The first time I saw the ocean I fell in love with it instantly. I was in Hawaii because my step-dad had just got stationed there. I would sit on the beach, a light Westerly trade wind blowing in directly in my face, mesmerized as the burnt, rusty-orange sun slipped down from the sky and hid behind the curtain of the horizon. Then my step-dad would yell, “Doug, get your butt up here! It’s getting dark. We’re leaving.”
The thing I loved most about the ocean was watching the waves crashing onto the shore. The water would run up the shore after a wave would break, little air bubbles popped up from the sand and white foam. The smell from the ocean-spray would hit your nose and wake you up like a punch-drunk boxer inhaling smelling salts.
During the winter, my family would drive to the North Shore of O’ahu and watch the waves roll in. Waimea Bay and Pipeline have some of the biggest waves in the world. I’d watch surfers paddle out, barely making it over the waves that seemed to touch the sky. Then they would swing their boards around toward the shore and paddle as if their life depended on it. Once they started moving with the wave, they would push down on their boards and pop up as they freefell five stories straight down.
From the shore the surfers looked like little dots flying down the face of these fifty-foot walls of water, a long white tail followed behind them from their boards. Then the massive moving wall of water would pitch over the reef and I’d watch the wave fold in half and form a huge barrel. You could fit a semi-truck in some of those tubes.
I’d watch the surfer, intensely hoping to see him fly out of the barrel, knowing that if he didn’t make it, he could die.
I sat on the beach watching the way the wave would build up, up, up, higher toward the sky. And just when I knew it couldn’t get any higher, because of the white trickles that form at the top of the wave when it’s had all it can take, the wave would pitch. The waves are so big on the North Shore that when they decide to break, it looks like it folds over in slow motion. The lip of the wave hangs in the air for a full three to four seconds, as if a force is slowing down time and gravity. Then you hear the inevitable, “Thaa-Thoomp!” The concussion hits you like a foul ball in the chest from the tons of water hitting the ocean as the wave topples over itself.
As I learned more about waves, I found out that every winter, earthquakes up near Alaska and the Artic Circle are what generate the waves on O’ahu’s North Shore. When there’s a slip in the fault line, or a giant storm up North, about a week later O’ahu experiences perfect 25 to 35 foot waves.
The waves have to travel over half the Pacific Ocean before it’s even seen. A wave starts off so small and so deep that it can’t even be seen from the surface. It’s not until it travels thousands of miles and hits the perfect spot that the wave can been seen in all its glory.
Often when I’m reading or writing I think about the waves on the North Shore of O’ahu. All stories or books start as an idea way up North in someone’s mind. They have to travel a long way to get to book form. Sometimes they are blown away by the wind. A writer gets discouraged or bored with the subject and the idea fizzles out. But occasionally some ideas that do make the long journey over the open water of a writer’s mind and hits the reef with perfect timing. Readers drop in and take the ride. And the noise that one book can make, is like the concussion of a big wave, which can live on forever, long after the writer is gone.
I had to write a portrait poem, so I wrote one about my Grandpa. I wanted to write one that best represented what I thought about him. Remember, poems don’t have to rhyme. In fact, most, “good poets,” poems don’t rhyme. But sometimes in the writing process, the piece takes on a life of it’s own.
Billy Tom’s Fingers
Sausage sized fingers
That played with cigarette cherries
And were occasional teeth pullers
Waved liked American flags when telling a story.
They hammered nails,
And held babies.
And made the bacon,
From hogs you raised yourself.
They’ve won craps
And turkey shoots,
Taken off work boots,
And could bend quarters like Superman.
They were guitar pickers,
Truck gear shifters,
And could fix anything
That could be opened.
They’ve knocked people out.
Helped people up.
And have even tanned
Little naughty kid’s butts.
They were crooked and fat.
Nails purple and black.
And though they’re long gone
I can still picture every one.
(Usually poets leave things open to the reader’s interpretation. I just want to clarify one line. My grandpa was a hunter, not a womanizer.)
Late one summer evening, I along with a dozen other people, was at my friend Jennifer’s house for her 40th birthday party. It a low-key affair and all of us were good friends, except for a few people who we’ve met on other occasions over the years.
After several glasses of white wine I excused myself to go to the bathroom. “Gotta break the seal,” I announced to the entire kitchen. When I stepped into the bathroom and unzipped my pants, I saw it. It, being six droplets of pee and a long black pubic hair on the toilet seat.
As my stream hit the water, I thought, I’m not cleaning that up! I don’t care who did it. I know it wasn’t me, so I’m not cleaning it up. I don’t even like to clean my own bathroom, much less someone else’s.
That’s when a great debate started in my head, Who’s all here? Who will come in here next? Probably a girl and no doubt she will be pissed and automatically blame me for the infraction!
When I’m at a restaurant or bar and a person is waiting to use the stall after me, all I do is flip up the toilet seat if there’s pee on it. That way the person waiting to use the stall thinks, Well it wasn’t him. The toilet seat was up when I walked in. I laugh to myself and whisper, “You’re stuck cleaning it buddy,” as I start washing my hands.
But this time, I was at a friend’s house and I just know someone will undoubtedly accuse me of back-splashing and order me into the bathroom to go clean it up. What was I supposed to say? “No! That wasn’t me! That was there when I walked in. That’s why I flipped up the toilet seat!”
So there I was, after much debate with myself, cleaning off someone else’s piss with a mashed up wad of toilet paper. “Damn you girls! You don’t know how lucky you are to have a guy friend like me,” I muttered to myself.
After I flushed the toilet and was running my hands under the water to get someone else’s pee germs off of them, I realized that there wasn’t any soap, much less a clean towel.
I bent down and looked in the cabinet underneath the sink, but no luck there. I noticed a bar of soap in the shower, but it also had a very short, black, pubic hair stuck in it. That’s when I realized that this soap had probably been all over Jennifer’s body. That’s when I also realized that Jennifer trimmed her kitty.
The thought of using the soap really didn’t bother me too much. Matter of fact, it kind of turned me on as I sat there and stared at the tiny pubic hair, drifting off into a fantasy shower scene of my own for a few seconds.
But then an image flashed into my mind. It was the look of horror on Jennifer’s face when one of the other guests would eventually say, “Jennifer I didn’t see any soap in your bathroom,” and when she came in to replace it, she would realize that I had used her personal-soap because it was covered in water, which was still running down the side of the tub. So I decided that it would be a bad idea to touch the bathtub-soap.
So after checking the cabinet below the sink, I decided to look in the medicine cabinet for some soap. When I swung open the medicine cabinet door, it sounded like someone threw two handfuls of rocks through the window. Out of instinct, I ducked down to the green ceramic tile floor, my heart beating a mile a minute. About a half a second later, I got hit in the head with a little shinny marble.
I scanned the area like a sniper who had just been ambushed and realized that there were dozens of marbles all over the floor. I heard one person laughing and some muffled talking and about six seconds later, the whole room erupted with laughter. Apparently Jennifer had booby-trapped her medicine cabinet so that if anyone looked in there, they were going to get the dose of medicine that she felt they deserved for invading her privacy.
As I walked out of the bathroom, there was no reason to even try to explain the situation. I used my pants to towel off my wet hands. Not only did everyone know I looked in Jennifer’s medicine cabinet, but they also thought I peed my pants.
“Oh my God! I just wanted to embarrass whoever looked in my medicine cabinet. I didn’t mean to make you pee your pants! ” Jennifer cried out in complete shock.
“Got a towel?” I said as I hung my head down.
“No, but I think I got some pink, stretchy, biker shorts that you can wear,” she said.
The next time I think I’ll just leave the pee on the seat.
I’m taking a poetry class for my Master in Fine Arts degree. I am not a poetry guy. However, I will be posting some of my poetry because I’m forced to write it for class, therefore you will be forced to read it. (Unless you delete it. Never feel forced to read anything unless it’s a contract.)
I never understood poetry. I’m not a big, “flowers and meadows,” kind of guy. Then I read some poetry from St. Johnny Walker in the Criminal Class Review and quickly found out that good poetry isn’t about flowers and meadows. It’s about real life, condensed down like a crack rock, so just the essence is left.
I also discovered recently how to read poetry. I thought each line was a sentence. I was wrong. Even though the second line in the poem has a capital letter, that doesn’t mean it’s a new sentence. The author chooses where he wants the lines to break, but I learned that you need to read to the period.
I’m posting this poem how I’m going to turn it in, but then underneath it, I’m going to post how I would read it out loud. I’m hoping that this will help the non-poetry people to read it easier.
The Clean-up Man
Pots, pans and plates piled up
Like a stone wall in a Dr. Seuss book.
Dried up sustenance that is no longer so
Sits on the stove begging to be wiped clean
Along with herbs and spices left behind by Emeril’s apparition
Who missed the pan. Bam!
Call in the clean-up man.
The Clean-up Man
Pots, pans and plates piled up like a stone wall in a Dr. Seuss book.
Dried up sustenance that is no longer so, sits on the stove begging to be wiped clean
along with herbs and spices left behind by Emeril’s apparition who missed the pan.
Call in the clean-up man.
This will be my first and last poetry lesson—hopefully.
I see a guy walk into the gas station with a bionic leg
And I say thank you for your service.
And he said I got hit by a train.
And as I’m flash-frozen there he says
Right now your face looks like mine did right before I got hit.
And he turns and walks away
Leaving me standing with my assumption.
The gravel parking lot looks like no one’s been there since the day it was built. Tall grass surrounds its outside. As I exit my car, a soft wind blows on my face and the white rocks crunch as I walk toward the dirt trail. A minute in and I’m surrounded by woods on both sides. The leaves rustle and sound like newspapers being crumpled into a ball.
I walk down the path and large roots stick out of the ground like natural speed bumps. I want to run but know it’s not the time or place to get careless as I descend into the tree covered darkness. The trail slopes downward and I begin to lose my footing. I look for something to grab onto to but there’s nothing there as I slide sideways for what seems like a mile.
I get up, dust myself off, and realize that I’m still on the path. I hear water but don’t see a stream. Birds are squawking alerting the other animals that an intruder is approaching and I begin to run.
I sprint like a convict who’s just escaped from prison. My heart is beating and my head is pounding and I look back to see if anyone’s following me. I know no one is, but your mind can mess with you when you’re in the woods.
The path winds for miles. I cross a train track and wonder if it’s still in use. The shinny steel on the tracks tells me that it probably is. And it makes me wonder where these trains go and what kind of bounty it hauls. And then I think, if I wait long enough, maybe I can jump on one of these trains and just disappear like you did.
You sit in the corner all dirty and dusty. It’s understandable.
We partied like rock stars last night.
I reach for your black zipper and slowly pull it down to the floor. I grab you by the neck and extract your from your soft black case that keeps you captive.
You were so raw and raunchy last night. The crowd was wowed as you bended and flashed brief moments of brilliancy.
I knew they weren’t your own moves though. They were borrowed from people much more talented and original than you player.
I’ve had a love affair with you since the first time I saw you sitting in a corner by yourself. I brought you home and tickled you non-stop.
The very next day my wife told me she was pregnant. She wanted me to get rid of you.
But now my daughter plays with your silky strings, and she’s glad I didn’t.
Your blue sparkles catch the light like diamonds scattered across the sky. Your steel whammy-bar makes you talk funny. The three knobs and pickups, when in-sync, can sound like a Mack Truck or an angel’s harp, but rarely in my hands.
That is, until last night.
1. My wife
2. My daughter
3. All my other family members
4. Hot dogs
6. Medium rare steaks, seasoned perfectly
8. Driving fast on back roads
10. Playing pool
11. Talking to people
12. Watching TV
13. Playing the guitar and ukulele
15. Using my brain
16. Ted Drews Frozen Custard
18. Seeing friends
19. White Castle late at night
20. Chili in the winter time
21. Last but not least, being alive
R.I.P. Grandpa Gray, who passed the day after Christmas 2010.
Eating until you’re so full that you feel like you’re going to burst.
Then running from house to house.
Having fun conversations with family members you haven’t seen since the last holiday and regretting that fact that you never can get along with that certain one and probably never will.
Opening one present on Christmas eve, and then waiting until midnight to open the rest.
Watching your kid rip into her presents and be more interested with the wrapping paper than what’s inside the box.
These are the things that make up my Christmas List.
P.S. I have to hear this song at least once a year.
7. Name it—Write down exactly what you want to do.
I want to lose 40 lbs. Or I want to run a marathon.
6. Give it a deadline—I want to lose 40 lbs. by July. Or I want to run a marathon in August.
5. Review it—Get a Post-it note and hang it some place that you will see it everyday.
4. Seek help—get a coach, a trainer, a partner, a mentor, or anyone else who can help you with whatever goal you have set for yourself. They will help keep you accountable.
3. Small changes = Big Results—You don’t have to make drastic changes right at the beginning. The hardest part is just starting. Slow and steady wins the race.
2. Have Fun—If it’s not, you won’t stick with it.
1. Stop Making Resolutions—If you’ve been making the same resolution for the last 3 or 4 years in a row, consider the fact that you really don’t want to change. (At least not yet.) There may come a time when you’re ready, but it doesn’t have to be January 1st. It’s ok to not torture yourself year after year and start your new year off failing. When you’re ready to achieve whatever goal you want to achieve, you can use the other six ways I have listed to finally obtain that goal.
When I ran my first marathon this year, I gave myself six months to train for it. I couldn’t even run a mile without stopping a couple times when I first set that goal. I wrote down that I wanted to run a marathon on Oct. 3, 2010 on a piece of paper. I left the note on my dresser and I saw it every morning when I got dressed. I saw it laying there again every night when I charged my cell phone.
Once I got to where I could run six miles, I joined a running group and got a coach. Being active just became part of my lifestyle and I lost 37 pounds in six months. But for me, weight loss wasn’t the goal, finishing the marathon was. I crossed the finish line in six hours and fifty minutes, which is very slow, but I finished. And if an overweight guy with Plantar Fasciitis can run (or walk) a marathon using these principles, then I’m sure you can do whatever it is you want to do too. And if you don’t think so, then see Rule #1 and think about it again next year.