Sunday, March 30, 2008

Forever Young

Yesterday was a tonic, spent with friends old and new and kids thrown together from here and there over the last 15 plus years. The weather for our getaway was beautiful, and the spirit of gathering also beautiful.

My kids and Shameless' all had been looking forward to this day last week, and they wasted not a minute. Even better, they were able to introduce a couple other young friends into the mix.

At one point, they took their "project" out of doors, and we adults drifted to the picture window like it was a magnetic field. There we all stood, transfixed, gazing out at the wonder beyond the glass: a full-throttle impromptu game and on the faces of little people a joy and gusto that we as grownups would these days find hard to emulate. Late into the evening we played, until the grownups couldn't take anymore.

Leaving that behind and looking ahead to spring break was kind of sad, but those are the moments, the days, that make being a kid so great.

Stunning to us ever is the fact that, despite our wishes to the contrary, our children are growing up. They have a wicked sense of humor, a purehearted snarky streak, vision, fearlessness, and ideas all their own. Another ten years from now, I so hope that life hasn't tamed those things, but I am afraid it will.

This one is for all the "kids" we had fun with this weekend -- including those very tall ones over the age of 40 who, I noticed, quite willingly let out their inner kids during what looked like a pretty heated game of Wii tennis. May we all be forever young.

You might enjoy listening like I did later today to Forever Young by Bob Dylan. Watch it performed here by Tim O'Brien with Danny Barnes (banjo), Casey Driessen(fiddle), and Dennis Crouch (bass) at Rockygrass 2006.

PS--That Tim. He's such a Chameleon. Click on the link to see what he's been up to lately.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Run two, walk four, toward life

Run two minutes
Walk four minutes
Repeat five times

This morning I woke up later than expected to bright clear blue sky. It took me a while to remember it was Easter Sunday. It's still cold and the snow still covers most everything. Even though I shared a little paschal feast with my kids the night before and doled out a few chocolate eggs in their general direction, to me, it's not Easter until the bulbs start popping up and the snow is replaced with a little frost, or maybe, dew.

It was nice to see the sun, though, and to feel the energy. I pushed on with some general chores and a bit of preparation for some necessary business travel ahead, and wrapped up my taxes. For the first time ever, I had to pay Uncle Sam. It was only $15, but to me, writing that check to the US Treasury reminded me that I am the Chancellor of the Exchequer here at this address, responsible in some fashion for everything that comes in, and responsible for everything that goes out, and everything that goes on. There's no maid or nanny or live-in sweetie to tidy up behind me or lighten my load or make my appointments or do my grocery shopping, or make the money, for that matter.

That's a little scary, even for me.

Week two
Run three minutes

I had planned this winter to really dive in to the entire ski thing for the sake of my children. What I learned very quickly is that skiing is very hard work. Lifting the heavy boots alone, learning to walk in them, getting around on the skis themselves, all took relatively hard work and some getting used to. Ultimately, except for a few lessons the kids gave me, I did not follow through. I'm not entirely sure why although it became clear rather quickly that I was not really in the right shape to take on a new sport. During one difficult lesson, my son was trying to show me how to rise up from a fall. He stood, almost unsupported, on to his skis from the ground. Whether it was my leaning or the point on the hill on which I had sat, I could not possibly simply stand up without assistance, either by giving myself a good shove or leaning on the poles. This worried me. While I don't know whether my son gave up on me, what I knew I had to do was to not give up and find a way to make this work.

Walk three minutes

And so I began a new conversation with my chief of staff, Ms. Me.

The mess this country is in affects us all. The lead story in our local paper this morning was not comforting in the least for a homeowner like me who was hoping over time to build a little equity. Now, like most Americans who were convinced that a home loan was just about the safest, simplest investment any one could make, I'm just hoping that when the time comes to sell I'll be able to pay the damn thing off (with values plummeting below original sale prices, sellers are having to pay at closing).

Repeat five times

I'm sure that having a partner would make it all seem a little easier. But, I don't. I have me. Thankfully I have a job I really care about that helps keep a roof over our heads. I have a furnace that will probably need to be replaced next year but for now, it runs. I have a car that runs because I pay to keep it running. I have a little help from time to time from my late mother, and after I pay taxes on that, it helps to pay for things like camp. Braces. New furnaces. Down the road a few short years, college.

As I folded the third load of laundry today, I realized that, as difficult and sometimes as lonely as it gets, all the decisions I make are mine. I have to live with them, good and bad and status quo. I don't have to argue about them or take them to committee or, as I once did for so many years, bring them to the table only to be summarily dismissed. I don't have to build consensus as I do in the external world of my work. It's a little weird but it works ok.

And so the decision to exercise, a simple and constant no brainer for most people, was a small rebellion against the past. I am surprised at how trying something I previously denied myself based on my negative self-view has transformed my dedication to get by into a will to survive and thrive. I have to. While I have friends and family and all that good stuff, my life is my responsibility. And to a large extent, so are my children. They find in me a different way of making a go at it. They need to understand that alone doesn't always mean unable or unhappy or unsatisfied. Because it is definitely an option, if you can carry the load.

The only way to lighten the load
Is to get stronger,
As quickly as possible,
So the load feels lighter.

After my chores were done, I layered up and took to the park.

Run two minutes
Walk four
Repeat five times

This summer, I want to be able to join my son as he trains for cross country next year. I want to be able to share a little of his world and show that it matters enough for me to try to feel what he goes through.

So I took to the pavement and breathed in deep of the crisp air and the dormant earth and the wild rushing creek, high enough in places to touch without much effort. Little by little I go deeper and come closer to someone inside who can push on, work harder, feel a heartbeat that beats with the world. It is going to be very hard work and I hope I can keep it up. But more lies there in that effort than just feeling better and raging against the lung disease in my mother's family, or the heart disease in my father's family. It's a raging on for the future, right into the eye of the storm. Whatever lies there, I hope I'm ready to meet it.

Traveling today with this song by two dear favorites, Buddy and Julie Miller, sure helped me with each step. It's kind of a classic Buddy and Julie tune here aptly performed by Sam Bush and Emmylou Harris, which provided the extra inspiration I needed to generate some necessary perspiraton.

The River's Gonna Run
By Buddy and Julie Miller
Performed here by Sam Bush, from his latest release, Laps in Seven

I got a hole in my pocket
I got a tear in my heart
I got a door, I can't unlock it
I live on shadows in the dark

I hear the sound of a heartbeat
I hear a secret in the rain
It's like the kiss of a lover
It's like a stranger knows your name

I'm gonna rock on the water
(I'm gonna dance in the flood)
I'm gonna lay down with the wind
(Lay down and believe like a child)
I feel the swell of the tempest
(I can feel the passion of a soul)
Like there's a storm comin' in
(A storm of love going wild)

And when the thunderhead starts beating like a drum
(And the thunder cracks the sky in two)
The wind is gonna blow
And the rain is gonna come
And the river's gonna run

I want to walk on a wire
(on an unbroken line)
I want to live when I die
(and shake my soul loose from time)
I want to ride with the angels
(on that invisible street)
And leave my footprint in the sky
(feel the stars under my feet)

I'm gonna take the train that's gonna get me there
All the tracks behind me are burnin' in the air
The cure is gonna kill me, but I don't care
I don't care, I don't care...

It's like the kiss of a lover
(It's like a secret in the rain)
It's like a stranger knows your name
(It's like a stranger knows, a stranger knows your name)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

What flies, whose buttermilk?

People are stupid.

Not to be outdone by the story I saw in the paper last week that stated Barack Obama is "perceived to be black."

Holy friggin' Christ. Who wrote that? Do they still have a job? Can I get a job like that where I'm paid to be stupid?

Not long after, there was Geraldine's comment that Obama wouldn't be in this race if he weren't a black man. Gee, Deenie, then I guess you would have to agree that you would never have been a VEEP contender if you hadn't been a woman.

And then the Redi-Whip on the jiggly jello tower of racial controversy, right here on this very blog: "Hey, if this guy were a fat white guy, nobody would be listening to him."


Barney Frank is a fat white gay guy, and people listen to him. Look at Senator Byrd in West Virginia. People have been listening to him for decades. And for heaven's sake, let's not forget Rush Limbaugh. Big, fat, white, and plenty popular.

So what's your point?

Why not just say, "He's not qualified to run the country because he's not white and not rich." If people can drill down to realize that's what they're thinking, then we can all pretty much substitute "country" for major bank, Ivy League university, aerospace manufacturer. Whatever. Whatever you think is too big and too important for a person of color to handle in this country. Because that's what you're saying.

I think there's more than the color of his skin that scares people about Senator Obama. What people really can't handle is that this is one of the smartest Americans ever. Americans don't even know what smart looks like after the last seven years. And this guy is immeasurably smarter. Immeasurably.

Why, why is this so hard to accept?

I'm not writing this to stump for a candidate or try to look smarter than you or anyone else. I'm writing this because I'm really frustrated and sad. Most people who know me, even my closest friends, have absolutely no idea what goes on in the world where race is concerned. Unfortunately, I see it every day. If it hadn't been for my job and the fact that I work for a couple who have spent their entire careers enmeshed not only professionally in counseling both white and black executives on this issue, but as a bi-racial couple have personally faced extraordinary discrimination from both the white and and black communities, I would not be as aware as I am. It's kind of a blessing and a curse.

I honestly don't think America is ready for the discussion Barak Obama is trying to have with us any more than bluegrass fans need to read this on this blog. Sadly, I don't think people knew what to make of his speech at all. I have a feeling most folks were just dumbfounded, let alone in denial. Then again, so was Thomas Jefferson.

And I think back to some of the comments. Dr. Don has almost always been right, even when I've disagreed. Americans, even the smart ones, don't care. They don't want to change. That's as true as anything else.

So where does that leave us all?

At least there 's the music. And there's lots of it, and lots of people to play it and enjoy it. And that's also true.

Carolina Chocolate Drops

Monday, March 17, 2008


Bluegrass is a branch of a musical tree whose roots really are across the pond. One of the things that drew me to celebrate St. Patrick's Day in the first place was the music. I could sit and listen to Irish fiddling or Irish music almost as long as I could sit and listen to bluegrass (and it's really not sitting with either one because of course it's hard to be still when you're enjoying a good barnburner).

One thing's for sure, the Irish are a pretty constant, pretty hearty people despite what's thrown at them, which has been a lot over the last 1500 or so years. So here's to them, and to us that we in our still very young country might take a little something away from the way they've toiled and sung and celebrated everything in life and in death.

Raise a glass, or a cup of coffee, to the music, to the Irish, and to yourself while you enjoy Tim O'Brien and friends playing that most popular of Tim tunes, The Crossing.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Change Pace

Last night as I was going through my inbox I came across a MySpace invite from my favorite haunt, The Kent Stage. It was an invite to the show tonight, featuring local singer-songwriter Alex Bevan opening for Straws singer-songwriter Dave Cousins. I decided that I would head out, which I did after a rather strange day of catching up on work, laundry, exercise, and sleep. It wouldn't be otherwise strange but I've been a little under the weather, so everything seemed in the last couple of days to be in somewhat slow motion. I'm not generally a slow-motion person so feeling myself move as if I was walking on flypaper or something is just odd. So I decided that getting out of the house was in any event a good idea and sitting in the dark listening to live music for a couple of hours wasn't the worst way to do that.

It turns out I was a bit out of my league and my element but enjoyed a thoroughly good show. The house was probably only a third full, so I sat my germy self down in the middle of the house in a row all by myself. I hadn't done my homework on Dave Cousins but I knew at some point over the course of his career that Rick Wakeman was involved. But once home I did a little digging and learned that the Strawbs started out as, of all things, a Bluegrass band called the Strawberry Hill Boys. That evidently didn't last too long as Cousins' preferred songwriting style was really in a different and more popular vein and the band's focus shifted toward that more folklore-ballad-soon-gone-rock-ballad in the later 1960s. After brief success in Denmark with an album that featured the late Sandy Denny who was recruited to Fairport Convention before the Strawbs could really get something up and running with her in it on a more permanent basis, The Strawbs became the first band from the UK signed to A&M records.

Anyway it was a good show, a solo presentation by Cousins, who will be back with the entire band, by the way, on June 13 at the Stage, and that should be quite an event. But meanwhile Cousins presented our small audience with a slice of life not just as a singer-songwriter, but as a troubadour who had dealt with stardom and big rock icons and all the rest. And here he is, somewhere a little over 60 years old, still plying his trade and telling these really quite incredible stories behind each song.

As I drove home trying to figure out exactly what I heard, I was thinking about this person who still is doing international touring and traveling all over the green earth to play to a crowd of about 100 people in a small Ohio college town. And I was mulling over my strangely spent day. It didn't seem to be all that productive, despite all that had been done with room for roughly a two-hour siesta, some of which I think surely must have been spent sleeping when I wasn't coughing. I've been turning over in my head the last week or two how I just don't think I'm using my time wisely, or working as hard as I could be, or worrying about the right things, or really learning anything truly new to put to actual use.

On my way out of the office I took a call from my X's sweetheart, a woman not quite my age with enormous family obligations, work, and school. She's not someone I've had much of a chance to get to know but what I do know is that her shoulders must be killing her. And yet she has really a very positive attitude, looking forward to the day when she can focus on her family and a single job rather than the several she juggles as part of and in addition to her going to school. There are people like her all around the country and we're all worried about getting sick, losing our jobs, and paying $3.50 a gallon for gas (the going price this week, although I used points I'd racked up tonight for a $36 fill-up -- a bargain any way you look at it). It's easy to lose sight of the bigger picture in those times, and some folks like C have to work to keep it in view I imagine so that they don't go bananas.

As I drove along Route 43 tonight back to my cozy and quiet flat, it occurred to me that I need to start worrying about things besides the fill-up and the grocery bill. Those will be there, regardless. I can still worry about finding another job, which seems every now and again to be imminent and I fear after the rush of work we've had that we might be in a very low-tide stage again. But even then, what should I be doing with my time? What divides the genuinely hard work I do from the kind of grueling, often last-minute busy work I do to prepare our firm to present candidates? Am I capable of doing the kind of hard work it must take to get and keep my own clients in house? Will my principals trust me to do that? And after this, what next? What work should I be doing to prepare myself for my next role wherever it is, and how will I find one that makes sense for me and still allows me to keep us fed and our modest roof over our heads? Will I have a chance to lead a team again? What will that look like?

Time to change pace. After all the looking forward to this year I've done, it's nearly a quarter of the way gone. Nothing significant has changed, other than my added exercise routine which is generating more energy even in my underweathered bronchial state. Time to put that energy to do hard work, satisfying work, paid work, or the work of learning new skills and deepening present skills so that I can find that right way to finally come into service at the level I'm really capable of and in a capacity that makes perfect sense. I am mission driven, and it's time to really seek out or create a new or expanded mission and actualize it into purposeful breadwinning work.

Tonight Cousins did a song he wrote about a 19th century Englishwoman named Grace Darling. Miss Darling made history when she and her Lightkeeper father rescued 9 sailors from a wreck offshore using a small row boat. She was 22 at the time, and died only six years later, having never lived anywhere other than the Longstone Lighthouse. But having saved those sailors with her father was a great service and a very brave thing. Dave wrote this tune to honor her and also wrote it as a love song to unflagging folks who keep the light.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

An Idea Older than Bluegrass

After all there is an element in the readjustment of our financial system more important than currency, more important than gold, and that is the confidence of the people. Confidence and courage are the essentials of success in carrying out our plan. You people must have faith; you must not be stampeded by rumors or guesses. Let us unite in banishing fear. We have provided the machinery to restore our financial system; it is up to you to support and make it work.
It is your problem no less than it is mine. Together we cannot fail.

FDR spoke those words in his fireside chat 75 years ago tonight. It fascinated me to think that at one time, the Presidency was actually an office that was credible, and that people trusted the President. Can you imagine what might happen if a POTUS today said, "Look folks, this is just as much your problem as it is mine, and we all have to work together to fix it."

Seventy-five years ago, there was no such thing as bluegrass. There were musicians and music dancing around the edge of bluegrass. Old-time music was morphing into early country, but many acts were thrust into permanent obscurity with the onset of the depression. Bluegrass didn't really come along until the mid to late 1940s, when things were good again.

And things will be good again. In about 313 days.

But til then, this road will be a little rocky, like in this here Bill Monroe tune.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Crispness of Is

Weather made headlines again yesterday in our little corner of the state. We had about 20 inches of snow, not the most that hit the area, but quite a thick, furry blanket of the white stuff. It was indeed a wonder coming down and down and down. Son of Mando and his best friend joined me in clearing a few sidewalks and driveways, only to find them completely covered by new snow and drifts just a couple hours later. Resistance was futile, so we made pizza -- alfredo with chicken, tomatoes, and portabellos (and yes, we have no Romano, Leotaprof) -- settled into a favorite old movie ("I think this was Gennaro....I think this was, too") before turning the clocks ahead an hour.

I always hate losing that hour but in the wake of the biggest storm of the year, suddenly it didn't matter as much. Mother nature stood before any and all plans and firmly said, "Not today, you won't." And so it was we drifted into sleep, completely surprised to find the snow stopped and the sun shining full and bright in our morning sky.

The air is never as crisp and clean as after the snow. A friend told me this is because snow actually acts as a sort of air filter, grabbing all kinds of pollutants on its way down through the atmosphere. But all I know is, it sure smells good, like after it rains. It's a smell of the present, of is.

That's where I spent my weekend. In is. Looking backwards, looking ahead too far, neither has profited me much in any way. I started a new book this weekend by Jungian James Hollis, and I am ready again to go deep, let things be, sit a while with "is" to the degree that I can.

Despite the snow the kids and I made a busy day of it again. After a swim -- what's more refreshing in 12 degree weather than a trip to the pool? -- and a little goofing off at a kids' fitness fair where my daughter did 15 pushups, 30 situps, and a whole lotta running around -- she made a few "birdfeeders" and ventured out to hang them. She said she "brought the birds out of hiding", much like the sun brought us out. After a satisfying and spicy pot of chili, we settled in to wind down with another favorite flick and all too soon it was bedtime. These weekends with them always go too quickly.

Tomorrow I hope I can take "is" with me. I hope I can take the clean crisp air, the goofy way my daughter braided her hair as a silly surprise, the dedication with which my son and his friend plowed everyone out and then hit the snow for fun far away through the woods, the beauty and power of the storm as it covered us with a layer of nature's soundproofing, the picture of my tall skinny son and his little sister less than half his height striding alongside each other at poolside while they hatch a new game. Too soon these moments will be gone, and we'll be remembering them over the phone a dozen years and a hundred miles or more away. But not yet. Not just yet.

Turning Around
From Two Journeys
(Tim O'Brien (Howdy Skies Music/Universal Music Pub, ASCAP))
Turnin Around © 2001 Tim O'Brien

From where you sit you cannot see it
No one watches anyway
No one stops to listen for it
Covered by the sounds of day

But we each play our own part in it
Nothing that you need to learn
Every breath from birth to dying
We all help the world to turn

Turning like the water flowing
From the mountains to the sea
A gentle wind that keeps on blowing
Pray that it will always be
Turning around, this old world, turning around

Through the window I can see you
In the garden sewing seeds
Hand and heart with rain and sunshine
Growing what the family needs
Need it like the water flowing
From the mountains to the sea
Keep the roots and branches growing
Pray that they will always be
Turning around, this old world, turning around

All God's creatures have their own way
Knowing how and what to do
Buzzing bees and birds a singing
Like I sing this song for you

Sing it like the water flowing
From the mountains to the sea
This melody that keeps on going
Pray that it will always be
Turning around, this old world, turning around

Thursday, March 06, 2008

I Don't Eat Much Meat...

...but, I do love me some Cow.

I do believe that, having been on my recent Newgrass Revival kick, one of the reasons I've been on that jag is John Cowan's singing. Yes, he had a big hair period, like in this YouTube vid of NGR doing a fun tune called, Can't Stop Now . Yes, he plays electric. But John Cowan is one of the most genuine and open artists I've ever had the pleasure to hear live. He just is unafraid to connect with you when he is delivering one of his signature ballads. I can tell you, from about three rows back, it's harder to pretend it doesn't get to you. It does. This is a very real person.

After the last couple days I was feeling kind of like I had become out of sync with the universe again. I don't really mind, I'll fall back into a rhythm at some point, but it's been a disorienting week. The political nature of the week has left me feeling a little disappointed. We had a fire in our building yesterday so we've spent the last two days trying to work in a smoke-damaged environment, HUGE air cleaning fans in our office that made so much noise that it was like trying to make calls from underneath Niagra Falls. Big things, little things. I am so tired of Hillary Clinton's voice that if I had a choice, I'd pick the HEPA air machines.

Then I read this. And this. And that's it. "Pick something and be of service."

That's all I'm sayin. That's all.

It reminds me of that old saw, what is it? Oh, somethin' 'bout "not what our country can do for your but what we can do for our country." Whoever made that up must have been just plum crazy, don't you think?

We are the heirs of the first revolution. In fact I have a distant ancestor who played a small but pivotal role in that revolution, and maybe that's why I'm not interested in hearing some of the rhetoric that while perhaps true now, does not have to remain true tomorrow. Do the ones who ride the back of the tiger always end up inside today? Not as often as they should. So we tame the tiger, that's all. Take the fun out of the ride. Give the rider some perspective.

So. I've gotta get a good night's sleep and start over. I've gotta step aside and take a breath, a clean breath, and round the corner.

(Thanks, Cow, for all the music, for your music, your way.)

Sunday, March 02, 2008

I Hear the Chariots Comin'...

It's the night before Primary Eve.

We're gettin' ready here in Ohio.

All I'm gonna say is, if you want real change, pick the candidate who is not a white man. (Hint: at the end of the day, all the other candidates, including the one with girly parts, are, politically, white men.)

However you decide, be sure to set the mood with this great YouTube clip featuring perhaps my favorite cut from Tim O'Brien's Cornbread Nation release of a couple years ago. It features Tim, members of his tour band, and NewGrassers Pat Flynn (guitar) and John Cowan (vocals). And yep, that's Casey Driessen, pied piper of my fiddle soul.

Think January 2009....

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Your Heart is the Ticket for the All Night Train

Well it sure was good to hear the Commander in Chief the other day reassure the nation that we aren’t headed for a recession. I know I felt a whole lot better, didn’t you?

I didn’t think so.

What I cannot comprehend is just how it’s possible for the leader of the free world to actually believe that. What color is the sky in his world? A lovely place it must be. And where are the people who are supposed to keep him from looking stupid, or at the very least, help him to hang on to a small shred of credibility? Shit, if I did my job like that, we’d be out of business.

In my world, which I like to refer to as, the real world, things a lot different. People are losing jobs, and by golly, their houses at an alarming rate. It’s possible Dubya doesn’t know anyone who lives in Cleveland where the foreclosure rate is among the highest in the nation. Maybe he can’t spell “foreclosure”, or pronounce it. Same with, “recession”, or, “economy”, or even “Euro.” Thems some big words.

A lot of people are also killing each other. Today I turned on the news, for about three minutes. After the story of a kid who shot and killed a well-loved, effective, dedicated Cleveland cop, a cop who looked like him, a cop with two good kids and a wife who works as a nurse, I just kind of gave up. And this week was an improvement. I only heard about one school shooting, down from a couple a week the last few months.

Then there are people who killing their kids, themselves, their spouses, their parents.

The world is wild at heart and spinnin’ on top.

Today I woke up and diligently set about to some basic financial housekeeping. After tallying up expenses and obligations for the next two weeks, I’m really bumping right along the bottom. It’s definitely uncomfortable. A cash basis is great, except that, you can run out. But it’s cool, I dropped my taxes off and about three bags of clothing for Goodwill. I’m extremely fortunate that I have stuff I can give away.

On my way to my CPA I passed his office (we had yet another fresh blanket of snow and everything looked the same) and had to go a ways before turning around. My accountant lives and works in one of our area’s more well-off communities; his address is on a lovely road populated with nice new homes, a beautiful new elementary school, and well-kept old Western reserve homes. As I drove along, I crossed a bridge, and suddenly I was in quite different territory. That fast.

As I crept out into the road to make my way to a good turn around spot, it was as if I had crossed the tracks more than literally. The sudden lack was evident everywhere. How could it be? I kept driving sort of in disbelief that just a mile behind me were neighborhoods that are picture of robust financial health. I turned around in the driveway of a broken down trailer park not two miles from the road I had been on.

It was just strange. And suddenly I didn’t feel I was in such bad shape anymore.

The world is wild at heart, and spinnin’ on top. And our President is perfectly comfortable saying things like the fact that he hadn’t heard gasoline could top $4 a gallon:

"That's interesting. I hadn't heard that. ... I know it's high now."

This afternoon I thought about my kids and how much we have going on right now, and how they need adults to set the example. Sometimes I feel badly that we talk about the economy – the other night my son and I tried to explain what “the economy” was to my daughter, and I think we got mixed results at best. But they understand that money is tight, not just for us, but that things are pretty tough for Americans right now and the prospects for any sort of “robust growth” is a pretty imaginative endeavor. I think it’s important that they understand that big banks made some bad loans and now we’re all paying for it, including their schools (Ohio is one of the states that uses property values as the basis for school funding. BRILLIANT.)

But mostly I just hold them close, try to steer them in the right direction, and hope they pay attention in school. We try to have fun, and I try not to worry about the Not Recession and what it might mean for my half of the family. I apologize that I have to work and that I don’t have as much time off as I wish I could, but that the people in my company stick together and do good work. They don’t know that the couple I work for hadn’t paid themselves a few times so the rest of us could eat and pay our bills.

So thanks, Mr. President, for your rosy perspective, but if it’s all the same to you I’ll just keep working and give that little “relief package” of yours to a worthy organization or two to actually help somebody. (And here’s a secret – be sure to report that stimulus check as income on your 2008 returns, everybody.)

And I’ll try to create for my children some sense of normalcy, some belief that not all the grownups in charge are complete crackers or as dumb as a bag of hammers.

The other night I stood for a minute or two and watched my daughter sleep, and this tune came to mind. I love this song by New Grass Revival, whom I can’t seem to get enough of lately. All Night Train is an ode to childhood if ever there was one. It reminds me of the way, when I’m with my siblings, that we look back on that life we had out the country and wonder how we ever survived coming into the real world. When I watch my daughter sleep, I think, this is what being a kid really is, the surrender to dreams and play and trust, not this bullshit we’re giving our overscheduled, over-spanked, under-loved, uber-videogame-proficient shorter versions of ourselves.

Tonight, I really hope you’ll listen to this song. You need to take yourself a ride on the All Night Train, try to go back and capture those times when you felt safe, sure, loved. Then, whether you have kids or not, pass that feeling on. Please.

All Night Train
New Grass Revival (from the 1977 release, The Storm Is Over)
I remember the Pittsburgh snow
White as a hospital coat
Taxi tires leave wrinkles in the street
All the way down to the station
And I believe in Superman, and I’m just eight years old
And grownups never make mistakes
And the big trains always go

Somewhere there’s an All Night Train
That we went riding on
In the safety of our childhood
The innocence of our song
The trouble with the All Night Train
That we went riding on
You can ride to Indiana
But you can’t ride for long

I remember the sound of the wheels
Scratch of the carpeted seat
The whistle blows in the early morning
Shadows leap at the windows
And I’m not afraid of the dark and I’m just eight years old
And nothing breaks that can’t be fixed
And the grownups always know

Somewhere there’s an All Night Train
That we went riding on
In the safety of our childhood
The innocence of our song
The trouble with the All Night Train
That we went riding on
You can ride to Indiana
But you can’t ride for long

Now I’m a grownup adult
With all that I lost track of
Sittin’ in the sun on the back porch, dreamin’
I was so naïve
Sign said tomorrow, but sometimes even now
I wish I was on the All Night Train
I’d catch it, but I don’t know how

Somewhere there’s an All Night Train
That we went riding on
In the safety of our childhood
The innocence of our song
The trouble with the All Night Train
That we went riding on
You can ride to Indiana
But you can’t ride for long