Catching Up On Things

I’ve been writing a lot recently during an unexpected chunk of time that has been handed to me, for both welcome and unwelcome reasons.

And this is an unusually long post. Over 24,000 words. That, my friends, is “catching up.”

So go pee, grab a cup of whatever, put on some tunes, sit back and prepare for me rolling out a lot that’s been going on over the past ten years. And much of what has led up until today, June 15, 2021. After today, a lot will be happening where I won’t have much time to put into this type of thing, which is unfortunate in a way because everyone needs at least a little time to themselves during their lives. As an only child, I find it rejuvenating to catch my breath in solace, sit back, and think back on the years and let my mind organize itself as best as possible. It’s a rare opportunity in my life; I don’t know how such exceptional men like Elon Musk get things done with 5 kids, doing through a divorce, running multiple huge complex companies like SpaceX and Tesla among many others, and dealing with the armies of both haters and adorers alike. And keeping his 2 eyes as you and I both have, on the screens and papers and stuff constantly being put in his hands here on Earth, and also keeping his eyes out on Mars and our galaxy, and planting satellite chains around our planet. It’s humbling to be sure. So while I may have my problems, Elon surely has his too. Which I keep in mind.

Normally, and what was planned during this awkwardly long stretch of time, would have been spending my time with what I value most, which is being with my daughter. And apart from that, I spend my time seeking gainful employment, planning my ultimate return to my home state of South Carolina with my daughter by my side, taking care of life’s business, managing my home, life, and all that encompasses these days.

But I’ve found myself in a situation I haven’t been in for well over a decade.

That is this: I have some free time on my hands to catch up on things I used to enjoy very much, have always wanted to do, needed to do, and have been encouraged by friends and family alike to do, but for one big reason I have not done AT ALL.

That simple, yet profound and life-changing reason is this:

My life took a sudden detour back in 2007 which routed me from Asheville, NC, where I had friends and employment and a lovely dog and life, including a person I mention in this article who lived down the road from me, and had also lived down the road from me when we both lived in Atlanta, and we’ve become mutual and close friends ever since. And he’s now in fact at his second home in Beaufort, SC, which is where I moved to Asheville from and would love to live again with my daughter one day.

That dream being pinned in place to achieve soon, puts me where I am now. As I mentioned I’ve been given some free time to write my thoughts and organize my life as everyone should from time to time. With a 5 year old around that’s on hyperdrive and never stops to take a breath, much less sleep or stand still, and the world never stopping around me, it creates a whirlwind effect where time blurs and a dizzying effect is generated. So for that reason I welcome a respite from what’s become “normal.”

On the other hand, I’m dismayed at how this situation has been created. Plus what is going on on around my daughter in my absence and the frightful environment and people and optics she’s being exposed to, which I know for a fact are negative, yet have been rendered unable to prove such. It’s part of the game my ex-wife has created for herself and forces our daughter to be a part of and I refuse to participate in. And it’s created a very unfortunate and regrettable situation that we are now finding ourselves in the midst of. How we escape this unnecessary trap that was laid remains to be seen. But we will. I’ll see to that.

I don’t like airing my dirty laundry for all to see, but I did write a post and published it temporarily about what transpired in early May so some friends and people I wanted to be knowledgeable about the situation I find myself in could get the whole story. I’ve since pulled it back in, because it’s not something the entire planet needs to see.

But I wrote it and posted it for a predefined period of time. Because it matters a lot. It doesn’t matter that they know about me and my personal trials. Why it matters is because my daughter is involved and she’s my priority. I very delicately handle matters revolving around her on the internet for some serious reasons. She’s the most precious thing in my life for the first reason. And I protect her and try to shield her from the harsh realities of the world.

“Harsh realities of the world” are what she’s being and has been exposed to by her mother and the harshness is regrettably becoming moreso. The reason for that isn’t even close to the truth of the matter.

What I find I have on my hands is someone who has no self-discipline, no self-control and an incapability to manage anything without very clear, plainly laid-out instructions. That’s not good. That’s not who you would choose to be the mother of your most important priority. And to add to the concern, her mother has as much as admitted that Cecelia is NOT her top priority. Neither is her other daughter.

The utmost priority is herself. And that’s where the point of differentiation is exposed and the friction starts the fire.

Never would she admit it, of course. What mother would? A good mother would. So there’s the problem. That’s the nexus and locus of the whole issue. That sad fact is enrobed by a determination to always keep a sense of control over everything. I use the word “sense” deliberately. It doesn’t matter if the actual control is real or artificial. Just as long as it releases the chemicals in her mind to help her believe the control rests in her hands. That’s all it takes and all she wants. I know this woman better than anyone, and I can read her like a book, if you cannot tell.

And she knows I know her that well, which is something she dislikes. That’s why people need to be careful about what they wish for. She wished for husband that could predict her every move. Although I admit that clearly is an impossibility, or else I would have seen the divorce coming, as well as her recent legal theatrics. But it doesn’t mean I can’t forecast a multitude of other thoughts and actions. A woman’s mind is a tricky place to be, and often large decisions are made based on a sudden feeling, an impromptu situation, a whim, or any other flight of fancy. It’s precarious, for sure.

So the opportunity has presented itself for me to outlay many thoughts, memories, musings, ideas(both complete and those needing more work), nuggets of wisdom, observances, findings, summaries, totals, renderings, deliverables, results, extrapolations, settlements, outcomes, consequences, repercussions and overall fallout from the cumulative effects of decisions made long ago.

And outlay I will. I’ve been writing about all sorts of things of importance to my number one priority in life, my daughter, Cecelia.

Coming at you fast!

So thanks to an unforeseen, impromptu, and reckless flash-bang act and decision on my ex-wife’s part, I suddenly find myself without hardly any access to my beloved daughter(something my ex-wife has made court-ordered, to render the time between me and our daughter being nothing more than 1 hour of supervised interaction at a very awkward and unfamilat room in the bottom of a “professional park” which is just a dark room in the bottom of the most -affordable, and worst part of the city, location. Only as a court and government would see fit. And al at my own expense, to be paid for the privilege of each and every meeting between us, which I happily pay), and with the smallest ways or means to immediately remedy the situation.

It’s the exact situation my ex-wife wants, which is to be left alone to do as she sees fit without ANY evaluation or inspection by ANYone, most of all that audit being conducted by our daughter’s father: Me.

So to render the situation to her desire, ppounced upon the improvisational chance to suddenly call foul, have me arrested, divert attention away from herself, and remove me from the “family” that she ripped apart into shreds four years ago.

That destruction began with her unexplained and unapologetic dismemberment of our family as it was: a woman and man joined in happy marital bond, which included a young teen daughter by a previous marriage, and the role which I was more than seemed to be fit to handle by all and anyone possible, including the grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, in-laws, and friends and family thereof which was available for examination.

I helped raise her daughter from age 4 to age 14, as well as our own dear daughter from birth to around age 3/4 when our own divorce was finally and hastily settled after expending a years worth of emotional toil, time and financial expense. An expense which had become inconsequential with finally achieving the goal of tenureship at her school, which we both had worked over the past 10 years over to gain for her.

This is a fact that now, as the time has a way of quickly passing, she renders as untrue with the simple ease of a single breath to exclaim “false” with no support or desire to engage with defending her feathery retort.

But photographic, physical and much other material evidence renders the fact to remain true with an easy glance and simple series of questions. What’s most noticeable is the disparity between mementos and video and photographic evidence, not just portraying what members of the family were most often together, but what they were actively engaging in over those many years.

I’s easy enough to see that while there exists thousands upon thousands of happy photos and videos of myself and her other daughter, and our own daughter Cecelia, with no presence of the mother around at all. The way the materials were generated provide the evidence that no other personal involvement was available, through the use of having to take “Selfies,” use a tripod, , use the assistance of another person happeing to pass by, the reversal of the camera from back lense to front, or propping the camera up on a log or available stone or brick to use the self-timer. But the then captured images then provenance to the fact that what remained n the shot was either me and my step daughter, or me and our daughter Cecelia, and items around us being an assortment of things carried along for just two people. Bottles of water, snacks, a blanket, 2 hats, ice cream for two, or any other easily identifiable clue as to who was there, and who was not. Our two homes now verify this very fact. My home is a shrine devoted to Cecelia, with a never-ending cycle of digital photos and videos circulating in digital frames throughout the house for use to enjoy and reflect upon together., as well as bookfuls of photographs, professionally assembled by Google and other sources for everyone’s enjoyment, along with countless other static framed photographs of our daughter that are at every turn and twist through our my home.

I absolutely love this video, with her ducking her head and getting low while working her way over to the toy box I built for my stepdaughter Megan, that her mother still has, I believe. I hope. I put a lot of work and love into that gift. You can partially see just a bit of the overall basement I had set up for Cecelia to explore and for her, me, Annie, Rebecca, and sometimes her mother to come down and play in and enjoy. It was an amazing place. Which I soon had to tear down and relocate immediately myself over the course of a few days, after taking years to create just-so. So it went.

Contrast that with her mother’s home which is barren of every such item. It’s a house bereft of memories, love, time spent with each daughter, past husband, any friends at all both of herself or her children, any family, or any regard or reflection and sentiment of love given to any person within her life. It’s something I noticed way back when we began dating but explained away with being of such a young age and tight budget. I’m twelve years her senior, and I’ve been given loads upon trunkfuls of family and friends photos during my life, and during our courtship and during our marriage, and now beyond. It was as equally as striking to me as finding she had no stereo or way to enjoy music at all. None, whatsoever. Mind-blowing to someone like me. I aimed to change that and I did, at least temporarily, while I was around. I have a museum’s worth of wall hangings, temple rubbings, rich tapestries, and valuable artifacts from around the globe. I have an audiophile-grade stereo which I hold to be one of my most cherished possessions. It’s given me tens of thousands of hours of incredible enjoyment, support, entertainment, and sensory overload, in every way. I encourage everyone to make an investment into a high-grade audio setup and take a deep dive into what it offers. For the money, the experience can hardly be topped and it will last a lifetime and be something to share with all your loved ones. But my ex-wife never even had a clock radio or professional framed item to her name. It was astonishing to me and still remains so. It displays an enormous difference between who we both really are.

No end to the curiosity. Cececlia about age 2 right before the hammer fell.

I’ve now found myself to be completely wrong about that presumption. 100%. What I thought was a matter of an infrequent difficult choice that had to be made, regrettably has been shown to be a character trait that involves the ability to assume people into her life, intimately, and then release them with no appreciation, credit, remorse, sorrow or contemplation thereof.

It’s a coldness that even I find breathtaking, the only child of a very small family who saw a sudden and horrible repeat of loved ones being taken too early from my own beloved arms. My best friend, my dog that we’d found as a poor stray as a tiny puppy behind a Piggly-Wiggly covered in fleas, who I considered sibling and loyal and trusted friend and confidant, as a child and personally and affectionally named “Scratchy.” She was a constant by my side growing up every single place we went and was killed by a car not long before my mother, and my mother’s mother dying around that very time as well. It was a quick-fire of loss in my very early teen years and left me for the most part, alone. My own father had his own set of problems to contend with which was the mutual loss of a dear loved one, alcoholism, the situation of himself finding himself alone, and the issue of the reality of having taken a poor choice of career path that allowed his future to be determined by others, as he had been raised to see as possible as well as his younger sister Penny and their own sweet mother, who through no fault of her own found herself having to take care of not just three just-born children, but a host of other people she welcomed into her small home to help as much she possibly could.

This was in a much different and seemingy quickly forgotten (understandably) period in America and especially Southern culture.

Everyone got by on what they could. There was no credit. There was no extra money. There were no luxuries. The depression, wars and hard times that swept through America hit everyone but the most gilded by thanks to no income taxes, fortified relationships among the well-heeled on the most remote coasts of NY, Massachusetts, California, and the vacation homes near of those states in Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, New Hampshire , Connecticut, New Jersey and other small inland spots that offered waterfront plantations, estates, farming land and retreats to host their equally well-heeled friends. The Vanderbilts, The Hearsts, The Morgans, The Rockerfellars, and a long list of robber barons and members of the gilded age in America that politically and aristocratically, yet noticeably silently remain in our midst. Other than the edifices and donations to mostly liberal causes that remain wholly intact to keep them so. Bill and Melinda Gates, The Waltons, Warren Buffett, and the hundreds among thousands of people who’ve amassed massive fortunes in recent decades all joining the exclusive registries. That once only held a few prominent names. The compounding effect of time and other equations taking effect to produce such a foreseen situaton.

I’ve personally been given the keys and privilege to witness and personally enjoy some of the results of this phenomenon, unwittingly as a child, but now as an adult, stunningly as no mention was ever made of the situation. Why would it have been? That’s where we all and I found ourselves through the hands of circumstance and opportunity, which often means availability of money, which I was fortunate enough to have a grandfather who had the means of such.

My maternal grandfather, Clyde Thomas, was a very special person to me and influence on my upbringing as a child and young man, enduring to who I remain to this very day.

Of course I had no recognition of what was going on while I was flying through childhood. I suspected things were a little different as I approached my “tweens” and by the time I reached my adolecense, and my mother had passed, I has graduated from middle school and was off to a boarding college preparatory school, I then acknolwledged I was being put upon a different path than others.

I had been given the opportunity to take golf and tennis lessons from serious professionals, including the country clubs that the professionals utilized at the time in southern Florida at Coral Ridge Country Club. Chris Everett-Lloyd lived down the street from my grandfather.

I spent 8 Summers straight of my childhood in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. Although my family had beach houses both on the gulf coast of Florida since the 1950s and into the 1980’s a front beach house on Holden Beach, NC, I dutifully went to spend two full months in New Hampshire with my grandparents.

The spots and time there were challenged by me of course as a young, stupid, whippersnapper, who just wanted to be back in South Carolina with my schoolmates, all who, of course, had been sent off to camps and homes of families of their own at the very same time. I never realized this or took it into account, even when reunited at the end of every single summer, with our newfound tans, stories, and well-read books, friendship bracelets, and charms we’d collected over the summer from our explorations away from home.

During those times in New Hampshire, I returned each summer a year older, to soak in the very same pastimes, smells, sights, activities, and friends I’d made the year before. I was certainly the only Southerner in the entire State and was a fact solidified by every single person in New Hampshire taking note of my strange accent and goofy habits. Although the awkward predisposition being way more the result of growing pains and shooting through childhood and adolescence than to do with my home state of South Carolina. Which every single person north of North Carolina got wrong and simply and lazily called “North Carolina,” to my total cringe and resentment. It was the same as if I had dismissed the place of their upbringing with the wave and apathy of a Frenchman’s narrow, brie-encrumbled hand.

Every single summer I was “forced” to revel in the wide-open clear white/blue skies of the just adorned mountains of snow that harsh winter and gorgeous opening and dewy spring that befell New Hampshire. It’s a place that geographically and in in every way possible has been rendered perfect to leverage the best of what Mother Nature has to offer.

Crystal clear, ice-cold springs flowing across perfectly sterile granite rocks and just unearthed moss in the small creeks created by the billions of tons of soft falling white snow that winter, melting down to the hundreds of sparking rock-encrusted lakes and ponds below. Where flowers began to blossom, new life began appearing and sticking out it’s just-then formed dewey head and stalks. Fresh green clover and grasses spanned across the hilly rock-walled landscapes that stretched on for miles in every direction, placed there decades before by some unmentioned hand but resting solid year after year, for chipmunks and squirrels and ivy to take perch upon, enjoy and soak in the warm sun that the Spring and Summer s there brought.

The very same reasons that my grandparents had chose that very location, as hardboiled Southerners, to retreat to each Summer to escape the relentless heat, mosquitoes, sand spurs and gnats and lava-hot pavement of the South.

Those factors mattered not to a rugged young shirtless barefooted boy ready to take on anything life could throw at him. And in fact I spend the weeks surrounding those months during the summer those beach houses and the islands surrounding them, playing in the very salty Atlantic, where I learned to surf, salt-water fish, throw a cast-net, catch any crab, critter or moving specie that crossed my path, and burn my hide in the red hot Sun until I was a dark leather with blonde highlights and freckles, every year. With bare feet that were clad with layers of thick, calloused padding from running across hot pavement, fiery boardwalks, deserts full of white-hot sand and sand-spurs, and scarred from broken glass, nails, staples, small pieces of hard plastic trash left behind by inconsiderate Yankee vacationers coming down from New England and Canada and the places I would go each summer to escape the very same.

And as much fun as I had heading to the beaches for long stretches with my friends from South Carolina to our beach houses, and their own in Litchfield Beach and Pawley’s Island to chase young girls, surf, drink Mountain Dew, start to learn how to drive actual cars, and listen to newfound awesome new music we all had found along the way, I always consistently went up to New Hampshire to relax, recollect, refresh and begin the next year anew.

My time in New Hampshire was very regimented, as it should have been. I see now that most parents of teenagers allow their kids to sleep in during the Summer months, do nothing, achieve nothing, and waste away their youth.

My parents and grandparents ad no such intention for that to happen to me, and I now, as the father of a very special daughter, want and have no intention of that happening to our own child. It a sallowed to blatantly happen to my ex-wife’s first chid, as much as I identified, pointed it out to and requested intervention to prevent the consequences of such taking over.

I had no legal hand n what was or could be done with her first daughter and recognized that fact. Her own father had willingly forfeited all rights and desire to help raise her as a father and was perfectly fine allowing me to do my best to fill in for that role, which her mother and all families concerned agreed was the best course and manner available by far. And I performed that responsibility with that large fact in mind to the best of my ability, with or without help from her own mother. And what became not just without help from, but a resentment by her mother, for wanting to instill character traits in her daughter she was incapable of rendering by the failure of her own parents to imbue her with them whatsoever. This situation was what ultimately caused there to inflame a problem between us in standards, and important skills and characteristics which we had both agreed were vitl to the healthy development of any person, including her own children, and to soon be our mutual child Cecelia. It remains so, and I foresee an unavoidable conflict of priorities there between our daughter’s mother and myself. That’s in the conditioning of such crucial characteristics and personal values and traits to absorb as much as possible, the concepts of self-discipline, honor, integrity, self-esteem, respect, humility, consideration for others, and especially those that find themselves at a disadvantage to ourselves in any way. That being explicitly in education, financial matters, physical or mental acuity, or in any other respect we find another being, human or animal. I hold this perspective dear and close to my heart and it’s something I believe is an indisputable way to conduct ourselves through life, no matter what predicament we find our own selves in.

It’s why I’m outlaying the details of my own upbringing in some elaboration to be evaluated and inspected for consideration. It’s easy to say something or anything. It’s much harder to pit claims as untrue when there’s physical evidence and time-tested support to render the claims as true. This is what I’m doing now and here in the best format I can find available and method to ensure these messages are reaching the right people’s eyeballs and information is handed and available for anyone and all to behold.

I find myself left alone here at an age just turned 52, by my father, by both aunts who I once and still hold very much dear, and by my cousins Roger, Todd and Whitney, who I’ve had the fortune to refamiliarize myself with, only to recently be cast aside with no authentic or specific explanation, although asked for several times. That after offering help and love, only to quickly rescind it it with a spray of venom and no words offered. I leave that situation to be something of their own creation and of their own resolution to be tendered, whenever they see fit, if at all. There’s only so much a person can and should realistically be expected to do in such matters.

Incidentally I believe the same to be rue with regard to my father and Aunt Rosalind, who I very much love, and have expressly told and demonstrated by whatever means I’ve had at hand, which over recent years has been a dramatically reduced amount of. But like themselves, I haven’t gone anywhere and have kept the same open arms available and welcoming stance Ive always had. I have never changed my spirit of family, attitude of love and sense of respect I offer them. What I’ve seen change is the very sense of those aspects of our relationship. It’s been far easier to just dispel me and render my problems my own, which I have always accepted them as. But as I warned my father over the span of decades, I’m not always going to be able to drop everything in ky life at the drop of his hat, which I did for 30+ years. Up until the time he promised me he’d move to Alabama if I did so, which I picked up my life and did solely for that single reason. To get him out of his pit of despair he’s mired himself in for over 40 years now, since 1978.

I moved there, sold al the stock I had to get me there, which included holdings in Netflix, Google, Apple, a broadband company whose name I now forget with no intention of trying to remember for equally financially painful reasons. I sold a car I had just acquired that was a lifelong goal I had set and just achieved, tossed everything and all plans aside, and began renovating a clunker of a house his brother in law and sister had arranged for him to buy from them at no interest, at their and my expense. He would see to it to repay us as he saw fit thereafter.

And he never moved. But I upon realization of the fact I had been lied to, I then worked tirelessly to get my career back up on the rails, which meant taking out student loans to earn an MBA from The University of Alabama, which I was granted admission into after preparing endlessly for taking the required GMAT test, applying, obtaining three professional hand-written references from people I had the fortune of making as friends though life who had attained such clout, and interviewing several times for the candidacy for.

During that time I also had also been travelling between Montgomery, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where the University was located as well as the girl I was dating that would eventually become my wife and child’s mother, and Birningham, Alabama. It was in Birmingham that I was able to find employment after rendering myself unemployed for reasons of renovating the same house my father was to move into, and didn’t, and suddenly finding myself in a new city with no real resources to pull from. All my hundreds upon thousands of lifelong and friends and resources were back in South Carolina and North Carolina.

It was from the help of a recently made friend back in Beaufort, SC right before I moved to Asheville, NC, who I still fold dear and in great respect and regard that I was able to grab a “decent” job. She lived in nearby Savannah, GA, and was an inly child as myself, who found herself losing close touch with her parents from a relatively early age. She’s since moved to Richmond, VA, and I keep in touch with her to this day and plan to remain friends with her as long she’s able to tolerate that designation. Her name’s Peggy Bel, a short blonde-haired girl who has a love for tennis, happiness and animals as I do, but most specifically, and where we diverge, cats. But she’s a sweetheart and someone I hold very dear.

And there I find myself frequently commuting between Tuscaloosa, Birmingham and Montgomery. All three cities not being anywhere near one another, and Montgomery being a sprawling southern Alabama city near where my aunt Penny(My father’s younger sister) her second husband Roger(her first husband being involved in a tragic murder/suicide with his next wife after he and Penny divorced in the early 1970’s) the young child from that relatively brief marriage, Todd(making him my first cousin) and then two later children by her next and final husband Roger, whose son was his namesake. Todd and Roger were a bit younger than myself, and their geographic difference was made even more formidable by their devout Christian beliefs, which my father wanted no part of whatsoever, to the point of me very vividly calling them “Jesus Freaks.” A point I believe I had made which played no small part on my aunt Penny turning her back on me, and choosing to believe my father was in no way capable of making such a declaration. And having no idea what he had put his very own family through during my childhood and my mother’s tender years with is irresponsibility, hidden but uncontrollable alcoholism, made worse by his own inability to cope with life’s realities. And situation he was finding himself in of having to suddenly “man-up and be a father, homemaker, breadwinner, and respectable exemplar of his only child, me, which he was and never was in the position to undertake. I’m not explaining this to disgrace the man by any means at all whatsoever.

I always have believed he’s done the very best he could, with the tools and preparation he was given. Unfortunately, that wasn’t much, himself being the child of a fatherless home, an overstressed and although inhumanely strong, yet small in stature, mother, and a period of time in this country that we’ve all but forgotten and somehow happily torn down, hidden and raked over for there to be no memory of. Hard times for sure, which rendered hard, strong people that knew the reality and the worth of a dollar and a friend. Two things I find so many taking for granted in these modern times as I am now a middle-aged man and my own father and aunts being seniors, and their brothers both in the ground. One by extremely sudden suicide ju sa few years ago in 2019 I believe and the other (My mother and aunt’s on my mother’s side)willingly removing himself from society and fading into the Mystic without a word. I last saw him in the early 2000’s in Atlanta, Ga, where he surprisingly has been living down the road from me, and thereafter us having some communication over email, but him making it clear he had or wanted any involvement from his past. He, Courtney Thomas, was an intense, seriously smart and focused man, and a person who was never able to let go of his childhood demons, which my grandfather amazingly placed before him, which to the point I came upon the scene, I simply couldn’t and still cannot believe. My grandfather, my daughter Cecelia’s namesake, being a diminutive man not much more than 5 feet tall, as was my mother, and her siblings, and certainly a formidable and considerable mental giant in the terms of business, mathematics, honor, respectability, public esteem, and chivalry, as the times and culture at the time defined them.

A man who although small in stature, was always well-dressed, groomed, coiffed, postured, and held in respect by anyone that knew him. He took me pridefully along with him to every business and banker, lawyer, and developer meeting he has, which were many. He managed to retire in his twenties during a time that most people and families were struggling to get by. He bought, built, and sold a series of furniture stores around the Southeast during the 1940s and 1950s, even as he himself was the son of a middle eastern immigrant to landed in America in North Carolina with a stable of children to look after and not much money to distribute among.

He found his way down to Southern Georgia of all places, looking every bit of a Lebanese man, who I was always told he and I were of descent, right up until only a few years ago when my aunt Rosiland, his daughter, suddenly declared was incorrect. She suddenly, dramatically and with no legitimate reason I can recall, announced he was in fact Syrian. I have no ability to reason this to be the case after so many decadesof this being the upheld truth, spurning many interfamilial fights and sources of friction between my aunt and grandfather and the very source of many a story told all during my life.

Even his middle name, which he hid from all humanity, only his children and I knowing, seemed to com from Lebanese descent. He even had plastic surgery performed way back when to have his nose bobbed to appear less “ethnic” for business, societal, and culturally acceptable and assimilation reasons. A dramatic step we surely no longer see immigrants or the children thereof like himself taking to assimilate to America’s “norms.” Nowadays if you even look at such a person in America, you could find yourself at the big end of an explosive device or machete or shiv. No joke.

But rest assured my grandfather renounced his religion and took me to not only Christian church every Sunday, but openly prayed to God before me and saw to it I was enrolled at a camp each summer that had the principles of Christianity soaked in its heritage. That was back when the “C” in YMCA stood for “Christian,” before being reorganized into the more woke and secular “Y.” And the Boy Scouts were just that before being reduced to the castrated “Scouts” as we have today.

And that’s the man who largely raised me, who I spent each schoolyear week’s long holidays with down in Florida, and who I spent long Summers’ months with up in the verdant, picturesque crystal clear sky and watered New Hampshire, on Lake Winnipesaukee. He and I traversing the wide, windy, hilly, and breathtakingly scenic roadways that wound all around that huge lake and the quaint almost Hollywood-set villages and Cape Cod-styled boathouse-lined fishing spots that surround it. We were members of Brunswick Country Club and Bald Mountain Country Club, where I practiced golf and tennis with personal pros until my hands were covered in blisters. But being able to drive golf carts around the beautiful green and ardent trees covering the rolling White Mountains of New Hampshire and being able to order up a Coke, a hot dog, and an Oatmeal Pie on my grandfather’s account made it all worth it.

This is the closest rendition of what our mode of transportation was during my childhood from ages ~6 to 14 years old. The very tangible differences being our version was painted in what surely was custom, hailing from 1970’s South Florida “Coral” and the interior every bit as white leathered as the top, yet every inch of expensive leather being covered in ill-fitting peppermint striped “seat coverings” which seemed nothing more than a King-sized bed sheet that most people found so optically offensive, they refused to have in their bedrooms. Therefore the final usage was to adorn the very expensive, but never to actually use, upholstery of the moneyed but stylistically bereft retirees. A group that collectively shuffled their white-shoed and black socked feet down to the no-income-taxed and beautiful tropical shores of equally lizardy and crusty palm treed-legged Florida. Yes, we had the options of the covered back wheels, glassed back seats, and the ever-important glove-box-buttoned trunk cover release. Which upon pressing its hidden and quite secret presence, for reasons of making sure no public accessibility be granted to its contents. In our case, these contents were always several sets of golf clubs, shoes, golf carts, caddies, tennis racquets, endless boxes and crates of shagged and new golf and tennis balls plus shagging equipment which I used to retrieve lost and misplaced practice balls, including in the water hazards, to sell to the pro shop for money. Cases of Tab and Deviled ham and crackers for grandmother, and gallons of incredibly refreshing and wonderful spring water collected from mountain-fed springs that were found everywhere during the Springs of our presence there for me and Grandaddy. I have no doubt these luxurious spacious storage units on wheels with a HUGE V-8 engine that rested comfortably under a football field’s worth of sheet metal were used in the NY/NJ/Fla. hotspots of organized crime to transport untold masses of drugs, illegitimate weapons, and recently terminated bodies to and from where they had been rendered and needed to be taken, and their final resting place, to whatever God-forsaken, lime-lined and dark and secret hideaway this magnificent and every bit as obvious as a tacky, Aqua-Velva drenched, but immaculately-kept, vehicle would fit into.

So the eventual mother of our child and I Began making plans, back in Alabama. I was tying up loose ends in Montgomery as I saw my father would not be moving there despite his promise to everyone o do so. I was running out money, as I had devoted what I had to the move to Alabama and renovating the house he was to move into, which he made repayment of years later with the ability of me being able to find every single receipt I still had on had somehow with that never being explained as an expectation, and at that point being a point of no matter. It was obvious what was going to happen was between himself and what I chose to do do was left up to me, with no consideration being given between the two. And none being desired as I could see. I had then chosen by the force of life to move into another direction that involved securing an MBA to get my career and business goals back on track, and to include the woman I had found to be increasingly important to me, which was my later to be-ex-wife.

I began moving as much as I could from Montgomery, selling what I could, and moving into a teeny-tiny apartment temporarily, with my dog and an inflatable mattress and a closet-full of suits and ties to wear to work.

We all lived together in a two bedroom college apartment, with her daughter having one room, my then girlfriend having one room, and me inflating a mattress each night to sleep upon and delfate each morning before work.

My work at that time involved me getting up at 6am each day, showering and feeding myself without waking anyone, letting the dog out to do what she needed to do, deflating and removing my bed and kissing my then girlfriend goodbye before driving over an hour to Birmingham to work in a title load business for then around $15 an hour. This was a thankless, highly regulated, dangerous business, in which we gave what ultimately became high-interest title loans in the paltry sums of up to $5000, with the clear title to a vehicle being the collateral being given in exchange for the load. They had 30 days and many times the customers did repay the amount, and the lien was removed, and many other times the loan was not repaid and the client would return to the office very inflamed, worked up and violent at times. Even though the location of our specific office was in a decent neighborhood of Birmingham, it was just one of many title loan stores across the southeast that resided in not-so-wholesome areas. And the location hardly mattered.

It was the mindset and customer themselves that mattered. We provided a legitimate service to a population that needed and received a much desired service. And the service, paperwork, method the service was rendered, and all consequences being laid out, explained and signed to that degree by the customer being understood and a shaking of hands and every procedure being taken int place that could be imagined being undertaken.

Yet we still had regular instances of people showing up armed with pistols drawn, in the mindset of a hostile attacker, and not just a couple of times people coming to the back door and trying to rob the place, of cash and a motorcycle being held in the back, and shots being fired and hostages were taken, luckily when I wasn’t present. But it was a thankless, controversial, dangerous job. That I happily took, despite all my life being told by countess others who both didn’t know anything about me and family members who know a lot about me judging me as the type of person who viewed such a job “beneath me.”

I worked that job consistently without complaint day in and day out for around 8 or 9 months doing the very same thing, then driving home over an hour back to that little apartment, to eat dinner, inflate my bed, sleep for a few hours, and do the whole thing over again.

It was during that time that I learned I was accepted into the MBA program at The University of Alabama, and that my then-girlfriend adopted two kittens from her program director, to score some brownie points from her. Those cats would persist into not only our marriage, but I have one sitting right next to me as I type this 14 years later.

The female of that pair of cats she adopted for herself to achieve a better relationship with her graduate school director, sits right here licking her paws as my pet now. A pet I happily adopted as much as as I have never been a “cat person.” I’ve mentioned my dog Scratchy, and my passion and familiarity and attraction has always towards dogs. Always has been, as I’ve had and taken care of countless numbers of dogs throughout my life and have a deep respect and understanding of them. It’ s trait and engendering my entire family has had thoughout all our many generations and members. There’s not been a single member who hasn’t considered dogs as members of our own family and treated them with respect and love and care as we render for our own blood members of our family. That is, for the Musgrove and Thomas part of the family. That perspective has not been shared by our child’s maternal branch of the family, and I have seen, heard and witnessed evidence to the contrary to be the case.

I have personally witnessed our daughter’s mother throwing living beings, albeit hermit crabs, but nonetheless, a responsibility she had assumed on behalf of her daughter and then tossed while alive into a dumpster.

While she and I lived together in that small apartment, she allowed my dog to leave the apartment and not go find her, with the apartment being along a very highly trafficked and travelled 4 lane highway. I found her roaming alone in the parking lot upon returning home one day from work. No notice of her absence ever being considered. No attention to her presence or absence being taken into account.

This habit of inattention being a gigantic problem when being handed and demanding the role of caretaker of other smaller, less-responsible creatures, whether being our or her pets, or her our mutual children. Something that was a factor in her own upbringing, and has now just recently become another dangerous element that has become a real factor to our daughter’s welfare. and physical safety.

Her own mother was inattentive with her when she was a small child and allowed her to injure herself to a degree that she still has a noticeable gouge in her forehead. The result of her mother taking her eye off her while playing and the resulting permanent physical damage. A scar so noticeable that he officer she called to my home asking her if I had anything to do with, and him mentioning it to me.

And her own mother adopting a long line of dogs who all have met a premature death after being ridden with mange and fleas and sickess and diseases of obvious neglect, but refusal to acknowledge such. They’ve all just withered away, or the excuse of their demise being something along the preposterous lines of an excuse as their lineage being prone to falling against trees and breaking their backs. As if anyone is that stupid but herself. And that being the example set for how to raise and treat animals and small children.

It’s that very concern and unimaginable recklessness and apathy and Laissez-Faire attitude and approach to responsibility that I endlessly worry about the environment our own daughter is being raised in under her mother and her grandparent’s care. There’s been o good example set anywhere. Just inexplicable and fantastic rationalization after the fact, when its too late and the damage has taken place.

I’ve seen this very style of parenting play out with not only my ex-wife, but her much younger sister, who was a byproduct of irresponsibility and dysfunction, which I regret to say, but the fact remains. There was the birth of two daughters one after the other when her parents were young. Then a good 12 years later another daughter appearing at the exact time they unceremoniously divorced, and her mother rewed to the first person she met with no consideration of her children being given. It was that very act of selfishness and allowance of hormones to dictate decisions rather than prudent reason that caused our daughter’s mother Casey to run away from home at age 14. Runaway she did, but not far, to the home of her grandparents, in Pintlala, Alabama.

I was then that events flew along, in congregation.

She proceeded to fly through school as fast as possible. Her father moved back in with his father until that grandparent died, and he squandered all inheritance, including cash and the small family home in which he’d been living. He now lives with his daughter and our young daughter here in Louisville, KY. He’s never worked since but chain-smokes and holds the world as a monster. He now claims to be an “artist” and quite noncommissioned at that. Another example of her family making up whatever fantasy explains away a path of failure, inattention, damage, and existing as a full liability. The very example he set for our daughter’s mother, and the example she’s determined to set for her daughters.

I would have never dreamt of being capable of using such harsh words towards another, up until I realized what I had been given to contend with. Everyone seemed fairly normal for South Alabama military people who had never traveled far from home by themselves.

But that cheap veneer soon wore off during the years my daughter’s mother and I were married. And what lay beneath was every bit unrefined and rotten as you would imagine. But by that time it was too late. The bets were in and that was left to do was do the best with what was left and what we had between us.

The other grandparents she moved in with in Pintlala, took care of her, along with their other adult children, her aunts, and uncles, who all lived nearby. Her Grandfather, who was a respected man in the military and community but found himself at odds with alcoholism, as did her father and I suspect his own father, whom he moved back home with as a middle aged-mad with no prospects, no driver’s license, and no friends. His father died around the same time I moved to Montgomery and whose funeral I attended.

The entire reason that branch of the family found themselves in Mongomery was due to the military outpost there. Cecelia’s grandmother, Deborah, who I became close with and subsequently was disassociated with, was a female among many brothers and the child of a military man who went wherever the wind took him. She never was able to make a long-standing group of friends and subsequently resorted to trying to endear herself to others by representing herself as something she may only superficially have been cognizant of. It’s a hard way to have to go through life, but she’s made the best of what she was given. My ex-wife’s grandfather dad had also died around that time, most likely the result of alcoholism. That left the Grandmother still at the home in Pintlala, Alabama, where my ex-wife grew up until becoming pregnant at age 19 and found herself in a shotgun marriage, and had moved out. That grandmother remained a hub around which the family gathered up until her death, when I believe my ex-wife’s daughter was around 6 years of age. I knew her grandmother and spent much time at her home n Pintlala while courting her granddaughter. My ex-wife’s mother Deborah, and amazing, my own cousin Whitney stepping in when needed to help with the caretaking of who was to soon become my stepdaughter. With all the deaths of grandparents and shuffling of papers through probate court, there was a lot of dust raised which remained for several years.

That didn’t help matters when she found herself alone and approaching middle age, when she found her third husband, Glynn. She immediately married him, another lost soul, with no consideration for her children or any thought given to the future. What would happen, would simply happen at the hand of fate and she’d justify later. The very same Laissez-Faire approach she took to every situation she found herself in and taught her girls to use as their coping mechanism when needed throughout life up until this very day.

So that kept things clunking down the runway, resentment intact between the daughters and the mother and the new stepfather. No one was ever very happy and no direction was ever stablished for anyone. I rode out this storm along with them for years. I was the last man standing and saw the end of one daughter’s joke of a marriage take place, the marriage of the same woman to another man, that I genuinely like along with is brother and entire family, the Whiteheads, who I find myself in tune with and who my ex-wife has seemingly based her own life upon. Her sister got remarried, just like my ex-wife did, had kids with her next husband, just as she did with me, and ran away with the kids declaring unproven abuse against the spouse and loving father of the children to the very tune of and same pattern and instruction of trying to file an unjust and unfounded Emergency Protective Order against. Exact same steps taken, in the exact same manner, and with the exact same consequences to my knowledge: Case Dismissed.

So cats are adopted, I’m enrolled in MBA school and things are underway. I move to Tuscaloosa into a very small, but temporary place and quit my Title load job and take up as much employment as I can to work myself through a full-time 2 year MBA program.

End 2008, proceed into 2009. This was when some unhappy things took place between me and the now mother of our child. I’ve written about them here before, but she took the dramatic action of having the court order me to remove mention of them they were so disparaging.

“Disparagement”

Disparagement. That’s become a frequently used and often tendered word with deliberation and without much discussion other than it being a definition of anything that might make a parent look bad in the child’d eyes. but it involves so much more.

Disparagement has become a term that is bandied about by the Petitioner any time a noticeable fault, criticism, or point of review becomes apparent by myself. Just the thought of there being a substandard tactic rendered or inattentive consequence emerging, no matter how real or imaginary, the flag of “Disparagement!” is thrown.

Yes, “disparagement” indeed. When either of us as a parent does something that is afoul of the boundaries of law, society, protocol, or what’s been deemed acceptable concerning our child, there may suddenly appear the infraction where someone involved wants to call a red flag, a red flag should be thrown.

But here’s the huge problem: When a parent crosses the line, and the other parent calls “foul” That parent is reprimanded as being disparaging for pointing out that fact. It’s a Catch-22.

For a very real, current and poignant example, I offer this:

I was allowed to visit with our daughter after a calendar month had passed this past Tuesday evening, after I brought the fact of the matter up to the ex-wife’s attorney, that she had failed to comply with the court-ordered mandate to set up an intake procedure for me to reunite with our daughter after driving to my home and calling the police to my house from being afraid of me and far of harm from me towards our daughter. None of it adds up.

Yet when I wait for the opportunity, which I had to pay for, and now is a court ordered 1 hour each each week with supervision, and draw my precious daughter in for a hug, I see she has a blood-stained band-aid on her forehead.

Certainly unusual. So I ask about it. And lo and behold she had to be taken to the Emergency room to be sewn up for an injury she sustained while on my ex-wife’s watch.

In most normal households this could be explained away with a few sentences as normal roughhousing. But this is no longer a normal household and there’s no normal roughhousing. If anything she and I should be taking extra careful steps to prevent injury and harm and danger coming our daughter’s way.

And I do. I spend 100% of our time together with her and enjoy every millisecond of it.

Contrary to that embracement of mine, she happily sends our daughter of to sleepovers to friends of hers, who I know to be drug connections, whose father of her daughters is in prison, and to whom she and I have given hundreds of dollars to pay her utility bills. I also know of some other activities that have taken place under that roof that I cringe to remind myself of,

So there’s an inattention that runs deeply in her family. Her mother has been inattendant to her care, evidenced by the longstanding gouge on her own forehead for so many years, and mentioned by the police officer she called on me and asked me about, to now the inattention she’s recklessly giving to our own child, which I’ve well- identified and brought to her attention.

And it’s this very symptom of inattention that I blatantly call attention to that is declared “Disparagement.” If you point out any problem that has arisen or might arise due to blatant poor parenting, then it immediately is filed under the very broad category of “disparagement” to never be spoken of again by court order. The child’s best interest be damned forevermore.

Getting back to the matter of the cats. Mind you I have a middle-aged dog by my side this whole time, that I loved and still do, named Annie.

I adopted Annie back in Asheville, North Carolina when she was 5. She has remained by my side this entire time, no separation at all, just as she and I found fit.

And now my still girlfriend has two growing cats to take care of. They were littermates and fostered by her PhD program manager and she took them in as easily as she was giving a few dollars in exchange for some chocolate to support her officemate’s school band program.

But to me these were living creatures that had a significant lifespan. Far more than my dear Annie’s. They were a male and female, and her daughter named them, respectfully, Peter and Rebecca.

During the years Peter proved himself to be a problem. He broke endless amounts of MY crystal which never a though was given to, killed all sorts of neighborhood animals and left their eviscerated bodies all over the place for me to find, step upon, and discover at the ultimate worst time.

Something had to be done with Peter because there was no end in sight to his bloody reign over the neighborhood and destructive presence in the house.

So finally, with us being married by that time and family life well underway, my ex-wife found a home that would take Peter in. That was fine with me. I didn’t want him taken to the pound or rendered a stray, which held no responsibility or care that was expected for Peter. As much as I disliked cats for their undomesticatedness, I still regarded him as a family member and a living creature that deserves respect as such. So away went Peter, leaving us with Rebecca, the runt of the litter, and a tiny little tuxedo cat.

And she then tried to find someone to take Rebecca away. Ironically, and this was a lesson never learned or ever understood by my then wife or stepdaughter, I refused to allow her to simply hand off a responsibility she had taken full-on by herself and teach her daughter that was in any way an appropriate way to solve matters.

If you assume a responsibility, especially one that involves a life, then you must keep that responsibility and manage it yourself. That was the deal. So we kept Rebecca, and although the feeding, litter and care of her had “somehow” fallen on my shoulders, I made it clear to everyone that I was then the the rightful caretaker of Rebecca. Not surprisingly, no one protested.

So when my ex-wife left me and left all the house and its contents and utilities for me to take care of singlehandedly, and do with what I saw fit, she also left Rebecca the cat.

So we had been married for seven years. Together for ten. And the amount of things she had to take with her when she left was exactly what she had put into the whole marriage and affair: Nothing.

She drove off in the nice new car, leaving me her old junker, which I just recently sold. And she pulled the very same trick with her newest husband, gave him the old pre-marital rust-bucket to keep as a “thank you” and she drove off with a brand new car. A fabulous magic trick that keeps her riding around in style. She’s clever, a trait that attracted me to her. Unfortunately for her, not as clever and not nearly as wise, stoic, and prudent as am I.

So I found myself needing to move, immediately, out of what was a 4 bedroom, with fully equipped basement and a huge two-car garage, that she had allowed me to just build a Herculean workbench in, to take care of our family matters, as a good husband and father needs.

Left with no job, no money, no way to pay for anything, I had to relocate, and on top of it all, had a geriatric dog and cat on my hands. I had a junker of a car, and I had been abandoned in every sense of the word. No explanation or reason given. A few days later some inexplicable hints were offered in the way of me being served an Emergency Protective Order. Rightfully so. If you kick a sleeping dog for no reason, you expect the dog to fearfully bite whatever’s around.

But not in our case. We had never really fought and certainly never had a physical engagement. Never. I was taught never to strike a woman and protocol is steel-tempered into my very essence. She knew this and and often I sensed she wanted to try that fact.

She’s a person that has no self-control or self-discipline, as I have. This is a dangerous situation. She doesn’t know when to quit, which is a fact I had identified early on with regards to almost all her behavior.

She likes to be over-stimulated. That’s a crucial fact and horrible character flaw she’ll never admit of course, but the evidence is real, available, and palatable. Too much is never enough. It’s the hallmark of an addict and alcoholic, which are symptoms and the red flags of someone who needs to be treated very delicately. Or else, as she’s seeing through her own life and her family, dire consequences and repercussions emerge that impact all that is near, both innocent and unsuspecting.

I often compare her existence to that of a massive tornado that touches down in peoples lives without warning. She wreaks damage to everything in her path with no accountability or apology. She creates long-lasting destruction and upends peoples very lives without a care or warning.

So I had to hustle. I needed to find a good job, a considerable-sized house to put everything and start downsizing immediately, not to mention our sweet Cecelia who was two at the time. I needed a safe, solid, respectable place to call “home.” And I needed it quick, and I needed a moving truck and a lot of men to help. I had all this going on while trying to find a job and dealing with the divorce and not knowing which way was up.

Sometimes in my life, the stars align and I promise I have an angel looking over my shoulder. It’s happened a few times now that I’m getting older. It happened with me finding a replacement vehicle not long ago, with the man named “Miguel Angel” who I bought the car from, and it happened with hw I found the house that I moved into, with no credit, no money, no job, no nothing, smack dab in the middle of one of the nicest, safest, quietest, neighborhoods in Louisville, and it was in all definition of the word, “Ideal.” We lived there for three years. I soon thereafter found a job which was perfect for me and paid handsomely.

While moving, Rebecca, the cat, ran out of the old house. The old house was a good 45 minute drive to the new house. She was rightfully scared and I couldn’t locate her. I drove back and forth for three days and nights. It was finally time to lock up the old place and there was no sign of Rebecca.

Worriedly, I went back to the old house one last time to get the rakes, shovels, gardening gear and remains of what I could fit in the back of the blue Toyota RAV4 I had been so considerably left with. It was about 10:00 at night and I walked all around the property seeing if there was anything else I should take and looking for Rebecca.

I finally went through the white picket gate that led over to the screened-in porch. And there I found poor Rebecca, claws extended through the screens and acting nearly feral, having been left alone for the past three days. I didn’t have a cat-carrier, and I was relieved to finally spot her tiny black body with white socks.

She was all kind of riled up, rightfully so, big bushy tail looking like something that belonged on a raccoon, and I gently yet firmly grabbed her, ran out to the Toyota, thew her in and took off back to the new house.

A 45-minute drive with rakes, shovels, lumber, and all sorts of debris sliding to and fro in the back with a hysterical cat on the loose inside a moving car speeding around turns, and flying over hills in the dark was a trip neither of us would forget.

Nothing unsafe going on here, Officer. I assure you she’s a fully-licensed cat, and I’m an experienced driving willing to supervise her.

Ever since that night, Rebecca has been glued to my side. If she could crawl into my pocket, she would. She has the loyalty normally only found in dogs. And since then she’s even been a point of contention.

When the cards were down, as was the case when I wasn’t sure where I might relocate to, her original owner, my ex-wife, told me that she would take Rebecca if needed. I balked at the proposal and told her she didn’t deserve her, which I’m sure she felt was a slap in the face, and “disparagement,” remained true and I knew if I gave Rebecca to her, her fate would be an undesirable, irresponsible end.

So I still have and take care of Rebecca, as always will. Even though the lesson was lost on my ex-stepdaughter and wife, it’s a lesson I’m teaching our daughter Cecelia; that you don’t just get rid of responsibilities because the mood strikes you. If you assume a responsibility, it then becomes yours. It’s a test of people’s character, for sure, and one that my ex-wife failed. And that’s the story of Rebecca.

But not all that revolves around her and animals and creatures she assumes responsibility, by a long shot.

While we were married and then “our” sweet aging dog Annie, had unfortunatelely gone to the bathroom far away in a room we rarely used. It wasn’t something she wanted to do, for sure. I had known this dog for years, and she was then getting up in age. She simply couldn’t hold it as older dogs, and humans, have trouble holding. So she left a piece of poop on the living room rug, which no one saw due to the pattern of the Iranian rug, and no one noticed, including me, the person who was made responsible for keeping the house immaculate.

So one fine day, my then wife had some of her online friends over that she has made, who don’t exist anymore. And one of her friend’s children found the long-left excrement. That situation send her over the edge. She didn’t blame any of the humans that were capable of letting poor Annie out. What she did was to blame Annie. And I don’t know how she expressed that blame and seeming horror to Annie. But she did because I saw a noticeable difference in their relationship from that day forward. Annie was then her enemy. And of course Annie had no idea of what was going on, since it had been weeks if not months since the infraction. But Annie and my then wife wanted nothing o do with one another after that event. Which saddened me, because the girls loved her as she did them. I have videos of Cecelia carefully petting and rubbing Annies old bones.

The death of Annie was something that I had to endure alone at that point, of course. And it was horrible for me emotionally, particularly being right in the thick of an unexpected and unexplained divorce. One of the hardest things I’ve been put through to that point, and I had experienced a lot of emotional pain by that time.

And as if things couldn’t have gotten worse, I needed to find money to take care of Annies’ return to the mortal coil. Finding myself in a tight spot, I needed money fast, obviously, and the only resort I had, after asking my aunt Penny and cousin Whitney for help and them refusing, was to go ahead and settle the divorce, so that I could free up enough money to handle the details of Annie’s death.

And true to what existed of her character, she pounced on the opportunity to drive the knife in as deep as possible and wiggle it around for good measure. She finally had me by the short hairs and it was time to leverage that position. So she had her lawyer draft up a settlement with everything she wanted and I had no way of saying no. A seriously terrible spot to find oneself in, I assure you.

So, that did away with any talk of child care, despite her having a signed income around 100,000% greater than mine, and she promptly assumed all tax benefits that came with having another dependent,(she already was receiving benefits for her other daughter) and removed all previously negotiated concessions from the table. Just to make sure I had as little as possible to rebuild my life. And she could quickly throw stakes in the dirt by buying a house, having her already live-in boyfriend who she’d just met, propose to her and kick back and relax. (You may recall as I was her boyfriend back in Alabama, I slept on the inflatable mattress to keep up appearances. Those days were clearly over, having an unmarried man immediately living in her apartment with both daughters. The “rules” she’d made for herself had disappeared entirely)

In a move that exactly reflected the move that drove her away from home at age 14, she did the very same thing that her own mother did to her and she harbored resentment for. She quickly remarried some person she clearly randomly found on the sidewalk, with no consideration, respect, or feedback given from her children. Her own mother had remarried a hobo with an architect’s degree, stuck it out with him, until he decided the grass was greener down in Florida, where he unsurprisingly found a mistress. Marriage #3 for my ex-wife’s mother: Over. Not surprisingly, my ex-wife’s closer in age younger sister also found her way through three marriages. I was around for all of this and had no idea that I should have expected such dysfunction. But things were subtracting quickly, unfortunately for me.

And as I may have already mentioned, the new husband of my Ex-wife has already long-moved out. This is a situation I’m holding my nose with one hand and peeking through my fingers with the other. The whole marital situation, in regular extreme-dysfunction mode, is now this:

Her husband has found that he has leukemia, same as what took my mother’s life around 40 years ago and I’ve dwelled on earlier with how our family handled it. All normal operations were shut down, as she received treatment up at Johns Hopkins over the period of three years as well as some local chemotherapy. And my father, her sister, her friends and I travelled frequently to be with her in Baltimore. I was flying up and back all the time as was my father, and even driving.

Contrast that with the example being demonstrated by my ex-wife. Her husband moved back to New Jersey where he’s from. To my knowledge, my ex-wife hasn’t been up there to visit him once. Just a video call every now and then, as explained by our daughter. When he moved out, it was a major production. He just up and grabbed whatever he could and took off in the car that my ex-wife and I bought together as her new car. She’s now driving an actual new car, once again as a result of the trick I earlier explained.

But I’ve been told by her and our daughter that they fought all the time, with very loud voices, including words that 5-year-olds should not be hearing. Our daughter tells me she tries to go outside when they start yelling naughty words at each other. Filthy language is the default vocabulary in her family, having taught her older daughter how to pass a note in fourth grade the teacher caught which explained to another classmate that she’d a F***ing S*** Day. I assure you I’ve never cursed in front of her daughter any more than I would our own daughter. But she’s going to learn it quickly. Especially when her husband while holding our daughter in his arms on their front doorstep, yells across the neighborhood that he wants to fight me and calls me a P***y right in my daughter’s ear. A moment I managed to capture on my dashcam. And an event that was promptly dismissed by our child’s mother, with no concern whatsoever. It was that uncalled-for event that promptly ended my desire to pick up our daughter from their house. The remaining locations were, as always my house, where I welcome exchanges and never present any remote indication of hostility, rage, awkwardness, or display of being emotional whatsoever. This is contrary to the written and verbal narrative of what my ex-wife is now claiming, saying now she’s fearing for both her own and our child’s safety to the extent she’s filed yet another protective order against me, right after driving across town, up into my driveway, and banging on my door, yelling for all the neighbors to hear and creating a spectacle that would give the trashiest of trailer parks a run for their lotto tickets. Fearful, indeed.

It was with this most recent theatric that now has me able to see our sweet daughter once a week, for one hour, under supervision, at my financial expense, and both my and our daughter’s emotional and lifelong psychological expense.

I’m now jumping through all the hoops she’s found a way to erect between us and I’m utilizing the sudden free time to get things down in writing that I want our daughter to eventually grasp, learn, appreciate and understand in due time, whether I’m around or not.

She’s 5 years old now, soon to turn six, which she’s looking forwards to, and has just finished her very first year of Kindergarten, for what it was worth, having the Covid-19 scare placed upon all humanity for no apparent reason other than a political one. That was a situation that resembles the one, my ex-wife, I, and our daughter find ourselves in now.

It’s an overblown, over-reactionary, theatrical event that has spun out of control. It’s becoming an overly-expensive, overwrought, inexplicable nightmare that was born out of one person’s desire for control, a continuously identified lack of communication and a glaring difference in priorities by each parent.

And one of the consequences is that the time I normally spend with my daughter is being filled by the creation of written principles that I strive to instill in Cecelia, whether I’m able to do it myself personally or not.

It’s now crystal clear that her mother does not intend for our daughter to be taught anything resembling self-discipline, honor, integrity, self-esteem, humility, gratitude, and a long list of positive character traits that I value and are difficult to obtain without help and involvement by a qualified person near and dear to the child.

These are traits I was taught at great expense and effort and come from years of recognizing and respecting them. Being in my 50’s now it’s easy to see that not everyone was given the opportunity or benefit of these qualities. Our daughter’s mother was never imbued with them. Her own parents didn’t and still don’t possess them, and even if they had, the fact that our daughter’s mother ran away from home at age 14 made sure that they would never be concepts to consider, acquire, work on, and value as I was able to.

I had them forged into my very soul from a young man, being in the Boy Scouts, a regular church attendant, the only grandson of a man who held proper protocol, honor, integrity, etiquette, and self-discipline close to his heart and exemplified it for me to emulate. I proceeded to have these concepts drilled into me over seven years at camp, that focused on raising young men into not just respectable, healthy well-balanced, athletic young men, but little troopers that fully understood the notions of allegiance, trustworthiness, honor, integrity, loyalty, sportsmanship, teamwork, leadership, trust and a long list of positive character traits that parents want their children to adopt and learn by example and demonstration, which is the strongest way to imbue them.

Without this deliberate and admittedly expensive effort, the likelihood that anyone should acquire these features is woefully low. And they’re habits that are expected of gentlemen, but not so much young ladies. And thus we find many lasses without a compass point to navigate life by, and although not conditioned themselves to hold these characteristics as innately, they typically are equipped to recognize them in males when they’re present. I presented and undertook the proper means necessary to try and teach my ex-stepdaughter these characteristics, including but not limited to giving her her very own copy of Emily Post’s masterwork “Etiquette” in hardback, which I read together with my stepdaughter and was promptly given back to me by her mother. For whatever reason WordPress won’t allow me to embed the book here, so I’ll place it an an unsightly link:

https://smile.amazon.com/Emily-Posts-Etiquette-19th-Manners/dp/0062439251/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=emily+post+etiquette&qid=1622782997&sr=8-1

That was only the beginning. It became clear as her mother and I were her transportation to and from school each day in the carpool line, I was becoming the default chauffeur. A role I didn’t mind, because it gave me a chance to speak with my stepdaughter on one, in a controlled, comfortable, relaxed environment, about things that were personal and confidential and I knew wouldn’t be brought up otherwise.

For a while I allowed my wife, her mother, to get her ready in the morning nd take her to school. Only I began realizing what was happeing was a “wait to the very last second” approach and do everything in haste and cut critical corners along the way. This flied in the face of self-discipline and creating healthy habits and setting geed examples as we agreed were necessary for a healthy childhood, as everyone knows.

She wasn’t giving her a chance to brush her teeth, wash her face, brush her hair, or even eat a decent breakfast or take a breathe before rushing off to he car and racing off to the carpool line. This was the opposite of what should have been taught.

In my exasperation and never-ending desire to teach her daughter what is right and how to set good habits, I explained I would get up, cook eggs and toast and fruit and juice and provide a healthy, sustaining meal while she got herself together in a timeframe that allowed for all the proper steps to be completed, without rush and to school in time for the first bell.

It was at this time there surfaced the obvious misalignment between her(my ex-wife’s) and my standards. To the point friction was created. She didn’t appreciate being made to look bad, despite her determined choice to keep her standards as low as possible.

So that sort of situation stood and in fact grew over time as more and more chances for teaching self-discipline and setting personal goals, including those involving hygiene, appeared. She was quickly entering her “tween” years and thereafter the always awkward teen years. I was readily prepared, as I believed everyone else was.

It was then that I suggested her daughter attend Cotillion, which was a program my wife had no knowledge, recognition, or understanding of, having never been afforded the chance to undergo it herself. She had no idea what it even was, but saw it was something the other children of the private school I encouraged her to attend were about to undertake with some of the same classmates being in the same Cotillion class. It was a great opportunity to teach an only, shy and totally unprepared by her mother, the appropriate and finer methods to interact, behave and conduct herself in social situations that included the opposite sex. It is a vital and rewarding program that I think all children should be involved in to teach them social skills in a relaxed and comfortable, refined, and controlled environment.

So she enrolled in Cotillion and I dove her to and from each session and helped her find white gloves and prepare her for the program, which I believe she enjoyed and received some very important lessons from that she would not have been able to attain anywhere else.

Something else along these lines we had agreed upon early in her other daughter’s life was to have a single solid point of reference in her life to guide her along. For me that had been the Boy Scouts as well as the church and some lifelong friends we had made as families in the community and who were members of the same church.

These families proved vital, interminably gracious and indispensable as my mother became sick with leukemia as I was a young teenager, and we needed help with the care of me and to see I was taken care of, fed, housed, and taken to school and to sports practice and the various after school prgrams I was involved in, such as art classes and computer programming, as embryoonic as the field was back then.

One such gracious family, The Brices, took me in for weeks at a time while my mother received treatment up at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland and my father was off doing something. One of the three children they had was a classmate and churchmate of mine, Boyce Brice. His father was our insurance provider and they have a history of helping wherever they could, taking in foreign students, and doing whatever they could. Fine folks, and unfortunately I’ve lost track with Boyce but last spoke with him as he was selling insurance in Virginia back when we were in our 30’s. I don’t believe his parents are around any longer, and his older siblings, a man, and woman at his point, unaccounted for. His bigger brother had a passion and skill for largemouth bass fishing I recall. By this time I’m sure he’s reeled in the biggest bucketmouth this world has produced in some slimy, golden, duckgrass-covered pond, with turtles, alligators, and bullfrogs all witness to the landing of that enormous fish.

The other family being no lesser gracious whatsoever, but even moreso with the agreement that should something ever happen to both my mother AND father, they would take me in and raise me as their own family member. A godfamily, but while that assignment is made in haste and not with much gravity applied as it should be, in this case it could have become very real.

And this was a circumstance, that not only did see my own mother leaving this Earth soon thereafter, but the father and husband in that family, the Hinsons (Luke and Margaret) also dying around that same time. He was a co-worker of my mother’s at the IRS and a longtime smoker, which is what did him in, unfortunately. He was a very kind, respectable, loyal, spiritual and special man and father to four boys, one dying early on to leave in oder of age: Luke, Kip and Julian. Julian was closest to my age, and was a wild one. He was a guitar player and a trouble maker. and he went to a different school than I did. His older bother Kip took me to and from school in a Ford Mustang with an aftermarket stereo and hairstyle that was mine to behold. An instant “cool guy” that every young teen wanted to be. A very handsome, well appointed young man with a driver’s license, Mustang, and supported by an amazing family, church and community. The young ladies wanted to be by his side, and the young men wanted to be him.

So they took me in for weeks and months at a time while my mother was up in Maryland receiving treatment. Previously I had been left alone to tend to myself, which I did fine, but with a rightful intrepidation. Our home was within walking distance of the school, forget the weather, and I had driven cars before, although not licensed an still around 14 years old. We had grocery store within a mile of the house, an IGA, for me to get any any necessities, and I was left plenty of resources to acquire anything I needed.

Mind you, this was n the early 1980’s, in the rural South, in a culture that resembled nothing like what we have now anywhere. Children played in neighborhoods and beyond, freely with no fear or suspect of danger. The worst thing that could, and did happen, was when one of the boys among the playgroup, flew too close to the Sun, and tried to jump a ditch or train track or another impromptu barricade to freedom, and landed with a very real thud onto the concrete, a nail, or board, or concrete chunk that was always present back when safety wasn’t a top priority. It was always fun and games until someone got very hurt. And I do mean VERY hurt. The ability and desire to just shake it off in front of your buddies trumped ending the fun just because a few small handfuls of gravel, concrete, and nails found their way under your skin. Onward! To the next challenge!

That’s a far cry from what we see today, of course. It’s a three-alarm code red emergency with all hands on deck when there might be the smallest abrasion from a tissue being folded improperly.

What I had to protect myself while staying alone at home for weeks at a time as a young teenager was everything I’d been equipped with up until that time:

  • A machete
  • a bag of golf clubs
  • both softball and hardball bats
  • several bows and arrows
  • air rifle, bb gun, and .22 rifle
  • pocket knives scattered throughout the house
  • a medium-sized 10-year-old dog
  • my imagination
  • a bullwhip
  • A samurai sword hidden in my father’s closet
  • a very sharp hunting knife I’d used upon myself already
  • a precision-tuned throwing arm
  • two legs that could move me from point A to B with lighting speed
  • Two young and trained eyes that could see in the dark
  • A penetratingly loud scream
  • Several telephones throughout the house, and only I knew their location

So I felt quite safe and protected if I needed to resort to digging through my war chest and yield any armory and weaponry. I was equipped, trained, and fortified. It was the ghouls and trespassers that needed to be afraid. Not me.

And, during that same time, I found myself having to do my own laundry, housekeeping, meal preparation, and caretaking of my own beloved pet dog, Scratchy. So I made sure she was well-fed, had proper hydration and exercise, and went to the bathroom outside wherever I could give her the chance. If I remember correctly, she stayed outside while I was at school and had her own self-assigned property to tend to, and awaited my return when I was done with school and sports practice, and walked home with my books and sports equipment in tow, to clean and use to take back with me the next day, after doing my homework, making supper, watching TV, which usually was Andy Griffith(we didn’t have cable TV or video games back then) reading and playing out in the yard and woods behind the house, and going to bed. To get up the next day, shower, brush my teeth, get dressed, prepare for the day, get everything organized and make my bed, let Scratchy out, retrieve the paper, and head off to school for the day. I did that successfully for weeks at a time with no instruction, hand-holding, direction, or involvement from anyone else at all. And I was getting straight A’s, performing well in sports, and enjoying the freedom I’d suddenly been given.

I think it was when the school realized I had no one tending to me at home, when exams needed to be signed by my parents, that some supervision should be assigned. But by that time it was too late. School was ending for the school year.

That was when we entered into the Summer of 1983. I had gottten too big to go camping up in New Hampshire as I had my whole boyhood. I was entering my teen years and it was a precarious time for everyone. My father was all over the road map and he came and went with no direction being given, which was his style. His mother, my grandmother, Virginia Musgrove, was still alive. She was a woman I always adored, as did everyone who ever knew her. She was smart, southern and sweet to the bone and a woman who could shoot a gun and cook with the pros. She was a sweetheart and everyone loved her. She unfortunately fell under the spell of a man named Johnny Johnson, who I’m sure meant his best, but squandered a vast fortune that my grandmother had been left by her previous husband, and their lives sputtered to a regrettable end, his being taken by his love of red meat, which she dutifully coked for him every evening, and her small-framed but beautiful body being taken over by Alzheimers and ultimately died in Montgomery under her daughter Penny’s watch.

The three children that woman, Virginia Musgrove, bore, Ken, Don and Penelope”Penny” all stayed nearby geographically. All were born in or around Albany Georgia, where My Mother’s parents tapped their roots as well. My father was born in Macon, Georgia, for a reason that had to do with Virginia’s career I believe.

Albany has always been the locus of our family’s affairs, being where my parents grew up, met, and wed as well as a vast number of characters that comprise the tapestry of our family’s portrait. The names you’ll always hear are Jay Beck, Vic Miller, Sister Miller, Jimmy Miller, Na-Na, Oscar Miller, and there are photographs of these people I have in my archive, as well as books published and signed by some of these people, and mention of my mother in books I have, such as Hamilton Jordan’s “A Boy From Georgia.” Hamilton was another character from Albany that was President Jimmy Carter’s Chief of Staff and as such dealt out not just favors, but entire careers to fiends

But my mother had a couple of desires having been fighting cancer for three years now, in and out of remediation, and having been the recipient of countless chemotherapies, and put through the wringer backwards and forwards, God bless her 100 pound beautiful body.

And those desires were to die at home among family, and not at a hospital, for not me to be around.

And sure enough, those stars aligned, and there came the day that I went with my friend Boyce Brice’s mother to go pick him up from camp for particularly brainy kids in our class(I’ve always liked associating with those who I find to be the most intelligent in the room. They keep things lively and bright) It’s why I gravitate towards brainy women. I enjoy engaging in mental challenges, such as crossword puzzles, and I find a mutual curiosity about the world often yields greater rewards than solo exploration.

It’s for that reason I am so excited to explore this planet with our daughter. She’s incredibly creative and can sense and find things that mere mortals overlook. It’s like having an ultra-sensistive set of feelers and monocles when embarking on a deep sea dive. You never know what you’ll find. It’s thrilling for me to think about.

And we embarked upon our trip to go retrieve Boyce up at Wofford College, in SC that Saturday, a long trip for sure, across the entire small state and back. And upon our arrival back at home, I found my mother had died.

And everything changed from that day forward. Everything suddenly stood still.

To continue along with my pedigree, I went off to an all-boys college preparatory school which is not only known for its prestige among academics and athletes but scholarly gentlemen who adopted the honor system the school prides itself upon. No one among its 400 member student body cheated, stole, or lied. If there was ever a suspected infraction of the honor code, the suspect would be given an immediate fair trial among his peers, the prefects, and the verdict was swift and solid.

There were countless instances of a boy being in class one day, and the next, he and all his belongings suddenly vanishing in the blink of an eye. No second chances or deliberation. At times it almost seemed magical how precise, surgical and instantaneous the removal was. “Now you see him, now you don’t.”

During my new boy year, 14 boys were yoinked, no matter their legacy, last name, parents’ financial status, affiliation with God Himself, or athletic or academic prowess. If you got caught stealing lying or cheating, you were gone with no discussion. Tell me if that won’t make you sit up and stand straight. Getting into that school was hard and costly enough. Getting kicked out was not something you wanted the responsibility being placed upon your shoulders for a lifetime. You learned how to behave, and when you did life was great. And it conditioned you for a lifetime of living with the same high standards set there and forevermore. It was and remains a beautifully intense program that will generate a lineup of refined, exquisitely unique scholars and athletes. A group of around 100 fine young men that have been precision-engineered to tackle the world before them, in whatever manner they choose.

And with each graduation, the world finds itself being explored by focused, disciplined, thoughtful, honorable, loyal to the end, kind, principled, extremely healthy in spirit, mind and body, young men.

And if that wasn’t enough, I went and joined an Order in college that taught what it meant to be a gentleman, a respected member of society, a brother to other fine young men for life, and to respect God and women. Not surprisingly, the Order had other Woodberry boys adorning the composites lining the fraternity hallways.

The motto of the Order is “Dieu et Les Dames” which is Latin for “God and Women.” We learned how to behave and treat ladies and act appropriately in society and our entire mission was spiritually led by the great General Robert E. Lee and we carry a badge of honor and sword about we exclaim “Excelsior!”

So I know a thing or two about chivalry, how to behave around a woman, and conduct myself with self-discipline, and keeping my sense of honor and integrity in check. So I’m well-versed in what all that means, which is why I find myself stunned by my ex-wife’s claims against me. I have a lifetime of evidence, and thousands of credible, reputable, upstanding people that will vouch for what I claim to be. Versus my ex-wife’s imaginary, unsupported and feeble claim I’m not such a thing. She doesn’t even know what anything I speak about looks like.

She had it living under our own roof, up until she decided that type of lifestyle wasn’t her cup of tea. As I stated, it’s not an easy thing to attain or achieve. But I was more than willing to help her and our daughter and her other daughter get in on what is a respectable way of living. She decided it was too much work and responsibility and chose a Laissez-Faire approach to life instead. It’s what was demonstrated for her by her parents and was the method of upbringing she had, and it’s what she wants for our daughter.

I’ve identified this situation, brought it to her attention, and explained that it’s clear what output that manner of parenting results in. Mediocrity, apathy, and squandering the potential that children have. Sadly, that’s been the obvious outcome of her parenting method with her first daughter.

I’ve explained since before our dear Cecelia was born that that isn’t going to be the case with her. I didn’t have the legal or appropriate hand while helping her raise her first daughter from age 4 to age fourteen. She took it upon herself to raise her as she saw fit. And we now see the final product emerging as she’s now 18.

I’m not going to dwell on her first child who I became the welcomed father figure for. She’s legally an adult now and I have no more influence on her life, which my ex-wife saw to end dramatically, suddenly, with no explanation. Just chopped our bond apart with a cleaver and ran.

If that doesn’t make a statement about how she views relationships, fathers, families, bonds, vows and people’s emotions, feelings and consequences of her decisions, then I don’t know what would. I believe it says a lot.

We learn by example, and the examples set by Cecelia’s grandparents are nothing anyone should use as an example. Perhaps as an example of what not to do. Her toothless, frail, chainsmoking hull of a father is living out his final days with her mother in her house, having no place to go, no state that will grant him a driver’s license, and nothing to offer society. He abuses the family dog in front of our daughter, vomits regularly with no explanation given, yet as an alcoholic, the case is obvious, which frightens our daughter to no end. His snoring keeps our daughter up all night and between the smoking he and his child, the mother of our daughter, do, pollute all the schoolwork and clothing that is sent to my house. Her third husband? No one knows where he is. He got smart and bolted. In a huge cloud of oily New Jersey dust and no reference made to him by my ex-wife, except to admit that they had been having serious troubles and fights, which I already knew thanks to the chilling testimony of a regrettable 5-year-old witness named Cecelia.

Of course, there’s no discussion or mention of any of this, Heaven forbid. Any discussion of such would constitute “disparagement” and make them look bad in front of our child. Rightfully so. No one wants to be labeled “dysfunctional” and the more dysfunctional the situation, the more effort is exerted to try and hide the fact. And so the very reason we have the situation on our hands that we do. “Don’t look at me, look over there!” “Nothing to see here! Look Elsewhere, where I’ve thrown a diversion!” It’s nothing more than a basic magic trick, which unfortunately is easy to conduct on a legal system that’s overwhelmed and understaffed and prone to manipulation by those that have the tricks up their sleeves. Which is what we’re witnessing now.

This attitude of doing as they please and throwing up red flags whenever mention of foul is made is a tidy Catch-22 that our daughter’s mother has discovered. “Tis for thee, but not for me,” is a common saying around her filthy house.

“Holy Cow” you surely must be thinking. What does any of this have to do with writing, music, or anything interesting?

A perfectly valid and reasonable question. Especially at this point.

Yes, perhaps.

As I very earlier professed, I’m finding myself availale to catch up on some things that had been tossed into the wastebasket in exchange for the privledge of taking care of my ex-wife and her daughter and al their needs, both unrealized and not, and wants and whims, which I dutifully did at my expense for a decade. And no thanks or credit being given by anyone, and much to the contrary.

I’d had longstandig love for playing the guitar, woodworking, tinkering, engineering and building anything, writing, and inhaling and embracing the most aesthetic and pure things this Earth has to offer.

Instead, I left it all behind and set all that aside. This is a fact which will always be disputed and denied by my ex-wife, with no evidence to support her claim, and endless amounts of testimony, sorrow and neglect given to those past times I has spent years building up some semblance of mastery of.

The things I still plan on doing and teaching our daughter, which her mother hasn’t the slimmest idea of how to even approach showing our child what these concepts look like are these: How to play instruments like the guitar, banjo, and ukelele, and any other instrument she gravitates to, artistry, meaning how to perform it with all media from charcoal, pen and ink watercolors, acrylics, and even ow into digital media like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop and other Adobe products which I’m skilled at and her mother is in no way not. Also, how to fish, cook, and ride a bike which is something I took upon myself to teach her other daughter with no help or support. Although eventually riding a bicycle to tend of the driveway and back for a treat as a reward, I have no faith that she still cannot ride a bicycle to this day, at age almost 19. She approached me right before her mother left me at age 14 holding a can opener asking for help on how to use it. I blame myself for that overlook, as much as anyone, being the sole person responsible for planning, preparing cooking, and cleaning up after every meal for our little family for ten years. I’m a good cook, I enjoy it, and I’ve been doing it since I was a small child. It’s science and engineering and rendering incredible dishes that lots of people can enjoy. It’s a great skill to have, and one I’m teaching our daughter as well. One that I tried to teach my ex-wife a much as possible. But she didn’t have to keep going for jugs of milk when she bought the whole cow. That stupid huge soft cow being yours truly, for anyone not immediately picking up on the metaphor.

And to continue on, I plan on teaching her soldering, solving little problems herself, and how to play sports, which she’s showing interest in already. I have played nearly every sport imaginable from squash to wrestling to golf to football to lacrosse, to soccer to basketball to track and field, swimming, sailing, archery, sporting clays, marksmanship and more. What did her mother play and even know exists to play? NOTHING.

I loved and still love competitive sport. t didn’t matter if I was 5’2″ 120 pounds and a good foot and half shorter than the next runt on the varsity basketball team. I learned the basics, the rules, sportsmanship, teamwork, and dedication, even more-so as someone that had no business being on the same field or court as most of the young men I was teammates with. I earned the right to be there, even if my equipment was two sizes too big for me. It made no difference to me. I was in it to win it.

And with that same determination, I find myself sitting here, furiously banging away at a keyboard and moving image and video files all over the place, compressing them down and editing them and posting them here for the very same purpose and sense of duty to myself and those I feel responsible towards. Back then it might have been my parents, grandparents, and friends. Today it’s for my daughter Cecelia.

I want her to be able to know what has transpired before her birth, and during these young years of hers, where she finds herself torn between me, a middle-aged father left alone in upper Kentucky, Heaven help me, and her mother, who exists up here for nothing more than a paycheck for herself. Her own husband has moved out away from her, her now legal teenage daughter is in the process of moving out from their house, which leaves my ex-wife, her wretch of a father, an untrained dog that she has no plan of ever adopting as a family member and tramples our child, and I believe is a pit-bull mix, which insurance companies won’t even offer policies for with the knowledge of their housing. But not to worry, because she tosses the poor thing in the garage or out into the weather, of her father kicks down the basement stairs to the point of causing bleeding, which our daughter has witnessed, and her mother has assured she’s “handled.” She also has another dog, I rarely hear much of, and, amazingly, a warren of rabbits that she’s brought into her home. And I do mean into. She kept them in the garage during the bitter winter months, kept them indoors in a way I shudder to imagine, and finally has found a somewhat passable environment for her to keep them in the yard. Rabbits aren’t the best pets, if you didn’t know, They’re rodents and have very sharp, powerfully muscled claws, and ever-growing, razor-sharp teeth. I love animals and have had rabbits, which is how I know first hand.

So I teach her everything I know which has become a lot. Including the treatment and handling or both wild and domestic animals, insects, reptiles and fish. I grew up among nature, being awarded many badges, certificates, honors and other symbols of accomplishment as to their identification, handling and treatment. I myself have been bitten twice in the face as a child by dogs, both times being the result of inattentive parents. Both times I startled sleeping dogs. The first time I had my whole face and lip bitten off while unattended under my father’s watch. Fortunately the ER doctor was aplastic surgeon, and they were able to somehow track down my parents while I was being attended to. The fortunate result of living in a small southern town where people knew each other. It wouldn’t have ended nearly as nicely these days.

The next instance being me walking past a sleeping dog laying in a chair as I passed by. She must have been having a nightmare, and upon waking, saw me there, and pounced and went for the face, which is a tactic all dogs take. Go for the face and throat. Luckily that instance was nothing more than some stitches and a scare. I still love and respect dogs, possibly even more with an understanding that they’re always wild animals, no matter how much we want to dress them up, sleep with them and treat them like little people. They aren’t. And that fact becomes very real when a dog suddenly goes primal for no apparent reason and snaps at a child’s face. This is a situation I fear will become a reality with our daughter and the adopted dog her mother has no control over whatsoever. It’s a ticking time bomb I have brought up, mentioned time after time, and will still bring up. Something will have to give. And unfortunately, my ex-wife is willing to take an unnecessary risk and keep the dog around until its certain demise, which I’m sure will be premature in her care. Until then I hold my breath and hope what I know could very well happen, doesn’t. This is again an undefinable urge of her to have some sense of false control over a situation where she very much does not. And the damage that will be caused won’t be to herself. It will be to our daughter or someone else’s child. That matters not to her. That’s a priority that falls under the first one of hers I’ve identified: herself.

So we’ve got animals taken care of as a mutual interest, music, art, cooking, sports, nature, physical conditioning, mental puzzles, video games, experiential activities like roller coasters, Ferris wheels, tilt-a-whirls, and a hopefully never-ending host of wheeled apparati. That leaves a mutual appreciation and love of ice-creams and fresh fruit that we indulgingly share. She’s a very fit, curious, hyper-driven ball of energy just as I was a child. And thankfully remain so with her at my side as much as I can render.

But that leaves one last area that I care about joining her in with regards to learning, teaching, and understanding together. One aside from traveling all over this Earth together to broaden her horizons, teach her about all the cultures and amazements the world has to offer, and give her a perspective of how she belongs on this giant planet. I’ve done a lot of the legwork already, and I am happy to revisit many places I’ve been to show her what’s unbelievable, important and unattainable without putting on your hiking boots putting on a pack and hitting the trail. Her mother knows and has done nothing along these lines, ever. I have and have the memorabilia and artifacts I brought back to the states with me to prove it which are in our house now, and she marvels at.

A tiny representation of items collected over decades of moving all around the east coast and to islands, countries, and seas beyond. Skulls, carcasses, shells, carapaces, signed portraits of men held famous centuries ago, cutouts of my very own mother, artifacts and detria hauled back from Venice, Italy, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, all over the Caribbean, and moonlit shores now forgotten.
Enrico Caruso
An autographed portrait of one of the three great tenors, Enrico Caruso I have adorning my walls.

Something I dabbled in back when I took a deep dive into teaching myself computer programming and design, both digital and product, when I needed to bolster my marketing chops to remain relevant, which still remains true, was 3-D printing.

It was something that was financially within reach at times, although then being supremely more expensive than it is now to get involved with of course. But back then, with that expense, brought the always present feature of such a new technology, along with the prices, which was that there wasn’t a lot of material to work with or purposes to use it for, unless you had some type of CAD-based business, like architecture, small product development, gadgetry, or were a serious tinkerer, with lots of time and money and brains on your hands. I had none of those and still find myself without. It was a new technology that hadn’t gotten its legs yet, but I knew to have endless innovative possibilities. I’ve been waiting, frothing at the bit to begin working with this technology.

And finally the time has come. As small as my budget is for such things, I’m still able to dive in finally and get going with things. And the more I learn and am cacapble of producing, hopefully the more I may even be able to render as a return on my investment and grow the pastime. In any case, it will more than pay for itself with things I’m now able to make, rather than buying from China, or running all over the state to find in the middle of the night, when I can build it myself. The possibilities are becoming endless, and it’s something I want my daughter to learn, and have available for her own use, as an invaluable tool at her diposal as she travels through life. It’s pone of those technologies that is every but as revolutionary as the commoditization of GPS tracking became at the very same time adoption of smartphones became a reality. It opens up entire worlds of possibilities only bordered by our own imaginations. And I know my daughter’s imagination is limitless, which is something I encourage and want to render as sustainable as possible, as long as possible. Age, and black external forces are always trying to stifle that creativity or steal it for it’s own use. It’s an asset that few are truly endowed with, but I recognize it in our daughter Cecelia and I foster it as much as humanly possible. She doesn’t get nearly the recognition, credit and encouragement from her mother that I constantly try to flood her with. This is another pot of contention, of course, that any person of course doesn’t want highlighted for comparison’s sake, but it remains real and legitimate and something to keep under consideration as our daughter grows older, under both her mother’s and my watch. It’s yet another reason I put forth why she’s be better off with me hosting her in South Carolina, rather than her mother sitting idly by here in go-nowhere-ville, Louisville, KY.

But my daughter has a fascination with teeny tiny doll accessories and environments. And I keep a habit of tinkering, micro-engineering, and problem-solving with creative and resourceful means. I would give the most aged, nearly blind Vietnamese man the run for his money in being able to fashion a rusty bottlecap into something that can render a radio signal.

With a lifetime of fidgeting, problem-solving, making do with whatever is near, and a long line of tools around myself at all times (until recently, when my exwife came to my house with her husband’s freinds and prompty stole over $10,000 worht of items from me, which she toldme they were likely to do after having them bring over their cars and a huge truck for the purpose of safehousing many items we both wanted Cecelia to have as she got older. Thes items weren’t limited to all my carefully assembled tools over decades, asa top surgeon would have upon himself, and my very own parent’s sterling silver chest with a whole stetting for eight. I had lugged that chest around with me for the better part of over thirty plus years, only for them to end up God-knows where. They took my rugs, lamps, furniture, electronics and a long list of items I never got back and was unable to replace despite filing a police report and insurance claim. My insurance carrier told me to replace them at my expense and they would reimburse me for a depreciated amount. As If I was going to go out and try to replace a sterling silver chest of utensils and china and crystal from 1967 that was given to my parents as wedding gifts. The whole disaster was swept under the rug, deemed stupid and false and to never be mentioned agin by my ex-wife. On top of that she tried to keep some heirloom photographic cutout statuettes of my mother, our daughter’s namesake, for herself to display in her own house. It was only after mentioning their obvious disappearance numerous times and making a big deal about it did she relinquish them. What was going through her mind I will never be able to understand.)

My dear mother Cecelia in the years around and before 1953, placing her around the ages of 6-8. Quite fit and strong as you can see, just as her granddaughter Cecelia very much is and takes pride in being.

So, along with fine-tuning my new vehicle which I absolutely love, writing my thoughts and desires and stories down as quickly and comprehensively as I can, while trying to keep them in a linear path, meandering through the many years I’ve been unable to take breath, and now anxiously awaiting our new 3-D Printing gear, I’m finally enjoying being able to take a cout-ordered breath.

A failure I admit and have no help with is that while placing myself as a lower priority, and I state that with no intention of labeling myself a martyr AT ALL, is that by that realistic organization of responsibilities and duties, I leave my health and well-being to fall wherever it does.

That’s not responsible I realize, and it makes no sense not to take care of myself, so that I may help take care of my daughter. I realize that totally. But I find it difficult to always keep that in mind as I furiously fight the battles I’m given to tend to alone in life. It’s no exaggeration to state that I am totally alone in my endeavors. No family around, and my beloved friends being back in South Carolina, where I strive to return with Cecelia. And those friends all now having their own families and problems to tend to which I completely respect and understand. I never want to burden any one else with my problems, which I’m perfectly well-equipped to handle. More so than the mother of our child, her parents, my father, and so it seems anyone else in my family. They want no part of it. It’s out of their league at this point, despite what they want to tell each other and themselves, yet not tell me. It’s obviously just how life goes for some people. I’m no longer worried about it, because my concern is my daughter and nothing more. And as I was saying, that includes my health. The stress of this latest table-upturning, which hearkens back to the the way my ex-wife left me and destroyed our lives 4 years ago, has reared it’s head in the very same manner.

I weighed myself this morning because I’m noticing a drastic weight loss and loss of strength and energy. I’ve suddenly and with no explanation lost 20 pounds, from a healthy weight of 165 pounds, for my light frame of 5’10”.

This has happened once before in my life. It was back 4 years ago when I was having to orchestrate the moving out from our marital home, with all animals, the worry of not being able to see my daughter, like now, an inexplicable EPO being thrown at me by my ex-wife, just like now, and being left with no resources to handle any of it and with no job to provide much-needed cash flow, just like now and the imminent end of a lease term fast approaching with nowhere to go, just like now. A host of confusing legal proceedings involving me with no explanation, reason, or regret, other than one very important underlying justification.

And that was, has been, is, and seems to always be the case en perpetuity:

There is a constant, inexplicable, always-denied, omnipresent, and easily-identified need for the mother of our daughter, the Petitioner now in our case, to maintain the smallest sense, real or artificially generated, of control over certain people and matters. It’s not in every case, thank goodness.

But over the 15 years I’ve now known the woman, intensely and intimately in every respect imaginable, I’ve discovered this to be true. I always remind her that I know her and will possibly know her better than anyone. This goes for her entire adult life. She moved out when she was 14. Found herself married and with child at age 20. She and began dating when she was 26. She’s now 39, about to turn 40. And over those 14/15 years, the only real constant, and person that has remained a confidant and expressed any interest in her emotionally, psychologically, and having the education and both academic training and autodidactic learning of, including spending no inconsiderable amount of time with board-certified psychiatrists and psychologists while spending years upon years on academic campuses. I’ve always been fascinated by human behavior and considered psychology being a path worth exploring professionally, and it being a very relevant concern with my lifelong passion for marketing. I like learning what makes certain people tick. Especially those I find myself married to, whether that being a mutual curiosity or not. In my marriage to our current daughter’s mother, it was never something she ever wanted to take the time to bother herself with, during the decade we were together, and despite the list of interests I just laid out, to teach our very own daughter, and to refamiliarize myself with now. Imagine.

I hope this weight loss is not related to anything more serious than my cortisol levels going into meltdown by the sudden unexplained attack by my former spouse and the removal of my daughter from my life, as well as the upending of some months-long laid plans and effort on my part to relocate to South Carolina. A plan I outlaid every step of the way, was transparent with everyone involved and hyping up as to be the direction I wanted to take things.

I knew from the face-to-face meeting I had with my ex-wife I called for months ago that I was rightfully suspicious of her big talk and spirit of compromise which contradicted every single thing she’d done or said up until then. I kept on working tirelessly towards my goal, keeping her apprised of each and every development along the way.

This same dramatic weight loss occurred as I mentioned back when she left me and I was faced with lots of uncertainty, no means to address them, and my best-laid plans being unceremoniously and spontaneously thrown asunder with no expectation. Some big differences between now and then being that I was 4 years younger and our daughter was several years younger. I could move large pieces of furniture without help, which I certainly and frustratingly can’t do now. Something I noticed happening within the timeframe of seriously almost a day, around the very time my sweet dog Annie died, was the loss of a noticeable amount of musculature and hair.

It was as if my whole body deflated about 1/8th of an inch in one sitting. I’ve never even thought about such an experience being possible. And at the same time, my already grey hair, which I’d been getting since my 20’s in streaks and was no big deal, suddenly retreated from my eyebrows a good few inches. I don’t know what happened to it or when it packed its bags and left, much like my ex-wife, but there I sat, bony and bald, where the day before I sat meaty manly, and hairy. It was and still is perplexing and something I’m still writing off due to stress and age. I’m not taking medications, which I know I should be for high blood pressure and cholesterol. And during the very physical move between the marital home and my new bachelor pad, after suddenly losing all that weight, did I collapse in the hallway. Passed out cold. Dropped to the floor from exhaustion. I related this event to my newly estranged wife, and her reaction was to scoff at the very notion and accuse me of, for some inexplicable reason, lying about. And I’m now again finding myself sort of “wasting away” under the stress. But the good part about losing such weight is the matter of putting it back on.

I don’t intend to pack on the layers and pounds as my ex-wife told me she wasn’t going to do with the pregnancy of Cecelia, as she did with the previous pregnancy of her other daughter. She certainly didn’t follow any path of moderation when becoming pregnant with Cecelia. In fact, she made sure she was rich in nutrients, including a lot of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats to the point she could barely get up the stairs and couldn’t get into or out of bed without help. Quite the dairy cow indeed. And she laid in bed for months after the pregnancy producing much-needed and welcomed milk for me to feed our daughter for her first two years plus. We had a deep freezer and a dairy operation on our hands, which worked out well for everyone.

She’s enjoy her gigantic surround sound television upstairs in my king-sized four poster canopy bed while producing milk, and I would play with, tend to, exercise, take out and about in the wagon, and bottle feed our daughter, all day and all night. With the utmost pleasure. It relieved her from having to breast feed non-stop and allowed her to do whatever she wanted to do, which at the time was chat on Facebook and arrange “mama-swaps” for me to go out and pick up, leave money for under the floor mat of the house, and gather needed clothing and accessories and playthings for our new baby.

I’d take care of all duties that needed taking care of while Cecelia and mother napped, such as house, car, yard, gardening, laundry, financial, step-daughter, or any and everything in between. And I’d get a few hours sleep in during the early morning hours, or wherever I could find it, down in the musty basement on a filthy old stained, smelly worn-out couch where the dog, cat and I dwelled and had established a playroom for our new baby that was fit for royalty. It’s where my “home-office” was and was over the top in every way. A dream room for a child to explore and discover the amazing physical and sensory laden elements that this world beheld. I really tried to make it like a science museum with no end to the physics and colors and textures that the world had to offer a newly-born baby.

Check out this crib. It’s where Cecelia, Annie, Rebecca, and I spent most of our time when not outdoors exploring. I also invite you to compare the decor, design, and cleanliness of this home with what Cecelia’s mother provides these days. My/Our house is now deemed by Cecelia the “Fancy house.” “Fancy” Indeed.

But over the years I’ve had a declining experience with “doctors” that I’ve been sent to at the availability of our newfound healthcare systems. None of the good doctors seem to ever be available or within contact, for the extremely high price we now must pay for entry even into the game that has become “affordable healthcare.”

When I was married to my ex-wife, I was covered under her University’s plan, which of course was state-funded, solid, and fine. Even though at the time I still couldn’t find a reputable GP. Every doctor I went to wanted to throw pills at me and just get out of there so the next patient could be rushed through. It ended in what I still believe to be a misdiagnosis of thyroid misfire and a bunch of other things easily dealt with by the use of a prescription pad. Something I hold at a distance, but something that my then-wife found to be an endless resource of fun and pleasure. I hate taking medication, doing to the doctor, and giving in to trendy vaccines and cure-alls, which ultimately end up being more problems than before.

But my ex-wife had learned how to work the system. She’s been the daughter of addicts and alcoholics and as such learned how to play along. How to keep things secret, hush-hush, away from public viewing and prying eyes. I knew the methods as well, being the child of a raging alcoholic who did whatever necessary to hide the fact, and of course ultimately failing miserably, embarrassing himself at every turn as well as me, and finally having to get a liver transplant n the mid 1990’s in Charlottesville Virginia at UVa. An event I put my life on pause for to go be at his side in the hospital and do whatever I could to support him. He’s never expressed any gratitude towards the person who gifted him their organ, to me or anyone involved, only regretting having participating in such a massive ordeal and expensive production, which really cost him nothing more than some time away from being able to do nothing of any consequence, as he did thereafter and remains squandering away his amazingly still-intact life.

She went ahead and did what she needed to do to cope with “life” which included stockading opioids “Lortabs” for her womanly cramps which for whatever reason were an outlier of other women’s symptoms to the degree that she bulked up on supplies from every state possible: Florida, Alabama, Kentucky, Georgia and any pharmacy and doctor that would participate until the racket was spotted and an intrastate cross-reference system was put in place to prevent such hoarding of opioids. This, of course, was no big deal, until it presented an affront to her scheme. She was trading pills for bags of weed and anything else she wanted.

I turned a blind eye towards it because I understood the needs of an addict, recognized the activities she was doing, and as long as they didn’t interfere with my happiness or health, then so be it. If it kept her happy, that’s what mattered to me. It wasn’t affecting her career or daily routine, whatever that happened to be. She was an adult who finally had obtained her dream job, so more power to her I believed at the time. She told me the only other option was a hysterectomy, which seemed necessarily dramatic, and a problem since we both agreed we wanted to have a baby, named Cecelia, which we did.

Since then she’s told me she has in fact stopped taking Lortabs, no doubt that it became a huge hassle and near impossibility to keep up the intake of such with the country-wide microscope placed over every doctor and pharmacy that prescribed and dealt such suddenly wretched solutions to pain. People were seriously being put out of business, locked up, and fined huge charges for prescribing the legally available medicine. She claims to have in fact have had a hysterectomy. I’m not going to challenge that statement.

But it all causes me to personally maintain a skeptical and guarded hesitancy and distance from doctors and medical operations these days.

I saw from my own early inspection and exposure to the very best the medical world had to offer up in Johns Hopkins and treatments my mother had from the best medical minds available with no expense considered, thanks to the deep pockets of her government-sponsored health plan and her own father. Even the very best make mistakes, and though they may certainly in the best circumstances perform perfectly, there still leaves a lot of room for error these days with all the variables and people that must be involved every step of the way. The very best and the very worst all step outward to practice among each other. Who ends up making the critical decisions in the end? Is it really someone you want to trust? I don’t have that answer of course. It’s situation-specific. But I’ve seen it bungled. And I’ve seen it handled masterfully. It’s the ability to spot the differences between the two that makes the difference, and more and more as time goes on, the ability to audit and speak with and vet and has a meeting of minds with the people at the final operating room makes the ultimate difference.

I suppose I should go ahead and mention here that a few years later, I moved from beautiful Charleston, SC to Atlanta, GA, not miles from the very rock I crawled from beneath, with a beautiful young girl named Hope, who I keep in touch with to this very day, God bless her sweet, forgiving and patient soul, into an apartment on the North-Eastern part of the city, of course.

And having a snug 2 bedroom apartment, he decided to have a hip replaced at Emory hospital, the very hospital that bought the infirmary that welcomed me into this mortal plane, named Crawford W. Long Hospital, which still stands erect in a now dwarfed 8 story building shadowed by massive skyscrapers on every side.

He had the surgery, which by all accounts should have been a almost outpatient procedure, but taking a few days just for good measure. He relocated from the hospital into hospice, provided by Hope and myself to the tune of about 3 months. Our new found roommate.

Just what every fun late-20 and 30-something couple wanted to live with. An infirmed, hapless and rudderless man with no destination in life. How my girlfriend tolerated the situation is anyone’s best guess, but it shows what a trooper she was and remains. I’m still trying to place my undying gratitude for her understanding, consideration, patience, and goodwill with living with that unexpected scenario.

For some unexplained reason he couldn’t bend his joints despite me taking to therapy in the backseat of my car. And didn’t participate i therapy as prescribed, which may have has something to fo with it. Ye finally being taken home months later, he found himself lifting car transmissions to the point he gave himself a hernia. Which he then ignored and mistreated.

One of the memorable scenarios I remember as a photograph stored in my head is the image of him seated a the dining room table, with a complete lobster feast I had planned, bought and prepared for us, shells, lemons, plates, bowls and buckets all distributed around the table and him siting there adorned in a short-sleeve seersucker shirt I’d either bought and given him or lent him for the purpose of having something more than a logo’d T-shirt he’d found somewhere on the floor of his house. Bu the expression being that of someone who had just been handed a baloney sandwich and glass of milk. Just another everyday event to pass along until the next meeting and exchange of mumbles and grievances. It was the best he’d ever been able to summon.

And sure enough, as the months passed and the time was drawing near and I was getting final interviews and looking at houses to rent in South Carolina, did she pull the rug from underneath me once again. One month ago to this very day.

It was then that I began with the interest in telling this crazy tale that has led us all up to this point we find ourselves.

She has dug in her heels to prevent me from leaving this city, our daughter from ever leaving this city and any sense of a better life being created for anyone. Including herself. She has found herself in a dysfunctional Hell-hole alone with her dying father, them both sitting around drinking and smoking themselves into a stir and blaming everyone but themselves for the circumstances they find themselves in. And keeping our poor 5 year old girl hostage and exposed to every bit of it, with no help or responsibility assumed.

It’s why I am so terrified upon seeing her this last visit with stitches in her head, and being more frequently left with her friend to take care of her, and every bit raise for us. A person in no way whatsoever I would ever deem in the worst of situations to be responsible for Cecelia. Ever. Yet she’s become a surrogate since my ex-wife’s husband has flown the coop, her other daughter has moved out, and the only person remaining is a liability of a man who can’t drive himself to even get his next carton of cigarettes, to be paid with by Lord knows what.

Apparently, he’s somehow found, online, surely, another chainsmoking lonely female soul he has convinced to hang around. He’s as much a con man as he’s taught his daughter to be he now lives with. Over the years I’ve caught him cheating at games we played for no imaginable reason, lying to everyone around him, and trying to use our marital credit card to buy necessities for himself. When I discovered the activity and called him out on it, he flew into a rage and called me every name possible to further distance himself as any creditable person. He dug himself into a hole, which I assume is a tactic he taught his daughters when confronted with reality, and never clawed his way out of with me. Birds of a feather and an acorn not falling in any way away from the tree.

Not unlike the very group and the people that comprise it(that group being this Facebook Group I’m a member of [Rho Omicron Kappa: Ex-frat boys from the South Music Club if the link doesn’t work]), being those that were and are into the alternative side of things and enjoy those aspects of musical artistry that set the good apart from the masses opinion of what comprises “good” yet is in every way mediocre and just awful that has always permeated the musical industry. It was a mutual resentment and low level of standards and experience that drew me and I’m sure all the members of this group to the artists, music, and unique environment which constituted an authentically “alternative” music genre.

There hasn’t been anything like it since to my knowledge and I can’t see how it would ever reappear with the revolution of music becoming what it’s become and with Pro Tools, computers, auto-tune, the involvement of the internet, and a whole new situation and musical culture among us. The history of modern music is being washed away and tastes are being formed by marketers and an apathetic culture comprised largely by those that never had much of a participation or genuine interest in it from the start.

There seem to be three main groups:

  • A large majority that can take or leave music and take it for granted.
  • Another who likes music and has dabbled in making it with rudimentary instruments and lessons they were forced to take as kids and go to concerts every now and then.
  • And the remaining group, which is comprised of passionate fanatics that live and die with music playing around them, and has an ever-changing but formidable group of reasonable and reasons-at-hand favorite bands. Because there are just so many. This last group is probably what you and I find ourselves in. We have Beatles and Grateful Dead memorabilia, T-shirts with bands names on them, stickers on our cars to tell the world who rocks and who doesn’t (Dave Matthews Band is good but doesn’t “rock” like the Foo Fighters and Husker Du do), and keep ticket stubs. Somewhere.

It’s a group that can identify a R.E.M. song off a bootleg from a fraternity party from the 1980s by the background noise and talking among the band even before the music starts.

It’s a group that not only appreciates the popular music of the 1960s, 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s but knows the history of Rock and Roll, Punk, Ska, Reggae, Heavy Metal, Country & Western, Folk, Jazz and is even well-versed in classical, ragtime, blues, and almost every genre that preceded “rock and roll” and saw the birth and evolvement of rap, hip-hop and the garbage that has been crapped out of that whole scene. Bluegrass is a favorite and the incredible musicians that genre encompasses are respected and revered for their lifelong devotion to their craft and unique melodies, perfect timing and harmonies, and impeccable musicianship.

It’s why so many bluegrass players are so very old. It takes a lifetime to master and be able to play what and the way they do, which is with virtuosity and effortless mastery. The genuine “alternative” scene can never be replicated and the memory of it is held in our minds and in groups like this and people like ourselves with like minds and experiences and tastes.

Jon Eggena(the founder and admin of the aforementioned Facebook Group) was right in creating a place for us to deposit our memories, relics we find around the internet, and examples that represent the exact, unique, and at times the indescribable force that was the 1980’s alternative, college scene which supported emerging talents and bands that surely would have languished otherwise, like R.E.M. and the entire Athens scene, as well as bands that toured fraternity houses, camps, hole in the walls, private parties, small festivals, and anywhere else that could afford their very reasonable cost and welcomed their energy and above-the-top talent.

That production value that, for whatever reason, was overlooked and ignored by the big record labels and financiers on the West Coast. The Southeast especially had a hard time getting anyone to notice. There is such a long list of incredible bands and talent and records that were self-financed that went nowhere for whatever shameful reason. We all know the familiar names, some of which persist because of the music that embodies the souls of the musicians themselves to never be extinguished and still play.

Many of these people now in their 50’s and beyond. And the CDs, albums, and cassette tapes still exist in people’s collections all during the decades since they had their heyday. Some remain formidable and tour, like Widespread Panic The Connells, Cowboy Mouth, and the Blue Dogs. Others reappear by way of careful archivery, like The White Animals, Camper Van Beethoven, The Mundahs, The Archetypes, Let’s Active, and so on.

And some are just now reappearing due to AI, the dusting off of ancient memories, hearing a tiny yet distinct riff or voice we haven’t heard in decades, but just enough to pry open Pandora’s Box releasing a world of terrific music we enjoyed so long ago.

This just happened to me, as I suddenly remembered

The 1980s were a great time to be alive musically, and now, fast-forwarding to the 2020s is an equally awesome time to enjoy what was created back then, with the simple, effortless request to Siri, Hey Google, Alexa, or whatever voice-activated DJ you have at hand. It’s become a dream come true for me to have any song I want to immediately play over a high-end audio system in my home or car or earbuds or high-def headphones just summoned by a few words, and voila! It really didn’t take that long to bring that dream to become a reality in my lifetime, which I’m eternally grateful for. My daughter has no idea what it used to be like and I’m glad for her sake she doesn’t have to endure the struggles we had to contend with. I won’t even begin to rehash them here.

But while this may not be the golden age for the music itself, it’s truly the golden age for consuming, obtaining, streaming and archiving it for our spontaneous use. The ways and means to behold what has been created for our enjoyment are nothing short of miraculous and should be utilized and leveraged to their maximum benefit. It’s never been more accessible, inexpensive, attainable, or comprehensive. In a sense, it’s as revolutionary as Gutenberg’s printing press. It brings a depth and breadth of music to the masses like never before and I really don’t feel that’s an overstatement.

We’ll just see how the world approaches, embraces, and utilizes this situation. I have a feeling it will be just like books, literacy, reading, and writing were held by humanity. With fear, apathy, bouts of who controls it, a commoditization, lots of misappropriation and mishandling, political and religious feuds erupting over it, and the usage of it being for both good and bad.

What do you think?

I hope everyone had an enjoyable and productive Memorial Day!