The wisdom of shark heads, quarterbacks and old-school Billy Joel

stormtrooper cap queens grant stallions (2)

It’s 12:17 a.m. and this day has gone so long it’s wrapping around into the next.

I have cobwebs on my blog or at least on my comments and if your blogs were my goldfish, you’d all be belly up in algae-riddled muck. I’m the blogging equivalent of the boyfriend who texts you at 2 a.m.

It’s 12:19 now and I should be doing a million other things.

Looking for a job, for instance. Not eating this quarter pounder on a plate, stage right. Boiling water for the sleepytime tea I’ve had every night. Answering comments or brushing my teeth or, maybe even sleeping before my 2.5-hour trip to Raleigh at 7 a.m.

Instead I’m typing very fast because this is important, for me at least.

The Universe tries to reach me through friends who want to drill-sargeant me into shape or through posts who tell tales of people who’ve trusted in the wind and left it all to fate or in Instagram followers who promise me a life on my own terms if I’ll only listen.

tacos (2)
But first (and last), tacos.

To Walmart we go

I’ve found, however, that the Universe’s best profundity happens not amongst the chaos of direct messages, but from the subtle nudges in the silence.

It can come on days when people just give up on you or you can’t stop itching your elbow long enough to finish a slew of harsh edits to your work. It can come on days that your children ask you to pick them up and take them to Walmart to get drinks and you do it.

And while you’re there you buy a shark head to wear for only $4.95 and that’s 75% off.

You wear this ridiculous headgear right out the doors of Walmart and you hear your kids snicker but not bemoan you, and you see them walking behind you with their cameras capturing it all. What kind of dad does this kind of shit?

This kind of dad, the same kind who has taken on a facial twitch on his right cheek not because of some dreaded nerve disorder but because the weight of his world has been crammed into a knapsack filled with cactus needles and scorpion tails and set on fire.

It only feels that way. Others forge a more challenging path, for sure. I’m just a writer on the outs, who is still writing at, dare I say, the best clip I’ve ever clipped. Challenge me. I’ll write your ass under the table and make you a quesadilla afterward.

I feel this as I wait in Interstate 85 traffic heading into Bessemer City for a football game at a place that normally doesn’t save me a seat but you know, the sky is a brilliant array of blues and grays and pinks and I have a full cup of Coke Zero, stage left.

mysterious note (2)
This showed up on my desk. I asked no questions.


Don’t mind if I do

It feels this way when I arrive in the press box to an open seat with rosters printed for me, and boxes and boxes of chicken wings and fish sandwiches and homemade cake lined up in the back of the room. Help yourself, jackass. Why thanks. I think I will.

It feels this way when there’s a great game to cover, a storied rivalry with surprising twists and a fetching band teacher with a swoony smile and did I mention the homemade pork rinds?

Let’s not get carried away. It was just a game I got $50 to write about. But I talked to a kid who wound up the hero, even though he was third string when the season started. And I spoke with star twins who asked me to make them sound smart in the paper.

Character is not about how you handle success, it’s about how you handle failure, the quarterback was telling me, all of a sudden disingenuously sullen and smirking.

The kid asks me to put that in the paper and you know what? I did, dammit. It does sound smart. At least to me. Because I should be brimming with character. Not solely because I’m brimming with failure, but I have it in me, too.

It’s in handling the impossible possibly.

It’s in stopping to listen to messages, not through other people, but through life. It’s hearing this kid’s mantra and loving the act behind it more than the words. It’s simply turning on the radio after you’ve written your story in a Bojangles parking lot.

And filed it at McDonald’s because the Wi-Fi petered out.

fruity hat (2)
I might have loved her, fruity hat and all.

The songs …

Songs have spoken to me before in times of need. In the weeks leading to my dad’s death, something utterly profound happened over the radio waves on a sullen gray day on my way to Duke Hospital. It’s extended to now and even yesterday, it happened again.

I won’t tell that story here because it’s 12:46, and let’s be honest, I’m going to need that chamomile tea more than ever.

The songs, two, came on in succession and they were giftwrapped for me. The first, Elton John’s Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me. (I’ve chosen George Michael’s version here, because I’ve always secretly (and now not so secretly) wished to sing like him.)

I can’t light no more of your darkness
All my pictures seem to fade to black and white
I’m growing tired and time stands still before me
Frozen here on the ladder of my life

For three minutes AT LEAST I allowed myself to wallow.

I mean, I belted this fecker out. Without wavering. I imagined singing it at karaoke at work, a fitting goodbye. A perfectly shitty, pathetic, weak-ass fitting goodbye. But I needed it. I needed this song to get out of my system and move me on.

The second song came, and rocked my ass.

Then, a latch.

I rocked this one out, too. I felt every sentiment, even stronger than the troublesome wallows of Elton and George. I could hear the latch click locked the moment it came on. Thank you, Billy Joel, for Moving Out (Anthony’s Song). (Clearly, this is Eli’s song.)

I’m so NOT New York, but the sentiment reaches the stinky plains of Northeastern Colorado and the bustling piedmont of North Carolina. Both places I’ve lived, you see.

And it seems such a waste of time
If that’s what it’s all about
Mama, if that’s movin’ up then I’m movin’ out.

Why yearn to write where your words are clearly not wanted?

I’m not ready to let go and let God, or toss it up in the wind and watch it rain down on me in newly configured pieces. But I’m on this train now and there’s no cord to pull. There is, though, this post, this moment, this assurance I’ll be back with you here again.

And there’s a kid who kicks ass in soccer playing in a big tournament in less than 12 hours and I have to drive her awesome ass all the way to Raleigh in a while.

It’s only 12:59. And I’ve got the kettle on, feckers.

matakas quote detachment


24 thoughts on “The wisdom of shark heads, quarterbacks and old-school Billy Joel

  1. Moving Out – awesome song/ message! Time for a new job huh? Sounds like you’re right in the mix, making big changes, like so many others right now. Not a place that’s comfortable to be in, and yet, can be exciting in a terrifying sort of way. (I’m writing this comment knowing zero details other than what you’ve written here). It also sounds like it’s time to step forward into your new life perspective, and that’s a beautiful thing.

    Regarding letting go and letting God, that’s a place I often come to only when I’m crammed into a corner. It’s that spot when I feel like I’ve done everything I can and things still aren’t going my way; so rather than butting my head continually into a wall, I stop, try to let all sorts of fear-filled thoughts go, and try to keep the faith that things always work out for my benefit (in the long run).

    I’m holding the picture in my heart that you’ll find a job that’s right for you.

    1. Moving Out is strangely uplifting. The time has come for me to move on from my job. It’s going around, and this new moon in November feels like as good a time as any. When I apply for a job, I envision life there, and it’s positive, the change, the new start.

      When you’re crammed in a corner, often it is just you and God. Faith goes a long way, and releasing attachment makes the the path, no matter where it leads, smoother.

      I love the picture in your heart of me in a job that’s right for me. I told the family about jobs I looked into today, places that wanted to talk to me, and Camdyn had the best question: “Are these fun jobs, dad? Will you like them?” I hope so, darling. I need to keep that in mind as I search.

  2. Did I miss something?? I thought I had read everything… when did you quit your job?
    I hope your daughter does well today in her tournament!
    Street tacos are the best! Aren’t they?
    Sometimes we all need to wear the weird hat and put a smile on the faces of our kids… that is what makes the world go round!
    Songs are great when they can say exactly how we are feelings. Sooooo.. do you listen to songs to match your mood? Or do you listen to music to change your mood?
    I mostly listen to songs that match what I am feeling at that moment.. but sometimes I need to get out of a funk so I put on my sunshine music CD I made. Aerosmith (Sweet Emotion) Eagles (Hotel California) and (Those Shoes) Styx (Renegade) and (Too much Time on My hands) Bob Seger (Loved to Watch her Strut) Van Halen (Finish What you Started) and (Right Now)
    Yes I will rock out with the windows down and sunroof open! LOVE It! ❤

    1. I haven’t quit yet, Courtney, but the days are numbered. Camdyn’s team made the final, and she scored all their goals on the weekend – including two on my birthday! Street tacos are a little glob of heaven in a corn tortilla.

      My dad entertained a lot of people in the cancer ward at Duke Hospital while he was a patient there, just by putting a red clown nose on over his mask.

      I’d say I listen to music and notice what resonates. I feel like I’m supposed to get a message sometimes through music.

      Wow … your mix sounds like something I should listen to before a game! I used to listen to Beethoven’s ninth to calm me before games. Then I switched to AC/DC and such. I’ve since migrated back to classical.

      Rock on, sister. Rock on

  3. Ah, Eli. Some days are diamonds and some days are stone. I’ve been unemployed since February. It is aggravating and frustrating. We are hurting financially. But what I do, what job I have does not define me; I do. And to let go and let God does not mean you stop doing what you know you should, but rather to let go of the worry. Give it to Him. Let Him shoulder it. Give Him your dreams and let Him show you new ones.

    What about those Astros!?

    1. Thanks, Barbara. And every day has diamond potential, doesn’t it? I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. It’s tough not knowing what you’ll do day to day, yet know that if you can just get that one call … And still, the bills come in. It’s times like these that it’s more illustrated for us how much more we are than the jobs we do, or did.

      The worry, that’s the burdensome part, isn’t it? Just have to have faith.

      Yes, and those Astros! At least I don’t live in a world where the dodgers are World Series champs. Colorado could have given them a run had they gotten past Arizona!

  4. i’m sorry it’s a little of ups and lots of downs at the moment. for some reason i didn’t know you were looking for a new job. just adds to the pile o’ worry, i’m quite sure. we are here when you are here and know you will find your way once again. in the meantime you have those amazing girls. and tacos.

    1. Thanks, Beth. I haven’t had time to write about looking for a job! I’m hopeful on a couple of counts today, though. I love that I have this place to come to – and look forward to visiting your place again, soon

      Tacos and there girls are great ways to keep things in perspective!

  5. Oh, the last quote brought tears to my eyes. Maybe it’s because I, too, am in a place of uncertainty. Maybe it’s because I feel the intensity and raw emotion of what you’ve written. Well done in your sharing. You’ve made us all feel a little more human.

    1. That quote really hits home, doesn’t it, Kay? I wish you clarity on your journey. i’m humbled that what I’ve written resonates. Thanks for reading it, and for sticking around when things are kind of out of whack around here. I miss this community.

  6. I love the quote about Character – if only everyone handled failure in a manner that made them look like the winner, right? I wish you the best of luck in the new chapters that come your way. Just please don’t stop writing these posts because they are as always, BRILLIANT.

    1. Glad you liked that quote, Tiffy – it seemed the perfect wrap-up. Thank you for the well wishes, too. I’ve found that it feels better to write, but even better to get to these comments. I’ve missed you guys.

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