May 13, 2009

Just got back from
visiting Danielle and the Ninja
and seeing Leonard Cohen
in Detroit.

“If it be your will
that I speak no more
and my voice be still
as it was before
I will speak no more
I shall abide until
I am spoken for
if it be your will.”
– L. Cohen

In 1995 I met a woman.
Her name was Danielle Plunkett.
I fell in love with her heart.

We were assigned to a partnership
in charge of 12 high school students.
2 of those students became best friends.
One of them became my producer, Jon Berardi.
The other became Joe. Completely Joe.
And Danielle became the reason
I became a reverend [online in five minutes].

This is Jon with his first born (bottom left)
and first child:

This is Joe and me at Muir Beach in 1997:

This is me eating Danielle’s eye
back when I was still working from the car,
only other time I’ve let a beard fall outta my face:

It’s in my lucky stars that I got to keep the three of them.
We’ve collectively shared more good times and turbulent flights
than I know how to say.

As of today Joe is lecturing/stalking me about
how to best utilize Twitter as a social network,
Jon is wrapping up loose ends on my Live CD,
and Danielle just had the Ninja leave me a voicemail.
Someday I’ll be a good enough writer to tell you
exactly what he said to me.
Maybe it was along the lines of:

During Danielle’s first pregnancy
I received a voice message as I prepared to leave for a Vipassana course.
The message said something like:
“Hey B, it’s D. Listen,
I know you’re headed to Vipassana
so I don’t want you to worry because I’m doin’ fine
but I thought you should know I lost the baby.
Really, I’m as okay as anyone can be in this situation.
Call me when you get back home
and remind me to tell you how the dog ate my baby.”

It may be the funniest most gruesome bad news I ever got.
She don’t flinch much.
Her gentle way is all woman and grace.
Danielle’s been the power behind me
on days when shotguns looked like a safe place,
and she’s been the ear who holds
all the small things I sweat
when no one’s lookin’.
She still is.
Her warmth is sanctuary.
Her patience is surprising.

Last week I went to visit Danielle in Ann Arbor,
and to see Leonard Cohen,
and to spend some time getting to know Jonathan Drew Johnson,
the superhero result of her second pregnancy.
We will herein refer to him as Ninja,
a more suited name.

The Ninja is 20-months old.
When I tried to capture the words to describe the joy
that would burst like fractals outta me
every time the Ninja walked by,
my pal Lindsey assured me she understood
and asked, “You feel like he introduced you
to a side of yourself you didn’t know existed?”


Here’s the Ninja making me drink from his sippy cup
while he chugs from my water bottle:

His catalog of language is fairly limited to
Peez (please)
Hewlp (help)
Momma (Danielle)
and now – Bubby (new source of fun)

Since we were unable to talk much
we bonded in other ways…
like borrowing each others clothes:


And we for sure played Tickle the Ninja:

And there was no doubt 20 or so rounds of Blue Slide:
He taught me tons of fun games too,
like seeing who can laugh the loudest through the bathroom door
especially after a loud burp,
and Find the Freezy Pop,
and Eat the Sand,
and Spread the Mess,
and Holler at Yer Boy.
I didn’t like Holler at Yer Boy very much.

When I grow up I want to be a man.
A professional gentleman.
I wanna embody grace,
like a good dance partner.
I’ve come a long way
and I’ve made some giant leaps of faith
but there are still days, even weeks
when it feels like I’ve only reached incremental improvements on patience.

My real friends and family are well too aware of as much.
I’ve hurt or lost more folks than I care to count
as a result of my lack of patience.
I can be a real grump
by accident.
My tolerance can be measured by hours of missing sleep
and the time since my last meal.
If those two things don’t happen
I get more broken glass than egg shell.
It’s a physical reaction that
copes like a caveman
or a 20-month year old.
Image by Kate Wildman

I’m transparent when the impatience comes
and my annoyances get penetrating
as I shrink back into myself.
Porcupine turtle.
I tend to magnify the thought or person bothering me
and at the same time try to refrain
from what I might say to ruin the mood even more.
Jellyfish ape.

When I hit that default I tend to radiate disappointment
and spiral into brain chatter no one else can hear,
but it is really readable.
It gets so loud that if anymore questions or input come at me
I may react like a hammer.
The silence is just a deafening disguise.
Jon and Joe and Danielle know about it.
Ask anybody who’s had to live in a van with me,
or ask ARL.

The snowball effect from knowing that I’m obviously agitated
but not effectively dissolving it behind the scenes
gets embarrassing
and I suspect it comes off like abuse
when I try to be nice again.

“If it be your will
that a voice be true
from this broken hill
I will sing to you
from this broken hill
all your praises they shall ring
if it be your will
to let me sing.”
– L. Cohen

Sometimes the anger goes to the wrong place.
Sometimes I mislabel the source.
Sometimes my words go loose when my thoughts get tight.
Gotta stop holding on with my neck so tight.
There are knives that got stuck in the words where I came from.
Too much time in the back of my words.
I pulled knives from my back and my words.
I cut trombones from the moment you slipped away.

I lacked a lot of sleep last week
and abandoned the routine I’ve grown so comfortable with
in this time I’ve taken off from the road.
I didn’t realize how much slack was in my learning curve lately,
or how much progress I’m allowed to make
without the responsibility of holding together a family
and a home and myself at the same time.
Miracle workers.

Danielle is the only one who saw me lose patience
with Ninja’s Holler at Yer Boy [or Mom] games.
He played that when he didn’t eat or sleep right.
Shouted it out like sour milk, or a burning anvil.
Ground stomper. Neighbor waker.
He didn’t like me talking to him during this time,
just like I don’t like anybody talking to me
when I’m on shithead duty.
Saying, “Hey, Johnny, why you freakin’ out?”
doesn’t make much headway with a 20-month year-old boy.

My swings get triggered far less than ever before
now that I’m more squared up with stability.
I’ve come a long way from a short fuse.
I sure am glad Danielle was there to cover for me
in the moments I had to check out
because the tantrums got too loud.
Mine or Ninja’s. Together or separate. Relative or irrelevant.
It was a roller coaster week
for more reasons than are appropriate to detail herein.

Thank goodness for the true friends,
and the fairy doors of downtown Ann Arbor,
and ice cream, and mindless television on vacation,
and family,
and people looking at me like a husband or a father,
and the act of blowing on a child’s belly,
and all-terrain joggers, and Mother’s Day,
and having drinks, and graduations,
and getting lost sometimes,
and gentleman practice, and for Leonard Cohen
who played 3 1/2 hours of every song I ever loved by him.
Really y’all, every last one.

“And draw us near
and bind us tight
all your children here
in their rags of light
in our rags of light
all dressed to kill
and end this night
if it be your will.”
– L. Cohen


I dunno if I’ll get to be a father this time around.
I guess I’m cool with that by now.
Last week brought me as close to understanding such a relentless love
as I ever have. It takes a real stable being
to effectively handle bursting over with that much joy
every time a Ninja walks in the room.
I haven’t felt that way since Danielle and I
had Jon and Joe under our care the week we
danced inside the fountains of Spring Arbor
and ran around like Ninja’s on ropes in trees
catching each other.

I feel like I could get real good at it though.
Spotter Ready, Bubby