Longboard Dad

People in Nashville don’t expect to see a grown man on a skateboard, at least not in the suburbs. That’s what I deduced on a recent outing with my boys. They had their bikes and I had my longboard (which is exactly what it sounds like, for those unfamiliar with skater lingo), and we pushed and pedaled around the parking lots and walking track of my oldest son’s school for a couple of hours. The clear, cool day brought out other people, too, so we had a little company: walking middle-aged couples (probably close to my age, actually); a teenage kid blasting hip-hop in his headphones and doing basketball moves with no ball; a man giving his daughter a driving lesson. The basketball kid paid us no mind, and the father giving driving lessons checked to make sure we’d be in a different part of the parking lot, but the walking couples stared. Rudely stared. Some said hi, but others had this bemused look, like they thought I was kidding about being a longboard dad, or that any moment I might break into a Rodney Mullen street routine. It got a little awkward.

I’m jealous of two kinds of people: really tall people, and people who don’t care what anyone thinks of them. As hard as I try, when someone outright stares at me, I can’t ignore it. I may not look at them, but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel their eyes burning whichever side of me happens to be facing them.

The longboard stayed, of course, because thankfully I’m too stubborn to let a little awkwardness deter me. But it would be nice if the stigma of skateboarding being only a thing for kids would go away. I can’t see why it’s any less a legitimate activity than riding a bike.

Anyway, that experience has me thinking about the awkwardness and vulnerability artists undergo for the sake of their work. It’s risky to take something you created and place it in front of others. It’s risky because an artist’s work is built from the raw materials of his own life; to put it simply, it’s intimate. The best artists hold nothing back. It terrifies me to think of holding nothing back. Yet to be honest and to be good, artistically speaking, that stuff has to come out. Like a longboard.

Alan D. Tucker
Content Writer, Essayist, & Novelist

Virginia Woolf on Sickness

Painting of Virginia Woolf by her sister Vanessa Bell.

As I sit home from work today sick, I’m feeling a little useless. But the congestion in my chest, which, this morning, caused a sharp pain unlike any I’ve ever felt with this type of sickness, in all my years of sinus and congestion type infections (I’m good for at least two of these illnesses a year, and lately it’s been more, probably because of kids)–this pain and congestion demanded I stay home and rest. So in my forced uselessness, at some point in the morning, I remembered the Virginia Woolf essay, “On Being Ill,” which I read not so long ago in grad school. Though healthy when I read it, nonetheless, her take on the mental state we assume in sickness resonated. She addresses the sort-of limbo we find ourselves in when given permission to do nothing all day. We remove ourselves from society for a day or two, which is an odd situation for a working, fairly responsible adult and parent. We’re not sure how we’re supposed to feel. Well, rather than try and wrest from my virus-addled brain a substantial blog post, I decided to have Virginia Woolf speak for me. The following is an excerpt from that essay. Enjoy one of the greatest writers ever (and my personal favorite!):

“There is, let us confess it (and illness is the great confessional) a childish outspokenness in illness; things are said, truths blurted out, which the cautious respectability of health conceals. . . . [The] illusion of a world so shaped that it echoes every groan, of human beings so tied together by common needs and fears . . . where however strange your experience other people have had it too, where however far you travel in your own mind someone has been there before you–is all an illusion. We do not know our own souls, let alone the souls of others. Human beings do not go hand in hand the whole stretch of the way. There is a virgin forest, tangled, pathless, in each. . . . Here we go alone, and like it better so. Always to have sympathy, always to be accompanied, always to be understood would be intolerable. But in health the genial pretense must be kept up and the effort renewed–to communicate, to civilise, to share, to cultivate the desert, educate the native, to work by day together and by night to sport. In illness this make-believe ceases. Directly the bed is called for, or, sunk deep among pillows in one chair, we raise our feet even an inch above the ground on another, we cease to be soldiers in the army of the upright; we become deserters. They march to battle. We float with the sticks on the stream; helter skelter with the dead leaves on the lawn, irresponsible and disinterested and able, perhaps for the first time in years, to look round, to look up–to look, for example, at the sky.” (1925)

Virginia Woolf knew much more about illness than I, suffering as she did with extended bouts of depression, but isn’t there something in that passage that anyone who’s ever stayed home sick from work can recognize? I loved it immediately, because I’d never seen anyone write about this type of thing. You’d be doing yourself a favor to read the entire essay, and while you’re at it, read a few more. You simply can’t read too much Virginia Woolf.

Alan D. Tucker, MA
Content Writer, Essayist, & Novelist

Horror and Hugs

If I want to watch a horror movie, I have to wait until everyone’s either in bed or away from home. When one of these two conditions is met, then I have to search carefully for a movie that’s worth watching: so many are compromised by poor acting, or they rely too heavily on special effects, or they peaked in their previews so there’s no good material left unseen in the actual film. So many commit the fatal error of showing too much; the terror’s in what you can’t see. For any number of reasons, really, it’s difficult to find a solid, truly scary movie, one that fulfills its implied promise, thereby making you afraid to enter dark rooms or look into mirrors. And I can’t leave out the real terror: feeling like I’ve wasted a precious hour-and-a-half. Generally, for me these days, watching a horror movie at all is a precarious endeavor.

Last night, however, the fates aligned, it would seem. Everyone was in bed. I had roughly an hour-and-a-half before I’d start falling asleep upright in my chair, and I already knew of a couple of titles I wanted to try. Scrolling my list on Netflix, I settled on I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, a film with mediocre reviews but that I’m curious about anyway. The dark, opening screen appeared, accompanied by a spooky-sounding female narrative voice-over; the ghostly image of a standing girl in-profile, translucent, slowly glided backward across the screen, her face leaving a spectral smear of ectoplasmic mist; a baby cried out. What? Yeah, a baby. My daughter was awake and nearly distorting the monitor in the kitchen with the intensity of her crying. This was no couple of cries and then back to sleep; she was awake-awake, and from the sound of it, hungry. Being the one of her parents still conscious, it was only right that I get her (though I was tempted to linger in the hope her mother would get there first).

Her face was puffy and red from the crying, and from having just awakened. Her eyes squinted tight as I moved from the bedroom to the lamp-lit living room. The cries quickly tapered to nothing. I wiped and kissed her cheeks, snuggling her against my chest. For the briefest moment, she rested her head on my shoulder. Then she raised her face to mine and smiled, wielding a power I’m sure she’ll always have–the power to absorb my attention fully. In an instant, none of my movie-watching plans even mattered.

Alan D. Tucker, MA
Content Writer, Essayist, & Novelist

 

 

 

 

 

 

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