Monday, January 18, 2010

More than just another day off

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
There are basically three types of people when it comes to this holiday. For many, it is an event synonymous with civil rights — a celebration of human dignity and its triumph over ignorance and oppression.
For others, it is a farce — the honoring of a hooligan who deserves little if any accolade.
And for some, it simply means no mail or missed school — la dee dah de dum.
I personally fall into category A. I can do little to persuade those in category B. Like sediment, their concepts and worldview have been compressed through the weight of experience until, brittle and hard, all flexibility has fled.
And so I look to save category C — the apathetic. Not only do these sprawling masses fail to realize the significance of MLK Day, they don’t care. An uphill battle, you say? Perhaps.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on Jan. 15, 1929, the son and grandson of preachers. His world was one of Jim Crow laws. Functions as simple as getting a drink or using the bathroom became elaborate social rituals. Basic rights were denied. Not just education, employment, property ownership and the right to vote. But simple human dignity — the core of which is framed as self-evident truths in the Declaration of Independence — that all men are created equal and endowed by God with certain unchangeable rights: to live without fear or persecution, to be free equally under the law and to strive to be happy. The Declaration further states that when Government fails to protect these rights, the People should not be silent.
Martin became the people’s voice. His eloquence captured their fear and anger and frustration — and became an outlet for their rage and impotence.
“Discrimination is a hellhound that gnaws at Negroes in every waking moment of their lives to remind them that the lie of their inferiority is accepted as truth in the society dominating them,” King wrote.
King’s thoughts and views are vital, not only to the struggling and frustrated black youth of today, but to everyone who values freedom. King reminds us of our obligations as Americans: that injustice has no place here and that if we are brave and persevere, it will never gain hold.
So we honor him, and his efforts and his voice. And we remember that he was not alone.
“Most of these people will never make the headlines and their names will not appear in Who’s Who,” King wrote in his acceptance speech of the Nobel Prize. “Yet when years have rolled past and when the blazing light of truth is focused on this marvelous age in which we live — men and women will know and children will be taught that we have a finer land, a better people, a more noble civilization — because these humble children of God were willing to suffer for righteousness’ sake.”
We celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a victory of humanity. Because we do have a finer land. And we are a better people.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Grace of God Go I

Here is a beautiful song I found recently. Sláinte.

"Grace of God Go I"
by Flogging Molly

Lookin' down through a tide of no return
Is a field where the crops no longer grow
Parched is the land, strangled an' be damned
There for the Grace of God go I

Down beside where the riverbed sleeps
Is a man not knowin' what he should feel
Mocked by the wave that beats the water's edge
There for the Grace of God
There for the Grace of God
There for the Grace of God go I

If I ever hurt another like thee again
I would drown myself beneath your name
Lost was the child, we all once did hide
There for the Grace of God
There for the Grace of God
There for the Grace of God go I

Monday, November 23, 2009


My senior thesis at Utah State was about the use of perspective in pioneer narratives. I know, I know – how droll, you think– but before you skip this and start looking for personal ads, hear me out.
Think about it. Our perspective or viewpoint, if you will, colors everything. It is how we see and remember the world and all that we experience in it.
In my thesis, I discovered that two people recounting the same exact tale would tell it differently, because their age, gender, religious background, etc. colored how they saw it.
Case in point, your courtship story. I guarantee you tell it differently than your spouse.
Or how about the first snow of the year? When I was a child, I loved that first snowfall. It meant sledding and snowball fights and flocking Justin Busk. It also meant hot chocolate with marshmallows, sitting on the heat-vent in the kitchen in the morning and helping my dad start the fire. And it was a magical time that heralded the arrival of that greatest day of all: Christmas.
By the time I was a teenager, the first snow meant church parking lot donuts in our station wagon, more sledding (this time with girls), and flocking Ramie Migliori. It was a wonderful time filled with excitement like bombing cars with snowballs and stealing Christmas lights, but I really can’t go into that due to the statute of limitations – and because Rex Hansen’s family is still looking for me.
Now, as a grown man, the inaugural storm means that I’m late on winterizing my sprinkler system again and that Christmas will be here all too soon.
But it also means snuggling with my sweetheart next to a roaring fire watching It’s A Wonderful Life while drinking sugar free hot chocolate with –sigh– no marshmallows. It is now a charming time fraught with bills and frenzy.
Back to recounting the tale and perspective. Imagine witnessing a car wreck late at night during that first bad snowstorm.
As an adult, I immediately think, ‘Is everyone okay?’ ‘Do they need help?’ or possibly, ‘Don’t you people remember how to drive in the snow?’
As a teen, my reaction is, ‘Awesome! Did you see that?’ or maybe, ‘Ha! His dad’s gonna kill him!’
And as a child, I would say, ‘Look, I caught a snowflake on my tongue!’
That’s perspective.

Monday, August 10, 2009

My new thesis

Brigham's Beard: Resurgence of the Chinstrap by Steve Hardman. That’s the title of my new made-up thesis.

For kicks, I like to make stuff up. Sometimes, I introduce myself as a dentist or rodeo clown, just to enjoy people’s reactions.

Once, I told a man that I was a mathematician studying fractals, and he excitedly replied, “So am I!” He was a professor at the U of U — and thankfully he laughed when he found out I knew nothing about geometry. For several days, I wandered the streets of Seattle visiting with people about my made-up master’s thesis, The American Cowboy: A Vanishing Legacy.

It’s like getting to be James Bond without the cool car. Or the gun. Okay, so it’s not like being James Bond at all, but it is fun.

On tin riding and climbing

I spent many a weekend on the San Rafael Swell. Growing up in Price, the Swell and its myriad features were only a short roadtrip away. The Wedge Overlook, Sid’s Mountain, Swinging Bridge, Black Dragon, Temple Mountain. From childhood through adolescence and into maturity, the San Rafael Swell definitely provided me with plenty of memories.
I remember the day we invented tin riding. With a 20-foot length of chain, we secured the hood of an old car to the back of Jedd Morley’s truck, climbed aboard the hood and took off. After a mile or two, the friction from being dragged down a dirt road at 50 miles an hour heated up the metal and made the ride unbearable. With our seats simmering, we abandoned our makeshift sleigh – not caring that we were still moving. Rocks and prickly-pears were preferable to a burnt bottom.
As luck would have it, I landed on an old mattress. We are strangers, providence and I, but occasionally we do meet in odd places. That dingy orphan of a mattress not only saved me from a beating, it also became the insulation for our hood – and provided us with months of padding before finally succumbing.
In addition to tin riding, one of our favorite activities in the Swell was rock climbing. We tried rappelling, but we didn’t have the equipment (and I don’t like heights), so we turned our attention another direction. Instead of going down, with ropes and gear, we decided to go up.
Now we weren’t quite half a bob off of plumb, but sometimes it was hard to tell. When we decided to climb, up the sandstone face we would go, nary a care, jamming my dad’s screwdrivers into crevices if the rock didn’t provide a hold. Whatever it took to gain purchase and climb.
I don’t know why, but it has always been easier for me to go up than down. Maybe its because my brother Scot pushed me off the top of the tall slide when I was little. Probably not, but it’s nice to blame someone.
So quitting and going down was never an option. I always climbed to the top, however hard; however scary – because up was easier than down. Maybe it helped that I always pretended I was Spiderman when I climbed.
There were some close calls, and we always went home scraped and bruised. The only real scare was when our makeshift zip line broke and Jedd fell about thirty feet onto the rocks below.
My only serious injury came when I split my head open, not from climbing ironically, but from trying to see which of us could get our butts closest to the road while hanging off the side of the truck (it was a step-side, you see, so it was perfect for just such an activity). One bump later sent me flying like Clark Kent. The scar still shows when I get my summer haircut.
As a father of five, including two teens, I can’t advocate that kind of climbing (or driving, for that matter). Frankly, my wife has forbidden me from telling these stories to our kids.
I hate to admit it, but my friends and I were much of the reason your premiums cost so much.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Hobos and A.D.D.

I've often said that I'm a hobo by nature. A long-standing quip of mine is that when I met Christy I told her that I was a hobo, and she thought it was a metaphor. Nineteen addresses, three states and an embarrassingly large quantity of careers later, she finds my wit a hint threadbare and worn.

Jim Tully once wrote, "The imaginative young vagabond quickly loses the social instincts that make life bearable for other men. Always he hears voices calling in the night from far-away places where blue waters lap strange shores. He hears birds singing and crickets chirping a luring roundelay. He sees the moon, yellow ghost of a dead planet, haunting the earth."

Sounds A.D.D. to me.

There is something deeply romantic about it all though – the walkabout.

But then, maybe I’m a hobo simply because I titter like a child at the thought of illicitly riding a train; because I have A.D.D.; and maybe, just maybe, because I just don’t like to shave.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Betrayed by the Gold and Blue

I was once betrayed by a pair of Notre Dame gym shorts.
And while I still root for the Irish, my feelings have waned since that childhood backstabbing.
It happened when I was seven or eight. I had been swimming at the public pool, and when it was time to head for home, I put on my shirt, tied up my runners and went into the lobby to wait for my friends.
As I waited, leaning on the wall near the exit, I couldn’t help notice the lifeguards and pool patrons laughing and pointing. I couldn’t figure out what was so funny as I looked around the room. Then, I looked down. Like the proverbial forgotten pants nightmare, I was without apparel. Yes, naked as the day I was born.
I raced into the dressing room, found my faithless Notre Dame shorts, and did what any humiliated youth would do. I threw them in the trash – and ran home in wet swim trunks and squishy sneakers.