Category Archives: Junesboy

Feel So Near

Dougie MacLean tells of an island in Scotland; small, barren, isolated to the lack-o-mercies of the winds.

<<< You’ll find me sitting at this table with my friend Finn and my friend John…we may take a glass together. The whisky makes it all so clear. I feel so near to the howling of the wind – feel so near to the crashing of the waves – feel so near to the flowers in the field – feel so near. >>>

Janie and I live in a green bubble, mostly sheltered from crashings and howlings, yet the song resonates.

I farm a lot these days.

That’s a joke that only Janie and I know.

Sorry.

I dead-head and seasonally prune roses. I think it helps.

I whack and wreak violence on the trumpet vine. I think it helps.

I water the petunias, begonias, bougainvillea, impatiens, and coleus. I know that helps.

I kneel and crawl and claw at pyramid-scheme grasses that try to drain the resource bank accounts of Janie’s day-lilies.

I croon encouragement to the robust efforts of the cleome, sedum, shiso, and bronze fennel gifted to me by Becky Johnson. I keenly feel that responsibility.

I harvest and return the errant game balls of various sizes that have evaded the best efforts of the six-year-old that lives behind us. Sometimes I launch a sphere towards the youngster’s goal. Calipari has not yet called.

Yes, I farm, but far from diligently.

What I do diligently is take plentiful breaks. The kitten (a sworn but un-diligent killer of critters that stumble into her maw) and I sit, still and attentive.

Cardinals scold. Frogs croak, bark, and squeak. Sirens wail. Cicadas ratchet. Hummers whir-r-r. Copters whirl.

We feel so near…

<<< The old man looks out to the island. He says this place is endless here. There’s no real distance here to mention… There’s no distance to the spirits of the living – no distance to spirits of the dead.

I feel so near to the howling of the wind – feel so near to the crashing of the waves – feel so near to the flowers in the field – feel so near. >>>

I feel so near.

Sh-h-h-h-h.

Wanted: Tree Planters

It doesn’t take long to plant a tree, but after you’ve done it, you’ll have a goodly wait till you get the full benefit of what you’ve planted. When I was in my twenties and thirties I planted trees and shrubs. Then I sat back and waited.

I had time.

Planting trees was a selfish act. It was for me.

I had time.

Now…maybe not so much time.

I planted trees where I could see the result.

I had time.

Planting trees was a selfish act.

I had time.

Now…maybe…

I’ve visited places that people gush about; Arizona, Alaska, Mexico… I liked ‘em, but there were few trees and of few varieties. I missed my trees.

Planting trees was a selfish act.

Hollies, tupelos, dogwoods, chincopin oaks, ginkgos, maples, magnolias, spruce, birches…

I cherish them all.

Planting trees was a selfish act.

Now, at this certain age, I know planting trees is for the pleasure of others. I will still plant them. They still fill me with hope for what will come. It is still a selfish act.

Yesterday, I saw hooligans and terrorists rampaging in our nation’s capitol.

I didn’t see any tree planters.

Tree planters have hope.

Meal-Planning in the Time of the Cholera

… or a kind of compulsory tailgating.

I’m gonna steal this term from my friend Tyler Madison. He used to live quite near to Commonwealth Stadium (as do Janie and I). During home football games, we get barricaded by game traffic and can’t easily leave the house. This mostly pleasant imprisonment initiates a scouring of the pantry for sustenance. Sometimes the results are, shall we say…creative?

These internal foraging skills have served us in good stead during this year of “sheltering at home” (euphemism for “occasionally being too lazy to go out”).

Hunting and gathering in the wilds of the kitchen cabinets…

Tonight we were, shall we say…fortunate?

Janie had recently made a Trader Joe’s run. With demonic glee, she announced the night’s menu;

  • Asparagus Risotto.
  • Misto alla Griglia (Marinated Grilled Eggplant & Zucchini)
  • Garlic Naan (Indian Bread)

Wow.

Just wow.

Be still my bleating tummy.

I have a couple of thoughts about this roster of edibles.

  1. Tonight’s meal is comprised 100% of delicacies I had never heard of much less eaten until I was deep into my twenties. Growing up, my dad considered a meal pretty much complete as long as it contained pork chops, brown beans, and fried potatoes. You could add more if you wished, but those dishes were basic sustenance.
  2. It would not have surprised me to find that this meal was accompanied by a disclaimer; “No animals were hurt or destroyed by this meal”.

Now, all that being said, I thoroughly enjoyed the feast.

I am a lucky guy.

Frogs and Dogs

I posted a picture of the knot of frogs that inhabits our little pond. That’s what a group of frogs is called. I’m inordinately proud to know that.

I like the frogs.

One night recently, our wonder pup, Chloe, cornered the largest frog who had wandered a few feet away from the safety of the water. I had to intercede and provide the frog with a corridor to safety. There was a hop, a dive, and a splash – all was well. Chloe gave me a glare that screamed; “I don’t know you anymore.”

I like the dog, too.

The frog was being a frog; venturesome and stupid.

The dog was being a dog; a gleeful hunter.

Let them be what they are. Value them for what they are.

Sure they have their limitations, but as frogs and dogs, they’re jes’ fine.

Those limitations however, as charming as they are, are limitations. They prevent me from asking/hiring/electing them to be something other than frogs and dogs. For example, I believe Chloe’s penchant for chasing squirrels would make her unsuitable for driving my car and the frog’s constantly damp condition would render it unwise to assign electrical repair needs to him/her.

Nor would I nominate or elect either of them to be President.

But…as dogs and frogs…I like ‘em jes’ fine.

Christmas Whackers

I got tools for Christmas.

I’m sorry. I shoulda warned you before I said that. You might have been standing in a place where it’s hazardous to faint.

But it’s true.

My personal foundations are shaken. I’m questioning every tenet by which I’ve navigated the years. How has it come to this? Tools…and all the expectations and assumptions that accompany them…given to me…whose past attempted claims to the adjective “handy” were usually rebuffed and ridiculed with cause decent, and alas….

Janie gave me tools for Christmas.

She has followed and encouraged my perennial struggle to rein in the sly and raging ambitions of the trumpet vine under which we live. She understands my frustration when the vine soars high above my reach and threatens to initiate unholy congress with the overhead wires that power our house and allow our home to communicate with the rest of the planet. She knows of my aesthetic dissatisfaction with the ugly dead arm of a high branch on our 40-year-old dogwood. She senses my fear that the lower branches of the tupelos out front are scaring the strollers in our neighborhood.

Thanks to her, I now have new armaments to aid my battle.

I now have a wicked, 12-inch tree handsaw with apocalyptic teeth that devours with utter disdain bark, pith, pulp, and small student vehicles parked illegally.

I now have an extension that will allow me to clip twigs and branches from another area code.

Great…I think.

Chloe, the pup of wonder, worries that, these new weapons in my hands might lead to the wrong limbs being severed.

Janie coos “You missed one there, cowboy.”

I’m a lucky guy.

Whackers for Christmas.

Ouch.

I Could Not Be Happier

Today I was driving through a beautiful neighborhood on a sunny, 70-degree day in Lexington. The trees were autumnally spectacular. I was on my way to a spacious outdoor courtyard to meet a half dozen geezer theatre friends for a socially distanced brunch. I have worked and played and laughed with this group for over 250 years combined. We used to meet with some regularity until covid drove us into our burrows. This was to be our first assemblage in eight months.

I could not be happier…I thought.

Then the phone rang.

It was the wife of one of the geezers, herself a friend of more decades than it would be polite to specify.

“Rodge! Tell my husband to turn on his phone!”

“Julieanne, is something wrong?”

“Just tell him to turn on his damn phone! Biden won! He won! They just called Pennsylvania!!”

I hung up and drove on. The phone dinged with a text. It was from my wife, Janie; an emoji of a champagne bottle launching its cork.

I arrived at the brunch, ridiculed my occasionally Luddite friend for walking around with a useless phone in his pocket, and announced the electoral headline in spontaneous duet with our hostess as she emerged from the house having just learned the same news. Champagne flowed and flowery toasts were deployed. Old friends were reunited. Old stories were told again. Our laughter rocked the world.

I could not be happier…………I thought.

But there was something missing.

At first, I couldn’t put my finger on it.

Then I thought back to election night, 2016.

I went to bed that election night stunned and morose. The momentum and the arithmetic was undeniable: Donald Trump was gonna win.

Janie had already gone to bed. I didn’t wake her with the news.

The next morning, as she learned the result, I watched the subsequent waves of incredulity, indignation, sadness, fear, and finally anger.

“What do we do to fix this?”

We were together for the bad news.

We should be together for the good news.

I excused myself from my jolly brunch brotherhood and headed home.

Janie met me at the door. There was a hug and a kiss. Champagne flowed and the toast, though not flowery, was precise and jubilant; “Now we can begin.”

I could not be happier…………………………this time I know.

A Ghost of Canine Past

Dogs.

We don’t deserve ‘em.

And we can’t forget ‘em.

Before Chloe, the Queen of Facial Debris, bounded, crashed, shook like Southern California, and howled like a banshee into our lives, there was a predecessor.

She left us before this blog commenced. That’s not fair. She should be part of this foolishness.

Please indulge me.

Lilly was a pup of many, mostly odd, parts. From the racing stripe on her nose to the tightly curled tail and in between with the bow legs, bat ears, and a galaxy of speckles – the ingredients invited the constant query; “What kind of dog is she?” Our answer would vary. “She’s a pan-mixian” or “She’s a custom blend”. You get the idea. The answer was simpler when it was just Janie and me and Lilly in the room and the question was posed; “She’s a good dog.” It was a true answer and one that accurately summed the total of Lil’s aspirations.

She was a dog of several titles. She was the Princess-of-Providence-Road, the Bane-of-Lawn-Care-Trailers, the “Great Speckled Pup” (she would roll her eyes in embarrassment) and of course to every child just learning to speak she was the Cute-Little-Doggie (she really hated that one). She even had a stage name, Miss Lillian Smackerbutt, though the actual stage career never materialized – the world’s loss there.

I was lucky enough to be with her at magical times.

One afternoon I unleashed her on the old rugby field at UK and stood amazed as she turned that grassy meadow into the Bonneville Salt Flats. I swear I heard a sonic boom. She was so very fast and so very pleased with herself.

I was with her on many of her epic vole hunts, including the day she made one fly over six feet up in the air. It gave the poor vole a moment of stratospheric (for a vole) glory before it plunged to its doom.

Lil and I had a never-resolved 15-year debate on the subject of what constituted “food” and what was “non-food”. She was radically more liberal and inclusive than I on the subject.

She had strong cinematic opinions (her avocation) and a complete and total devotion to Janie (her official occupation).

I could write a book.

But it’s simpler than that.

She was a good dog and a better friend.

Mission accomplished.

Pandemic Ponderings

Janie and I take Covid-19 seriously.

We are of the “most-vulnerable” contingent because of age. That’s worrisome.

My mom ditto, but she’s an obstinate cuss who won’t let just anybody into her house, especially someone named “Coronavirus.” (I can hear her now; “I don’t know anyone named that…what kind of name IS that? …mutter, mutter, mutter…”)

Janie and I light up green every night, order our groceries for pickup, wear our masks (made by Janie, of course), tip the food delivery folks, and pine to see our friends.

We also watch Governor Andy Beshear’s daily update…every day.

Every day.

We’re proud of our state for responding with vigor to the challenges of sheltering-at-home. We’re pleased the response seems to have reduced (so far) the damage other states and countries have suffered.

I’m not ashamed to admit I weep for our fatalities and I cheer for our recoveries.

I now practice sign language. That alone makes me a better person.

These sessions with Governor Andy are useful and inspirational. I applaud the local TV stations for carrying them in their entirety.

One night, I was arrested by three things Gov. Beshear said.

  • “The truth is always the best answer.” – I think I first learned this at about the age of three under direct interrogation from my parents. Practicing it has produced the best results ever since.
  • “We need to do better.” – There has never been a day in my life when this has not been true. Not one…but I still hope.
  • “This is our chance.” – Damn straight! Our chance to be exceptional. Our chance to show some justifiable pride. Our chance to value and sustain all of our neighbors; red, blue, white, black, young, old, left, right, east, or west. Our chance. Our neighbors. All of ‘em.

These are all part of my growing up in Kentucky.

Why would I not be moved by them now?

Why did I not expect to hear any of them from our then-current president?

We will get through this.

We will get through this…together.

Ourselves.

What If They Don’t Come Back?

Our recently acquired tree frog is in rare voice this evening.

r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-R-R-R-R-RRRRRRRRRR-R-R-R-R-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r…………..

I’m reminded of a description I once heard of the Buddhist “Om-m-m” chant. This is my memory of that description.

It’s a four-syllable chant;

  1. It begins with an aspirant release of breath that almost has an “H” in it, framing the “O” to come. It prepares the way. It promises everything.
  2. The “O” ascends from your diaphragm, through the aspirant to the parted lips. It is powerful and inevitable. It fuels, channels, and moves all existence.
  3. The parted lips close, turning the “O” to an “M-M-M-M-M.” It roils and rolls and rumbles and is eternal until;
  4. The air is gone. The aspirant, the “O”, and the “M” skirl into silence. You can almost see them as they go. The silence is the final syllable. The silence is the final……

until;

  1. It begins again and again……

r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-R-R-R-R-RRRRRRRRRR-R-R-R-R-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r…………..

As if on cue, the frog pierces the evening outside my window.

r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-R-R-R-R-RRRRRRRRRR-R-R-R-R-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r…………..

Every amphibious aria lasts for about eight seconds.

I’m grateful and strangely renewed by each one.

It’s good to find renewal in this year of the plague, in this presidential term of dissolution, in this week of having mortality painted on your mirror as indelibly as icy swim trunks on a stormy late summer afternoon. Thank you, E. B. White for that thought.

It’s good to be encouraged, to be renewed, and to be turned forward to anticipate a “new normal.”

r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-R-R-R-R-RRRRRRRRRR-R-R-R-R-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r…………..

o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-m-m-m-m-MMMMMMM-M-M-M-m-m-m-m…………..

I look forward to the new normal and speculate endlessly on what it might look like, what it might contain.

Today, in particular, I’ve been dwelling on a generationally shifting notion.

What if, when work and shops open up for future business, folks in their early sixties, who have worked their asses off their whole adult life, decide not to do that anymore, decide the health risk is not worth it, decide this time off at home they’ve experienced is worth more than the eternal carrot on the stick and they should have realized that decades ago and……maybe they did know that long ago…but forgot it?

What if…they don’t come back?

Perhaps un- and under-employment issues would fade as younger people stepped into those abandoned positions.

Perhaps nose-to-the-grindstone people who have never felt rich in dollars would find themselves rich in time; time to think, time to listen, time do one thing at a time and do it well, time to tell their story, time to;

r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-R-R-R-R-RRRRRRRRRR-R-R-R-R-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r…………..

o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-m-m-m-m-MMMMMMM-M-M-M-m-m-m-m…………..

Time to take a chance.

Time to take a chant.

Time to face that mirror and not flinch.

Just a notion.

Out of Quarantine

It’s been an intriguing week in and out of quarantine. May I share it with you?

Out of quarantine?

Yes…for about three hours.

Monday was a lovely Kentucky spring day; sunny, sixty-something degrees, lawns greener than Oz, dogwoods poppin’ cream and raspberry. We don’t tell “furriners” about days like this…why share? We seem to have so little and Carmel demonstrates no eagerness to share their ocean. Without Jack Kerouac, Pebble Beach, and PLAY MISTY FOR ME, it would remain merely legendary. We have spring days. Central Kentuckians resonate with days like this and mostly never understand themselves. It just feels right and rare.

Janie left the house about three o’clock on Monday with Chloe the Wonder Pup for Chloe’s daily adulation tour of the neighborhood. Neighbors, dogs, joggers, hired flacks, and alien spaceships line the lanes to pay homage to the shaggy dog of glee. It can take hours.

I turned the porch light on to let my wanderers know the front door was unlocked, stepped out and noticed that Janie and Miss Wonderful had only made it to the corner where Chloe was basking in the worship of the Pantheon of Chuck and Paula who live there. They might be gone till dark at this rate.

I have written before in this blog about my love of bicycles. Janie and I had our bicycles readied for the season recently and I had been trying to make a habit of tooling about the almost perfectly flat streets of our neighborhood on a daily basis. The recent cool days had interrupted this effort but today… I found it enticing to pedal my ass again.

I zipped out of the garage, down the driveway, and onto the street. I flashed past Chloe and her adoring throng and had a momentary flashback on Tolkein’s warning about the road in front of your house leading to amazing places and hazardous missions. Will I meet goblin spiders or Stupey the Loud Cocker Spaniel on this journey? Will I reach the Mount of Doom or the low hedge by the old baseball field?

Neither, as it turned out

I reached the end of Providence Road and turned downhill and picked up a bit of speed. The gimme hat I was wearing (no haircut!) began to shift and I instinctively reached up to salvage it as if I were 25.

Alas, I was not 25.

The next thing I remember was answering questions from an Emergency Medical Technician in the back of an emergency vehicle bearing me to the hospital trauma suite tout suite.

Stitches, injections, and a cat scan later I was told Janie was waiting for me in the parking lot. I located the nearest restroom and finally saw the damage. I was a blood-drenched Rocky from film number one. I immediately ran the calendar through my battered head and determined I was still six months away from Lexington’s Thriller Event and I couldn’t possibly maintain this look for that long without actually dying in which case my dancing would be even worse than it already is.

So…

…I cleaned myself up as best I could, and tottered out to Janie, laughing at me in the sunny parking lot. It was the best medicine in the world; even better than Lysol.

It seemed right…and rare.

Under her care I feel a little better every day and look a little less outré every day. I think I’m now up to “No, officer, I ran into a door.”

Chloe is totally embarrassed and doesn’t want to be seen with me.

I sleep, and I watch movies…bad movies. I’ll share them with you…just for mean-ness.

I miss my friends. Who doesn’t?

To my friends and others;

…don’t drink bleach…no matter what he says…please.

It doesn’t seem right.

And then I’ll really miss you.