,’ there’s just your ego.
2. Guernica is a self-portrait.
3. Every dope and mope has a blue period.
4. Passionate sex comes from stripping women of the one thing they want.
5. Run toward revolution with paintbrush and ink pens.

What Han Solo Said
1. Never tell me the odds.
2. Wonderful girl. Either I’m going to kill her or I’m beginning to like her.
3. He’s the brains, sweetheart.
4. I know.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

ep. 27 "The Life of Christ"

While traveling through Bangkok's temples to Phuket's beautiful shores, I had this idea of compiling footage of different Asian temples and commenting on old Bible stories. I hope this makes people smile. I miss so many of you and wish you were here with me. Enjoy.

Flickr Pics!

Hello Readers... thanks so much for sticking with me while we traveled through South East Asia. Please check out the flickr pics link to the right... I'm saving the Beach Bodies episode for much later. It was too much for even me to handle. Enjoy.

The Fanta-Sea Show at Laguna Beach

Hanging with my girls on the beaches of Phuket, Thailand. We rode elephants in the Indian Ocean, drank from coconuts with plastic curly straws, sang Rogers and Hammerstein, fed monkey's with overripe bananas, stopped to chat with orange robbed monks on bicycles, climbed trees and swung from vines, shot bottle rockets off into the surf, and lounged by the pool. Eat your praying, loving heart out Elizabeth Gilbert.
Wore out the water slide, that's for sure, smashed my face very good while trying to carry Kinu, Rebekah, and Xian all on my back. Small price to pay for big smiles.
Made lists of future questions I need to ask someone someday ... like: Just how many cigarettes can a Russian mother in sagging bikini smoke while her son sits in the umbrella shade playing his Nintendo? AND... Do tear tattoos really mean you have killed someone? What if they are on your chin? Does that mean you ate someone to death? Concerned...
I like trying to sit at the bottom of the pool. Just going completely deaf and numb and dropping like a stone. What do you suppose stones dream of, feathery flight? Moss?
At night I would walk down to the sand overlooking the dark water and watch the fishing boat lights in the distance. I am so far away from so many of you that I love, but am surrounded by happiness. We are just distant lights to each other.
Blue sky and warm breezes. A short boat ride tonight to the Fanta-Sea Show to watch elephants dance and mermaids pop out of the squall to say hey! There were circus performers that dropped from the ceiling on trapeze and a castle with live tigers and sword fighting men in dragon masks. Life is so odd and bizarre. Kinu cuddled against me and couldn’t look. Then a gaggle of geese ran across stage before a cannon exploded. She screamed and I held her so close. Moments later, women in grass skirts were throwing flowers.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Love Minus Zero / No Limit

“My love she speaks like silence, without ideals or violence. She doesn’t have to say she’s faithful. Yet she’s true like ice, like fire.” - Bob Dylan, Love Minus Zero / No Limit.

All along the beaches of Phuket from Patong to Laguna to Monkey Bay, I tried to catch what I was seeing.

“I got a woman in Jackson. No, I ain’t gonna say her name.” - Dylan, Outlaw Blues

Most days I just stand on the periphery and see the world in glimpses and gasps.
“Take me on a trip upon your magic swirlin’ ship, my senses have been stripped, my hands can’t feel to grip, my toes to numb to step, wait only for my boot heels to be wanderin’ - Dylan, Mr. Tambourine Man

But people move me so deeply. Just passing by, wandering aimlessly, mindlessly going about their life... I see you.
"But the funniest thing was when I was leaving the bay, I saw three ships a-sailing, they were all heading my way. I asked the captain what his name was and how come he didn’t drive a truck. He said his name was Columbus, and I just said, “Good luck.”’ - Dylan, 115th Dream.

And you have no idea. You don't see me. You don't see me staring back at you with wonder and awe in my heart.
"Though you might hear laughin’, spinnin’, swingin’, madly across the sun. It’s not aimed at anyone. It’s just escapin’ on the run, and but for the sky there are no fences facin" - Dylan, Tambourine Man

So I keep it to myself. I sneak. I tippy-toe. I smile at your beauty and disappear.
“You will start out standing, proud to steal her anything she sees.” - Dylan, She Belongs to Me

And it doesn't really matter what you are thinking at that moment, and I don't want to know. I don't want to read your thoughts or dig into your mind because I am connected to you in so many other ways.
“The foreign sun, it squints upon a bed that is never mine. As friends and other strangers from their fates try to resign, leaving men wholly totally free to do anything they wish to do but die. – Dylan, Gates of Eden.

But I'm watching you nonetheless. Despite how you try to hide and sneak away.
“My weariness amazes me, I’m branded on my feet. I have no one to meet, and the ancient empty streets to dead for dreaming.” - Dylan, Tambourine Man

I like to think you are glad I'm out there. Watching. Wondering. Waiting for that perfect moment to show you, that yes, someone is alive, that sees how beautiful you really are.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I Get Around: Phi Phi Island, Phuket. Thailand.

"Round. Round. Get around, I get around." - The Beach Boys

Rented a boat and headed to magical Phi Phi Island in the Indian Ocean. The water was so clear and pristine. Backs to the mainland, wind to our sails. Perfect day.
“I’m getting bugged driving up and down the same old strip. I need to find a new place where the kids are hip.” - Beach Boys

First stop was Monkey Island, where we snorkeled and sunk our toes in the soft white sand.
“None of the guys go steady cause it wouldn’t be right
To leave your best girl home on a Saturday night.” - Beach Boys

I basically just put the girls in life jackets and threw them in the lagoon. No sharks, I promise.
“My buddies and me are getting real well know. Yeah, the bad guys know us and they leave us alone.” – Beach Boys

Phi Phi Island is where they shot the move, The Beach. Though now it is a bit congested with tourist traffic.
“We always take my car because it’s never been beat
And we’ve never missed yet with the girls we meet.” - Beach Boys

The girls were fantastic, just totally tuckered themselves out swimming and beach combing. Though the boat rocked and slammed against the waves, they slept in the hull with their heads on my lap the whole return trip.
“I’m a real cool head. I’m making real good bread.” - Beach Boys

Days like today make me know that I was right. That selling off my worldly possessions and boxing up all my keepsakes and setting sail for faraway lands has made all the difference. You could live your whole life and not have a day like this, but if you only had one, then you lived.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Patong, Phuket

(Two days in Patong, Phuket. Here are the pictures. A woman with child begging)

The following is the original text to the short movie, “24 Hours in Bangkok,” but due to the quick narration, I had to cut it down.

(We arrived to the mass of traffic and sprawling seediness of Patong.)

Woke Up
Felt sun on my face
Black coffee in my throat
Little hands covered my eyes
Laughter in my bones
Air in my lungs
Let’s start the day.

(The markets were teeming with life, but there was little character. Just luggage, tasteless Ed Hardy T-shirts, and jaded Thais who didn't want to bargain.)

Hit the ferry in the open water
Past the floating market
Saw a snake charmer kiss his wife
Saw two monks squabble over a breakfast bill
Saw a man gut a fish in front of a thirsty cat
Laid my fingers in the waves and thought of home.

(Of course, the massage girls were very present.)

Entered the Grand Palace and knew I was dreaming
Dropped off my shoes and walked barefoot to the Buddha
Sat in the shade and sketched monks laughing
Laid eyeballs on ornate splendor
Saw the riches were a fake.
Held hands with my daughter and danced in the sunlight
Watched a cloudless blue sky over high golden walls.

(The only people who would pose for me were the muy thai fighters, who saw my camera and sprang to action to promote their big fight that weekend.)

Back at the hotel
Broke up a fight over a pink hairbrush
Separated my daughters bickering over a banana
Confiscated the TV remote after it was used as a billy club
Cleaned up pee stains on the sofa with a wadded up newspaper.

Changed Kinu’s diaper in the back of a moving taxi
Pulled a kidney bean out of Bekah’s nose with a pair of borrowed tweezers
Bought Xian a second scoop of sherbert after the first was licked by a stray dog
Put all three in timeout after marking the bedsheets with a sharpie
Locked myself in the bathroom and just tried to breathe
Came out and played Wrestlemania on the bouncy bed
I would say I rebounded.
(Sweet Buddha Bellies)

Walked around the pool in a pair of slippers I later threw in the trash
Helped a puking Russian woman out of the elevator
Pretended the man Hawaiian shirt was a spy
Watched a pair of lovers kissing in the lobby until it hurt in my stomach
Had afternoon tea and talked rugby with a kiwi
Stepped outside and walked barefoot in the grass.

(Mangy Street Mutt)

Rode the evening ferry back to the temples
Stood on the deck and tasted the wind
Chatted with a Bengali who had eleven children
Tried to avoid him because I’m something of a loner
Waved to a woman who was folding her laundry
Talked the driver into letting Bekah steer.

(Hookah Anyone?)

Strolled through the market and watching the people passing
Haggled with a twelve year old over opal earrings
Ran fingers over silk imported from India
Felt a batik wooden mask I left on the table
Winked at an old woman who smiled at my daughter
Carried Kinu on my shoulders into the temple.

(Came upon this soccer game and almost jumped in to play)

Wat Pho was marvelous in the fading evening light
Passed through the gates and no one noticed
Handed Xian a hammer and let her bang the gong
Walked with the Thais up to the reclining Buddha
Lit a candle and handed it to a man smiling.

(Children sunning themselves on street corner)

Watched a cat prancing on a high gingham tree branch
Received a blessing from a monk who threw salt at my head
Climbed a golden stuppa and laid eyes across the city
Rushed back to the hotel and laid my tired girls to bed.

(Normal street life set as basic inspiration)

Hoped back on the ferry and rode again on the silent water
Stopped at Siam Square wandered the market with eyes closed
Raced the clock to midnight on streets I couldn’t name
Found a balcony perch with people who didn’t know me
Returned home alone beneath black skies and fiery rockets
Laid my head to rest hoping next year would bring about the same wonder as 24 hours in Bangkok.

ep 26 "24 Hours in Bangkok"

Hi Readers... I know many of you have been hounded me as to when am I going to publish the Romeo and Juliet play... or at least a short video of it, and the answer is soon. Please check my flickr or facebook account for more details. Thank you so much, and enjoy this movie about New Year's Eve in Bangkok.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Old Friends in the Water

We didn't last long in Patong, Phuket. The seedy side of life kept us staying for just a night and then moving on. Thailand might be a Disneyland for adults and adult behavior, but it doesn't always translate to little kids. The beaches were packed, the streets thronged with massage girls and aggressive market hawkers. It just felt creepy. Still, being in the water was nice. Sometimes, the water does make everything else clean.
Bekah found this out. My little 4 1/2 year old is my bright light. Always thinking of others, always giving, she is just so sweet and kind.
I've been reminded how important kindness is this week as old friends have been looking me up and emailing out of the deep blue. From college buddies to former students and girlfriends of years gone by, and every conversation is so endearing and warm, but it brings to my attention that I haven't been the best friend to people over the years, and that is disappointing to me.
When I became a father, I just put all of my eyes on my girls. Sometimes I think I am living just for them, to experience the world with them, to enjoy every little drop of time we have together, and my adult friendships have suffered due to this.
Like tides, we lose contact and come back again into focus... but I've missed things, missed an old friend's divorce or loss of a job and years of his wandering, or an old love's sickness and time in the hospital when they needed me, needed someone to make them laugh or listen or just treat them like a normal person when everyone else around them is walking on eggshells.
So as they reach out to me now, reach out to me again, it hurts in a way because I see that time has slipped through my grasp, and I can never go back and make it up to them. It's just gone.
But I also know that the future is now and that love and life find a way. That the circles of life widen and constrict, and that focus is a matter of what shore we stand upon and gaze. So thank you, to all my dear friends who have reached out to me, you see what my life is so clearly, what I have been doing all these years. These girls, these little precious gifts to me, these have been my life, not forgetting you, but living with and for them.