“I don’t see you through the windshield/

 I don’t see you in faces looking back at me/

 Alcohol doesn’t have much that matters to say/

 Can’t imagine where you and time to kill will stay”

-Uncle Tupelo,  “Still Be Around”

The holidays have come and gone, and in a dozen ways I am so very glad that they’re in the rearview mirror. While family times were enjoyed by friends all around, my little tribe of three strove to define yet another version of normal. Long after they’d gone to bed, I would indulge a big box of red cabernet and scroll back through this collection of essays and raise a glass to milestones of the last two years, marveling at how much our worlds can change with a simple cup of coffee or an opening of our hearts, only to wake up another day and as the leaves change so do our lives. In the early evening we were fortunate to have those closest to us drop by to enjoy a glass and a telling of the daily tales, but something is always missing later on as you contemplate when your someone steps around the corner and out of your daily life.

I went through the usual gestures of decorating the old house, to try and make our place cozy for the season. Visited my brother in Salt Lake City to try and reset the paradigm of normal and get a different view on the everyday life while drowning in coffee by day and philosophizing in whiskey by night. It felt like my steady grip on life was growing tenuous again, and lurking ghosts of self-doubt began to emerge with the passing of time. I tried to sweat the demons out on the fretboard of the guitar, trying to harness some creative fuel, trying to make sense of it. It was bullshit, though, because we cannot swap endeavors for people who own pieces of our soul and enormous chunks of our hearts.

“When the bible is a bottle/
And the hardwood floor is home/
When morning comes twice a day or not at all”

Watching the rest of the world gleefully embrace the notion of the holiday season began to dig a little deeper into my own mindset; I observed dryly to my mother on the phone one night that their social life in their 70’s was more involved than anything I could conjure up in my 20’s & 30’s, and it seemed wickedly out of balance. Finally stepping out to dinner with a friend who can appreciate one hell of a backstory over wings and beer, he convinced me to screw up the courage to address the missing piece in my life, using words simple and honest.

And she wrote back.

This heart is capable of a great love for all of the people in my world, and treasure them I do, but there is a definite Area 51, the contents of which can never be shared with anyone else, and that’s just a fact I’ve learned to embrace. And that’s okay, I think we all have those places in our soul reserved for someone, if we can just get past the walls we erect in self-defense.

 “If I break in two will you put me back together/
When this puzzle’s figured out will you still be around/
To say you’ve just been there/
Walking the line upside down”

So I began pouring out from the heart again. Packed up all of the holiday reminders of a season rather forgotten. Got ordained, and used the online licensure to marry off one of my best friends to her fiancee in a gay-friendly wine bar because why not fly your finger into the face of rigid fundamentalists in the name of love? I decided to give my liver a rest for January because its earned the right to a break after some heavy lifting last month. I took a chance and reached out again, maybe foolishly. I’m learning, daily. More than half of this lifetime is likely done, and given the lifespan of firefighters, it’s an uphill battle to earn the latter years, and I won’t waste them silently in regret for not being true to this old soul. I’ll give these boys of mine, the people I treasure in my world, the old Martin guitar on my wall my best attempts and my heart, all of it, except that one piece that can belong to no other.







Hear: Uncle Tupelo’s “Still Be Around”