Thursday, December 10, 2009


December 10, 2009
7:08 am

Temperature drops and I am not as warm as I’d hoped to be. It is a question of balance and hunger and need and want. It is never being settled no matter how much comfort and goodness and love I find. And it is the dogged determination that I cannot be beat. Will not give up. And that one day, all of us will benefit from the weight I collect, pile on, and carry.

But it is more than pounds and ounces. More than inches and feet. It is more than any measurement, color, shape or size. It is a combination of these things and these things are combined with even more—letters strung into words, heartbeats, gravity, the sky. But always, there is more that shakes loose, comes round, starts to rise.

It is a hawk that floats and holds to one spot in the blustery white sky. The icy air ruffles its feathers as it hovers over a patch of tall brown grass on the side of M-5. And I want to stop and watch, to know what it sees on the ground, but traffic is too congested and too fast and filled with people living from bumper to bumper, red light to red light, and nobody seems to believe that a hawk has meaning when it is frozen like that—wings outstretched and gliding in the December sky.

But it does. It must. Because I remember it. And it reminds me how good the cold can be. That we are fortunate to be warm with our bellies full and that there is nothing else we should ever want, dream of, or need.

But we do.

The cottage we stayed at for two days. Up north in October. Too cold to swim or fish or do anything at all, but one of the best weekends we ever had because we were away from the city, with each other, and there was nothing but the sound of water and sky. Birds and trees. And holding our new daughter and playing with our son, and me and SB curled up warm at night in the shabby little bedroom. Lightened by liquor and heavy with sleep. Each of us dreaming of how happy we’d be if only we had a place like that. Away from the concrete. Apart from the dying city. So we could live simply in a place that offers nothing, but quiet.

But wants change day-by-day, and the quiet—as tempting as it seems—holds the ache of great desperation. It has killed more men than any city. And so, we rest easy this night. We take stock and breathe and remember that it is more than all of this. More than all of us. And we are thankful. Because even as the temperature drops and I am not as warm as I’d hoped to be, we are together. Hovering with wings outstretched. Gliding in the December sky.

~ KJ

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


December 8th, 2009
6:15 a.m.

No sense thinking on it too much. It is here. It is what it is, and the only way to move ahead is to move ahead. There’s no time for reflection or deep thought because the things on the surface can kill much quicker than anything lurking beneath. Those things hidden and buried—those things simmering below the surface—they are the eventual killers. And while the surface is just as likely to kill you as the deep, the surface is a bigger threat. It is the part of life that wears you down, beats you up, but it is also the place where most of the good takes place. The difficultly comes in any attempt to recognize the good. More often than not, it comes unexpectedly, without warning, and if you are moving about the surface looking for good, it is likely you’ll be disappointed. That it will not be found. Your best bet is to spend 36 years of your life fighting for balance until you realize there will never be balance in the way you’d always believed. Never will life be balanced in your favor, and unless you medicate yourself with wine or God or cause, you’ll never find peace. There is joy. Daily happiness. In the embrace of your wife. In the smile and laughter of your children. In the purring of the cat. The wagging of the dog’s tail. But there will never be that deep, thorough joy that comes with having things your way.

And there is a reason for this. You are not a child. You’re a grown man and a grown man who is doing things right does not experience a life of pleasure and reward. A grown man who is doing right experiences joy in simple short fits, like bursts of shapeless color in dream, or finding a sandy bottom in a cold, rocky lake. Your aim is your wife and your kids. Your aim is to earn a living. Make enough money so ends nearly meet. And your aim is to be truthful and dedicated and faithful and loving. And none of it is easy.

You’ll encounter people who have advice. You’ll encounter people who claim they know. But there is—and there will never be—anyone that will know yourself, know your path, know your wants, needs, and desires better than you. While it is courteous to listen and understand and gather as much knowledge from others as you can, it’s important to remember that nobody knows everything and everything is not something that can be known. There are experts and counselors. Mentors and guides. But the biggest favor a man can do for himself is to stay focused and steady and work through as much of life as he can on his own while taking care of those he loves.

And so, eight days into December, I’m coming to grips with the stark reality that my life has taken a turn. I’ll not reach the heights I had imagined. I’ll not have the time I had believed I would have. But at the same time, I have an opportunity to go within. Grasp a firm hold onto the surface and lower myself, little by little, into the deep. To the place where things are hidden and buried. Like bursts of shapeless color in dream. And a warm sandy bottom under my feet.

~ KJ

Friday, December 4, 2009

two drink minimum

December 4th, 2009

Sleep and dream and work and family is not enough, so each night there is a two drink minimum to level out and bring back thankfulness. We’ve a nice house. Happy healthy kids. A solid relationship that is likely to only be broken by death. And with the way I’m packing on pounds, one could say I’m content.

And while I am satisfied with my marriage—being a Dad and husband— there is, and always will be, a deep dissatisfaction. A hunger. An appetite that drives. Gut that guides. Quiet desperation that reaches and pulls, begs and tugs, from just below the surface.

It’s a half-dozen clumpy squirrel nests. Two-thirds of the way up. In dark, naked trees. Homes of grass and leaves and twigs and paper wrappers. Exposed to cold night skies. Icy rain. The silent cover that snowflakes bring. Looking now, out the window at a sun fighting to light and warm the world, I wonder, where do all the squirrels go?

It is a beautiful thing to have thoughts that do not stop. A curious nature that has not yet died. But I miss the intimacy we used to have. My thoughts, these words, and me. There is so much good in these days of early waking and late settling. But it is hard when all of it latches on, sinks in, finds a place to fit, and I’m weighted a little more each day with the stark reality that I’m carrying more than bones and tissue and heart were ever meant to carry. Deep, meaningful things built to last and grow, rise and simmer, and that need to be shared. But all I can do is move ahead. Load my shoulders and keep my chin pointed to the sky. At birds and rooftops. Clouds and stars. All these squirrels and nests and dead Novembers and dying Decembers, and suns that fight the cold of this world. Because sooner than later, I will rest. Have my time. And I’ll remember these big, fast-moving days as the time when all I needed to be was the man I was. Working to keep the house warm, the bills paid, food in the pantry and fridge. In love with my wife. Raising my kids. Doing what needed to be done so that they were not burdened by anything but the simple act of living hopeful lives. From sleep to sleep and dream to dream. Over and over again.

~ KJ

Thursday, November 26, 2009

eat up

Thanksgiving, 2009
6:43 am

It used to be The Crying of Lot 49, Hemingway, pubs, and Pearl Jam. These were what fed my hunger and helped as I engaged in the act of putting words to paper. Now it is day in and day out. Diapers and formula. Mortgages and car payments. Groceries and utilities. It is a life of necessity and routine and waking at 5:25 on Thanksgiving morning with the hope that I’ll get work done. Finally, put fingers to the keys, but then my daughter wakes. She is hungry. I feed her. She burps, laughs, and is not tired, so I walk with her in my arms. The floor creaks. Furnace kicks on. And I wonder how this little girl can make me so warm on such a cold morning. I do this—hold her and wonder and walk back-and-forth on the cold hardwood floor for an hour until her lids are heavy, she is gassed out, and then I put her back to bed. But by the time I’m back to the keys, the thoughts and gut feelings that have been kept at bay by work and family and alcohol are no longer at the surface, easy to tap, ready to flow. And it is not as easy as it used to be. But I take comfort in it and recognize it for what it is. A man out of practice. A man without words. And I know for certain one thing—those that have it easy aren’t doing it right.

When you put all of yourself into it and concentrate so much on all those things that are not you, it gets hard. You lose yourself in what everyone else wants you to be. Daddy, Husband, Editor, and all you’ve ever wanted was to write and love and eat and sleep and drink and find a place to call home. But life is like this and the path is not level or straight. And you keep at the keepin’ on because it is the only way you’ve ever known. You just keep getting up, throwing your legs over the side of the bed, and hoping for the best. But you know, deep down, there is no best. Not at writing or fishing or fighting. Not at loving your wife, providing for your kids, or even playing with the dog. There is never a best and there will never be a best and the only cold hard fact that keeps you motivated is the sense of desperation that grows every second of every day that you are not satisfied.

None of this lasts and comfort is for the weak. We can settle and procreate and love truly and deeply our wives and kids and husbands and mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers and gods and monkeys and sunrises and sunsets, but comfort kills and fills our shells so that sooner we are thicker on the bottom than at top and there is nothing else to do but go with the flow. Gravity pulling us down. Closer to the hole.

It is not frustration or sadness or lack of drive. It is aim and happiness and a dogged determination to rise up, give back, and stay true to the simmering thoughts and gut feelings that have been moving these fingers, pumping this heart, since I was a kid and afraid to sleep because the dark felt so good.

But this is nonsense. A layer of shit that needs to be wiped away so that I can return to what’s meant to be. A kid at the keys. Wrestling with words. Fighting the good fight. One letter at a time.

Eat up. Happy Thanksgiving.

~ KJ