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Entries in marriage (12)


Names Will Never Hurt Me...Sort Of

Oh, I think most people had someone taunt them as a young'un. The ones who didn't seem to have natural taunters at school probably had them at home and they just brought the gift to school to share with everyone else. I had mine. And with them came the much despised names and chants that rubbed it in.

In elementary school, most specifically through fourth grade, my much-maligned name was Eddie Spaghetti. The fuller taunt was "Eddie Spaghetti, your meatballs are ready." I hated that name—and that dish—for years to come. In the last two years of elementary school I went to a different school and got a chance at a clean slate with the names. I don't recall people ever automatically latched on to the Eddie Spaghetti taunt. I was relieved. One day on the bus, since I was one of the last stops, I reluctantly let the secret out on some kind of "you tell me yours, I'll tell you mine" dare. I don't recall if I regretted that but it did bring back some sour times.

In 1996, I had some fun with the various ways people had made fun at the expense of my good name Ed, in a snappy little one-two punk song bearing my name. By that point, other variations on Ed (McMahon, Gein, Wood, Scissorhands, Mister) had become known to me. Not all were taunts. But the song was a chance to finally own my dreaded past. Hah.

Meanwhile, years later I was told that Kelli never liked her name to be rhymed with "belly." Even I don't get to mess around like that.

Then, this week, the darndest thing happened.

We went to Costco some days before and when selecting some meat dish that we'd want to pick up, we bypassed the fish, the Italian sausage, and even the rotisserie chicken. I offered it had been a while since we had meatballs. So we got a bag of those.

On Thursday night we were both nursing colds and were hoping for a mellow night. I put the meatballs into the spaghetti sauce and set them on a slow simmer so everything would mingle for a while. Then Kelli came home and finished off her work. She started on the spaghetti. She's just a bit more practiced in getting the noodles right. I was off setting the table in the other room when I head a shout and maybe a naughty word that startled me. Kelli just scalded herself with the boiling water as she tried to drain the noodles. It splashed all over her... belly. Even as she walked out of the kitchen that first time, pulling up her shirt, the skin was lifted and curled back in an area of a few square inches. Red.

A quick Google check to see what we might do...

At the moment it didn't look too bad but I couldn't feel it of course. After some running around town to find an urgent care (that was actually open and took our insurance) and finally finding one back down in San Diego, we found it was a second degree burn. They got her some burn cream and a dressing and a prescription.

On the way home, after all that drama, as she got out of the passenger door and reached for its frame to shut it, she had the misfortune of gripping the thorn of a rosebush branch that reached over the fence. Nice.

Anyhow, that's the facts of Thursday.

But back to the childhood taunts. What a weird world it is when in one event, both our reviled names are brought to our minds. We sat there at dinner munching on the spaghetti. Kelli uttered "Eddie Spaghetti." To which I retorted, "Kelli belly." We had a laugh that defied the weight of the moment and probably made us cough up a lung in the process. Then it sprung to mind that this was even more cosmically ordained because there were meatballs involved and they were indeed ready!

Married life is indeed an interesting path to walk. The old hurts of life have the strangest ways of being processed. You just can't make this stuff up.


Sabbath Year Sweetheartery

As I set about writing this, I am exactly seven years from standing on the altar at my church, dressed in tux with my whole church family around, and one Kelli Parrish standing in front of me, appearing much the angel she is, but in a heightened, radiant way. As Eric Satie's Gymnopedies #1 played, the bridal party and then Kelli, escorted by Phil Calabrese as a stand in for her deceased father William (and even her deceased stepfather Rod), was about to do the unimaginable and marry a dude like me. Er, she was about to marry me!

At that time, I was just under a year from being in the worst existential suicide-ideational funk that I ever knew. At the start of September, I was at a residential therapy center for intervention into such a crisis. I was just weeks shy of my 30th birthday. Kelli was my most frequent, daily visitor in that terrible time of crisis and she was a key in the support system that brought me out of that place in my life. Then, not quite a year later, after months of solo and couples therapy to learn new ways to see life, new ways to relate to one another, we were moving along on what seemed like such a fateful obvious path. We got engaged about six months before, and that was so effortless it was almost that I took it for granted. Nothing else seemed to flow so easily but to be together then, and to keep on at it.

Just less than an hour ago I was rummaging through my 1992 box for other stuff to feed this site and happened into a fortune from a Chinese restaurant that I ate at nearly exactly 19 years ago (tomorrow). The occasion was the two month anniversary with Melissa, my first girlfriend that I paired up with in June. The hitch was that just two weeks after we started off, I was bound for Germany for nearly six weeks to see my friend Steve Rau, and to do a tour with him. It was all the world to me after the lonely and troubling year described in the previous post about Subway. Anyhow, just as soon as Melissa and I kicked off, I was gone and the duration of my trip was cause for a new kind of heartache and puppy love (mainly her situation... I was happy in Europe but excited to have a new life to return to). At the Chinese restaurant barely a week after my return, we were giddy to be back together. You can imagine the young person's fantasies that resulted with opening my cookie and it read:

You are domestically inclined and will be happily married.

It fed into Melissa's vision for fulfilling some years of anticipation. You see, Melissa was the daughter of a friend of my old man's from way back, so we were occasional playmates when we all lived in Clairemont (she's also about 2.5 years younger than me). But after some years they moved to a more distant suburb and the visitations fell off. Sometime in 1991 or so we were back in touch somehow. I think she called me. She was 15 and I was a senior in high school. I wasn't really too interested at the time. (I was saving myself for Shelby, you see.) But by mid 1992, I was ready to go for it and that summer was quite shaped by that new development. There was a feeling of fateful inevitablity in our being together. Something like a cheap Chinese fortune was enough to heighten that. But something about being poorly adjusted 19 year old doomed it and she broke up with me in early 1993, just under eight months after we started off. 

Our 7th anniversary trip to Mt. San Jacinto State ParkThe most memorable person I turned to for a shoulder to cry on or to try to make sense of the resulting mess of confused feelings was Kelli. I recall best a rainy night drive we took that led us to a long talk at Presidio Park near Old Town San Diego. At the time she was a friend from church, but I was at some distance from church life. We were part of the Shalom Community of teens while I was there, and that fostered a level of candor and trust and a real exchange of experience that obviously set the stage for Kelli and me when this Melissa meltdown left me a mess needing someone to talk to. Kelli always struck me as mature beyond her years. And though she was actually a bit younger than Melissa, she was insightful and able to be a great friend. Part of her hearing my heart was to get me involved in going with her mom to a coffee shop called Beans where I eventually heard Mike Keneally for the very first time. The rest is history.

Kelli too was a childhood pal from the world of church, but I don't really recall that clearly. I generally set the clock running from August 1990 when she and Kay appeared at the church, already well connected to people from before they left seven years prior. I found a kindred soul with her in part because I too felt kind of like an outsider and she was an unusual case of someone coming in from the outside of that somewhat insular community. She accepted my love for Jethro Tull's music. What more need I say? We were not great friends who hung out all the time, but she was one person that I had some ties to on the outside during the decade away from church, roughly from late 1991 through 2001. She was always authentic and present.

I've told the story a few times here. The point is that she's always been attentive and emotionally available as a friend. Over years we've been in touch with more depth than frequency. Over time she's raised my number with her integrity and commitment to things that her conscience leads her to believe or do. She's politically astute (something evident ages ago), theologically astute (something I was aware of but have obviously seen blossom since her seminary training), and compassionate. 

In movies and books and other stories, a man isn't a man until somehow he is reunited with either a woman, or some feminine aspect that was missing, the anima, which literally animates him. Until then, he is a shell of a person, but the anima, the side that is the repository of compassion, warmth, intuition, grace, and such characteristics, is what has to be there in order to counter and soften the opposite tendencies that take up residence in men, and if not, are often socialized into men with all kinds of messages that teach stiff upper lip, never let them see you cry kinds of messages. I have been reading George Elliot's book Silas Marner, where the point is made explicitly in Marner's disconnection and spiritual desolation being brought to an end by the mysterious appearance of Eppie as a young girl, and only from his commitment to take care of her as his own does he recover his full humanity and a place in the community which signifies his real security in the world.

Along those lines, in my world, Jesus is a hero because he has somehow incorporated that anima that almost certainly had to be in place before he could do the things he is recorded as having done. The deeds of compassion and of healing people (which I take to mean his ability to give them permission to be themselves and to return to society as fully dignified citizens) doesn't come out of a typical man's game. At the very least, he wasn't a typical man, else we'd have no reason to know his name now. We expect remarkable deeds from women, and so often they deliver those in unnoticed and unacknowledged ways. 

c. 2003Part of the task I've had before me was to open my eyes to that in my life with Kelli. During the time in the Halcyon house, she brought me a turkey/bacon/avocado sandwich from Henry's. Such a seemingly tiny deed, done so lovingly, has been one of the touchstone instances that has blossomed in our mythology as a couple. Being grounded in—of all things—the total delight in the layers of significance of one turkey sandwich means that we are pretty grounded in reality. When we make our cute talk about why we love each other, I am more likely to say it's because she delivered me a turkey sandwich on that day than because she delivered the moon and stars. I don't mean to be trite. That sandwich at that moment was not an insignificant moment in our history of trust, particularly as I was in a great sorting process to get closer to people I could trust and move away from ones that I couldn't.

As we stood on the altar seven years ago this afternoon, saying our vows (wedding audio page here), we had precisely two blood relatives in the audience—her mom and grandmother. All the other 100+ people were church and other friends. The lone exception was my stepmom Eda, who a couple weeks before was trying to weasel out of appearing until I pleaded that I expected no other family to appear. In some ways, Kelli and I faced a pretty big lack of support from family. My old man, more intent on playing property and family games, decided not to come and his absence was noted. These days he calls Kelli a housebreaker and he offers propaganda for some idealized relationship that fairly certainly never existed between us. He places the blame of our troubles at Kelli's feet. My mother (not Eda) has met Kelli precisely once about four years ago. I can't say that Kelli is replacement for all the estrangement, but her steadfast presence has been invaluable in setting a sight on a destination past all that and moving toward it.

As part of our therapy process in 2004-2005, one lesson that came to me most vitally was how we see ourselves as allies in it for the long haul. Faced with family decay (mine) and too many premature bodily deaths (her family), it all drives us closer. We were never a couple making sunshine promises. Always we were operating out of someplace where pathos—garden variety disappointment and sometimes outright tragedy—were the baseline shapers of our reality. In some ways, marriage is not just an act of love, it is an act of loving resistance on behalf of one another. To me, that is the durable stuff.

7th anniversary trip to Big Bear MountainWe're enjoying being married, and as the clock ticks by the months and years, we're seeing ourselves chronologically outlast the relationships we were raised around. In Greek, there are two senses of time worthy of discussion here. The first is chronos, the time we all measure with clocks and calendars. The other is kairos, a more elusive word denoting the inevitability of a moment. Some call it "God's time" and do so to indicate that something is happening that must happen because the time is ripe. Kelli and I have various dates to refer to when telling our backstory. We can name dates at points along the way, counting back to Sunday School as kids. We can now say that our marriage has gone on as long as that of my old man and Eda, or that we've been together longer than they were. That is interesting trivia for sure, but I like to deepen it with the idea that our relationship is rooted in kairos.

Both of us have known all sorts of disruption and upheaval domestically, she maybe more than I on a more consistent basis, and I've known periodic upsets that hit me hard. We've been raised in the most violent time in history and in a country and culture that is rooted in violence as our lifeblood. Ten years ago after 9/11 we found ourselves reeling at what it all meant. We found ourselves more closely affected by the murder of our friend Daniel (Phil's son and fellow Shalom Community member). We've watched as two sustained wars have been fought and essentially lost. We've watched as politics has become more and more savage. We've been forced to confront a future of more of that and less promise economically (at least according to the prevailing expections). We've been made aware that the life we were modeled was unsustainable and we'll have to be the generation at exactly that turning point in human history. We've watched as promises have been broken time and again in the name of profits, fame, and other distorting elements.

We've also watched as socially marginalized groups have found more dignity. We've seen dictatorships fall and democracy implemented in their stead. We've seen incredible creativity. We've seen the beginning of economic and grassroots political shifts that might do some good. We've served old people, kids, young adults, homeless, and terminally ill people. We've written and preached and published podcasts according to our prophetic vision for what is right and good—something that differs a bit but is ultimately shaped by our own initiating circumstances that on more reflection drive us to make countermovements toward more positive expressions. We've refrained from excess wherever we can see ourselves falling for it. We've resisted outside pressure from enemies "domestic and foreign" that has demonstrated a lot of ability to pull people apart.

Mt. San Jacinto state park, over the desert at 8500'All this is to say that Kelli and I aren't together just because we're old friends. Or that we're in total agreement. Or that we're perfect. As part of our vows, Jerry Lawritson reminded us that each of us is a gift to the other, but not solely for the other; that each of us are here to be blessings for people outside our relationship. The world clearly needs that, and almost inextricably we're led to those things by forces beyond our own reasoning and understanding. We're led out of ourselves while still being called to be ourselves, and our selves are shaped increasingly by the network of interactions that start with the other of us, but radiate outward to each other's network. This is kairos to me. Where chronos is imbued with a subtext of what, kairos has a subtext of why.

Kairos saturates my understanding of this marriage. It is loaded with grace that I never knew. It doesn't make sense to me how such an angel as Kelli fluttered into my life, but that is just the case. Even odder still is wondering how in the world that sustains itself! There was no clue of it as kids, and just a bit of promise as teens. There was more still as 20-somethings as we were just keeping in touch, and of course, in the post 9/11 world, it was almost an ordained thing that on reflection gets us a bit mystical minded. Each of us is here to look after at least one of God's other children, even if it means getting a turkey sandwich from Henry's is all that is called for at the moment.

Thinking back to this weekend in 1992, with the Chinese fortune cookie message, I sometimes think that any relationship could, with enough patience and work, be brought around and shaped into something. But that is not really practical, and really it seems that it is a vital part of things to not get it right early on. It seems to me that the lessons have to have their chance to play out over time, for the characters to be involved in some greater web than between two points alone. Who knew that I'd end up marrying a girl a few years my junior who used to be a playmate of mine when I was young? Who knew how the subsequent girl disappointments I faced would shape my readiness to link up with Kelli? Who knew that Kelli, operating in an alternate universe all those years, would be the one who tied up all the loose pieces of those relationships and added her own thing to it all, and that I'd finally be existentially ready to see it that way? Kairos. On a micro level between she and I, and on a macro level, on the world stage, it seems that it's God's time that set us up and sustains us in preparation for something that reveals itself a little at a time. No amount of puppy love with one girl or endless pining with another was going to achieve what has happened when I let down my guard and frankly, failed at everything else on the relationship front. 

...And so it looks from this vantage point of just seven years. We were well congratulated at church today upon announcing it but I was aware, particularly when greeted by the septuagenarians and octogenarians in the crowd that we have a long way to go. Or maybe better said, a long time to keep going at it. While there is a great deal of work and conscious effort involved, it is folly to self-congratulate when it is clear that this has been perhaps the most successful relationship of almost any sort, and it isn't anything that makes rational sense or that was earned in any way. In every way this has been a blessing to me. Sort of like Silas Marner made whole after spiritual desolation and alienation, being married to Kelli has been a homecoming—even surpassing whatever I might have thought home was in the first place.


Eight Is Not Enough

a wedding shot of ed grabbing kelli toward him for a kissAugust 28, 2004January 1, 2002 is the date Kelli and I give as a start to our present relationship. I have to say it that way because we've known each other for most of our lives, to varying degrees. The most reliable way we count time is from the summer of 1990—twenty years ago this summer—when she arrived at my church as a seeming new face. That is, until she and her mom talked about a time years before when they were at that same church, and (as the story goes) Kelli and I were in the same Sunday school class, or something like that considering our three year age difference. I'm told we used to give each other chase. We were both born into that church. I don't remember that period, but I do remember the post-1990 era.

We're often as a loss for how to count time that we've known each other. Do we start at the prehistory? Or 1990? Or when we started on our romantic journey on this day in 2002? Even blocking it in those terms is of little use since half of 2001 was time we drew nearer to each other in the wake of the murder of a friend of ours from the old days at church, and of course, 9/11, and other family drama for me and her having just graduated college. There have been many thresholds we've crossed over the years, some more odd than others considering she was a "church girl." (She still is, but in a different way.) It isn't as odd to have a beer with her while shooting pool as it once seemed. We haven't shot any pool in years but we've had some beers! During many years between my first exit from church life in about 1992, and until my return in 2002, she was a lifeline to that congregation and more substantially, any link to a spiritual life. Frankly, there was some disappointing stories about what was happening back at the church, vis a vis divorce, drug use and dealing, running away from home, and odd stuff like that that challenged my ideas of who these people were. I was often incredulous. She portrayed an unvarnished, honest picture of how things were, all the while expressing a real love for the characters involved.

A lot of time passed between our visits in those years. Some of that time she was back in Florida or at school. Often we'd run into each other at open mic nights or poetry readings or out on the town. Many times it was as if she had become a different person between visits. For a while in 1998-1999 we had a pretty reliable schedule as we worked together on a CD that featured her poetry and my sonic landscapes, but then she was off again as she finished school at her ivy league school, and I plunged into some wild depression. Sometimes I am alarmed at how different we are. But that really is a surface thing. What sticks out was that we both found a safe place to be ourselves.

We don't hand write letters to each other. A historian would barely have a few letters and scraps to piece together some idea of the words that pass between us. Scarcely any emails. Phone calls, yes, but mostly pedestrian stuff—who to meet when, what to get on the way home from work. Not writing letters to anyone perfectly coincided with my abandoning journaling in 2001, in part due to the computer's entrance into my life, but more so because of the agonizing year that led up to that period that just about ink poisoned San Diego from all the ink I spilled to sort through it all. But with Kelli, we don't write much to each other at all. I chalk it up to being generally so ready to have our lives lived in the flesh that paper is just a pale comparison to what we speak and express in person. And, as you know, it isn't that I am shy of using words. I am not. But words were the domain of my relationships with other people—real and imagined relationships at that. I suppose by the time I got into the present relationship with Kelli, I was so achingly ready to have a relationship that could be honest and unfiltered. The times I have tried to compose great letters have fallen flat, realizing that our daily lives together are the venue for our communication. Letters of old, written to people with whom I never had this quality of relationship, are pretty sad. Some are just way too pining for relationship with a person who is not able or willing to reciprocate. Those things took long hours to write, dammit! But with Kelli, we just go about our lives and forgo the endless whining prose. (A blog is a good relief valve for the pent up whining prose!)

kelli on the tidepools and cliffs down at point loma. the sun is blazing low in the winter sky and everything has a silver shimmer on the water and the thin cloudsKelli at the tidepools on Point LomaEight years now that we've been together in a romantically-linked way. But it didn't really start out that way, even in 2002. It really started out of our need for another human to share our full lives with. It started when the world of 2001 crashed and collapsed, taking expired dreams with it, but with the dawn of 2002 and the newly evolved relationship with Kelli, the beginning of a new era. One that is marked by uncertainty in the name of wonder. I still remember how we started off in 2002 and by the end of the first week, I was at church again, even knowing all its faults and having been away for ten years. On that Santa Ana sunny day with the sun low in the horizon, we went to the tidepools at Ft. Rosecrans and to the cemetery itself—a day that, with Kelli's gleeful smile and sense of wonder, ushered in a new period for me. I was perhaps far from articulating it then, but it was the beginning of a certain knowing that the universe was a safe place. It would be impossible to separate Kelli from any faith journey I have walked. It is not hyperbole to say that I love her more than any human I've known, so much that I have to wonder if all my other professed loves were just imagined or faked or something. It isn't that we're all about all the good stuff because we've had some grueling times too. But we've come far together in a way that would be impossible to match. We've probably got a few novels' worth of stories to write about but we have tomorrow to look forward to.

Eight years? That is longer than either of our parents were together, and on the verge of surpassing second marriages and step parent durations too. I don't know what it was about the previous generation and how relationships were like toilet paper. We don't feel that way. We can't feel that way. We don't have that luxury to feel that we're "all that" and don't need anyone else. I sort of feel that our relationship is a form of rebellion as well as being all the good stuff it is. We've been married for just over five years. I know that sounds like kid's play, but this isn't built on sand. We've had to work for this. Few things have been as challenging as being in this relationship, but none have been as rewarding. None. None have done the work of putting together all our Humpty Dumpty pieces that resulted from a combined 53 years before we joined up in 2002. Eight is just a beginning.


Engagement Plus Five

ed kelli and buber on the walkway within the Presidio monument in old town san diegoFamily at Christmas 2008It was on a day like this five years ago when I got engaged to my love Kelli. There were none of the theatrics that usually accompany this sort of occasion. It—like today—was a cold Monday near dusk, and we were taking refuge under some covers as the daylight waned. I think she had a cold or was worn out from a bad day at work. She was still a guest at my house when she was there; she only moved in a couple months later in April. A week or so before I had given her a ring that was my grandmother's, and which had been presented to me on the day she died, or shortly afterward. For a couple years, it pretty much just sat in my desk. I had no big plans for it. It wasn't anything I'd be wearing, after all. I don't know anything about it, if it was special to her or not, or whether or not it is considered precious. In giving it to Kelli, I actually didn't have any big plan. But by that time, we had been attending some MFT sessions for about four months and it was showing some progress for us as we began to sort out the challenges that had been arising for us after two years of dating. (We kept on going to the therapists for a couple years more as life was quite a ride during that period.) Only months into our relationship, I recall telling one of my roommates that Kelli was marriage material, but I never really talked that way aside from that. Really, all Kelli and I had was an escalating relationship that led us closer together. So, when I gave Kelli the ring, she coyly asked me which finger it belonged on. If she asked me this before that dark and cold Monday the 16th, I don't remember, but on that day, I trusted we were ready, and replied only with my own coy retort, "I thought you knew."

And that was it. That was as close as I got to "popping the question." I know, it's not as show-bizzy as some with their sky writing and billboards and stuff, or as traditional as getting on bended knee. But it was appropriate. If a girl wants to marry you on a cold day in February when she feels sick and tired, then there has to be something more realistic and grounded in that, and clearly no one was swept up in romantic fervor or staged events meant to thrill. We were never the sort to go for the usual romantic accoutrements; for Valentine's day, she won me over with the two little ceramic pigs we got while being tourists at a shop in Julian up in our local mountains. By this time, we'd related to each other in various capacities since mid-1990—over 13 years by then. Our dating period up to this point in 2004 already had some feel of being married, in terms of some things feeling so right and familiar, as if we'd been doing them for a while already. So, getting engaged in this ultra-low key way was just part of the progression.

Funny, every now and then I get asked something about marriage from someone who is newer at it than me, or who is about to be married. I don't know the formula for getting there. I don't really know about dating, or about some stunning ways to propose, or how to spend a fortune on a wedding and go on exotic honeymoons. I just don't think my circumstances are very repeatable. Not everyone will have nearly a decade and a half to build some friendship—often at great distance and with gaps in continuity—and to flow fairly smoothly into a marriage. Not everyone will have the will to attend premarital and early marital therapy sessions for as long as we did. Not everyone will be willing to shed the pervasive cultural individualism so that the relationship becomes the center of attention. Not everyone will see marriage as the chance to heal old wounds and to allow another person to change you. Not everyone will enter into marriage with the intent to deepen their humanity by opening up and being vulnerable. Yeah, I can't say this would work for another couple, but it worked for us.



Well, the gay folks are allowed to marry each other today. I guess that means my hetero marriage is toast. I guess its time to start throwing the fine china, having loud arguments and living in separate houses until the divorce papers go through. Maybe I'll be looking to couch surf on all your sofas till I get my shit together. Maybe I'll just mosey on down to the gay bar and see if there are any prospects along those lines. I'll do that till I get to be a meth-addled HIV drain on society, and then maybe I'll go live by the railroad tracks and beg for coins and beer at the intersections.


Brokeback Marriage

I just watched Brokeback Mountain again after not seeing it for a number of months. I restarted my Netflix account after a school semester and a few months of doing a lot of work moving house and all. Brokeback was the first pick in the new movie viewing season. I guess I just really dig the movie because it just speaks to the ache that people have to be who they are and to be in the midst of those who understand that and support it. It is very existentially exciting to live in that realization. And I guess it doesn't matter where your love comes from. In my certain way, I can understand that. I never really thought that a movie such as Brokeback would resonate with me such as it seems to for me right now. But it does. And it's not that I am leading a closeted gay life. No, Brokeback is about security within a safe relationship—both knowing it and fearing its loss and walking the line between following one's bliss (being true to oneself) and sucking it up and playing by the rules of a society that isn't made to understand real freedom and the various dimensions of love.

I love being married. I love it more than anything else. I love it more and more all the time. Yet my love for it is borne out of failures heaped upon failures. Only my grandparents served as models for a long term marriage, but I can't pretend to have taken detailed notes from either one of them. But I do let their nearly 62 years of marriage inspire me. I think there is a lot of marital psych talk that is bullshit but so far the winning formula for success has been to anticipate and to meet the needs of your partner first and foremost. I find myself lamenting the dwindling of my musical "career" over the last few years, or lamenting the loss of certain people who played some roles in my life that I thought should never have ended. Some were full blown imaginary relationships, others were closer to reality. But in the past five years or so since Kelli and I paired up, all that has been on the wane, maybe just relegated to memories. The thing is, Kelli replaced it all in the best way possible.

Kelli and I had a long relationship of friendly platonic relations for years before we got into our present type of love relationship. She was a "church girl" so at least we were off to a good start. We met up over the years and always had some sort of contact that evidently was more profound than we realized. We laughed and cried into the nights, partied, or did some church stuff, or talked music, or whatever. We drank beer and shot pool, never realizing we'd be married one day. I never realized that the relationships that fell by the wayside were the ones that prepared me for being with her.

ed and kelli in love, all soft focus and closed eyes and shit. ed's head on kelli's shoulder as they're laying down.My non-musical present life is not such a loss when I reflect on how I used my music, studio, and the gigging life of the late 90s to move further and further out of relationships, into more and more depression and a darker and darker place. I used all that stuff like a drug to disconnect from life, while telling myself that I was thriving, doing my own thing, being my own person. For me at least, individualism and consumer materialism were leading me to death. None of that would lead me to where I wanted to go. Now I consider Kelli more than just my wife. I consider her my home. My safe place to be myself. If that entails giving up the isolating experience of locking myself in the studio for hours at a time and cooking up dissonant music, then so be it. If it means selling off the material items that once were supposed to bring me some happiness, then so be it. The stakes are raised now because over the course of the five years that we have been together, and a few years before that, I have watched my own blood relatives either die a real death or a figurative death in my life. All of them. Some have been more destructive than others on the way down, but essentially, they are all dead now, even while they still walk the earth and own property and eat food. It is what appears to be a reality I need to accept. Not one of my blood relatives could be persuaded to come to my wedding in 2004. Each has slowly checked out of my life until they all are gone. Oh, there might be some out in Ohio or somewhere, but I do not know them so they are out of the scope of this assessment.

So for me, sort of like the guys in Brokeback, the new family is the one that gets it; the one where it is safe to be all of oneself—all the joys and confusion that accompany that. And for me, Kelli is the one living being that fills that bill for me. But it wasn't just that we had all those years to get to know each other. We still had to do a lot of the stuff that most couples have to do as they find their stride, and none of that was easy. But the cost of giving up was too high for us, so off to a couple years of therapy we went, and moving a few times now has been something that almost wrecked us but ended up working in our favor as we had to work out all the things that go with that change. I feel sorry for the people who get married and somehow feel that they don't have the partner as their best ally in life, then feel that divorce is the way out. Maybe the materialistic society has made it too easy to expect that something else will come along that can replace that relationship. I don't mind being "needy" in a relationship, nor do I bristle as much as before at needs of Kelli's being expressed. From our two years in therapy, the overarching thing I got from that experience was that marriage is the place to meet the needs of the other. In doing so, the feeling of safety can descend over both partners. To that end, all my energy is being put into this like my life depends on it, and in many ways it does. If I had to live life realizing and counting back to myself how many friends and family have checked out of my life, I'd be done if somehow I couldn't put that in the proper perspective with Kelli as the centerpiece of life now.

It is interesting how Brokeback Mountain ended. Ennis Delmar's daughter announced her engagement. After he momentarily held on to the past pattern of isolation that had sustained him thus far, he let go of all that and finally became the father his daughter needed. He pushed aside work and the relationship with Jack to be where he was needed most at that time. I reckon he finally knew the pain and joy of love and finally felt that it was his time to give back.


Home. Work.

In the past few weeks, I have worked in one capacity or another for all 24 hours of the day. Let's survey what I've been up to and the varied hats I have worn since this time last month:

  • Recorded some music at the house here while Adam was still here.
  • Moved assloads of furniture and boxes more than once.
  • Cleaned the apartment to a shine on the way out.
  • Yard work here before properly moving in.
  • Function the in house IT guy for three computers now.
  • Regularly update my church web site.
  • Regularly record the services there too, and edit the recordings and archive them.
  • Function as secretary at the church board of trustees.
  • Helped Suzanne roommate move in to this house even before we are fully moved in.
  • Helped our other roommate Mark move some things too.
  • Did lots of laundry.
  • Started a compost bin.
  • Repaired various things as they appear.
  • Repaired broken wooden furniture that didn't fare well in the moves or storage.
  • Returned to work at the AV company and they put me to work primarily driving a 16' truck for 30 hours in three days, and three trips to Orange county in as many days.
  • Cooked dinner sometimes.
  • Hosted dinners with Kelli.
  • Attended some dinners next door.
  • Function as driver for street banner hanging work that has come my way (and saved my month of January).
  • Moved some furniture overflow to and from this house, and dumped some on my buddy Glenn who needed it more than we did.
  • Started to configure my studio again, slowly but surely constructing my Ikea Erector Set of a desk and moving junk in the garage way too much from one corner and back. Climbing ladders to the topmost rung (where you aint s'post to climb) so I can fabricate a simple bit of control over my lights in there.

Kelli has been beaming on and on about how I cleaned the apartment before she had a chance to. It's like she could never have expected such a thing. For me, there wasn't anything else that could be done. Hell, moving sucks, particularly the way it scatters your life. Getting back to normalcy is a priority. So I just worked around the clock till life seemed normal again. And the project continues! I've been licking my chops about playing music again and having stuff ready to record, but I keep circling that project like a dog matting its bed down by walking in circles. The studio has to be just perfect. Odd, considering it's a dumpy garage with hardly anything of sound dampening material. It makes my old studio look like Hog Heaven! Actually, it does make the old place look classy and refined, but you know, the "studio" is not the material, it's the environment. And I haven't played anything like music for over seven months.

The AV company I work for finally called me up for a few days last week. It seems they got busy beyond belief and needed a driver. While "driver" is part of my job title, ordinarily it is not the only thing I do. However, I far prefer to be out of the shop where the wind can blow and there is no concrete floor punishing my feet and legs. I will primarily have to balance the AV Concepts gig with Greg and his banner hanging work since both are vying for my time the most, but in one of those cruel ironies, on Wednesday this week, I had accepted work with the AVC for the following day and had to turn down Greg who had the first part of two nights of that 3:30 am shit. About the time of turning down the wicked early banner work, my old contact Mitch called and offered me a gig on Thursday—in LA! Shit. Three offers for one day and I could only take one! Oh well, the following day, I woke at 1:15 am to prep for the 5 am load in in Anaheim, then drove back and was near my house at 8 am, and continued to work straight through with no break till 1:15 pm. I came home and slept from 2 pm till about 7 or so, spent some time with Kelli and her visiting friends for dinner, then went to bed to catch a few winks for three hours before running off to do the 3:30 banner hanging gig on Saturday morning. He uh, made it worth my while to get up at 2:45. I at least got home before the sun crested the hills, and got to sleep till noon like good old times.

Later on, Kelli and her friend Ashley made dinner for whoever would show up, and that ended up being the three of us, incoming roommate Suzanne, Phil and Nancy next door, and Glenn. We all had good fun. For us, its nice to open our house up and get our little community together. In fact, we all ended up telling stories about how Okua the dog has left a mark on our lives with her escapes, food stealing and other canine antics. Glenn could tell how she left him with so much fur that he still finds some in his clothing. Kelli and I could tell about how she yanked the Foreman grill to the floor when she heisted all the sausages she could get from it and the plate nearby. Phil and Nancy could tell about her jumping out windows and over fences (so could we—really). Suzanne marveled at it all and still retained her wish that Okua would be a good buddy and would cuddle on her bed... hah. Okua will move in and won't leave!!! This is her house more than any of ours except for Phil's, you see.

Ah, another sleepy January is gone. Except this January was not sleepy in the "real" sense. I don't know that I slept much. Sure, I pretty much didn't have a job but damn, it was work work work all month long! And that doesn't even include the various things I turned down or just couldn't get to. Somehow, people came out of the wood work asking if I knew how to fix this or install that. One guy wanted some electronics fixed. One lady wanted a faucet installed.

But one thing is for sure. I don't do Windows. I do Apple.


2005—Weaving A Fabric

There is so much I want to say about 2005.

It could be the misery of the ordeal of moving from a place I called home. It could be activist/educator stance I took regarding energy related matters and a culture of materialism. It could be that Glenn and I connected musically, and that he became a new best friend. It could be that I turned 32. It could be that even before my first anniversary, my marriage seemed ready to fall apart. It could be that I rejoined the world of event production. It could be that I lost my studio of seven years. It could be that I regularly went to counseling sessions for self and couple. It could be that I drove up to northern California twice in two weeks. It could be that I was laid off from my favorite job and spent six months unemployed. It could be that I didn't wash my truck once in the calendar year of 2005. It could be that I went to Florida for Christmas.

It could be a lot of things because a lot of things happened to me. But what really resonated for me across all this and more is that I have come to know love more and more, and have come to find I really like the things that can't be weighed, measured, or counted. I've been utterly savoring being married. I love my dear wife like nothing before. She keeps astounding me in ways I hardly imagined possible. But so does our relationship, because for our relationship to amaze me as much as it does means that maybe I have something to do with it, and frankly, it feels good that maybe I've contributed something.

Kelli has always been a light in the window for me. My return to church activities after about a decade off in my personal wilderness fell about two weeks after we started up the relationship we now have, and that date began in earnest on the first of January, 2002—exactly four years ago now. But for years before that, she had been one of a few people who was there to remind me that the church existed and that I would be welcome when it was time to come around. So, my relationship with Kelli and my relationship with my church is really intertwined. They feed off each other. Both of us fill different roles within the church. This year, she started seminary after almost 20 years of pondering such a move. Her grandfather was a minister in our denomination, and she drew a lot of inspiration from him early on. Right now, just standing in her shadow as she goes to seminary is amazing to me. Part of it is just that she is in her Masters program, but by far it is so much more inspiring that she is on her way to self actualization in a very noble field, and one which she has envisioned herself in for more than half her life.

But it's more than that. For me, being in her "zone" of influence, it's really amazing to absorb a lot of things from her studies, either as I am one of her proofreaders or that we just hunger for a lot of the same things and find ourselves in fabulous discussions about a great range of topics, theological and not. Just yesterday and today we sat and watched DVDs that just struck to the core of what we both want to be a part of. We watched films on The Underground Railroad and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. We also watched one on Miguel Pinero. The common theme really was something that we find ever more irresistable: redemptive action in a complicated and harsh world. The Underground Railroad and the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer of course are almost the same: struggles to do justice at any and all costs because justice is just what needs to be done. The Pinero story is one of defying pain and injustice and maintaining a sense of self in the hardest times, and the redemptive quality of art to lift the soul out of prison, either the concrete one or the abstract ones.

Kelli and I are fueling up on the start of a journey. We are filling up our reserves with all manner of stories of people who stand in defiance of injustice so that dignity and humanity can reenter the world. They take all forms and come from all walks of life. In fact, our role models come almost exponentially to us; we follow a few we know of and find more, which leads to many more. Bonhoeffer is one tremendous model. Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. are huge. But the master is by far Jesus. The more I find out about him, the more amazed I am at what a radical he was, and how necessary it is for him to haunt modern hearts. Bonhoeffer called him the "man for others" and established that Christ was really community itself. And, in this fractured world, I find it hard to believe that we can fix the mess with anything less.

It dovetails nicely with my peak oil and consumerism concerns. Really. I came a long way in settling my heart about the traumatic future peak oil will probably bring us when I realized that community relations are what will be the answer if one exists at all. Not divisiveness. Not more individualism. Not escaping to the country to live as hermits with a stockpile and a 12-guage. No, the secret to the worst problems that could ever come is in community. And Jesus exemplifies the notion. Bonhoeffer was a modern echo of that sentiment. Peak oil activist (and my hero) Richard Heinberg provides an even more modern refrain of that theme. As I flew to Florida for my Christmas holiday, I read Joseph Campbell's interview with Bill Moyers The Power of Myth and had this reinforced still more. Humanity knows better than to split itself off from itself—we've failed miserably when we've done so. The themes in our various mythologies all speak to the benefits of community, self-restraint, and giving. These notions span clear across eons of human history, but we still insist on trying to live outside these parameters, only to find their truth magnified in our failures.

It's said that marriage is the cornerstone of society, and I am starting to know what it all means in a very personal way. I find that marriage is just that. I come from a small family that fell apart in a big way such that I feel little or no relation to anyone to whom I am related by blood. Not one of my blood relatives attended my wedding. I've known pain. I've been suicidal. I've feared. I've hated. I've tried to solve problems by creating more. I've lied. I've stolen. I've lived out of balance. I've tried to justify all this, rather erroneously. I've missed the mark. In religious language, missing the mark is known as sinning—in fact, that is what it really means. Fine, then I've done that. But my relationship with Kelli is one that has provided me with a chance to be redeemed, and to work to build community in its smallest unit: between two people. Kelli has been a catalyst for growth and redemption for almost all of the time I've known her, which this year will be 16 years, and as I said, four years in our current relationship. From the practice I get in relating to another human being, accepting failure on both our parts, and revelling in success, it's the stuff that prepares us to take that sort of thing to the world. We consider the Bonhoeffers, Gandhis, Tubmans, Kings, and others of their sort as saints and prophets who lead the way for what will eventually be our world to make better in any way we can. Kelli will find her way in ministry as an ordained minister one day; I find that my work to change minds about consumerism and to prescribe community effort in the face of our energy crisis in the making is where I must be right now. Those are our lofty big goals, but we also try to do the smaller things that matter as often as we can, given that we must still struggle to make a living, and must conduct our lives in a world that would just as soon leave us dead by the road if we let it.

One of our favorite biblical quotes (and one of the very few that I can rattle off at will) is Micah 6:8 where we are told what is asked of us by God: do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God. All else is subservient, really. It foreshadows what Jesus would come to model for us. It speaks to me like few other things in this age of confusion, dissonance, tumult, pain and suffering. It's a recipe for stewardship of society and environment alike. It strikes out hatred and greed. It demolishes egotism and brutality. This is the basis for community living and success in the face of everything. It's love of self and neighbor. It's the anti-war statement of anti-war statements. It's a prescription for success of the human project. It comes for free but not without a price. Bonhoeffer made a distinction between cheap grace and expensive grace. The expensive variety is demanding. My heroes are people who speak truth to power, who are spanners in the works of corrupt and unbalanced society who speak what they speak or sing what they sing so that redemption may occur.

The things I endured in 2005 are pretty insignificant in their own way. I don't think any of it is unique. I guess I can only hope that what I do with these experiences is somehow for the good. It's hard to hang on to hatred and fear. It is terribly unhealthy. In 2003, the experiences of 2005 might have snuffed me out or would have called out the worst in me. But this year it's been easier to take it in stride while I've decided that all of it must happen for some reason, and that it's all easier to cope with if Kelli is there to help with the load, and the same in reverse. The mission of marriage as one to redeem and heal old wounds is one that we've been working on because I think we both know the world will be a demanding place that needs people who have enough of whatever it takes to cope, and I think we are both just savoring the things we have to draw on, either in the stories of the saints and prophets, or the great thinkers, or the people around us.

On reflection, this is the stuff that mattered in 2005, no matter what the details were. I feel compelled that 2006 will be an improvement upon all that.


Still Alive, Dammit

Oh damn it has been a hell of a month, this August. Hot, miserable at times, loaded with day job work, and more moving work, stress, drama and a little time to sit at the computer and just be me. Oh, and some days have been four shower days as I struggle to get things done. I played just a couple hours of "music" with some guys in a one-shot jam last week, and will try to keep going out sometimes if only to warrant my keeping my bass rig around me here at the apartment, and maybe to justify my keeping most all my music gear, having really only parted with the Rhodes piano in this process.

The up shot is that today is my first wedding anniversary, and Kelli and I are still going along, despite some rather desperate times in the course of all this moving mess which started nearly three months ago. Today was more or less mundane but for stopping in for some dinner that was made all the more possible by a church member who cut us in on some generous cash donation for the occasion. But other than that, today was as hot and gummy and sleepymaking as any other in the last month and a half. I worked yesterday at some Time Warner movies in the park show, and while it on its own was not crushingly hard work, it was on Saturday which has been a day off so far, and then it's back to work tomorrow. So my precious little anniversary will be sandwiched in between work days. At least next week I get a four day weekend.

My apartment is hot. My warehouse is hot. Everywhere I need to live out my days is hot. I've often been too tired or otherwise committed to just go somewhere and chill in the stores or restaurants. I keep telling myself to walk on down to University and check out the area, eat at some local eats, or go to Claire's to read or something. I have an EONSNOW presentation to put on in September and want to do some prep for that. I am supposed to be working on a website for one of the church folks who bought my services last year when I donated a web site job to the church. But things still have not settled down much around here. I feel really bad for letting so much get in the way of this job for him. I can't help it. For me, web design and music recording are just dead. I don't really know how life will settle for Kelli and me. As it is, we are already talking about moving again because of the relative convenience of being based in only one place once again. She's only gone to school for her orientation week and it proved to be a huge thing she signed up for, and with gas prices on the rise, who knows how romantic the idea of commuting once a week will remain. And we'll be apart a few days a week, or she'll be studying like mad for her 5 classes. And I'll be working like a dog here. It's just different. who knows what will settle back into place. It's been a huge change for both of us, and will continue that way for a while.

So it's not even 10 pm and I am dragging ass like mad. This time of day used to be when I would come alive and be able to look forward to another seven or eight hours of time to socialize, play and record music, write, whatever. Now it's time for shower number three and the fan blowing on high and making its usual racket of white noise and the rattling sound of its plastic components, along with the blinds flapping in the breeze all night. It drowns out the neighborhood, police cars, and freeway traffic.


Domestic Bliss

Ah, there was a time in my life (mainly from mid 1995 till about early 2003) when my work consisted of doing gigs as a drum/guitar/keyboard tech, soundman or assistant, and some other assorted concert production jobs. For a year and a half or so I have been mostly out of that biz (and since 9/11, things have been slow anyway compared to the heyday in 1999 or so), but for extremely few gigs that aren't really big but have been paying well. I never really ate too well while doing that line of work. The schedules involved are not really even schedules. It's all madness, and usually it's fast food on the menu, and it's hard to ever get things to eat on any predictable basis. This sort of life is okay in your 20s.

But I am not in my 20s anymore. Usually I hated many aspects of the work I did, but primarily the pay sucked. When I got to going out with Kelli, I lost a lot of interest in doing that work (even as reduced as it was in early 2002) if it meant changing plans or getting last minute calls. I had done only that work for so long people knew I would take a half day notice to do a gig, or would take a gig out of town in Phoenix or Palm Springs that immediately lead to one in Downtown or whatever. I was a slut for that work. The nature of it demands that allegiance and flexibility. I never had any easy time getting any sort of a fixed schedule going for me while doing that work. I found it hard to ever work a day job or any sort of repeating task. Didn't go to school, didn't go to church, didn't do a lot of things. But I took almost every gig offered.

So now I have my day job, do my church time again after a long time away, have my lovely little wife with whom I like to spend time all the time, and even have some time to get counseling and even a dose of a social life (which primarily revolves around church-related folks or more often now, Kelli's friends). My life, once a mess of round-the-clock work and zipping around the county or even the entire region, has now settled to a reasonably consistent schedule. There are a few compromises, but in light of the things I now enjoy, they are worth the losses.

My favorite, and it was totally epitomized by what just happened tonight, is that Kelli is here now. Our dating era is over, she is just here. She makes things like home. And tonight, on a rare instance of doing a gig (drum kit rental only for Rockola—the band that got me into all this), Kelli was just so full of whatever it is that makes a guy love his wife. She and I showed the rooms tonight to some prospective tenants, then I had to leave to go get my drums back, which really was just about an hour long trip. But when I got back, she had this tasty chicken cordon bleu and some veggies all ready for me on a tray table in the living room. Literally, walk in, sit down and eat.

Or maybe it's just the calls while I am gone. We got cell phones this year. It was a good move. It's funny how the smallest stuff matters the most. Dinner, a call, a kiss, or just knowing that I don't have to lock up when I leave, and that the house is in good hands. Most of those years I was doing production were miserable years. I worked for shit pay too often, and really never liked my home life. All I did was go into my studio and make depressing music, or write letters to people who could give a shit about me. But not now. Now I have my sweet little wife who makes me want to come back and stop hanging out with flaky musicians and low paying gigs just to fill time and dull the grief.

She made a tasty hollandaise sauce for the first time out, also.