Phases

It seems like most people go through phases—periods in life when you’re really into something and then you’re not. I’ve had many, and I was thinking about them this morning and decided to make a list.

Annotated List of Phases:
(in mostly chronological order)

1. Monster trucks

They were big, loud, flashy, and powerful. What’s not for a little boy to love? My friend Bobby and I once begged my dad to take us to a truck pull, and when he finally agreed, we celebrated like we’d just won the lottery.

2. Karate

Inspired by the original Karate Kid, I made it all the way to . . . green belt. So it was short-lived. (I had no idea that crane technique wasn’t legit.)

3. WWF Pro Wrestling (and sometimes NWA Pro Wrestling)

My friend Jonathan and I would binge-watch past series of Wrestlemania on VHS. And my friend Matt and I spent a lot of time playing with these rubber wrestlers:

—highlight: seeing the Road Warriors wrestle when the NWA came to Jackson, TN.

4. BMX

Fun, but soon replaced by #5.

5. Skateboarding*

This one really resonated. It was when I first became aware of subcultures—those little enclaves of activity outside the mainstream. I was in the sixth grade, and I realized skaters were my kind of people.

6. Hair bands

And the crushes that went with them.

7. Rap

Anything at all that can be traced back to Dr. Dre still turns me up.

8. Basketball

Michael Jordan was active and winning championships with the Bulls, so it was a good time to be a fan. I played a lot with my friends, but it all went sour when I didn’t make the team in tenth grade. Even now, I get jealous when I see a really tall male.

9. Grunge/alternative rock*

It was a glorious thing to be in high school when “Smells Like Teen Spirit” hit. It was the perfect intersection of adolescent angst and early-90s apathy; a generation of teenagers pretending to be dead inside. It was great!

—my uniform: flannel shirts, ripped jeans, and green Doc Martens; also, a general shagginess
—sub-phase: reggae (complete with a Bob Marley sticker on my Honda Accord)
—sub-phase: The Doors (who hasn’t communed with the spirit of Jim Morrison?)

10. Painting*

I had always drawn pictures, but in 11th grade I began to realize that art was about way more than just pencil drawings of random things. It was (and is) a way of living, one that grew exponentially more important in college. However, the various painting phases of my artistic life apparently have their limits.

11. Hunting/fishing

My dad took me hunting and fishing several times when I was little, and at the end of undergraduate school, I found myself wanting to do it again (plus it lined up with a sub-phase: obsession with the movie Legends of the Fall, in which Tristan is a hunter). Yet I was never a successful outdoorsman, and I think it’s because, at my core, I’m not the hunting/fishing type; this phase was more about being in the woods or on a lake with my dad and brother.

12. Being in a band*

I’ve been in three bands (four if you count the rap group in junior high). Each was fun in its own way. The most special, though, was the one I moved to Nashville with, because we were really trying to do something with it, artistically speaking—trying to “make it.” Oh well, oh well.

13. Golf

It’s amazing how one good golf shot will make you forget a hundred bad ones. Eventually, though, you get tired of spending money on something that makes you angry.

14. LEGO

One of the triumphs of fatherhood is that now I have a justification for playing with LEGOs. This phase is ongoing.

*The asterisks denote a recurring phase.

Looks like my list will end here. I’ve had more interests than these, but many of them lasted hardly long enough to be considered phases. Also, things have grown out of certain phases that have evolved into something bigger—something more aptly called a lifestyle, like writing, which I trace back to my painting days, falling, as it does, under that greater realization of what it means to be an artist. Further still, some things are too monumental to be thought of as a phase, even though their relative duration was short, like graduate school. And finally, as I noted with asterisks, some phases never truly leave. In fact, there’s a skateboard in the back of my car right now.

What are your phases? Make a list!

 

Rapid Blog, No. 3

Do you feel there is a scent in your environs? A whiff of setting–however subtle, however breathed–that informs the eras of your life? And it may be no scent at all, but a texture of the air–a psychological scent, recognizable by the baseline “I” of your consciousness, the one that is privy even to your sleepdark dreams, nestled unfathomably inside the case of your body (that is dying daily). I speak of the smell of a life chapter, so to speak–the intangible thing that, when you achieve a later maturity, will temper entire decades.

 

Maybe it’s not a smell but a color, diaphanous, tinting the light which surrounds you. Like fall is orange, but even less definable–a thing understood but not defined. Like November’s shroud of misted gray and the brown of bare branches somehow made richer by that very same gray.

 

So what is the color and scent of adolescence? Of childhood? Of those first few years of marriage? when you can’t figure a thirty-year anniversary and adult children; it simply escapes your powers of projection. What is the color and scent of those two earlier years in which you struggled, failed, and survived–simultaneously the best and worst of times? Of those other two years, earlier still, when you were so certain, yet you failed anyway? What is the aura of each of these gilded and tarnished eras? And all along, your most consistent boon has been experience–bitter, ecstatic, human experience.

Life among the Treetops

As a boy I dreamed of living among treetops, whether in elaborate tree houses or simply as some humanoid primate perched on the uppermost branches. As a forty-year-old man, however, the treetops don’t seem quite so high; I now dream of flying above them. Which gets me thinking about the way perspective changes with age. It’s not that some arboreal existence wouldn’t yield its share of amazing sights, but it’s that even the big things seem smaller now. Part of this is geographic in nature, by which I mean that a huge perspective shift occurred when I moved from Union City, Tennessee, to Nashville almost fifteen years ago–two towns only three hours apart, but worlds apart demographically and size-wise. As a child, the drive across Union City felt endless. By contrast, my morning commute these days would encompass at least five of those crosstown drives of yore. Nevertheless, I feel that this shift in perspective has to do with more than just moving to a new address.

Distance and time haven’t changed. My eyes have. And I don’t even know what to attribute the change to other than age and the unavoidable broadening of understanding that accompanies it. So there are no life answers embedded in this post, just observations. Just an excuse to write. It is true that I am writing a book, and it’s what I am most excited about. But I also have a compulsion to maintain this blog. To air out random ideas from time to time. To you who have chosen to read it, bless you. Maybe across the digisphere we can reminisce together about those dusky childhood days of climbing trees and feeling like another world had been entered. I used to climb trees with my friend Bobby. He always seemed to climb a little higher. Perhaps he was more at home in those heights. In the innocent way of children, I admired his tendency to climb higher–jealousy wasn’t a thing back then. Those trees we climbed and the house that stood nearby are all gone now, but when I think of those days, I always picture the trees. No doubt they are taller in my imagination, but so what? The trees and houses of childhood are permitted to loom as large as we need them to. The survival of the memory is what matters, not the accuracy of it.

My boys love being outside. In spite of the allure of televisions and iPads, they are drawn out-of-doors. They seem unable to resist it. I sincerely hope that they are dreaming up their own little worlds in the treetops that they see. Maybe by the time Arthur is of a solid climbing size, one of the trees I’ve planted will support a little weight (I’m counting on those fertilizer stakes I hammered into the ground a few days ago). Perhaps he will imagine elaborate tree houses, or some primordial age of tree-dwelling human life, foraging among the leaves for nuts or raining down death from above on unsuspecting prey, marking out his special place in the great chain of being. Let him imagine these kinds of things.