The move to Las Cruces (part 2)

(4:38 Friday morning)  The first real adventure – not counting the move – has happened: I made a run to the Costco in El Paso, Texas on Wednesday . . .

Getting there and getting back was the adventure; BEING there wasn’t much different from any other Bay Area Costco, with one notable exception: every human being in the store – employee or customer –  was a really nice person. It’s something we’ve noticed about the locals here: eye contact, smiles, patience, manners. We notice it when going into stores, banks, and even, as of yesterday, the University of New Mexico’s library to get a library card. Example: a sunglassed college dude and I arrive at the library’s entry door at the same time. Without hesitation or a questioning look he strides to the door, grabs the handle and steps back to hold it open for me . . . with a nod, a smile, and no words. You could tell he’d been that kind of guy his whole life. Same goes for the pretty co-ed and the woman administrating from behind the library’s’ service desk: smiles, kindness, and helpful information. I’m told I’ll get my library card in the mail in a few days. In the meantime, would I like a tour of the library?

Anyway, the adventure: Costco run, El Paso . . .

El Paso means Texas, and Texas means BIG, as in large, grand, or huge. If Montana’s gonna claim big sky, Texas gets to claim big everything else. My god, the freeway on-ramps, off-ramps and overpasses at the northern approach to the city are not only massive and soaring, they’re aesthetically pleasing. Giant star shapes were somehow incorporated into the forms used to build the concrete columns that support the interweaving flyover ramps and you can’t NOT see those stars: they stand out in bas-relief and have been painted gold, as part of the three-color palette used to paint not only every support column, but the entire interchange, which went on for miles as I approached the town. Clearly, art and creativity were encouraged during the design process. Infrastructure informed by art: very impressive.

Eastbound Interstate 10 out of Las Cruces will get you to El Paso in less than 45 minutes if you drive the posted speed limits, which vary between 65 and 75. If you’re in the mood to triple that drive time on the way back home, do what I did: take State Highway 54 north after your Costco run, drive the entire backside length of the Franklin Mountains — won’t that be scenic? — then miss the turn that would have taken you back to Interstate 10 and Las Cruces. Be sure to not realize you’ve missed the turn until later. Much later. Also: no on-board GPS in your 2003 GMC truck; only what remains of your memorization of the Google map you studied before leaving the house earlier this morning.

Keep heading north on Highway 54. Make a mental note of a sign you’ll pass that says to the east is the Biggs Army Airfield; to the west is the Fort Bliss Military Reservation. This will be helpful information in about an hour.

Cross the Texas/New Mexico border going 74 mph and keep going. Remember: you’re still looking for a sign that tells you to turn left and head back towards Interstate 10 and Las Cruces. Until then, keep going . . . and going . . . because it’s beautiful, unspoiled, untamed, and driving through the open desert after sixty-two years in California feels oddly therapeutic.

Slow your roll to 35 when you come to the town of Orogrande. A quarter mile later you’ll have passed through the entire town and can go back to driving 74. About ten minutes later you’ll notice a bunch of military vehicles, dozens of them, with big tires, driving parallel to and a hundred-or-so yards from the highway, through the desert brush, following one another’s dust cloud, someone else’s orders. Oh, look: there’s a tank . . . following another tank . . . and another, and another. Hmm . . . where did they all come from? Oh, wait: the sign you saw an hour ago — the military installations. Ah, yes. Maneuvers, practice, rehearsal . . . possibly related to the Middle East in some way, judging from the landscape. . .

Continue driving blissfully through the open desert listening to your 70s and 80s mix tapes until you come upon a sign that says: WHITE SANDS NATIONAL MONUMENT: 30 MILES.  Now is the time to realize something’s not quite right because White Sands National Monument is barely an hour northeast of Las Cruces, and without a map or a clearer memory you have to decide to continue onward and get home in an hour-and-a-half or two, or turn around, pay MUCH closer attention to the signage along the way, and expect – wrongly – to get home sooner. After you’ve made the U-turn and begin heading south, try and push from your mind thoughts of how you would have been home well over an hour ago had you gone home — had I gone home — from El Paso the same way I went in, using Interstate 10.

Oh, well . . . Good thing I had such a deep love for the open desert and no pressing engagements because I got to see what I’d already seen, in reverse order: the quasi-town of Orogrande with its tiny, dilapidated post office; the military vehicles kicking up dust; the mountains I thought I would be driving through . . . The adventure would soon be over, but not before making an instinctive right turn to the west that eventually brought me to another small town in the middle of nowhere, this one with a brand-new Auto Zone store and a friendly employee who settled my navigational hash once and for all: following his simple directions got me home in thirty-five minutes.

Finally, as an addendum to the super-nice people thing going on around here, there’s the guy I’d never seen or met before who happened to be driving past me yesterday at the exact moment I was setting out a recycle can on the street at our driveway. . .

I’d given a neighborly wave to the passing car and the stranger inside. The car slowed, then stopped – in the middle of the street – and out climbed a Hemingway-esque guy who casually introduced himself as Ted. Fifteen minutes of conversation later, his car still in the street, he led me to the front door of the house across the street from mine, intending to introduce me to his girlfriend, Susie, who he was dropping in on. Susie wasn’t home – he had a key to her house, had let himself in long enough to step inside and call out for her, but no answer – so we finished our conversation back in the middle of the street. Ted’s a desert guy, a retired speech pathologist, born and raised in Las Cruces, and has never lived anywhere that wasn’t a desert town. He described his house as the one just down the way, the one with the sailboat in the driveway, a sailboat he was fond of hauling an hour north to Elephant Butte Lake, New Mexico’s largest.

A desert guy with a sailboat stops his car in the middle of the street and welcomes me to his neighborhood . . . Something poetic about that.


Millennial Love in 100 Words

Boy meets girl.

Attraction. Desire.

Boy and girl bang.

Fantasy. Projection.

More banging.

Time passes.

Boy and girl move in together.

Merge lives. Share expenses.

His stuff. Her stuff.

Time passes.

Their stuff.

Happiness. Contentment.

Time passes.

Normalcy. Reality.

Less banging.

Time passes.

Expectations. Limitations.

Time passes.

Demands. Accountability.

Time passes.

Disenchantment. Resentment.

Time passes.

Boy meets other girl


Girl meets other boy.

Attraction. Desire.

Fantasy. Projection.


Time passes.

Lies. Secrets.

Time passes.



Disintegration. Separation.

Time passes.

Boy meets girl


Girl meets boy.

Etcetera, etcetera. . .

Why did it have to be bunnies?


In my kitchen, sitting across from me at my 50’s green Formica table, is a gorgeous twenty-three year old girl. She has hazel eyes, perfect teeth, and long, thick, shampoo commercial hair which she has twice, during dinner, twisted into a knot on top of her head, then untied and let fall over her ears, neck, and shoulders.

The bottle of wine is empty; dinner was great. She’d like to stay longer, but has to work in the morning, so we rise from our chairs. I collect plates and silverware, step towards the sink, and with my back to her she says: “So . . . what’s with all the rabbits?”

That’s my daughter, Sierra, asking the question. This is the third time she’s come for dinner.  Each time she sits in the same seat, across from me, where she can’t help but notice the small, solid chrome rabbit squatting in the potted plant on the table, and the five rabbit-related items on the shelf unit taking up half the wall behind me. . .

There’s a heavy ceramic rabbit bookend, using its butt to prevent four books from falling over onto his long upright ears; next to him is a greeting card with a nature photograph of a wild rabbit in mid-leap, backlit by early-morning sun; above the card, on the top shelf, is a nicely-framed four-by-six portrait of a very distinguished rabbit, sporting a pink tie and a green coat with wide lapels. Twenty-four inches to the left is a mock book cover, in a frame, titled: Adventures of Burrow and Thrash, featuring a selfie montage of two smiling inch-high rubber rabbits – one in blue overalls, the other in pink – photographed in the mountains, in an airport, and a boat harbor. Finally, between two pictures of Lisa and I, there’s a small cookie cutter in the shape of a rabbit.

It turns out there’s a love story attached to the rabbit thing, a story that shifted into another gear six years ago when I came across a greeting card with the cutest goddam photo of two bunnies peeking out over the rim of a purple basket, above the words:  “Love happens. . .“ Then, inside the card: “. . . and when we’re together it happens a lot.”

This was exactly the sentiment that described what had been going on between Lisa and I since 1982, when we first met. Love, in every imaginable permutation, had been happening a lot whenever we were together, including the day I presented the card to her just after her fiftieth birthday.

It didn’t take long for the bunnies to become a thing, and never mind about the Great White Bunny King or the Secret Bunny Dance; Lisa and I have referred to one another as “bunny” so often and for so long that being called by our actual names now means one of two things: either someone has something important to say, or someone’s in big trouble.

It’s sick. It should be kept private, but if I’m gonna talk about rabbits I have to talk about me and Lisa and the bunnies . . . about the love, the fun, the passion, the music, the wine, the great food, world travel, fairy godchildren, and having a movie star over for dinner.

So when Sierra gets up to leave and wants to know what’s up with all my rabbits, I give it some thought before I say: “You don’t want to know.”

Except, I really do want her to know. I would love to tell her all about the super-cool shit Lisa and I have done – the adventures we’ve taken, the places we’ve been – where we’ve whipped out Burrow and Thrash, our one-inch bunny avatars, photographing them in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Napa Valley wineries, Mexico beaches, looking out of airplane windows at clouds as though on a field trip to see God. . . and, in our most epic bunny avatar photo of all time, gazing upwards at the sight of a gorgeous display of monstrous organic carrots, moist and glistening from a recent automatic misting, in the produce section of the Austin, Texas Whole Foods mother store.

I tell Sierra she doesn’t want to know what’s up with all the rabbits because I know she’ll wrinkle her nose to hear that the whole bunny thing boils down to how happy I’ve been, how much bigger my life has become, and  how much fun I’ve been having since divorcing her mom.

What’s up with all the rabbits? Love, sweetie: lots of it. What began with a photo on a greeting card has multiplied rapidly into dozens of items and hundreds of stories, all of it related to the continuing saga of your dad’s healing process: his effort to move from cynicism to trust, and overcome his bizarre discomfort with being loved for the man he is.

Bring Back Masculine Etiquette

The following is an edited, updated version of this website’s blog “The Man From Snowy River”, originally posted as a featured article on the Good Men Project website ( on April 25, 2016.

I’m still in high school when my father leaves to begin a new life with a different woman, and I suddenly find myself in a house with a hurt, angry mother, an older sister who sympathizes with her, and a younger sister who understands as little about this whole mess as I do. My home life in 1970 becomes the world of women, where baseball gloves collect dust on closet shelves and grounded male energies simply do not exist. Dad passes away nine years later from a heart issue just as our reconciliation is getting underway, and I take to wandering my existence without a map or a guidebook, in search of what to do with my fatherless life.

Twelve years pass. I’ve become a SNAG – a “Sensitive New Age Guy” – a soulful, health-conscious musician who feels things deeply and is oh-so-much-more comfortable in the presence of women. I know nothing about home ownership, hard work, or planning for the future; I know quite a lot about backpacking, writing in journals, and making the best of whatever life happens to be serving up on any given day.

There is no adult male in my life I feel admiration for.

Then, near the end of 1982, along comes The Man From Snowy River, a movie about a young man, Jim, learning to find his way in the world after the accidental death of his excellent father. Raised in the mountainous Snowy River range of Australia in the late 1800’s, his skill set and abilities come from having lived and worked close to the earth. He comes down from the mountains in search of a job, and his efforts to prove himself to be a dependable hard-working lad on a cattle rancher’s farm sets him on a character-building path where he must address issues of manhood and masculinity, keeping one’s word, standing up to bullies, doing what’s right, and not giving up in the face of hardship or discomfort. I don’t know it at the time, but this will become the most-watched movie in my life.

It took several viewings of this movie before it dawned on me just how little time I’d spent in the company of adult males since the loss of my own father, that I too had abilities and talents in need of recognition, cultivation, and a direction to point them. I too wanted my worth and mettle witnessed and blessed by not just older men but men of strength and character, men I could admire and look up to. But I was to never meet such men in the vacuum of the self-isolating life I’d created — a life of journal writing, quiet hikes in nature and part-time jobs working alongside pretty girls. With nothing hard to push against and no one asking more of me than I was comfortable giving, why should it surprise me that I became a passive, sensitive man, feeling distrust and unease in the company of strong-willed, confident men?

With every viewing of this movie I became more intrigued with the depiction of solid, earthy, uncomplicated men working together and relating to one another, especially the way young Jim conducts himself as he goes about his new duties at his new job. Everything asked of him is done well, done thoroughly, and without complaint. He knows his place; he knows to show respect to the men in leadership positions because those men are tough but fair, communicating with such unambiguous clarity they could not possibly be misunderstood.

I was the same age as Jim– twenty-seven – when I first saw this movie. Yeah, yeah, he gets the girl in the end but that’s not what got my attention. What interested me was young Jim’s masculine etiquette: doing what was asked of him with dignity, determination, and accountability. In time he earns the respect of the older men by having respect for himself, speaking his truth and standing firm in his beliefs when push comes to shove. In my own life I gradually became aware of how often I took the least-restrictive, least-confrontational path at every opportunity, choosing cruise control over self-control, accepting the life I had instead of making an effort to create the life I might want.

My VHS copy of the movie was good and worn before my attention turned to noticing Jim’s level of comfort and self-confidence in the presence of harder, older men; by the time a DVD version was in my hands I’d already attended my first-ever all-day men’s event, led by some poet guy named Robert Bly and his mythologist friend Michael Meade, whose yearly men’s retreats would change my life forever. The unexamined father wound I carried for so many years turns out to have been exactly the right kind of irritating grit that helped form the pearl-like quality of my adult life. I did not enjoy putting an end to my toxic, dysfunctional marriage, but I’m certainly enjoying the loving reconciliation taking place between myself and my twenty-two-year-old daughter who is soon to graduate college.

The Man From Snowy River introduced me to “masculine etiquette”, depicting too many small moments of honor, respect and character-building to name. To this day, with every viewing, I feel nourished in some way. The excellent life I now lead arose from the ashes of difficult-but-necessary life changes I feared to make for many years, but once I aligned myself with fictional and non-fictional men of good character, the best of what I saw in them called up the best in me.

Growing Up Is Hard To Do

I have no business describing myself as a mature adult. The adult part is true enough, but the mature thing, well . . . there’s more honesty in saying maturity is a part-time thing with me. I can be reliable, accountable and responsible when I should or need to be, but if you take me with you when you go shopping I will wander off and go exploring if I’m not on a leash. I watch movies when I should be doing my taxes; if there’s an offshore flow I’ll go to the beach instead of going to work. I’d rather take a bath than a quick shower, popcorn can be dinner, and I will get really, really mad if I’m telling the truth but you don’t believe me.

But neither do I fill egg shells with red paint and throw them out of a moving car on the freeway at night anymore; I was ten the last time I did that. And I no longer steal cassette tapes by slipping them in my socks while pretending to tie my shoe; I gave that up in my early twenties, within seconds of being caught for the first time.

With me, becoming a grownup – a mature adult – took some getting used to. It wasn’t that I avoided growing up. . .  I just wanted to spend my life doing whatever I wanted, whenever I felt like it. That particular brand of immaturity and naïveté had a time-release quality to it, entering my system during my high school years after my parents divorced, spreading through my system with subtle effect until I graduated, then kicking in, full-strength, with one phone call, at the end of my first and only year at a Boston college of music:

Hi mom; instead of coming straight home, is it okay if I fly to Nebraska and drive back to the Bay Area with my girlfriend?”

The pause on the other end was short. . .

You don’t have to ask me for permission anymore. You’re eighteen years old; you can do whatever you want.”


After hanging up the pay phone in my dormitory hallway I zombie-walked to the elevator . . .  rode it to the lobby . . . walked outside onto Massachusetts Avenue, and emerged into a completely different world than the one I’d been born into.

The grownup move would have been to work through the summer and return to Berklee College of Music in the fall with some living expense money in my pocket. But I was an eighteen year-old nature-loving male, in full possession of the keys to the rest of my life and a brand new pair of eyes: when school let out I flew to Nebraska, drove and camped my way from North Platte to Fremont across the Continental Divide and through the deserts of the Southwest, feeling as though that spectacular half-a-million square mile area had been given to me.

I never returned to Berklee, but I did grow up enough to get a full-time job, work my up from busboy to head-cook-in-training, and afford an apartment of my own. That was right about the time my dad passed away, another piece of life-changing news involving my mother and a very short phone conversation. My vision of a career in the restaurant business blurred after that; six months later I was making my living as a drummer, heeding the excellent advice from my dad in his last letter to me.

Along with four years’ worth of a successful music career came the weed and the women, which softened me up pretty good. I was well into my thirties, music now a part-time hobby, before becoming conscious of how uncomfortable I was in the company of mature men, or even just guys – dudes who like to have a few beers and talk about guy shit like cars, sports, or women. I began that bit of growing up the night I spotted, from a distance, one of my part-time band mates leaning against the bar during a break at a gig, bottle of beer in one hand, talking as casually as you please to some leather-skinned old guy wearing a grimy cowboy hat – a local, old-school, real-deal rancher, stopping in for a beer and a bit of country music at the end of his dusty, earthy work day.

I felt a combination of admiration and envy watching my band mate casually and comfortably mining life-on-the-farm stories from the old rancher. It made me aware of how reserved and intimidated I typically felt in the presence of anyone with a stronger handshake and more testosterone than me. From that moment on I began making an effort to knock off being such a weenie when it came to hanging out with dudes and, lo and behold, within a few short years of behaving like a regular guy, I got comfortable as could be chatting up anyone with a story they were willing to tell

And, lastly, I’ve grown up noticing how my definition of love changes as the years go by. What I thought love was when in my teens turned out to be way wrong when I hit my twenties, and though by my early thirties I’d learned quite a bit more, it didn’t make me smart enough to see that the majority of my relationships had been based more on mutual use and convenience than love. Sharing rent and living expenses with girlfriends just made it easier to avoid having to work harder and/or longer so I could afford a place of my own. It was shameful and emasculating the way I dragged that habit behind me like a filthy security blanket, from one relationship to the next, up to and including my dysfunctional marriage. By the end of the inevitable divorce my definition of love had taken on an odor of cynicism; I decided it was better to be single, happy, and lonely sometimes than married, lonely, and happy sometimes, a perspective I’ve found to be equal parts truth and poignancy, yet serving me quite well.

Life and love are doing just fine these days, thankyouverymuch. I’ll say more about them later, maybe in a book. Until then, I have a lot of growing up to do.

It Depends On How I Feel: Reflections on Being a Moody Man

This story was first published as a featured article on the Good Men Project website ( April 29, 2016


I am, as Lisa so eloquently expresses it to her girlfriends when I’m not around, “one moody motherfucker”.

 I once left her place on a Sunday night after a happy chatty weekend together, went to work Monday morning feeling inexplicably dark  and unsociable, and refused to answer my phone for a couple of days. Why? I dunno; I didn’t feel like it. At times like that my phone can get downright constipated with voice and text messages from her, which I may or may not pay attention to — depending on my mood.

I’ll snap out of it eventually, after which I’ll have some explaining to do, but only after I’ve gotten an earful from her about how she went from patient-but-confused to what-the-fuck? somewhere around the end of day two of not hearing from me. I’ll want to know what the big deal is; she’ll explain exactly what the big deal is, and only after a lengthy conversation about needs and expectations do things settle down enough for our typically groovy kind of love to start flowing again.

When wanting to understand what’s behind a mood swing I’ll sometimes pull a Tarot card, toss coins for an I Ching reading or — depending on my mood — just withdraw from the world without giving notice and indulge in the mood; drop into it without trying to understand or analyze it, in the privacy of my home, just to see where it will take me. Mine is not, by the way, the “off-his-meds” version of mood swinging; mine is the “too-much-in-his-head” version, where I’m prone to unconsciously bum myself out with whatever self-defeating  judgmental story I’ve concocted in my head, a story which may or may not even be true. Typically, though, a series of quickie, dark micro-thoughts have come and gone over a period of several days but under my emotional radar, until I wake up one rainy weekday morning and cancel out on work so I can stay home and write in my journal all day. For example:

Not long ago Lisa and I are having a lovely Tuesday evening at a gig where I play drums with my favorite pro-level music buddies, all of whom fawn over Lisa’s irresistible combination of hotness, humor, and genuine appreciation of musical talent. The band pulls off a ninety-minute concert-level performance and an hour later we are all sitting together in a nearby diner, having a late night meal and recapping the highlights of the gig. Everyone is chatty, happy, and optimistic. Great show, great friends. Then, finally, hugs and warm goodbyes before everyone drives off for home . . . in a good mood.

The next day, Wednesday, Lisa and I spontaneously spend a rainy day at my place: morning tea and coffee, nutritious breakfast, good conversation, movies, popcorn, more rain, blankets and snuggling, red wine, excellent dinner, another movie, more rain as we suck on milk chocolate chips for dessert. We fade, we doze, and we go to bed, capping a fine, fine day.

Thursday morning, because of my weird four-to-six hour sleep cycle, I’m up and about at four-thirty, setting the kitchen table for my cherished tea-and-journal ritual of sitting in deep, pre-dawn quiet to write. More rain is predicted, putting my remodel business on hold for another day and allowing me to sink long and deep into a blissfully quiet writing session. Not wanting to wake Lisa, I forego my customary routine of having dreamy acoustic guitar music playing softly in the background on a favorite Pandora station.

I settle in. Everything is awesome . . .

Ten minutes later Lisa appears, squinting in the light, drawing my heavy bathrobe tighter around her to ward off the chill. After saying our good mornings she sets about grinding coffee beans and gathering everything required to prepare, doctor, and consume a nice, fresh cup of coffee — at four forty-five in the goddam morning, an ungodly hour for anyone but me to be up and about on a rainy mid-week day.

It will be nearly twenty-four hours before I’m able to put my finger on why this morning will be inversely disproportionate, in all of its passive-aggressive ways, to the fun and lovely previous morning. I am not aware, for example, of my slowly-growing irritation at having to stop writing and concoct an answer to a question she has just asked me, nor do I realize that I’m only pretending to listen to her comments about Rick Steves’ excellent tips and advice about traveling in Italy, which she is reading aloud from her Kindle between slurpy sips of coffee.

Her need is to chat, to communicate, with me, right now, at five in the morning, my morning.  She’s excited about our upcoming trip and is clearly enjoying her coffee-and-travel-tips moment. This goes on for twenty minutes until I give up, close my journal, and get up to make us some breakfast.

From this point on, for these last few hours of our morning together, I will grow increasingly quiet and only partially interested in whatever she has to say or wants to talk about. When sitting across from her I’ll make an effort to look at her when she’s speaking, otherwise I’ll be gazing at my hands, tugging distractedly at my hair, or looking off to my right at the empty space between myself and a microwave oven in the far corner of the kitchen.

When the topic shifts from our Italy trip to preparing for an upcoming book talk, I’m good for ten minutes-worth of actually contributing to the conversation, but by minute eleven I’m feeling maxed out by the pressure of my hours-old, yet-to-be-understood irritation. Book talks are an important topic, but my pretending to care is a poor choice of coping strategies; we draw the topic to a close when it begins to dawn on her that maybe what I really mean by repeatedly answering with “sounds good” or “sounds great” is: please stop talking!

At some point she moves to get dressed as I begin to tidy up. She returns to the living room and plops down in the corner of a Mission style loveseat where I can see her from the kitchen. When I glance over at her I see in her face something I’ve rarely seen in the thirty-four years I’ve known her. I’m sure others have seen it – the ex-husbands, the misbehaving son, the hardhearted sister – but not me, not when we are together do I see what I’m seeing now . . .

She is unhappy. She’s staring straight ahead at what I know to be nothing, with a look on her face that tells me something is most definitely up, something is bothering her, something is wrong.  Still clueless, I feel compelled to ask:

“What’s wrong?”

She snaps out of her blank stare, quickly throwing a fake smile on her face.

“What? I’m—what? Nothing! I’m fine! Why?”

I study her for a moment, debating whether to play along and pretend to believe her or give her another chance at telling the truth.

“You look upset.”

A denial and a false excuse later, I let it go. We move on, neither one of us admitting that I am the problem; I am the cause of this effect. From the moment she began grinding coffee beans I’ve grown increasingly quiet, increasingly irritated, and increasingly indifferent to whatever has been interesting or important to her . . .  but I don’t know why.  I’m in a mood, you see, and it is my style to be in it long before I understand it, a behavior commonly associated with having been born with a penis.

By now the only truth I’m willing to admit to myself is that I want her to go home; I want to be alone in my own place, to try and recapture some of the rainy day tea-and-journal thing I was so looking forward to. Instead of mentioning this in some mature, sensitive way hours earlier, I’ve grown increasingly moody. As the air between us grows heavy and dull with unspoken truths, undeclared feelings and unmet needs, I continue putting on an air of patience and false contentment until, finally, going home becomes her idea. I walk her to her car, both of us wholly dissatisfied with the way the morning has turned out.

Before she gets behind the wheel I know I need to do something to reassure her that, in spite of the funky, atypical morning we’ve just spent together, I haven’t forgotten our night at the upbeat gig, the joy of sharing a meal with dear friends, and the lovely, spontaneous pleasures of yesterday. Before she drives off I want her to know that I care, that she matters, that I’m sorry for the shitty morning.

I pull her to me and kiss her — long, deep, and hard.

We step back from the kiss, smiling weak smiles at one another. She climbs into her car, and drives away.

Try The God, I Made It Myself.


Talking about God is tricky, but talking about one’s relationship with God is trickier still. I’m not bringing up the topic to convince anyone of anything since the only conviction I have about God is that beliefs in Him, Her, or It, one way or the other, are an entirely personal matter. What interests me most is whether your belief, disbelief, or indifference is serving you, helping you . . . nourishing you in your life.

Religions and churches offering convenient pre-packaged belief systems, rules, and codes of behavior still serve to bring people together by offering a much desired sense of connection and fellowship with like-minded others in their community, those with similar spiritual palates. For some, a homogenized, standardized spirituality served up as an uncomplicated and easy-to-digest “food” may provide all the spiritual calories required to feel satisfied and sated. It seems unfair and judgmental to regard such a church’s offering as “junk food” or “empty calories” since even a fast-food hamburger provides proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and trace nutrients that the body, in all its remarkable bio-wisdom, will make productive use of. The soul’s digestive system has its own wisdom as well.

Some spiritual communities are not and never have been fans of complicated, supposedly-gourmet “dishes” made with exotic, complex ingredients, prepared and served with so much pomp and circumstance that it’s the chef – the pastor or minister – who garners attention. We’re supposed to be impressed by the slam-bang of dishes and flailing knives, the showy, over-exaggerated hyper-activity, the wow factor of the flaming pan . . . My, my . . . look at him go! But when do we eat?

Sometimes the food – or even the chef’s preparation methods – can make us feel uneasy, dissatisfied, like something’s a little off. Too much sugar? Too spicy? Too bland?

Sometimes we just want a turkey sandwich or some bacon and eggs; something simple, familiar, well-prepared and nourishing. Sometimes what we’re hungry for isn’t on the menu that day, and sometimes we don’t even know what we’re hungry for . . . we just know we need to eat.

The “spiritual restaurants” of this world each have their own recipes, menus, and service staff. The appeal and nutritional value of a given menu item in one church can vary greatly from the next, depending on the quality of the ingredients, the method of preparation, and the manner in which it is served.

If churches are spiritual restaurants, then God – the Divine – is the food being prepared and served. The pastors and priests are the chefs, the congregations are customers who may or may not leave a tip, or tithe, when meal time is over.  The degree to which anyone feels satisfied with their dining experience will largely be determined by how the meal was prepared and presented, what a person’s dietary needs and restrictions are, and how picky they tend to be about what’s put on their plate.

In the end, after years of tasting and sampling a wide variety of spiritual offerings, I’ve come to know which spiritual foods support and nourish my soul, and which ones cause disease and illness. There’s been a lot of experimenting, a lot of trial and error, and these days my spiritual diet is a mostly-quiet and simple affair.

God makes for a pretty good stock, and I always keep a bunch on hand when tinkering and tweaking in my spiritual kitchen.













The Man From Snowy River

Tom Burlinson
Tom Burlinson

The Man From Snowy River is a movie that came out in 1982. I remember seeing it for the first time on a rainy autumn afternoon when I was twenty-seven, a year older than the main character in the movie, played by Canadian-born actor Tom Burlinson. This is also the movie I’ve seen more than any other – somewhere between twenty and thirty times.

The movie takes place in the Australian outback in the 1880’s and tells the story of how young Jim Craig learns to be a man after the accidental death of his excellent father. Jim’s mother had passed away long before, and he is suddenly left alone to fend for himself in the mountains of the Snowy River range. Times are hard, which makes for hard men: before Jim can begin building a life of his own on his father’s property the local mountain men declare that Jim must move to the low country and “earn the right to live up here, like your father did!”

Jim finds work on a wealthy rancher’s cattle farm, working alongside other men, some of them total assholes. His  efforts to prove himself to be a dependable hard-working lad sets him on a character-building path where he must address issues of manhood and masculinity, keeping one’s word, the earning and showing of respect, standing up to bullies, doing what’s right, and not giving up in the face of hardship or discomfort. Things get messy when Jim ignores his instincts about right and wrong and accepts a suggestion from the rancher’s beautiful daughter on how to score some points with her dad, setting in motion a chain of events that will lead to the lives of others being put at risk – all because a boy was trying to impress a girl.

The movie takes place in the 1880’s but the relationship dynamics depicted in this film are timeless. In particular, there’s a recurring theme that touches me every time: respect. I don’t know if the writers did it intentionally, but with every viewing of this movie I’m attracted to the way in which men in leadership roles are respected, a detail that shows up in both dialogue and behavior. The keeping of one’s word and standing up for one’s beliefs and convictions while possessing enough common sense to consider the viewpoints of one’s elders – the showing of respect are beautifully represented.

These moments are easy to spot since, in my experience, there’s very little of this kind of behavior going on anymore. So many of today’s young men are utterly bankrupt of any male grounding, which is to be expected in a modern culture where solid, respect-worthy male leadership is rarely modeled. This, I believe, is primarily due to an epidemic of fatherless – or abusive father – upbringings. It’s no wonder there’s such a clusterfuck of manscaped apathetic pussies and over-compensating assholes crashing into one another in their effort to extract maximum reward or pleasure from life by way of minimum input and questionable values. Any man, of any age, who is unconscious or in denial of his father wound stands a high probability of landing in one of two camps: the domesticated male who prefers the comfort and guidance of a strong-willed woman, or the over-compensating alpha male who likes to dominate and control through intimidation and insensitivity. Which brings me back to The Man From Snowy River. . .

I’ve been coming back to this movie for over thirty years, in large part because of its honest and inspiring depiction of solid, uncomplicated men relating to one another. Young Jim’s gradual transformation from misunderstood outsider to respected equal is a core theme in this movie, and with each viewing I notice that specific scenes or moments will have an impact on me depending on how I’ve been showing up in my own life.

Over and over again, throughout this movie, Jim Craig finds himself having to make choices that will directly impact the direction and quality of his life. There are too many small moments of honor, respect and character-building in this movie to name, so I invite you to watch it and discover them for yourself. Pay particular attention to those details in the story that touch you, grab you, or speak to you: these details will serve as clues as to where you are in your own life.


Sincerity and Spirituality . . .

I keep using the word sincerity when discussing spirituality, devotion, and the search for God because my own experiences have shown me the difference between being merely interested in these topics and being honest about defining, exploring, and deepening my beliefs. Picking up one of my go-to books on spiritual matters and investing some time in keeping my mind and heart attuned to God-like things makes for a lovely, healthy spiritual “snack”. But I’m also aware that if I’m in need of something much more substantial and nutritious – if I need answers, comprehension and knowledge – I’m more likely to gain deeper understanding when I’m sincere in my attempts to know or come closer to God. Without intending to play a semantics game I would say I’m more sincere about my spiritual studies than I am serious. To my mind, sincerety implies that the heart is involved. I can have a serious discussion about a delicate matter in a relationship, but if I can communicate my feelings and point of view with heartfelt honesty I stand a better chance of being heard and understood. Heart-to-heart communication inspires truth-telling, and sometimes the deepest intimacy one can know is to connect with their truth and speak it to another with sincerity.

I also believe that employing sincerity in our willingness to hear and obey our own callings will bring surprising rewards. There’s something about relinquishing or at least calming ego-based desires that allows the small but special things in life to find their way to us — simple things that provide depth and meaning only to those who have lightened their hearts enough to recognize the flecks of gold hidden in the seemingly ordinary.

I’ve often wondered if there’s a Cosmic Law of the Universe stating that a sincere desire to show up in one’s life as authentically as possible, being committed to becoming the kind of man that God likes working through, and asking for the opportunity to be of humble service to something greater than oneself, must eventually bring the day when the depth of one’s sincerity to be such a man will be challenged.