Iowa Blue

‘Inspired by Childish Gambino’s spoken word on “That Power” ‘

This is the first day of your vacation. Your parents were low on funds after putting down a payment for you to attend culinary school, but you manage to scrounge enough to come down to Iowa for the music festival. The city never looks as beautiful as it does during Blues Week. The streets are covered in white tinted Christmas lights, red caps and sun umbrellas.

You always loved blues, something you never shut up about ever since we first spoke. I used to wake up extra early every morning and log into my computer so we could talk about music, and other things. You worked in the afternoon and I worked nights, but those early hours where we were free to chat meant the world to me.

You told me you were coming down and wanted to see me. We made plans, and you made promises. I wanted to taste your cooking but deep down really wanted to taste your lips. You asked for a private tour, and even a massage. I told you only if I get to treat you to dinner. You smiled and agreed. You even pushed the idea of an adventure, a search for an unmanned piano so I could finally show you my skills.

Blues Week finally arrives and you text me the moment you land.

Throughout the week I keep my cool for the most part. We see other here and there, but you have friends to spend time with who don’t seem to enjoy my presence, so I stay quiet. The weekend is approaching, but you still have stuff to do, so I stay quiet.

Before I know it, it’s Saturday night. Your friend gets sick over a bad plate of chicken, so your day is cut short. I ask you to make sure we see each other tomorrow. You say of course.

You are obsessed with butterflies, and one of the over-priced jewelry vendors on the streets sells me a butterfly necklace that I know you are going to love. Its Sunday afternoon. I race through streets, drowning in a sea of base guitars and off beat claps. Though my ears are buzzing with the sounds of the city, my eyes are only looking for you.

You’re supposed to be the one finding me, but at around 4 o’clock I cave in and send you a text. ‘Where you at, pretty lady?’ I reach inside my pocket to leave my phone there, but my hand never comes out. I hold onto it just as I’ve been holding onto the idea that a cute girl like you could be into me.

An hour later I get a response. You’re checking out of your hotel, and need to catch a plane. You tell me to meet you at the front stage. Running through masses of sweaty bodies, I look for you. I keep looking, seeing you in ever long haired girl I come across. You message me again with another vague description of where you are; the building with a red roof. I turn on my heels, and head for the nearest building that matches your description. You say you’re sitting on the floor, but when I get there all I see is litter and dog crap. I look down the block, and see another red roof. Shit. I sprint, and barely survive the oncoming traffic, but it’s to late. By the time I show up, you’re gone, and I’m stuck covered in sweat that isn’t mine, clutching onto a necklace that no longer has meaning.

I stay there, hoping that my life is the ending of a cheesy romantic comedy where the guy gets to the airport to find out that the plane has just departed, but when he turns around he sees the girl never got on it. They embrace, and the credits roll.

This isn’t that kind of story; and I should never have wished it to be. Yes, it was sad to find out that after all that running that you were already gone, but that’s not what bothered me.

I’m not mad that you left when you had to. I’m hurt that you waited until the last minute of the last day to see me. I’m broken over the fact that all the promises, the moments and adventures you wanted us to go on meant less to you than live music and the movements of your group of friends. I asked you to do one thing; find me before you go. You couldn’t even do that, and I guess neither could I.

That day I learnt something. Now matter how solid someone’s words seem, no matter how believable they are, even the smallest of promises can be hollow. No one owes me, or anyone, a damn thing in life, and even if they claim to, I won’t trust the outcome until it happens.

I’m not saying this is absolute truth, or that it’s even the right thing to believe, but it’s what I learnt.

I wish I could say that our story ended here. That I gave up on it all, and moved on. In fact I wish this story had an end at all. Truthfully I’m still on the corner of that building. I’m still clutching on to that metallic butterfly. And you’re still not here, but you never were, were you?

Now My Dreams Are Nothing Like They Were Meant To Be

Seeing as we never get a break from ourselves, it’s hard to see the change we go through. We know who we want to become, and who we were, but it’s difficult to pinpoint where we are in between.

Though there are many hints that give us a good idea, one big one is music. Not only the music we used to listen to itself, but the meaning it gives us throughout our life.

Between the bustle of your busy lives, I urge you to turn back time to the songs of your past. You’ll be surprised by what you find. Songs who’s melody caught your ear may have lyrics that you’ve never understood until now, with meaning that would only have spoken to the you that exists now, not the you of the past.

One such song for me is Sleeping Sickness by City and Color. Five years ago this song meant nothing more to me than a decent tune with good acoustic guitar playing and the harmonization. However after shuffling through my regular songs, I fell upon it again today. I heard words that weren’t there before, that brought along feelings I’ve only known recently.

It’s a great experience to hear something again, yet also for the first time. I hope that today you find yourself falling in love with old songs as well.

“And I’m afraid
To sleep because of what haunts me
Such as living with the uncertainty
That I’ll never find the words to say
Which would completely explain
Just how I’m breaking down”

Once Upon A Time

Once upon a time, there lived a man. The man had many plans. Plans for the future, plans from the past.

He lived in those plans. He kept his mind everywhere he could but the present.

An imagined past, a video of clips from the best moments, real and fake.

An unimagined future, with riches fame and happiness. No means, but ends.

Why? To avoid the truth of the present.

The present which knew the truth of the past.

The present which knew the hard work that would need to happen to actualize his dreams of the future.

Sometimes he wondered why the present was called a present, since it didn’t seem like a gift at all.

Little did he know, the present is a gift. Like many gifts it is wrapped, concealed. The thing about his gift was that the wrapping paper was tacky, hard on the eyes, and even harder to rip off. Even still, all he has to do was work past the wrapping paper, as the gift was readily awaiting to be received inside a box.

He never did find out what was inside the box.

What a shame.

A Purple Dress In The Wind

In a far place, surrounded by tall oak trees and short grass, a family walks down a narrow path. Laid out in small jagged rocks and covered in dirt, the path winds between trees and boulders with no particular direction, almost as if nature had created it. With his head down, the boy drags his feet, kicking pebbles out of the ground, wearing down the soles of his running shoes.

Hand in hand, his parents lead him down the road. As her hair settles between gusts of wind, she turns her head around and smiles at her son; though she can only see the top of his curly black hair.

Her husband pulls her arm towards him, and she slows her pace. Coming to a stop, he looks towards his son.

“What’s going on Dad?” he asks.

Placing his hands on his shoulders, the father takes a deep breath. “It’s time for you to go ahead son.”

Clinging to the strong arm of her husband, the mother holds back her tears, choking on her words. “We’ve walked this path already. Just as our parents have, and theirs as well. It’s you-your turn to make your own path”

Glancing to both parents, the boy steps back. “You’re leaving me? How will I know where to go? What if I get lost?” His hands drop by his waist, trembling. “What if..” His father grasps onto him firmly.

“We’re not going anywhere’ he says. ‘We’ll always be right here when you need us. Don’t be afraid son. Go out there and discover what’s waiting.”

Taking their son into their arms, they embrace, and as the leaves blow past the mothers small frame, she’s reminded of when she first set out onto this road. Smiling, she releases her son. “We love you”, she says, and kisses his forehead.

He takes his first step forward, almost losing his footing on a slippery rock. The mother reaches out to help him, but the father holds her back. “No, he says, he can do it.” She nods.

Regaining his composure, he continues along the path. Each step seems further than the next, yet with every inch he moves, he yearns to take another. Looking out to the east, the sun breaks through the clouds onto a small pond inhabited by a family of ducks. A deer rushes past, followed by two chubby rabbits. As he glances upwards, he sees a group of sparrows glide above him as they sing.

He feels a chill run up his spine, taking a quick breath in. His stomach rumbles from hunger, but cannot overpower the beauty which surrounds him. The winds pick up, as his oversized flannel flows behind him.

Further down the road, a meadow appears in the distance. Brilliant yellows and dull pinks offset the blue skies. He steps off the path, and walks towards the flowers. As he approaches, he notices movement further off. A purple dress shakes in a distinct rhythm, slowly getting further and further.

“Hey!” he proclaims. Running through the tall grass, he moves as if the wind is carrying him towards this stranger. He steps out of the meadow, and finds himself firmly planted onto solid earth.

In each direction, he sees a new path; standing in the middle, a girl in a purple dress. Her freckled  olive skin gleams from a summer’s perspiration, He steps forward.

Turning to the boy, she smiles. Green eyes.

“Hello.” she says.

He stops all but 3 feet in front of her. Her eyes keep hold of his attention, causing him to take a pregnant pause before greeting her. “Um..hello.” He looks down at his feet. “Where are you going?” he says to the ground.

She laughs. Tussling the hair from her eyes, she looks to her left. “I’m not sure.” She points. “I was thinking of going down there.”

Returning her gaze to the boy, she leans her head to the side, crinkling her nose ans squinting with one eye. “What about you?”

He kicks the ground, still looking downwards. “I’m not sure which way I should go. I think I’m lost.”

She steps closer to him, lifting his head to match her line of sight and smiles. “Whichever way you choose is the right path”. She releases her hold on his chin, and he returns his gaze downwards, hiding the reddened skin on his cheeks.

She moves forward, dropping something small. It hits the floor with a faint ‘clank’, and shines in the sunlight. The boy bends down to pick it up.

“Wait,’ he says, ‘you dropped someth-.”

As he raises his head. He no longer sees her. He looks at his palm; a necklace, with a gold heart locket. He grasps it gently with one hand, and reveals whats inside. A small piece of parchment folded twice over rests in his hands. He opens it; ” L.S.”.

As he takes a deep breath, regretting being too shy to keep her there, he smells a faint scent of lavender. Her hair. It comes from the path facing him, and as he approaches it, he sees faint footprint in the dirt.

Reaching into his pocket, he releases the locket, and looks up at the clear skies.

“L.S.” he says, and begins his journey down the path, searching for signs of her.

Where Did All The Soul Go?

I remember being a young boy, dancing around in my parents bedroom, CD player in hand, listening to Louie Armstrong. Kids my age were more into TV show themes or pop singers, but if you gave me some Macy Gray I’d be just fine.

Hearing the passion behind the lyrics, rewinding every few verses to make sure you didn’t miss a single word. Michael Jackson, Motown, The Bee Gees, Barry White, the list of iconic musicians of the past goes on and on. Not only did these musicians wow their generations, but still to this day touch the hearts of youngsters such as myself. This music stands the test of time because more often than not, the music itself, and the lyrics, spoke to emotions that are shared between all of us. When Barry belts out that he’s ‘never ever gonna give you up”, you believe it and you feel it.

This is the part, of course. where I strap on my overalls and glasses and speak of the good old days. As much as this seems to be a common theme of every generation, I think the one I am a part of is particularly victim to the disease of bad music. Mind you there are some phenomenal young artists today. The problem is that with our technology, we’ve made a few too many advancements when it comes to sound in music. Auto tune, electronic beats, all these things sounds amazing in a song, but my question is; where is the soul.

What made most of the musicians we’ve all admired so famous was their personality within their music. The high notes and the low ones, the jazz band playing in the back, the feel of the bass, it was all more than just music to our ears, we felt it deep within us, the emotion of the song rang through louder than any drum.

There isn’t much to be said on what can be done, because we cannot control the music industry and what the majority of the population wants. However there are simple things we can do; appreciate the past, and encourage the hopefuls of our future. So tonight, wherever you are, I challenge you to go back to the 70’s and 80’s and listen to some music. You never know what you’ll find, but I guarantee you will love it.

Here and There

You’ve always been here.

As I walk down the narrowly strewn path I’ve dedicated my life to travel, my senses call out to you.

The smell of the earth,
The sounds of the sky,
The taste of regret lingering on the tip of my tongue,
The gentle touch of the road beneath my feet.
I see the ghost of you ahead of me,
Exactly where it’s always been.

Why must we hold on to the past like a notebook full of secrets, and dismiss the call of the future, lending a hand towards us?

Why is it so hard to move on from something that was never truly given life?

Like an empty page, the part of my life meant to be filled in by you stays blank.

A novel never completed.
A story without an end.

I still cling to the hope that someday the impossible comes true,
As I fight off the sounds that scream of the end.

I love you.
On long walks you hold my hand,
on short nights you sneak into my room,
and as the sun sets, I watch it within your eyes.

But you were never there at all.

Creative Teaching

I took many classes back in college/cegep, but one that I will never forget is a Creative Writing class I took in my third semester. I learnt a lot about myself not only as a writer, but as a person. We were challenged to write outside of our comfort zones, to humble ourselves in our  creativity, and let down our walls. Although from an educational standpoint we did not learn much, I have to say that it was the most beneficial course I have ever had the pleasure of taking to date.

One day our teacher had us go outside for a class; a classic cool English teacher move. We made our way down the streets of downtown Montreal, towards a massive park that I had never been to.

upon arrival, we circled around the teacher waiting for instructions. Surely we were to find something in the park to write about, perhaps describe a scene, a person, something in nature. It was a beautiful day, and the park was filled with all sorts of wonders; a man made lake, animals jumping tree to tree, kids running around barefoot. Then, to our surprise, the teacher cleared his throat and said “Today, I don’t want you to find meaning in anything. Don’t try and describe what you see, don’t try to make an metaphors, or think about anything you see in a literary sense. Just go out and be a part of the world.” I was shocked, at a loss for words. As a student of literature, were meant to find symbolism, meaning and metaphor in every line of dialogue. From colors to people, our brains were slowly being harc wired to read between the lines. Yet here we were, told to do the exact opposite. To read the book of life as it is, word for word, and forget about literary techniques.

Like lost children, we misguidedly frolicked around the park, looking trees and flowers, fighting the urge not to describe their beauty, and instead to simply marvel at it. It was not long before we found ourselves transported back to a time where a park was a place of infinite  fun. We chased each other around with our shoes off, splashing our feet in puddles, running through the sprinkles, and drying off our toes in the sand. This was not just a group of people within the class who decided to have fun; we all suddenly became children.

That day, i learnt that sometimes the meaning of something isn’t hidden at all. Instead of constantly looking for symbolism, reinforcing hidden messages within our own work, maybe we can just create a world where the beauty is in the simple fact that it is there. You see when you take away the literary eye, you lose sight of similes and personification, but you gain an insight into the pure innocence of life. When the earth wasn’t created, nature was not created to be inspiring, to evoke certain feelings, to convey a message. It was up to us to find it on our own.

So my fellow writers, I invite you to do the same. Go out, lay down in the grass, look up at the sky and just enjoy the view. Don’t try and describe the colors, the shapes, the feeling of the wind in your hair. Just be a part of the experience, and who knows, you might just discover the kid inside you like I did.