PAST RAMBLINGS - 10
(collection of past Homepage greetings and stories)
August 27, 2002   -to-   December 22,2002
 

Michael Tomlinson - Past Ramblings
Ramblings 1
3/13/99 - 7/11/99
Ramblings 2
7/27/99 - 1/8/00
Ramblings 3
3/6/00  - 8/7/00
Ramblings 4
9/18/00 -  11/19/00
Ramblings 5
12/17/00 - 4/10/01
Ramblings 6
5/9/01 - 6/25/01
Ramblings 7
07/23/01 - 10/07/01
Ramblings 8
10/19/01 - 2/18/02
Ramblings 9
3/22/02 - 8/5/02
Ramblings 10
8/27/02-12/22/02
Ramblings 11
1/24/03 to 5/31/03
Ramblings 12
7/18/03 to 12/24/03
Ramblings 13
1/11/04 to 5/28/04
Ramblings 14
7/03/04 to 10/1/04
Ramblings 15
11/03/04 to 2/22/05
Ramblings 16
4/01/05 to 7/1/05
Ramblings 17
08/21/05 - 11/16/05
Ramblings 18
12/20/05 to 6/11/06
Ramblings 19
07/19/06 to 11/13/06
Ramblings 20
12/02/06 to 4/2/07
Ramblings 21
5/21/07 to 9/4/07
Ramblings 22
11/9/07 to 3/1/2008
Ramblings 23
5/16/08 to 11/8/08
Ramblings 24
12/11/08 to 09/06/09
Ramblings 25
11/01/09 to
10/21/2010
Ramblings 26
5/10/10 to
12/4/2010
Ramblings 27
4/01/11 to
10/1/11
Ramblings 28
2/1/12 - Fall 2012
Ramblings 29
Spring 2013 - Holiday
Ramblings 30
2014 & 2015
 

August 27, 2002

 Howdy my friends,

 My father passed away last Friday in the tender hours of the morning.  Outside the window the moon was full and the sky brilliant with white light and I couldn't help but think that he chose that time because of it. Both for himself and his travels and for my brother and mother and me so that we'd have light instead of darkness. He looked out for us till the very end.

I don't know if I will ever be able to express the subtle and profound mixture of growing, grieving, loving and healing that went on in my life over the week that I spent watching my dad birth from this earthly life into the loving life with God that awaited him. He moved in and out of the world I know, sometimes speaking very clearly and profoundly to me and his family and friends, saying Psalms aloud, succinctly and loudly, telling us how much he loved us, sharing with me the words, "son, heaven wouldn't be heaven without you in it."

He was humorous even, sometimes making everyone in the room laugh with some dry, funny remark which the Tomlinsons are known for. I was surprised to remember that much of who I am originated in him, came directly from the affection for our Old West heritage that permeated my childhood and his and his father's. 

Watching daddy, I remembered many things from my childhood, the time he got up early on a winter Saturday and asked if I wanted to go rabbit hunting with him. Of course, we shot nothing and that was only the basic pretext for a father and son to dress in many layers, pack a lunch and thermos of hot coffee and go trudging out across the windy plains of the late '50s. I was so proud to be invited on such an adventure, leaving the house before daylight and driving a few miles outside of Dumas to where the land showed it's true nature, which was simply flatness, openness. Like my father, it had no fear whatever of wind or rain or snow or sun and laid open to all that the sky could dish out.

We left the car unlocked and walked toward the horizon, dad stepped on the lower wire of a barbed wire fence and pulled up on the middle wire to create a hole for me to bend and step through. I was no taller than his waist and hardly had to bend. He showed me how to do the same for him and he crouched and slipped through.

After we'd walked for what seemed like a scary distance from the car - though it was likely no more than half a mile - the sun had pinked the horizon, quail began to call and flutter as we walked through the bunch grass, and I could see the glimmer of light on frosty grass. The night sky, which had seemed vast and eternal gave way to a lighter bowl above us, still filled with sparkling diamonds which were growing paler by the second. We came upon an indentation in the earth, a rare feature change but enough that it seemed obvious that we must stop there, sit upon the edges of the slight dip and have a cup of coffee.


JD and Michael fishing at Red River
New Mexico 1960

I don't think daddy could have known that this specific moment was when my meandering, playful path of boyhood took it's first faint turn toward manhood, toward my eventually becoming a man. But that is how I see it now. When he unscrewed his cup from the metal thermos, then released the rubber cork, and the aroma of that rich, earthy flavor entered my nose, exploding in my senses and brain with promise and affirmation and adventure, that is when I first felt like a man. Even at six a boy can feel something of his eventual manhood which will remain surprisingly true to his experience when he actually gets there. To this day I smell coffee outdoors and it all comes back to me. Daddy had brought a cup for me - and it was not my Mickey Mouse cup I drank milk from at home - it was a porcelain cup, heavy and solid. A manly vessel. He poured mine and handed it to me, then poured his in the cup he'd unscrewed from the thermos and we sat there together in the dawn, watching grasshoppers warm in the sunlight and spring at sharp angles in the tall grass. 

"Blow on it son, or it'll burn you," he said, "like this." And exaggerated his sibilance so I would understand. I knew already though, I'd been practicing on my Kool-Aid for years, anticipating the moment I'd have real coffee to blow on. I had many of daddy's moves down pat. The way he flicked his thick, workman's fingers against each other, making a whisking noise even when there was nothing to flick off of them. It was just a habit he had, something he may have learned from his daddy or grandpa as they flicked loose tobacco shavings off after rolling a cigarette and had always done in imitation. I had daddy's stance down too, the way he leaned a little bit forward and jutted his head a certain way when he was listening to you, or the way he held a hammer right down at the very end of the handle, swinging it with frightening precision with the upswing clearing his ear by centimeters when he hammered.

We sat there on the plains, me in my corduroy pants and cowboy shirt, tight over my pajamas so I wouldn't get cold out there on the winter prairie. And that's what I thought of last Friday when I stepped outside the hospice in Tyler, Texas, looked up into the night sky and wondered where my daddy had gone. I stood under the silver sky, lit by the stunning moon and felt all these things; sadness and pain at his passing, grief and concern for my mother, joy and peace at daddy's final release, gratitude that I was there, wonder and awe that this is just how life has to be and that, try as I may, I will never understand why.

At daddy's funeral on Saturday, my brother Dave spoke eloquently of daddy's life. He said it better than I ever could have and I sat there wondering why Dave isn't a minister. It seems his most natural calling. I sat by mom as he spoke and could feel how proud of him she was. Even in her grief she was delighted with her sons. When I stood up I said only this - "how amazing that in his last week of life, daddy was still raising his sons." Then I sang a song he loved, one I'd written for him back in the 70s and recorded for him in 1993 on my At Your House CD. I know he was smiling when he heard it.

  ~Littlefield~         Listen
Way down in Littlefield, home of my daddy
The last living cowboys were known
To carry on life in their finest tradition
And so they made this town their home
        They lived in the saddle and herded up cattle 
        The last of their race lingered on
        And though it's a secret, well I've always known 
        That my dad would have liked to have been one
        My dad would have liked to have been one
Over biscuits and gravy he'd tell me and Davey 
Of the days that he spent in the sun
He'd pack up his lunch and ride out on old Dolly 
And do the things cowboys had done
        They lived in the saddle and herded up cattle
        The last of their race lingered on
        And though it's a secret, well I've always known 
        That my dad would have liked to have been one
        My dad would have liked to have been one
        My dad would have liked to have been one
                    Born fifty years too late to ever have ridden the range
                    But stories he heard remain
                    Of episodes out on the plains
Way down in Littlefield, home of my daddy
The last living cowboys were known
To carry on life in their finest tradition
And so they made this town their home
        They lived in the saddle and herded up cattle 
        The last of their race lingered on
        And though it's a secret, well I've always known 
        That my dad would have liked to have been one
        My dad would have liked to have been one
For J.D. Tomlinson with love and gratitude. Thank you, Daddy.

October 1, 2002
Well here we are on our way into autumn. For some reason this seems like the first day of fall to me. I just returned from a long walk through several neighborhoods and the low streaming sunshine and slightly brisk air made me realise that it is indeed autumn. I wasn't feeling well earlier. In the month since my father's passing I've had many ups and downs, even getting ill at times. Grief and transition works on us in unique ways and there just is no way to know ahead of time what we will encounter. Mostly, I've been in good spirits though, and feel excited about life to come and the days of autumn ahead.  This afternoon I decided to take my little dawg and walk through some areas we've never walked in before and it was invigorating to my spirit to see other people out walking, playing in the yard, coming home from work and checking the mail box. Just little things like seeing people live their daily lives can give you a sense of well-being sometimes.

 I've been feeding the squirrels and birds twice a day lately, figuring they could use it this time of year. I know I certainly like to eat twice as much when it starts getting cool outside. Besides, six meals a day is just fun. I love getting up at around 6:30, having a bowl of steaming oatmeal, some toast and maybe a couple of veggie sausages, then perhaps getting in a little nap before my mid-morning snack. I usually set the alarm because I don't like getting behind in my nutrients. At 10:00 I'm up like a rocket and headed to my breakfast nook where my butler usually has prepared for me something light, a stack of half-a-dozen buckwheat pancakes and maybe a cake. (with a sprig of parsley - one musn't forget his greens) I'll nibble on those goodies for a bit, lick my plate clean, and then go to the den to rest and read a periodical or two. I'm a huge fan of Mother's Day and Mercenary Soldier, two rousing reads that really do perk me up and give me an appetite for lunch.

Bungee checking the mailbox for new and exciting magazines!

Usually, after those magazines I'll maybe hum a song or two to my dawg since music is my life. Then I'll waddle into the dining room and see what my maid has cooked up for lunch. It's often a great surprise, she is a master of combining great world cuisines into her own brand of perfection. For instance, one day I enjoyed a lovely Japanese/Mexican dish. I believe it was Tempura Tamales. Last week I was greeted with the most delicious garlic-sauce/peanutbutter and jelly wrap I've ever had. What an imagination!

After lunch I usually lean back and open my belt, sometimes falling completely backwards into the hallway, Life is so much fun! I land close to where I will be spending the next hour sewing or some other aerobic exercise. I can sew like the wind on a good lunch and will sometimes get carried away and find that I've made six or eight wedding dresses, a suit and a couple of tents before it's time for my mid-afternoon munch. Again, I go light because too much of a snack can spoil my dinner. Usually, I have only a single apple. . . . . . . .pie and maybe a quart of soymilk. I love crust and often my fry-cook will have made two extra pie tins of the flaky pastry for me to dip in my soymilk. Wheee! I love eating light!

Now we're at a very special time of day - late afternoon. This, to me, is a wonderful time for many reasons, One - my mail arrives and I just love hearing from children all over the world who are alive today because of my songs. Two - many of my neighbors are not yet home and I can spend a little time burgling, you know, just for kicks. But mainly, I love this time of day because dinner is almost ready! I return home from my playful robberies, take off my stocking mask and gloves, stretch a little and put on my lycra pants. Man or man oh man oh man, now that's what I'm talking 'bout! I never know what my team of Italian chefs has created until I take off my suction boots, drop my climbing rope and round the corner into my formal dining area. (right next to the Great Room) Often, the exotic dishes have no names, so inventive are my chefs that delicacies such as these are difficult to categorize. Whatever the many courses may be, I shovel them down like a man dog-tired from scaling walls and ransacking dresser drawers all afternoon. Food tastes so much better when you've worked for it, don't you think?

By 7:00 PM I'm stuffed and happy, pleased that my day has included such variety and flavors. I'm sleepy by now but I cannot rest until I've watched all the various entertainment shows of the evening. (Joan Rivers is a Living Master, I truly feel.) There is nothing like lying back on velvet, getting a lovely toe massage and just watching the stars parade across the screen as I digest. Wondering who is dating who, how much somebody made for two weeks work in front of a green screen, these are all things which aid the digestive process and are as important as exercise and chocolate.

Well, this brings me to the magic word - and my last bite of the day - chocolate. Usually, just before beddy-bye time, I will ring my buzzer and call forth my dessert maidens, who often have dressed elaborately for my pleasure. They are a playful bunch and will dance around me, lifting the dessert cover temptingly, swishing around in their little mini-dresses teasingly as I flail my arms like a broken windmill, trying to grab goodies before bedtime. (I also reach for the dessert like crazy) I feel that I cannot reveal any more details at this time or I might get too excited) Let's just say that this is my favorite meal.

Oh, Man! Was that a load or what?!  I don't know why I do things like that. I just got carried away after my nap and couldn't quit lying. Actually, I'm about to head into the kitchen and see if I can whip up an avocado sammitch for myself. Dessert maidens! Don't I wish.

 

~About My Book~
I am trying to get back to my book, I would actually like to finish it this year. I found that when you're writing a book about your own life and so much is in flux in your family, as it has been in mine over the last year, it is difficult to find a place to begin. I love so much of what I've written so far, I'm just in a process of finding what it all means to me again and I will soon get back in the flow.

I have been reading large excerpts from chapters of my book at concerts and really loving the response. Of course I read the funny parts mainly, because it's so much fun to watch people who came to hear tender ballads like Yellow Windows fall all over themselves in the floor when I read a story about falling on my ass into an empty swimming pool while a wild dog chases me.

 . . . and songwriting
My songwriting has been so strong this year and I can't wait to put them on a new CD. Last week I was on Whidbey Island with some friends and finished a new song called Wild Horses Run and got most of the missing lyrics to another song I've been working on for months. I'm excited about the songs I've created for the next record. I have no idea yet how I'll manage to get the money to record it but I always believe you should worry first about doing the actual work, creating the art in a way that feels honest and true and heart-felt. Then there will somehow appear a way to manifest it in the world. That's my theory anyway and I'm sticking to it.
~Concerts~
I'd love to play many more shows than I do. It mainly comes down to radio. Radio has been bought up by corporations. One of them, The Clear Channel, owns over 1200 stations and hires consultants to play a very narrow range of artists. This makes it very difficult to get concerts. Still, I do find daylight now and then. Sometimes listeners contact me and know of a great venue or local station playing me in various parts of the country. Sometimes they produce shows for me themselves. I'm open to all kinds of arrangements, so if you have any ideas, feel free to contact me.
~A Gathering of Dreams~
Recently, the day after a Southern California concert, I held an afternoon gathering focusing on getting in touch again with some dream or goal or accomplishment which you have wanted to attain but perhaps have lost touch with or felt you'd waited too long to embark upon. Sometimes you just need a group of folks around you who believe you can accomplish something and this gathering is meant to promote that kind of support. In California, about thirty people came together to talk, tell stories, laugh, share ideas about their own dreams and thoughts on how others might make theirs a reality.

This is very close to my heart, something that I have always loved - encouraging my friends and others to give their dreams a try. Because I love it so, I'm very good at seeing ways to begin, ways to gently embark upon a path of purpose and fulfillment or just good ol' fun.

~Thank You~
My heartfelt thanks to all of you who read last month my tribute to my father and who sent me beautiful emails and cards of condolence and inspiration. You learn many things when you watch someone you love pass on from this world into the next. Most of those things cannot be talked of because they are beyond words. Much of what you experience is just a great big question. Why? How? Where? I don't have a lot to say about my experience with my father in his final days and hours but what I do know is that I came home quieter and kinder. And I guess that humbleness and compassion is one of the great gifts loved ones leave behind for us in their passing.

If I may offer one thing that has been on my mind in the time since it is this: don't wait to love someone. Don't wait to laugh with someone you love, even with a neighbor or stranger on the street.

I hope you're doing well. I love that you check in on me now and then and I thank you for all your support with my music, my writing and my silly humor. I wish you a lovely autumn, my friend. Write me anytime.

In Friendship,
   ~
Michael Tomlinson


NOVEMBER 8, 2002
Howdy Thanksgiving, my friends.

I was just thinking about something we used to do just about this time of year back when I was a kid in the Texas Panhandle. Maybe everyone did it, for all I know. Usually, a couple weeks before Thanksgiving, mom would sew each of us kids a turkey suit. I was the oldest, so I got the new suit and my little sister and brother would have to wear my old ones. Let me tell you, I have received major flack over the years for being the only one in a spankin' new turkey outfit every year.

Anyway, after we were safely zipped into our quite authentic suits, mom would drive us out to open land and drop us off for oh, two, three days. Oh, don't worry. We each had baloney sammitches stuffed down in our suits, no way we were going hungry out there. Mom would be giggling merrily as she was dropping us off. I was a tad worried and kept asking if maybe we should wear orange safety vests but she didn't think that would be necessary.

"Naw, son, ain't nobody gonna shoot a bird yer size, less'n they thanks yall are comin' at 'em aggressive-like. If you hear red-hot lead sizzlin' past yer head though, I'd git to shufflin' on down the road as quick as you kids can. Y'all have fun now, I'll be back in plenty o' time for Thanksgiving."

Then she'd give us a playful elbow-punch on the beak and drive away howling. She was just happy that she could provide us with such an authentic experience of the Thanksgiving season, as historically precise as possible. Most kids read about the Pilgrims and the Indians at the first Thanksgiving. Mom thought that was sappy business and felt it was more pertinent for us to understand the importance of the various food items served on that historic day. Long before we'd ever dressed as turkeys, when we were too young to gobble and dodge at the same time, she had dressed us as vegetables. Marilyn was always a turnip, Dave, a head of cabbage (because of his natural green tint) and I was usually an ear of corn or a squash. (I won't say why) I always lobbied for being a pumpkin but she wouldn't allow it. Mom considered pumpkins too suggestive for kids to be impersonating. She said when I got older I could be one if I liked, but not under her roof. The only year I got to get out of being an ear of corn or a squash was the time she let me be a bowl of gravy, which isn't a vegetable at all, I'm pretty sure. Plus, I was just a greasey mess.

The first few times we dressed as Turkeys I'll admit that it was scary, being out there in the open with drunken high school football coaches firin' like maniacs at anything that wasn't a pickup. In fact, it didn't take us kiddos long to figure out that the safest place we could be was tucked up under a tarp in the bed of one o' them ol' Fords or Chevy's they wove around in. If mom had known that we cheated like that she might have tied us to a tree next time, so we never told her. It actually ended up being kind of fun because it was winter and the hunters often kept a keg or two of beer tied in the back of the bed. I couldn't find any actual information on turkeys drinking alcohol, but it seemed to me that if they'd a-had it, they would have partook. That was my logic concerning turkeys drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon straight from a keg at the original Thanksgiving Feast. I'm pretty sure they would have. So we did.


Many years, by the time mom picked us up we were blitzed and having the best ol' time in the back of that pickup you could ever imagine, three little kids celebratin' Thanksgiving like the original turkeys. It was educational.

Once, the hunters caught us and I know we'd have been shot had we not been so close to their precious kegs. Luckily, I was able to get one leg out of my suit and show 'em that we wuz jis kids in turkey suits. Whew! That was close. We befriended them good 'ol boys and they told us to come on back next year and they'd bring BB guns and see if they could ping us on the ass as we darted about the ranch. Sounded great to us, anything but buckshot.

What a wonderful old memory, something I hadn't thought of in ages. It almost brings tears to your eyes, doesn't it? I guess this really is the season for reminiscing. I just wanted to share my touching memories and get you in the spirit of the season.

I'm driving up over Steven's Pass tomorrow morning for a concert at The Sleeping Lady in Leavenworth. It's such a beautiful mountain town, especially in winter. I'm looking forward to wandering in and out of the shops and cafes up there.

In early December I'll be playing Denver and also holding my
Gathering of Dreams event. You can read more about that by hitting the link on my homepage.

My book keeps moving along, I've had a great time reading from it at my concerts, watching the audience howl and gasp for air 'cause they're laughing so hard. Fortunately, in nearly every case, what I was reading was actually supposed to be funny.

I've got lots of new songs. As difficult as this last year has been with the passing of my father, it seems that the creative urge in me has been as strong as ever. I'm grateful for that. So many artists, musicians, writers, singers, I've loved over the years seem to have done their most inspiring work when they're young. I just don't believe it has to be that way. I feel that if you live a vital, authentic life as you age, that your work and creativity will be richer and more meaningful over time. I just can't imagine it being any other way.

I hope your Thanksgiving season is a loving one and that you make time to be with people you love. Take some moments to share your kindness where you might often forget to, with the overworked clerk at the checkout counter, a neighbor you've never talked to, or someone living on the streets. I make it a point to look people in the eyes with compassion, enthusiasm and respect - with a sparkle in my eyes. It's a gift you can give anybody and it goes so very far, especially in the life of someone lonely, lost or disheartened.

When it comes time to buy your Christmas presents this year, blow off that damn salad spinner and order some of my CDs. You know that for most people you're giving a gift they don't already have. Every few days I get CD orders and a message from someone who heard me at a dinner party or in a friend's car and cannot believe they've never heard my music before. I'm for that. I always sign all the CDs that are ordered directly from me but if any are intended as gifts, be sure and mention the FIRST names of your recipients and I'll happily sign and personalize them to make them more special. I can get orders to you usually within a few days.

Take care, my friends. Happy Thanksgiving to you. Thanks for listening and for checking in on me.  In Friendship,
   
~Michael

December 5, 2002

Howdy my friends,

I got up this morning at 4:45 because I thought of something I wanted to write. But now that I'm sitting here at the keyboard in the dark, I cannot think what it was. In this inept way I have started my day. Does it remind you of anyone you know on certain Monday mornings?

Yesterday I wandered around book stores for a few hours, perusing titles that seemed interesting and watching people position themselves for a free spot on the couch, should one open up. There is a sort of quiet contest for the cozy arm chairs at Barnes and Noble. People will scope out the situation, taking note of who seems about to get up and move away, then, when the person stands up, they lurch wildly for the cushions. This is embarrassing behavior in my book, I have a much better way of getting a seat, without all the humiliating scuffling and elbowing.

I simply walk over and ask in a loud voice if anyone knows if those chairs still have fleas or if they've finally been sprayed. A surprising number of deeply-relaxed people will suddenly stand and make for the doors, twisting and contorting and scratching all the way out. I then sit down, pull my little dawg out of my coat, slump into a pre-warmed chair and read for the afternoon.

Yesterday I was looking for a book I'd seen a few weeks ago. I should have bought it, because for some reason, it had stayed on my mind ever since. It was a book on the history of the world, not something I might ordinarily read, but something about it seemed very compelling. For one thing, it had won the Pulitzer Prize. (which is often a sign of some fair-to-middlin' writing)

The book was no longer on display so I went to the World History section and searched for several minutes. I could not find anything that looked like what I remembered. So I went to the information desk and asked the woman there if she knew of the book I wanted.


Napoleon Tomlinson

"Hi. I was in here a few weeks ago and saw a book over on that table about World History. It had won a Pulitzer Prize, but I cannot recall the name of it."

She began a computer search and went to the shelf and brought me a few books.

"No, it wasn't Texas history, nor was it the story of the Civil War. Nope, not the Spanish American War, either." I was a little surprised at her incompetence. "The book was right there in a display." I pointed to the place my sterling memory had fixed in time.

She went to get another information specialist and began to explain to the woman what I was looking for. I was aghast at how wrong she'd gotten it.

She told her, "Sarah, this gentleman (that part was certainly right) is looking for a book that was on display recently. It was a book about world geography and had won a prize."

"No! It was about world history, and it had won the Pulitzer!" Hell, a Pulitzer is not just "a" prize, it's the prize.

Sarah seemed to know exactly what I wanted and went immediately to another table and picked up a book much the same in size and heft as what I'd been searching for. I looked at it though, and the title didn't ring any bells. It had won a Pulitzer alright, but was definitely not the book I was looking for. Yes, it was about history, but the title, Guns, Germs and Steel - The Fates of Human Societies, by Jared Diamond, just didn't ring any of the bells in my bear trap of a memory. Besides, it was not on the table I remembered.


MT with Churchill, FDR and Stalin
at the Yalta Conference

I rejected the book and thanked the women for their search. I went back to the shelves and looked for it myself. After about twenty minutes I gave up, disappointed that I couldn't find the book I wanted. I finally settled for a copy of Performing Songwriter Magazine and went upstairs to sit on a rather stiff, hard, wooden chair because I didn't feel like putting my "flea-infestation scare" to the test too many times in a row. When you have a sure winner like that, you don't want to wear it out. I must say though, that it is astounding to me how young college students manage to acquire and maintain possession of every comfy chair in every bookstore/coffee shop/bakery in Seattle, at all hours of the day and night. How early do they get there? Do they spend the night? Do they have some sort of a seat-saving coalition? I remember lying on the hard ground when I was in college, I'd lean with my back against a tree or with my head propped up on a curb reading my psychology book. You're too young in college to need or deserve a comfy armchair, dammit!

So I sat in my hard oak chair reading an interview with Aerosmith while keeping an eye out for a spot on the couch. After a short time, my butt just couldn't take it anymore and I got up, massaging my buttocks  for a prolonged time - all for the benefit of the lazy students - and limped downstairs to leave. On my way past the display tables I took one more look at the book the woman had shown me, Guns, Germs and Steel - The Fates of Human Societies. I was setting it back down when something caught my eye and turned it back over again and read a paragraph on the back. Hey! This was it! Not only had they apparently changed tables on me, (my bear-trap memory and all) but in the last few weeks, someone had actually gone to the trouble to redo the cover and title! Can you believe that?! How ridiculous! See? Now this is the kind of thing that just makes no sense.

I bought the book and wandered out onto the sidewalk where people were moving in and out of shops, buying Christmas presents - or maybe not. Perhaps they were just wandering as I was, enjoying a crisp Sunday afternoon in Seattle, tying up the precious time of sales people with absolutely inane requests. "Hi. I was in last week and saw this beautiful red scarf. Like that one, only it had different fringe. Do you know where it is?"  You know, that sort of thing.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

When I'm not pestering sales people I have been spending a fair amount of time on my book lately, writing new chapters and re-writing earlier ones. It's been over two years since I started this book and I'm not sure when I'll finish but it's starting to take on the real shape of a book now. I will undoubtedly throw away at least half the chapters I've written but I feel fine about that. I've learned from all my years of songwriting that you must sometimes write things you don't need in order to get to the things you do want to write.

I've got a show coming up in Denver next weekend. I always enjoy going there and am looking forward to singing and visiting friends. I like to do my traveling in-between holidays so as to avoid having to sleep on the floors of airports during blizzards and overbooking. So I now rarely play anywhere near actual holidays. This allows me to sit at home, watch the airports closing down on the evening news and howl gleefully at my wise travel choices.

I guess I'll end my rambling with a few words about something that has been on my mind and in my heart lately. I recently wrote at the end of an email to someone, "I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving." She wrote back "Are you kidding? Have you heard the news recently?" I replied, "Yes I see the news, but there are still things I'm grateful for."

A very short list of things I am thankful for:

The air we breathe. The fog rolling in and burning off in the sunny afternoons. My little dog, Bungee. My friends and loved ones. The squirrels and birds that come to my house every morning for food.  The stray cats that know my home as the one where food and water magically appears - but unfortunately, so does a little white dog which charging out the door like the cavalry. Music, the unbelievable gift of being able to imagine and sing songs that soothe my soul and make me feel alive. Rain. The last few golden leaves chattering in the trees. Sunshine falling through the bare branches of winter trees. Joey the kangaroo, (a new friend) raising his head so I could stroke his little rust-colored neck. Washington apples. These lyrics -

If I run like the river runs, if I fall like water falls
Oh, if I breathe like the wind will I ever learn it all?
If I change like autumn leaves, if I grow like summer weeds
If I'm as quiet as snow will I ever know it all?

Thanks for checking in on me, my friends. I remind you again to take deep breaths. When you are troubled or anxious, confused or fearful, stop, breathe, re-center yourself. It will work as many times as you need it.

I wish you a loving and peaceful Holiday Season.

  In Friendship,
 
   ~Michael Tomlinson


December 22, 2002
Howdy Holidays to you, my friends.

I spent the afternoon wandering around Pike Place Market, enjoying the crowds and the street musicians. It's not yet frosty outside but it was cool enough to lend the feeling of Christmastime. (When you can pay $15 for two hours parking and still be in the Christmas spirit, well you're a faithful feller in my book.)

I wandered into Cost Plus World Market to see what kinds of items had been imported from Africa and Taiwan for a dollar and marked up a few thousand percent. I noticed a lovely, rather spindly looking, wooden giraffe and was touching it, admiring the smoothness of the carving. The thing was taller than me (and that's HUGE!) and I was looking up at it's friendly-looking head and running my hand down it's neck when a salesgirl approached me to ask if she should wrap one up for me.

"Oh, no. I was just admiring it. I have so many giraffes already. . ."
"Well then, I guess you don't necessarily need to be fondling it, do you?"

I was surprised at her tone, it being nearly Christmas and all, but then I thought she must have had to fight people off the carved animals all day long and she was just weary from the task.

"Should I not touch it? Is that a problem?" I was joking.
"Du-uhh!" She rolled her eyes like only a teenaged girl can - since they practice in the mirror before school every morning.
"Excuuu-uusee me!" I rolled mine too, exaggerating the motion of my head so that I practically threw my neck out in the process. Then I reached out once more and tickled the lanky critter under the belly, then scampered away. There had to be a more Christmassy place than Cost Plus.

I always bring a pocketful of dollar bills with me when I go to the market because there are numerous street musicians there and I like to support them. I walked past a rugged looking fellow playing guitar with his scraggly puppy at his feet. He was just beginning a country song and I heard the first two notes and was deeply impressed at his baritone. It was stunningly low, rumbling, and deadly accurate to tonal center. I forget the song but it was a timeless country classic, something from George Jones, I think. His voice surprised me and I turned and paused at the first two low notes, thinking that we were all in for quite a treat. Then he hit the subsequent notes of the phrase, climbing up the scale from his impressive beginning, and his voice wavered wildly all over the place. Apparently, his gift was limited to those two particular notes. It's difficult to make a complete performance out of two notes, I thought, no matter how good you can sing them. Certainly, women like a good solid baritone, Barry White has made a mighty fine living off of his for decades. I imagined this fellow singing those two notes over and over for a number of sweethearts in his lifetime. If he had stopped with the two, I'm sure they melted in his arms. I tossed a couple of ones into his hat anyway, thinking that his audacity alone was worth that.

I haven't bought many gifts this year. Not because I haven't wanted to, more because I see so many things that are just stuff. I honestly don't know anyone who actually needs any more stuff. I love my friends and family and am always happy to give them something any time of year when I see something that calls to me or feels like something they would love. But wandering the stores, looking at all the junk on shelves and in windows, I just don't see many things that call to me. Oh, the initial fascination is there, walk through The Sharper Image and just try not to pick up twenty different things and play with them. The ink pen with pressurized ink cartridge so that you can write on the ceiling. (finally!) The noise generator that will fit in your pocket so that you may hear the faux, digitized sound of ocean waves any time you're in the mood. There's even a brush for your dog so that you can finally get some damn negative ions into her hair. I don't dare tell my little dawg Bungee, that these even exist. She's already starting to bark about the new robo-kitty on tv.

I remember Christmas when I was twenty-two years old, I didn't have much money that year, (or any year back then) so I did what many all-American boys did in the seventies. I went out to the alley, dug up a dead rose bush, cut the wooden root system into interesting shapes and made pipes for all my pot smoking buddies. I smoothed and polished those babies into delicate works of art. They were so pretty that you just hated to thumb that dry, seedy Mexican dirt weed into them and light up. But we did anyway. Of course, afterwards we were even more in the mood to admire such fine craftsmanship, it was common that year to see any one of us sprawled back in the arm chair, gazing up lovingly at the fine polished shape of the rosewood pipe glowing in the light of the lava lamp. Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon comes to mind.

Of course, that was long, long ago and I wouldn't dream of making such gifts these days. (I cannot find a single dead rosebush anywhere in my neighborhood) What I will probably eventually do is give up on any nicknack or tallywack search and head over to the Honey Bear Bakery where I'll buy loaves of banana bread for everybody. I'm no baker myself, but I can recognize a fine loaf of banana bread when I smell it.

When I left the market, I walked up the hill to the Seattle downtown area, swept up in the crowd that was heading that way as well. I stopped and watched some Peruvian musicians singing and playing. They were dressed in Holiday red but didn't seem to know any Christmas carols. Nonetheless, their music was still beautiful, I dropped a dollar in their guitar case and wandered over to watch the kiddies on the Christmas merry-go-round. There was a Santa there somewhere, I couldn't see him but he was hollering over a microphone and the kids were answering him with cheers and shouts. I couldn't make out his words in the confusion of Andean guitars and Christmas music bouncing around, but I think he was saying "Is everybody ready to rock and roll? Is Santa your favorite rock star?" The kids were hollering in the affirmative. It made me long for the good ol' days in Dumas, (Dumbass) Texas, when the Santas in all the stores were more humble and just happy to grin for the camera, collect their twenty bucks a day and go home and get out of those trousers with pee-stains all over the knees.

The sweetest thing I saw all day today was a family in a horse-drawn carriage. The carriage was festooned with garland and ribbon and Christmas bells and one of the little girls inside was waving to everyone on the streets - and there were hundreds on every block - hollering "Merry Christmas" to everyone, cops, drivers, shoppers. You could hear her little voice cutting through the street noise over and over again, never tiring of her task, which was to bring cheer to all of the jaded people on the sidewalks. "Merry Christmas!" She sang again and again, her parents and sister grinning from ear to ear at her innocent and tireless repetition. She was about five years old and had possibly only this year gotten the hang of the jolly phrase. Certainly, at her age, she'd probably never been in a more powerful position to influence the spirits of hundreds and hundreds of people. She was being towed by a massive white horse dressed in holly and red ribbon, and elevated in her seat over spinning yellow-spoked wagon wheels so that she could look even the basketball players right in the eye. She was not timidly suggesting anything, either, she was joyously beseeching us to make it a "Merry Christmas!"

I walked alongside their wagon off and on for three blocks. Their magnificent horse would pass me slowly, clopping big, hollow-sounding hooves past me, then stop ahead behind a line of cars. I'd catch up again and the sweet little girl would still be waving and greeting everyone just the same as she'd been doing for blocks. A man who looked to be homeless, but not without a charismatic personality, stepped into the street on her side of the carriage, bowed elegantly and lifted his hat in courtesy, then answered loudly enough for all to hear, "Yes! Let's do that, young lady. Let's all have a Merry Christmas!" It gave me the warmest feeling, seeing this and laughing with everyone. The friendly fellow had wanted to show the little girl that her efforts were fruitful, We weren't necessarily going to have a merry Christmas before, but now, doggone it, we are!

I hadn't been sad before, but it lifted my mood, being a part of a crowd that laughed together. We'd been walking along mostly alone, in a few pairs and clusters, but still, mostly alone. We hadn't really been walking together until that sweet little girl chirped into the chilly December air and invited us all to feel some joy in the name of Jesus - and that jolly, grizzled character had spoken for us all and taken her up on the offer. Our laughter and goodwill suddenly gave us something to share, and as we walked up the sidewalk we became a family of friends for a few minutes. Sure, we were just going to look at more stuff in stores but it didn't matter whether we bought anything or not. We hadn't really been interested in stuff in the first place, we'd all wandered out of our homes and into the streets to find some love and joy and companionship. We just hadn't realized it. Sometimes, we just need to let the little children remind us.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Wherever you are this Christmas, I hope you will remember that you are not alone. We're a village now, this precious, tiny planet of people is more connected than we ever realized. Even if you don't believe this, even if you can't feel it, take some deep breaths and imagine that it might be true for a moment, that you are connected to me and I to you, that we are connected to your neighbors, to clerks at the grocery store and drivers on the freeway. That we are joined in some way with folks on the other side of this world we've never met. Imagine that we are brothers and sisters to even the people who hold beliefs that seem entirely opposed to our own. Now stop all your thinking and breathe. Just that. Read no further for a moment.

Now breathe again. Deeper and slower.

Just for the novelty of it, stop your worrying, stop your planning, rest your mind. Just breathe. See if there is not some tiny ray of hope or joy or gratitude that flickers somewhere in your being. The tiniest glimmer. If you cannot find it do not despair, just that you would consider the concept is proof that all is not lost. If you cannot find even the slightest sense of joy and hope and love on your darkest days, I have a suggestion for you. It's one I myself need to hear. It's simple, so it may seem to you that it is nothing, but it is everything. Do a good turn for someone you encounter today. That's all. Just one good turn. A prayer. A hand on a shoulder, a kind smile or remark. A loving gesture of any kind.

The feeling you are feeling now as you read this? There's your proof.

I wish you all a loving and peaceful season and life. Thank you for caring about me and checking in on me now and again.

Yer ol' fren,

   Michael

Come on podna, do a little more ramblin' with me.

Past Ramblings XI


   

   

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