Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bachman Lake

Newly married and newly employed, I once came here to pray, to strum my guitar, to find a bit of peace to start the day, to start what was my new life. The sun was usually just getting up and I was alone except for the joggers on the path behind me or the fishermen minding their business yards away.
bachman3Sure there were cars not far away, with unhappy people going down Northwest Highway toward dreaded jobs. I was putting off going to mine. Yes, there were planes going over every few minutes, drowning out the honking ducks, squawking grackles, and the occasional flopping fish.
They all had somewhere to be. I was trying to be somewhere.
Here began my fear of the juxtaposition of nature and the city, or perhaps my fascination with the construction of a kind of nature in the city.
Some twenty-five years later, I’m at Bachman Lake again, killing time. Trying to enjoy the quiet. I read a little at a picnic table, sipping ice tea as young mothers and fathers enjoyed their children at a playground situated bachman1between my seat and the parking lot. A squirrel, clearly irritated by my presence, clambered up and down the tree shading me. A duck tried to go under the table. I nervously shooed it away.
I took to a bench near the water’s edge and tried to look at the lake, drink in the peace of its slow movement. I noticed an old Moscovy pretending to hide in the rushes nearby. His red, bumpy face gave him away, but I was not interested in him. I heard young, yellow grasshoppers snapping the short blades behind me and smiled at their play. I heard splashes, but when I turned toward them, all I could see were the ripples.
bachman4 No doubt there were snakes. Somewhere. Near the bank, in the grass, perhaps on the other side of the tree. I did not see them, and I am glad. I’d like to think God, knowing my fears, would have warned me. That I did not see one of them may mean God protected them.
I tried to look at the water. But I could not keep my eyes away from the houses on the other side, or the businesses, stone silent, but in my mind buzzing and hissing with activity. I couldn’t stop watching the airplanes nosily descend. Sometimes I thought of my father, who worked on planes. Sometimes I thought of my first job at Love Field. I tried, dear Lord, to just look at the lake and not think at all.
I should have talked to You. Or at least made an effort to listen.
After all these years, I’ve still got somewhere (new now) to be. I have still got someone to be.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Class of ‘81

1981 was a long time ago, but I have not forgotten several things. I have not forgotten what it was like to go to high school. I have not forgotten the things that happened to me there.
I have not forgotten the few teachers who dared to make an impact on me. I have tried to forget the rest. I have not forgotten the "counselor" who told me I should not go to college. I have not forgotten not being allowed to join clubs because I wasn't the right religion or because I didn’t play the right sport. 81prom
I have not forgotten the friends I made. I have not forgotten the sports I tried to play. I have not forgotten the good times I did have.
I have tried to remember, now that years have past, that everyone feels awkward and out of place in high school, that even those kids that are popular sometimes feel they don't "fit in." Everyone has rough times.
What I cannot remember is what I did or didn't do that would ensure that I would never be invited to a class reunion.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Music Notes – One More Angel

John Patitucci is one of the most gifted and expressive bassists I have ever heard, and lately I’ve been listening to a lot of bass players. In addition to his solo work, Patitucci has played with legends like Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Michael Brecker and Chick Corea. I recently found One More Angel in the clearance bin, and after listening to it several times, I am happy for the bargain, but sad that such fine music was relegated to a price of two dollars.
Probably my favorite tracks are “Arrival,” “San Michele,” “One More Angel,” and “Snowbound.” On the title piece, the late Michael Brecker plays a such languid, delicious tenor that one might be tempted to forget the overwhelming sadness that informs the tune. Pianist Alan Pasqua and drummer extraordinaire Paul Motian provide timbre for this and everything on the album that is near perfect. There is not one song that failed to make me smile.
The album is also a family affair with Patitucci’s brother on acoustic guitar for two songs and his wife Sachi playing cello on the tender cut “Romance.” Of course it is John Patitucci’s playing and compositions which pull this project together and make it unforgettable. Listen to the solo piece “Sachi’s Eyes” and you should be amazed and delighted.
One More Angel is an intensely personal album. Patitucci writes in his notes about songs which are dedicated to his wife and to two children the couple had lost prior to this project. But though most of the tunes are ballads, none are lethargic or dirge like. There is a good deal of wonder in these songs, and more hope and joy than I have found on even the most recent vocal albums I have listened to lately.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

July 4th: A Reflection

I’m sure several of you out there are going to see me as anti-patriotic, and if so, so be it. However, I think something about what we say and what we do on Independence Day, a very important holiday, needs to be reconsidered.
I keep wondering when July Fourth became a holiday to celebrate and honor only those who served in our military. I am not saying we should not honor them, should not be grateful for what they have done, should not ruminate on what it means to have men and women willing to die in our stead. But I do not understand how a holiday about independence became a holiday about the armed forces. That and grilling hot dogs and hamburgers.
Our freedom is unique. However it is not safeguarded only by military might. We should see that it takes a nation of people to make that freedom happen and for that freedom to work.
Consider, for example, that group of men (sorry ladies) we tend to refer to as the Founding Fathers. We have a tendency these days to think of them as a bunch of guys who just sat down and put together the Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence in one quick, easy draft. But they argued amongst themselves, and worked with and despite many huge differences, to try to forge the documents that would not only define a fledgling nation, but keep that nation from making the mistakes that other countries had made in suppressing freedom. Was the result perfect? No. Did these men have their own agendas? You bet. Did they get it completely right and protect the freedom for all? No, but they helped make it possible for those that did not then have that freedom to eventually obtain it.
And what about the churches, laity and ministers, who work in their communities to help those who have lost a measure of freedom? Sure, there are some zealots out there who have confused the Constitution with the Word of God. But people of faith all over America do a great deal to help feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and defend those who cannot defend themselves. I believe a great measure of my freedom is protected and ensured by those people, most of whom I will never meet, even though I may not be one of the hungry, homeless, or defenseless. And what about those with no religious affiliation or creed to move them to good works, but who are making the world better by volunteering instead of staying at home watching television, or by working jobs far beneath their ability to earn so that the principles that define this country continue to matter.
Can we also think about the police, firefighters, and medical workers who take care of us, even when we do not know it? When the police catch a criminal, we can certainly see that she/he is protecting my freedom from the “bad guy” who might try to take it away from me or someone I love. But when they do their jobs well, they also help restore faith in the community as a whole, and that faith is a very important component in freedom. When my neighbor’s house is saved from fire or natural disaster, mine is too. When someone is helped by an EMT or paramedic, I am reminded that those who began this nation were fleeing and fighting against the oppression that said you had to be somebody with money or power to be considered worthy of life.
Shouldn’t we also consider teachers as playing an important role in the defense and protection of liberty? While education in the United States does continue to decline, the reasons for that decline are mostly political and financial. It is not as much due to the teachers themselves, most of whom earn a pittance, especially when compared to football coaches, and who often do take their lives in their hands every day in order to bring to the quite unwilling the tools they will need to make democracy work, tools and information that will provide more choices for them in the future. I would say that the promise of those choice is an avenue of freedom worth fighting for. Hopefully, your children are challenged and encouraged to use their brains in ways that go beyond standardized tests and rote answers. It is those kinds of thinkers our country needs for freedom to be worth anything. Otherwise we are training generations of slaves.
These are just a few of the people that come to mind for me today. I’ve left out too many others. And again, I don’t want to give the impression that we should not honor our past and present servicemen and women. But they are not the only ones who are and have been on the front lines for freedom. If they were, we would have been conquered long ago.