Category Archives: friends and family

A few thoughts upon seeing the ‘Birth of Impressionism’ exhibit at the Frist

We made it under the wire, on the very last day.  Ironically, my wife and I were visiting the Musee’ D’Orsay when this exhibit opened in Nashville.  Having lived most of my life in the presence of art teachers, I always cherish an exhibit that is both inspirational and informative, and most of all surprising.  Impressionism is not my favorite period, but it did liberate the artist from the shackles of realistic painting..this exhibit does quite well in explaining the evolution of the genre, and gives one a greater understanding of the camaraderie and mutual inspiration of these revolutionaries.

 

My somewhat organized and loosely connected thoughts…

 

1) First of all, no textbook or print  can prepare you for seeing the Fifer by Manet or anything by Degas.  Manet’s palette is eye-popping in person, and his care in portraying his subjects is well demonstrated.  The kinetic energy of the ballet paintings by Degas move me especially, no little bit because my dad the art teacher loved Degas.

 

2) Hugh Hefner was not all that original (by several hundred years).

 

3) I wish I could have shared this exhibit with my dad. He told his many Art Appreciation students that the most beautiful form in the world was…well, related to item number 2 on my list! That thought, spoken aloud in the halls of David Lipscomb, probably surprised a few people.  I wished so much today that I could have shared the exhibit with him….me, being quiet for a longer period than normal..he, pointing out things that in fifty years, most people would never notice, and helping me understand the soul-shaking magnificence of what I was barely seeing..

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It never fails – if i give it all away and don’t have love I didnt’ do anything..

One day not long ago I was walking with a friend back from lunch. We randomly encountered her husband at a stop light and I got to witness a chance kiss, thanks to a light that didn’t change. Tonight I witnessed a wedding of one of my daughter’s best friends and the inevitable kiss that was entirely not random. I know these people and have great affection for these people..I am not really an optimist about humankind (why I really can’t be classified as a modern liberal), but acts of love give me hope (and in a subdued side-note, make me quite happy).

Veering off somewhat, but I will get back to the above…

I have heard talk all my life about how we are the greatest country that ever existed. I believe such talk is fatuous because no one has lived in every country that ever existed, and to iterate the obvious, not too many years ago the city in which I reside was ruled by apartheid, and a hundred years before that we considered black people sub-human and not eligible for that ‘all men are created equal’ business. But, I hasten to say – I will put our Declaration of Independence and Constitution against any document, written or unfurled by law, and I will never believe it’s a fair fight. The rule of law, which does exist in many countries, was the basis of this country’s independence, and enabled this country to survive lawmakers whose behavior was beyond any law devised by any country outside of dictatorships.

Veering back slightly to the original paragraph..

I was raised on religion. There was spirituality sprinkled in there (not literally..we were C of C full immersion), but the church I attended and the school I attended often got lost in the rules and missed the point. This is not intended to be an attack on either, but my bigger point is that religion is man-made artifice and spirituality is something else all together. Ask a recovered addict what rule about dancing or issue about music in church got them through the tunnel. Proof-text is the dance of pinwheels on angels, but attacking spirituality or Christianity (or any ‘brand’ of worship) based on the nonsensical hate-filled horror show that the religious side show has perpetrated on mankind is missing the mark. Just as stating that America’s ideology and basis for governance is invalid based on the fact that many of our forefathers/mothers were slave-owners or accepted slavery as the righteous way of life. The rule of law endures all things.

I’m a long way from where I was, but I will put up these words against any creed or religious teaching in the world:

Love your neighbor as yourself. When asked who is your neighbor, I will extrapolate and tell you that your neighbor may be a Muslim, an illegal immigrant. My neighbor may be Sarah Palin or a red-neck bigot. That guy over there has a neighbor who hasn’t bothered to learn English and my other neighbor might be the son of Jerry Falwell. I find it hard to like those neighbors, much less love them, but the radical rule of law that is espoused by Christianity is that all these people are my neighbors, (damn it!) and I need to treat them like I want to be treated.

Even better – and I’d like to see this piece of poetry go head to head with any heavyweight doctrine in the world:

Love is patient. Love is kind. It is not jealous..it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests. It is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices in truth. It bears all things, believes all things and hopes all things AND endures all things. Love never fails.

We fall short..we see that kiss…We see hope and we still get it wrong ever so often. But I want to live in a country where all men are created equal. Where life, liberty and pursuit of happiness is paramount. Where I am treated by people who don’t like me, the way I want to be treated. I want to live in that place where love will strip you to the marrow and lift you on the shoulders of giants.

Thanks to the people in love I have cited above..you know who you are..

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Josh and Katie

image

This picture makes me happy. 

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Paddle faster boys, I hear banjos, or, September’s song

I’m fifty-seven years old. My birthday is September.

When I was a kid, my dad was a shining star in a small solar system of David Lipscomb and local church of Christ planets. He was thoughtful, witty, handsome, and could make the kids who HAD TO BE IN ART APPRECIATION CLASS TO GRADUATE, suddenly realize they were being educated.

He was well-loved, respected and philosophically quite conservative. His foibles were known to me and a few friends, but they seemed trivial. He was a ‘pleaser’ and he struggled inwardly with not being good enough, but his public composure and speech belied any self-pity or obsession.

Living in that world was both stimulating and daunting. A young woman in chapel who I didn’t know proclaimed ‘WHAT HAPPENED to YOU?’ after seeing my dad walk out on the stage to participate in the chapel service, after I told her ‘that man’ was my dad. I never saw her again, because she realized she had blurted out something that most people would edit, and was most likely quite embarrassed. Her reaction did echo a question that has haunted me over the years.

I quit worrying about the gossipy neighbors who told me that I certainly wasn’t like my dad after I moved back to Nashville. They mixed resentment with their tea, and I understood their drink of choice. But, no, I wasn’t like my dad.

I don’t obsess over this short-coming. I love and respect many of the people in that world, but I can’t live in a place where I’m not my dad. We parted company well, and, other than some really hum-dinger, drawn-out, wall-shaking political arguments, we got along just fine. I just wasn’t him.

This is not intended to be a diatribe of failure..my dad loved me unconditionally, and I knew that every minute of his life that intersected with mine. I live my life ..my struggle is to stay centered..not to be him. I’m not eliciting ‘you are OKs!’..

These thoughts emerged again, because last night I was eating with my mom and we were talking about my dad. He died at what seems like a very young age now. He packed in a lot in his too-brief span.

He was only 58. Until last night my mom did not realize this September I will be the same age as my dad was when he died. It was hard for her to say out loud..she covered her face and began to tremor. She loves me despite the fact of who I am not.

I’m not hearing those banjos back there yet, even if I am about to turn 58.   I certainly don’t make those kind of predictions. Stuff, and my stomach, happens. I plan to live, until I don’t, and I will keep on laughing about ‘what HAPPENED to <me>”…I’m still figuring that out.

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The Appreciative Arts – A few sketches of appreciation…

After my friend Robert died and I wrote a heartfelt eulogy, containing thoughts and feelings that I had not bothered to share with Robert openly and completely before he died, I vowed to at least attempt to show my appreciation for the living, the people who love me, move me, kick my ass when it needs to be kicked and who, though certainly not perfect, appear to be well-centered, not just in their words, but in their actions. So far, I’ve written appreciations for a singer I don’t know and for this crazy, wonderful and wacky country that I love dearly. Now it’s time to move to a few folks I DO know.

Exception to the previous paragraph: My dad
My dad died at the RiDICuLous age of 59. I’m not that far away from that terminal year of my dad. I do not obsess about this..I don’t understand the complexity of genetics, but it does give me pause. My dad was an art teacher, and fashioned a world where respect for his Maker, love of sharing his passion about his art and his spirituality lead him to live one of the most blessed lives I’ve ever known. He was the child of the great depression and he wasn’t good at saying ‘I love you’ often. What I’ve come to learn (yeah, I got a piece of his wisdom)is that his every waking step with me though his life contained the words ‘I love you unconditionally’. He taught me that a man who understands and gives boundaries to his passion (a good number of feet from addiction), but who lives in his passion is a lucky man indeed. Ironically, this lead me to understand why Keith Richards is still alive. Watch the man when he is playing his guitar mid-song. You’ll understand.

My wife: I’ve told a few people this already, but I pulled the anti-Oedipal bit off..I married my dad. And I mean that in the highest extent of honor. My dad and wife, Lynn, were and are both incredibly hard working people. As an avid practitioner of one of the seven deadly sins (sloth), this has worked out quite well for me. I am as moved by her touch as when we were married almost 32 years ago (she may have touched me before that..) and I have come to understand, with some of that inherited wisdom, that I myself am a lucky man because of her. We’ve had some rough months, and even a rough year or two, but we both know it matters, and despite my occasional inanity, she puts up with me. Lynn, like my dad, is an artist and a true lover of the arts. When she is caught up in her painting, she glows, just like my dad in a classroom.

A few friends:
Roger Dinwiddie. I came to know Roger because my daughter is his daughter’s best friend. We spent some time together and I immediately was impressed. Sadly, when I was, in my younger years, around people who REALLY impressed me off the bat and seem to carry themselves in ways I can’t begin to attain, I often become aphasic and begin flapping and stuttering. Then I realized that the guy was way more impressive than I imagined. He’s a nationally known figure in education, the effects of bullying in education, substance abuse..and he’s the president of STARS. Look it up sometime..If I didn’t get aphasic when I met you, it’s because I’ve grown a bit, thanks to this guy!

More importantly, in my life (hey, this is still about me), he has been an incredible friend. Fierce, funny, inspirational and wise. If for no other reason than one phone call I made to him in anger (anger not directed at Roger), and he called ‘bullshit’ on my anger (I was actually totally irate with the person in the previous ‘sketch’). I was throwing verbal punches and just feeling so sorry for myself, the victim, the victim, the victim, and Roger called me on it, and told me that I had to get myself (he perhaps used another word at this point) together, and then proceeded to explain how to start. And he helped me walk through the fire to the beginnings of the truth (I didn’t have myself together, and like the cliche’ goes, when you are pointing one finger there are more pointing right back at yourself). It took a friend to get me to that point, and I am honored by his friendship. Plus he has one amazingly wonderful and talented and clever wife, Suzanne!

Dennis Dumbauld: Dennis is retired military. He’s in great shape, both mentally and physically. We don’t think alike or process alike. When I was getting whiny in something I wrote, he called me on it. I didn’t necessarily like his wording, but it didn’t take me long to realize something way more important. He was being a friend, and friends who are true, will call you on the things that need to be said.

Much more importantly, for his family, Dennis and his beautiful and wonderful and generous wife Josie, have molded a family that is individualistic and as healthy (in all aspects of life) as any family I’ve ever known. His kids are not perfect (similar to most kids), but they are so together. They have certainly figured a lot of this on their own, but it came to them quickly, because of Dennis (and Josie’s) completely unconditional love for those kids. His friendship is unconditional too. We process differently, but there are not many men I admire more than Dennis.

Another father and friend: Phil Kendrick

Phil is the brother of Robert, whose passing made me want to appreciate others in a more visible way while they are still here on earth. Phil has one of the greatest blueprints I’ve ever known for being a dad (his own dad). A brilliant combination of wisdom and humor cannot be repressed. He and his also-wise and wonderful wife, Karen, have fathered 5 boys and are now grandparents. I’ve told more than one person this bit: If a space alien landed and for some reason asked me to show him what a family should look like, I’d drive him out to Phil’s and tell the alien to shut up and observe. Seriously.

Another friend:
Susan Barber. Susan is the most generous person I have ever known (and it’s not like I wasn’t parented by generous people). She is steady and smart and funny and I have eaten lunch with her more times than anyone on the face of this earth, and I’m ready to go again (she’s out of the country and I’m missing her!). She gives her time and much much more, even though she keeps long work hours and participates (and has participated) in most every sport known to (wo)man. Leg and knee surgery have slowed her pace, but they have not stopped her from marathoning, playing soccer, playing tennis, playing golf, playing ultimate frisbee, inventing other games, and so many more things that I get tired just thinking about it.

At a time in my life when my wife needed a friend to help deal with me (I have been a pill more than once), Susan gave great assurance and friendship to Lynn, and had a lot to do with the healing process. There are many more, equally impressive deeds, but that is one that I will never forget, and one for which I am eternally grateful.

There are many many more of you out there. I plan to do keep this series going. But it’s late and I’m really missing my out-of-town wife and I can’t put off sleep much longer. Also, if you are on the list, I’m not asking for a loan or a reference.

In closing, I’d like to say a word about Don Finto, the man who led Belmont church from a small smattering of folks to a wondrous group of sojourners. Don spoke at Robert’s funeral.Even if you are not nearly on the same page spiritually with this man, and I really haven’t been around him much in years, and differ greatly in places, you cannot help but be moved by this guy.

My dad taught me something with his artistic eye that many people have heard, but few understand as well as a man of his observational powers. He explained that a person gets the face they deserve in the later years of their life. We’re not talking superficial standards of beauty here, but you probably know what I’m talking about. A negative person will have lines in their face that a centered person cannot (and should not) dream about. A centered person may be disguised as someone not so beautiful, but if you keep looking, you see untold depths. The fact that I may not be in the same place as Don Finto is not the primary point. The fact is that there is not a more beautiful 79 year old person on this planet…outside, in.

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Great-on Beach, or my wife may have been born at night, but it wasn’t last night..

Other than ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’, Nirvana is often achieved with two beach chairs, an umbrella, an ocean (or gulf), a good book, a cool breeze and someone special with which to share the aforementioned items.  Thanks to intelligent design of Grayton Beach (lotsa dunes and beautiful beach), the moon (for the tides), and ‘The Good Fairies of New York‘ (way too funny) and a wonderful wife, nirvana visited a time or two over the weekend.

Speaking of the wife, we were tooling around greater Grayton in the car and about a block in front of us a comely lass (ok she had on a bikini top, a skirt that wouldn’t be legal in Utah, and legs bordering on Heidi Klum-age) walking a chocolate lab.  I ogled a second or two and said, ‘Man, that’s a beautiful……dog’.   Lynn responded, ‘you are so completely full of shit’.

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Baseball where it’s meant to be..

Meant to be watched, that is…In a bar with the sound down.   An engineer, a high school basketball coach, a Radio Shack manager, a executive car deliver-er, and a state employee walk into a bar, just like they have for the past 25 years.  The bar is Brown’s Diner, and the occasion is annual: The opening of baseball season the way God intended: Baseball in the daytime and in the country of origin*.

Our ritual pre-dates the dawning of the sports bar (at least in Nashville).   We all love the cheeseburgers at Brown’s and they have always had these cheesy 19-inch TV sets mounted on the wall (well, they once had a so-called large screen for a short time, but the thing broke and nobody ever fixed it, and then one day it disappeared and the cheesy 19-inch TV that was there BeFore the large-screen reappeared, and all was right with the world).   Since Terry the bar-tender (and owner) was always a big baseball fan, we knew that the opening day baseball game would be on the tube.

Some years we finagled the afternoon off and nursed Bud from the bottle(s) as long as any game was on.  Some years, like this one, some of us have to hie on back to the workplace.  Every year, the conversation overtakes the game until something dramatic happens.  The Yankees usually appear at some point and the rest of the crew makes fun of me and the pin-strippers.  It’s all as comfortable as a worn-in pair of sweatpants you look forward to putting on when you get home from a rough-ass day at the orifice.

It’s not trendy or remotely the best place to watch a game.  What it is for a few hours is the best place in the universe.  Baseball opening, spring welcomed and friends laughing.   Today was our 25th anniversary.  Not all of us have made it every year, but at least two of us have been there each appointed time (I’ve been there 23 out of 25 years).   We are grayer, paunchier and some of us have lost a step or two, but for those few hours it really doesn’t matter one iota.

*nothing really wrong with Major League baseball played in different countries, but it should be played in the USA for opening day.

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