Friday, May 27, 2016

"It is a picnic."

In May of 1993, you were a scared kid, just like me.
Your senior skip day, we cut class and had a picnic in the grass at Sylvan Beach.
It was nothing to you to pocket a six pack in your ratty plaid back pack.
The sun was warm but the wind was cool.
Seagulls flocked the tankers lining up to enter the ship channel
and we watched each one go by.
I asked you why.
You smoked your Marlboro for a minute in silence.
Thumped your thin chest beneath your Fugazi t-shirt and answered,
"The Army is the only way for me, a guy with no prospects, to leave this town."
I thought you had prospects but I didn't say anything.
Neither one of us had ever seen a painter make a living doing anything
besides painting the insides of tanks among the chemical plants lining Highway 225 .

"Besides the Gulf War is over.  It'll be a picnic."  You drew a smiley face in the air with the tip of your cigarette and gave a cocky grin.

Years passed.
You sent letters, instead of emails all along, so you could tuck in drawings for me.
Vague ink and pencil landscapes or easy caricatures
on the paper inside of Hershey Bar or Double-Mint Gum wrappers.
Occasionally, a picture of you.
Your thin chest picked up mass.
I sent you a new Fugazi t-shirt in tan.

One day, before the letters stopped, I asked you why again.
I could tell you chewed your pencil as you wrote your reply.
The few things you erased remained smeared artifacts of your courage
until the pencil lead became so faint and fine
that it looked like chicken scratches, lines in sand.
I can still read it.

"You know why.  It is a picnic. It's easy to stand in a tent shower with everybody else's shower water backed up above my ankles, do dull drills, clean shit no one will ever use, and generally waste my time because it is about a picnic. "Freedom is a light for which many men have died in darkness." Remember?  I re-up because it takes a lot of peons and grunts to do anything worthwhile.  I give a grunt and get peed-on because it serves our country.  It's how I helped make sure you could have a picnic on your senior skip day too.  It's your picnic."

You didn't come home for another one,
but I do remember.
I never forget
it is a picnic
and this one
is for you.
Fallen veterans of the American Revolution.

One of those gum wrapper sketches.

Friday, May 13, 2016

If I wrote it, would anyone read it?

Does the creative non-fiction trend sparked by David Sedaris, etc. include travelogues in the Mark Twain, Will Rogers, and Flannery O'Connor tradition?
Soon I will set off on a hundred mile hike with my septuagenarian parents and esteemed wife along a wall built to keep out the rabble nearly 2,000 years ago. Hadrian's Wall follows the rolling contours of green fields, moors, and marshes from one coast of England to the other.   The walk alone could break us, but add in the weeks away from home in a strangely similar, but still different culture. Sure America owes some cultural heritage to England, and Texans are Americans...
But as the t-shirts put it, "Texans don't keep calm. We carry on."
We are not a couth group. Mom and I learned and tried to speak French in Paris.  Unfortunately, French spoken in Texan drawl was completely incomprehensible to all native French speakers. It did cause one little old man to pat my head though.
I can't help but think wouldn't it be fun to write the modern travelogue, "Lesbian Texans and Septuagenarians on Hadrian's Wall" as a vague parody of Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.
I'm sure it would be full of my Scotch tasting notes, landscape photos too expensive to print or format in an eBook, and lots about English summer rain and blisters. I'm also sure it would record the socio-emotional growth of a family soaking in too much time together. Of course, there would be some sarcasm and some self-deprecation, but I'm pretty sure my whole point would be sharing my imperfect perspective in the hopes of helping other imperfect humans grow, love, and pursuit happiness with joie de vivre too.
The real question though is would anyone read it?
Should I risk dropping my armor and even trying to publish it somehow? Or would it just be better to write it for myself to myself so I don't exhibit any symptoms of the Emperor's New Clothes?  What would Mark Twain or Will Rogers do? I think Flannery O'Connor would have said the point is in the living, so write it if it helps you live. And that's probably the answer I need, because I do think that writing it will help me revel more in the moment of living it.
Suit up?

Friday, May 6, 2016

ELECT a simple way TO DO GOOD

Its about something way more important than buying a book for $5.99.  The charity we chose to support, the Montrose Center, does more than just counsel LGBT community members struggling with mental health issues.  It offers many programs and resources to LGBT community members and their families to support mental and emotional fitness.  This is something I wish was available to more communities and something I believe could positively change the world.

In Ben Franklin's words, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound is worth a pound of cure.  As a member of the American Psychological Association, I have witnessed a horde of mental health care professionals stressing this point over two decades to nearly no avail.  One in five of the adults you know are hiding and struggling with an untreated mental  illness.  

Granted there are a lot of reasons for that including the stigma associated with the word illness. Please note that illness does not dictate chronic disease or a personal defect.  For example, the flu is an illness, and depression is the flu of mental illnesses.  They are preventable. The bottom line remains that too few people get help hefting a pound of cure, so that ounce of prevention goes almost completely unseen and unfunded. 
If you want to change the world, promoting positive psychology and mental illness prevention is a dang good way to make a whole lot of difference for very little effort. 
At least that's what I think. Even though penning a short story for a charity book isn't a whole lot, I rest easy in knowing I made a difference by supporting the availability of mental illness prevention in a community.  It's about more than a book, and that is why it is appropriate that the books is title "It's in Her Kiss."  So much happiness and health is in a kiss.

Regardless of your politics, we hope we've made it is easy for you to elect a simple way to do good this month. 
Do it to show your support for Mental Health Awareness Month.  Do it to show that social, emotional, and mental lives of LGBT families and minorities of all kinds are important.  Do it in honor of Memorial Day, because so many who serve do so at a great price to their own mental health to give you the freedom to pursue your health and happiness.  


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