Day 252: The King and Caroline

I mentioned Timmy and Redlegs in an earlier post. Timmy and Redlegs were Miles’s imaginary mouses.  They appeared occasionally for years. Sometimes they were the cause of an accident that nobody else saw. Sometimes they were along for our walks. Sometimes, they had an adventurous day, just like Miles and I did.

Miles’s world as a boy was full of characters and fantasies. They were all over the place.

When we moved into the first house we bought at Short Street in Morgantown, Miles and I would play in the yard. The yard was on a steep hill (It was a pain in the butt to cut the grass– very steep.) At the top of the yard, someone had left a cinder block. It was a single block with a circular hole, like a cement tube.  We placed it in an old stump and sat next to it quietly. We pretended that the imaginary bunny lived in it. He would come and go into his little cinder block home if we sat quietly. He would visit us and we would play with him in the grass. If he let us, we would hold him gently and feed him grass. We would gently touch his ears. It was summer and the place where we sat was shaded by the trees in our neighbors yard and the bushes near us along the driveway.

Day 68: Wondering Boy Poet

We held a memorial service in Lewisburg for Miles in September, a few weeks after he died. I compiled some music to play over the Weis Center sound system before the ceremony. As I chose songs to play, I discovered this short gem by Guided By Voices. It spoke to me at the time and it still does:

Dream on child of change
Throw your javelin through the sun
Pierce the heart of everyone
Though we push to slave the days
This is not reality
This is just formality
The cup is only being filled
For a chance to have it spilled
Flowing– just like the days
Sailing– just like the days.

It spoke to me about Miles when I discovered it and it speaks to me still.

Guided By Voices’s catalog includes so many of these songs—little songs of a minute or two that sound like fragments. They are never too much. They leave you wanting more.  They never overdo it, and they often get it just right.

Pierce the heart of everyone.

Day 60: Males Of Wormwood Mars

I am listening to some new music from the past year. Guided By Voices came out with two albums in 2014. I really like this song from Cool Planet. A new GBV album will always have at least one great song on it, and this is my favorite.

I’ve been thinking a lot about newness. This week, I am posting mostly new songs. It is a new calendar year, so newness is on my mind.

I did something new for me on Sunday. I drove to State College and learned how to ski. Owen likes to ski, but he won’t let me take him skiing until I learn how to do it myself. He does not want to be the only kid whose dad is tripping over his skis on the bunny slopes.

I drove to State College and got the beginner’s special Sunday package: skis, a lift pass for the beginner slope, and lessons. Mason was my teacher. He taught me to ski. More accurately, Mason taught me to stop skiing. I was never worried about being able to move on skis. I was always worried about stopping. Mason taught me to stop. After learning the basics from Mason, I spent the afternoon teaching myself to ski, stopping and starting and turning on numerous trips downhill. I went up and down the lift twenty or thirty times until I felt comfortable on skis. Now I can take Owen skiing.

I was on the lift a lot. It is a short ride, but long enough for me to check my phone and send a message or two. I took a picture of the slope and sent it to Owen with the message, “Lessons!” On one trip, I took a selfie. When I looked at the picture, I was surprised to see how I looked. In my picture, I had a beard and an unexpected tiredness in my eyes. I have had the beard for four months, but it seemed shockngly foreign. The last day I shaved was August 21. The beard is not new, but my appearance surprised me. I am not sure why. Maybe it is because learning to ski is something young people do, like the six-year-old girl zipping past me with her dad. I should have done this when I was younger, I thought. When I saw my own picture, I was surprised to be in the present at age 42: David with a beard. The cold air and icy slopes and awkward feeling of new skis and the new freedom I gradually felt from learning to glide across the slopes zigzagging downhill helped me feel young. I saw my own picture, and I was reminded of where I actually was in time.

It reminded me too of what was missing. On one trip up the lift, I looked to my left and told my companion that I was glad he was there with me too. I spoke aloud to him on the lift. I thanked him for pushing me forward to come out here on a Sunday and spend the time and money on figuring all this out, for myself and for his brother. I told him I was glad he came down from running the difficult slopes to check in on me while his friends did another run from the top of the mountain. I thanked him for his patience when I was frustrated, unable to stop myself with my skis for my first awkward hour. I apologized for not doing this sooner when we could have done it together for real. When the lift reached the top, we both slid forward to the top of the bunny slope. I did not have to encourage him or ask him, but I knew he was sliding down the hill on his snowboard behind me, checking on how well I, the reluctant novice, was doing on my first day skiing.

Day 26: Game of Pricks

A little gem among many. Discovering Guided By Voices is like stumbling upon a new part of town you’d never seen before with all these cool shops and beautiful people walking around, all of them friendly and interesting some taller than others. There are so many new things here, you think. And then you turn the corner and there are more and more and more. Then a bus drops off a whole new album and you’re like, when will it end? And then someone says to you, “Never.” And then someone says, “They just cancelled their tour because they broke up.”  And then someone else says, “Again,” and we all laugh.

“You can never be strong // You can only be free”

Day 7: Buzzards and Dreadful Crows

I hope Miles had time to enjoy Guided By Voices. I know he heard them, but I am not sure if he ever really listened to them. I know he would have liked them.

When he was twelve years old, Miles tweeted something that stuck with me: “Flaws are what makes us beautiful.” I can see in his photography that this idea was not just a passing thought. It is a philosophy that he believed in.

I hope Miles listened a lot to Guided By Voices, because their music is full of flaws. The songs are great, but the imperfections are right there to hear. I think he would have loved their unpolished style if he had the time to get into them.

I imagine a future with Miles at college seeing GBV in concert or finding a kindred spirit in the dorm who could indulge in their music with him and share a love of flaws and imperfectly perfect inventions.

I expect Miles to walk in the room as I write this and sit down across from me on the couch. When I ask him if he likes Guided By Voices, he will say, “Oh yeah. Totally. They’re awesome.”