hlpflwthat's Blog

Finding New Places

You're still here? Shall we wallow in these ruins together? Wallow on ... I choose to sift - daily - and I continue to find. Surprised? 

Had a look at the new RtT site this morning. Signed up and wandered for a while. Some faces made me smile, of course, and there was a lil mysteriousness to it all -
like a masquerade of fresh usernames.

I don't know that the rest of it felt at all fresh. It felt a little bit like moving on ... to look for the past.  It's like a deja vu beginning, if that can exist.

Nowhere was this more evident than when some lost soul lamented the paywall on the 'sexual' side of the site. He was quickly shown the door by commenters who assured him he is free to return to the 'cesspit' that is Ep. Quite honestly, the ref shoulda tossed the flag for piling on. A little light on responding with respect and support, though I've no doubt the responders were authentic.

"We are working on our profanity filters." Are you kidding me? I promise not to bring shame on my bff who pointed me toward this old new place, but let's be realistic - 'profanity filter?' I'll be lucky to make April. 


Can We Still Blog Here at Ep?

This is a test run to see if I can.

Bay of Banderas

I'm at Conchas Chinas, at the edge of the mountains and jungle and sea. I write from my tiny balcony while I wait for the birds to wake up. I wish I'd thought to bring along my handbook of North American birds, because aside from the customary black Minahs seen most everywhere in Mexico, I haven't recognized a single species in the neighborhood. They are colorful and they are plentiful. Particularly interesting are a pair of hummingbirds that are just humongous - for hummingbirds. I can hear them in the treetop 50 feet below me. They make a cracking sound each time they change direction.

The locals call Conchas Chinas 'the Beverly Hills of Banderas.' Aside from the TV show, I have no experience with Beverly Hills. But it is not wasted on me that a hllbilly somehow wound up at a place like this. Our 13 units are nestled among almost unbelievable private homes carved into the granite mountainside. The grade or slope of the mountain is so severe that these homes are constructed with 6 or 8 stories of concrete wall and pillars to create a couple thousand feet of flat space above. I can't imagine the cost of doing this. But I can say that the vistas created are worth the effort to those who can aford to do it. And there are evidently plenty who can afford to do so.

We're pointed west toward the bay, and each evening provides gogeous sunsets. To the north we can see the modest towers of Puerto Vallarta, and at night the entire city there is outlined in twinkling lights. We rode taxi to Puerto Vallarta yesterday, and met with 3 of my cousins and there families and friends. A good deal of rum and tequila was sacrificed, and dear Karla was even able to produce some Canadian Whisky that capped the evening off perfectly. For an hour or two, I envied their location - overflowing with luscious young bikinis and thongs. But as we slipped back south through the night, I was happy to leave the clatter and clang of the city behind. Here the sounds of the night are voices and the surf. I like that much more than horns and sirens and constant thump of the city's night.

I sat with Vonnegut, Koontz and Hemingway this week, but they are gone now. I'm always sad to see them leave. But I'm happy for the time they spend sharing their stories. If my schedule allows, I plan to spend some time still with a John Green - who my daughters assure me is a very entertaining writer. We shall see.

Gotta run now. My Nescafe Classico needs refilling and I need the binoculars so I can memorize these birds around me. I'm heading into the jungle on an ATV tour in a few hours. Maybe I'll find time to share highlights tomorrow. Be well.

Peace ... hllbilly

How Do You Tell?

How do you tell when you're done? I didn't really want to ever be done here. But I feel more foolish every time I stop in. This is not what I knew. And what I knew mattered. This place does not. ... same at kik

Moments in Raw Emotion

 lacremae rerum ~~ There are tears for things.

The little man in this video shares what many of us can never share. I call him a man because he chooses to accept the raw of his emotion ... to experience it ... to breathe it in ... in front of his loved one.


Maybe he's seen the video with A Great Big World and Christina - we don't know. But I doubt Ian Axel and Ms Aguilerra often get this satisfaction from one of their performances. Critics can't say what this video says. Reviews can't mean what this video means. Tears are honest.

If you haven't seen the original vid, it's worth the watch and listen.


What Did I Do Now?

Am I in jail again for something? I can't post a story - can't even get to the story box. I click 'Share My Story' and nothing happens.

I been a pretty good boy recently .. or so I thought. I did get a lil lippy and call out a plagiarist couple days ago. I wasn't smart enough to flag her for it before she blocked me, so she may have flagged me. You'd think I'd learn. If anyone else is having trouble posting. please lemme know. Misery loves company.

And if anyone wants to go flag the SelenaAvelanado chick - or whatever his name is - be my guest. Every fuckin one of the stories is a copy/paste from some erotica site. Though she/he knows decent writing when they see it.

Blog Bugs

  In keeping with my idea to post first here in the blog, I'm doing that here. I'll be copy/pasting the body of this to 'I Want To Improve The Experience Project' in hopes of getting some answers - or attention - from Arsineh. It should also offer a spot for input and response that isn't currently available here in the blog section. I am not anxious at this point to draw much attention to any increase in blog traffic ***

I have some questions about the blog portion of the site. I'm hoping Arsinah or someone else can help me with answers. Maybe this is something that hasn't been brought to Ep staff's attention.

First, the open source CK Editor is a very useful tool for web writing. When it works right, it offers a lot of nifty options for publishing. Some of the features 'offered' in the blog post toolbar work as intended - adding an image or embedding a video or changing font style or size. But many of the tools appear to work when creating, but are lost when a piece is posted - like the colors, backgrounds, or right-justification feature. Is there some reason these are offered but not actually usable?

Second - and this has been so for as long as I care to remember - the orange or red notification menu at upper right does not operate the same at a blog page as it operates at other pages. We might see that we have a notification, but we cannot drop-down or open the notification at the blog page. When we click the notification for messages, new fans/friends or activity, we get only an option to 'see all' ... messages, friends or activity. The normal drop-down of selections isn't there like it is on other profile or story pages.

Finally, blog activity - that I can tell - is not included in our homestream. It also appears to me that blog activity is not included in the notifications of activity in that upper right notification menu either. Isn't there some way the blog could once again be included in activity notices?

Are these personal bugs that are only happening to me? Or is there a rationale behind not utilizing all features of CK Editor and excluding blog traffic from the notification system here at Ep?

How We Saved Ep

Thanks for stopping by. I'd apologize for the shameless spammin, but I really wanted to speak with you one last time. Nooo ... this isn't some statement bout my eminent departure. Near as I can tell, you're still using Ep in some fashion or another - and I'm glad that you're still here. But despite all the time I while away here, I haven't been sharp enough to keep track of you the way I could with the old activity feed.

Think it's safe to say the old Ep ain't comin back? Me too. The only constant is change. I'm not the only or the first man to say that. But I say it a lot. Because I think about it a lot ... change. The march and pace of it. The inevitability. The evolution. Have only the strong survived?

Think it's safe to say not all change is for the better? Me too. But when I look closely, it seems rare - if ever - that humans truly go back to the old way. "We'll go back to the old way 'but' ... we'll quit using the sledgehammer to drop em." Well there you go. That's not really the old way at all. Most often, we adapt to change and try then to improve on that. And if you think about it carefully, even 'goin back to the old Ep' would now be a 'change.'

What do I miss from the old Ep? Well 'you' of course ... I know you're here ... but I think it's prolly a lil less than you were back then ... and maybe that's not an entirely bad thing for any of us. And maybe more sorrier than that, it seems that maybe(like me) you're here by yourself most the time. The 'lonely' of that is what has driven away many of those who have already left. Disagree?

Think it's safe to say we ain't congregatin any more? Me too. The changes in circle structure and the activity feed have taken away the ease of community. We don't gather at someone's story because we don't even know they've written a story - if in fact we've mastered the latest 'title-less' story-postin format. And like that bigass snowball roarin downhill, we compound things and quit writing and sharing ... because we don't think anyone sees(cares?) what we'd post. I think most of us know that ain't true ... we just don't see how to do anything about it.

There is some darkness ... or maybe weakness ... in considering a community that can be extinguished by change ... like the simple switching of a format. Yet when I consider the group of you remaining, I see strong - not weak. It has been embarassing - to me - that I've been unable to interact with all of you(as well as I used to) because some new hire in the Bay Area made the dumbass changes he has. Surely this community(with you in it) is strong enough to survive, if we can only find a means to find each other again. If we can only get back to our circle.


I think I can be helpful with that.

Better to be lucky than good.  -- hllbilly 101

I've found a place our community can gather. Maybe not like we used to, but better than we are this morning. We can have our circle back. There is exactly one place left we can filter Ep life down to our actual circle, and it ain't exactly in the corner of some small room down in the basement. I go in there more than most and it ain't bad. It's more like some dusty big old unused ballroom.

You haven't blogged in forever here - maybe never. None of you save for maybe Shanny and Eve and Annie. Most of you couldn't even find the blog page any more. But it's here - and it may be the way you get some of your 'old Ep' back.

Get to the bottom of this page - use 'end' if you're on a keyboard. Click 'Blogs' - next to the other unused features like 'Confessions' and 'Dreams' ... or 'Suggestions.' The page is pretty simple. There's a blue bar with selections for 'Recent' and 'Popular' and 'My Circle.' Clcik 'My Circle' ... and your back to the old Ep and the ones that matter to you.

Now unless your own personal circle has been much more inclined to blog than my own personal circle, there ain't a lot listed in your circle ... save for the peace-lovin hllbilly. Hardly an appetizin diet.

This is where the effort comes in. This is the change necessary if you want some semblance of your old Ep back.

You have to share again. You have to  be a community. And to do that you - and your circle - have to at least start your sharing ... through your blog. After you posta piece in your blog, you can certainly copy/paste it to a group or a confession or wherever else you might now be posting. So long as you blog it first, I will see it, read it, and comment - if appropriate. Often even when I'm not appropriate.

There are some up and down sides to posting in Ep blog as opposed to posting another Ep story. All of the downs can be eliminated by also posting your blog as a story. I've done it on and off over my 4 years. The redundancy is hardly any trouble now that we don't know what each other are posting anyway.

With a blog post you have control over privacy.
You can still use an image if you like ...

You can even put a title on your piece. Remember when you could do that? This is not a revolution. Maybe it could be. But for now, let's try some evolution.

If you're tired of the same old story .. Turn some pages
'Be' ... in my circle again. Where I can find you.
I'll be here when you are ready to roll with the changes. Peace.



Holy Crap

Through homestream activity I discovered I had joined the "I Am A LIbertarian" group.
Not even. I am not even CLOSE to being Libertarian. I am an outted Progressive. Anyone have any idea how long I had that on my profile? It FEELS like having 2 Girls 1 Cup on me.

4th Down

"This is our 5th year, baby. And it feels like I'm in jail."


This is the first year I've noted my Ep birthday. I stumbled in here December 2, 2009 and I'm still wandering around. The only reason I'm noting it this year is that the topic 'came up' in recent conversation with another Ep long-timer a week or two ago. She's been here longer than I.


In the past, December 2 came and went. It wasn't like another year here was exactly an accomplishment – we all just kept charging on into another year of zany social-ness, 365, 24/7. Now, it seems I rarely talk long with any Ep member before concern about changes in the site come up. There can be no denying the site is much different.


So this year on my Ep birfday, I wonder whether I'll do another 365 of Ep – or not. I'm not making any big announcement here today. Fact is, I feel a loyalty to those of you still here, that I didn't feel so strong a year ago. I decided to write something as a treat and tribute to all of you still around. Yes – I'm gonna share.


There isn't much I haven't shared here. Yet save for several who've become pretty close friends, I've never spoken about how I came to be at Ep. I will answer occasionally that I was doing research, if it'll help me evade someone prying. And there's some truth to that – I was definitely researching.


I think I'm not likely the only Epeep is a bit embarrassed about the route that got me in the door. It didn't take long to reason others might feel the same. So I quit asking the question. I think at some point there was a group here where folks shared why they were here. I don't know about 'how they got here.'


I found Experience Project through a link in a comment at TWLOHA. For some of you, that's all you need to see. You're 'ahh-ing' and nodding your heads. For the rest of you, I am a self-harmer … an 'sh-er' I call it. TWLOHA stands for 'To Write Love On Her Arms' … something cutters often do with a razor blade. I am not a cutter. I am a burner. There are other flavors of sh as well. There are those who combine flavors.


Let me ease some of your concern. I haven't practiced this in more than 30 years. I'm a success story, if there can be one. But it's kinda like alcoholism or other not-so-great behavior: Once a burner – always a burner.


As the dark months of Winter 2009 moved in, hllbilly was in a not-so-great place. Change was taking place in my industry – housing – like we will never see again. The good, long ride was ending. My partners and I had been discussing and then predicting the arrival of the end. We were pretty certain the prosperous pace could not continue. We resolved to prepare for it and do the right thing. As we helped our employees find suitable work, we shrunk our operation till only us owners were involved, and then went our separate ways.


For me, the separate way was not spelled out, and hllbilly doesn't do well absent a plan and path. Without either, I decided to write. It's kept me away from The Deeps in the past. I hadn't written anything in 20 years. I had no clue what it was I might write. I knew that I should write about something I understood … something that meant something to me. For a brief moment I juggled the idea of nothing meaning 'enough' back and forth. I wasn't feeling anything. And that set off something in my way back. I knew one way to feel something for sure.


And I knew I had no business messing around with that way.


I googled 'self harm.' Wham. Jesus. I couldn't believe how out in the open the issue is today. As a teen, I simply assumed I was the only sick fuck would tear the stick from a match and light the head between his finger and thumb tip. I'm not sure if the internet would made much difference, had it been available in the 70s.


For a couple days I poked and snooped here and there in the volumes shared and written on self-harm. One evening – December 2, evidently – I clicked that link to Ep. For a couple more days, I read experiences of other self-harmers. At first I interacted and tried to offer some hope that things can get better. Very few folk ever are comfortable with their sh secrets.


But I began to feel like a reformed drunk hanging out at the corner tavern … there was a solid chance I end up taking another drink. So about a week later, I did what I started out to do – write. Ep has been a great place to do that. I don't know that it's the best place to do it any longer, for me. We'll see. But now you know how I came to be at Ep. Still not sure where I'm going. Seems like a long way off. Peace.


December 2, 2013


Sing It, Country Joe

'Graveyard of Empire'

Has a lonesome roll to it. Cool ... in a Long Road Out of Eden kinda way. Accurate? Ask the men of St. Pete if they weren't glad to be back in the USSR, fractured or not. Play the oboe. Surely that must be the tune hangs so heavy across a land like Afghanistan.

We're different of course. Aren't we always? Ghengis didn't stay. Alexander Bigs didn't either. Let's just be honest. The Khyber is an exit - not a pass.

This week 3 dozen US troops approached a 'valued target' in Afghanistan. Valued target usually means some guy in a house, but a house unlike anything you yourself can imagine. Bin laden was a valued target. Call out resulted in a guy coming out of the house, lifting his shirt to show he's IED-free. As they began questioning the man, a woman ran from the house, explosives strapped to her body, and self-detonated.

Medics and powder monkeys moved in to assist and secure. As many as 13 more devices exploded. Wounding more. Killing more. The first Angels landed at Dover Wednesday ... Whisky Tango Foxtrot? FISHDO. These Angels are the final casualties of our twelfth - as in one full dozen - year in the graveyard. 

Sometimes 13 isn't unlucky. This could be our year. Maybe we win this year.

How will we know if we do? Is there a chance we've already won? Is there a chance we cannot win? Is it possible there is nothing to win? Do you want Afghanistan? I don't. I don't know anyone who wants Afghanistan. What would you do with it? What could you make of it? Heroin?

You don't give a rat's ass about Afghanistan. Neither do I. So let's quit pretending and quit making Angels.


Peace. Eventually. Sooner the better.

Shot of a Lifetime

A lot of photography is simply having your camera at the ready when needed.

Catching that once-in-a-lifetime shot is impossible without the lens, so you carry it with you. This is much easier now that our phones have cameras.

When I came upon this scene I was almost breathless. I admit I stood there slack-jawed for a minute, before I thought to point and shoot. There amid an everyday scene was something almost surreal in it's rarity. It was actually difficult to wrap my eyes and mind around the sight. But seeing is believing. Indescribable. Let your eyes take it in.

Yes. A dog driving a car.

Dive Too Deep

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Open Confession

Been quite a June ... here at Ep.

Once again I see a rather large number of my circle contemplating a departure. You'd think by now I'd have some standard operating procedure, considering the years I've been here. I don't. The truth is, every departure here is  very personal ... very individual ... very serious, for the 'contemplator.' It always feels different. Losing someone here from my circle always affects me. But the 'Jonestown' incidents - as I call them - certainly garner a lot more activity.

There have been changes in format and aesthetics and availability. Veteran members in my crew have dealt with that before ... many times. But if my reach is right, the most disturbing matter among my circle is the acknowledgment we're bein studied. Yeah - like some big kinda experiment.

And - since this is a monumental moment in the Ep annals - I am adding my declaration. A confession really.

I have been studying you too.

An old friend is an anthropologist. I met her here, in fact, years back. We eventually came to that point in an Ep relationship where I asked "How did you find this place?"

"I searched I want to know everything " was her answer.

My contention is that you have to be a little bit nuts to study anthropology. Humans studying humans. Think about that. 'I study myself.' Does she ever(poke). Anthropology is like taking a picture of that picture of the mirror on the wall - where the reflections span on into theoretical infinity. I have learned a lot from her, and making me think in her anthropological fashion has been good for me. If we look at optimal study as 'learning', then anthropology is humans learning what humans have learned. I know ... deeper.

We're all anthropologists. The sharpest of us are those who've learned the most about what we've learned. Every human on the planet uses what she or he learns about other humans every day. I'm comfortable saying the better you are at studying other humans, the more likely you are more comfortable and more safe and more secure in your life.

So back now to our original topic: If you're leaving here because people are studying you I need to confess - before you go - that I have been studying you too. And you should know that I am okay with you studying me. I'm cool with you benefiting from it as well. And I hope you don't mind if I benefit from knowing and learning about you. We're all data miners. It is what it is.

There may be more concern about the 'level' of data mining here at Ep - and by Ep. There's this feeling of being used. Yet I think almost every one of us feels good when we watch the number of reads climb at one our posts here. More is good until it isn't? Here's another confession then: The more of you that learn from anything I post here, the happier I am.

I don't know that I'd limit the number of people who learn from me or study me - as an individual or as a member of some group. I don't know that I'd censor who can learn from me. Knowledge should be free and available, in my opinion. Restricting who can learn from another boils down to censorship.

Privacy is a different matter. But I don't know that my privacy has been violated here. I haven't had any of my material show up someplace else. I know from the occasional pink square popping up that the block feature here works well - has a memory would rival any elephant. Our founders/operators/owners(gasp?) operate in a corporate style at times. Yeah - that's a pretty corporate thing of a corporation to do.

If I'm honest, I can admit that I've never seen another site where I even know who the primary operators are ... let alone see them respond in any fashion the style of this place. When you consider the size and scope of this place today, to see the COO or CEO respond to stories and comments is pretty exceptional ... when you think about it.

Know anyone who's gotten a personal comment from Mark Zuckerburg? Didn't think so. Now ask yourself whether facebook or Ep is more beneficial to society as a whole. As I see it, if a method has arrived where the operators of this place can finally see a payday from learning about all of us ... fair enough. I have certainly been benefiting from doing the same.


Records and Torches

Some things will survive, while others perish. I'm happy to have glimpsed the crocus, which arrived so late this year. Hard to picture them surviving beneath this heavy sobering blanket of white.

Records fall … torches are passed.

I spoke with a friend Sunday morning about the illogical order - and lack of order - that we call life. We were commiserating on the toll often taken by alcohol, and I shared how three of my uncles had passed long before their time ... leaving behind little ... save for a solid example on the evil of drink.

It was understandable that my flesh crawled when Dad called late Sunday afternoon to say that Uncle Bill had died. I sat here in my shorts and tshirt, watching baseball, and listened while my Dad told the tales he can remember of my Uncle's youth … my Grandparents … and the saga that is my family … my little clan of the tribe.

Uncle Bill was the oldest of my Dad's 6 siblings. 6 boys and a girl … poor Grandma. Our branch of the family tree sold several solid dairy farms here in southern Minnesota and purchased thousands of acres in Saskatchewan, with the intent of farming wheat there. It was during a trip into Saskatoon that Grandpa met the Canadian girl he would soon marry. The first 3 of my Grandparents' 7 children were born there in Canada. My father – the middle child – was the first born here in the US.

I'd likely be writing this from Canada this morning, had it not been for a rather extreme weather event. The Dust Bowl swept across North America with little regard for international borders. My generation has listened while the elders tell of tumbleweed piled up to the roof against the new barn built there in the new of Saskatchewan … a barn that would never hold hay in the mow.

Fortunately, the hills and valleys here along the Mississippi buffered that constant scorching wind that tore soil from roots across The Plains. Times were still hard to be sure, but the Holstein and Guernsey herds of Minnesota and Wisconsin survived as livestock west of here simply withered and died for lack of grazing and water.

Also fortunate was the decision to sell those dairy farms at a very reasonable price to family here in Minnesota. When word came back that the Saskatchewan Venture was indeed doomed, a plan was devised to set up my Grandpa and his sister with 2 of the 4 farms they had sold. They came back here to the hills battered and embarrassed, but not nearly so broken as many who suffered ... through first the Great Depression ... and then the Dust Bowl.

The unbalanced gender of my Grandparents' children also turned out to be fortunate. 6 sons were very useful in rebuilding a life that had come so close to devastation. My Uncle Bill made it through the 8th grade, and only at my Grandma's insistence. From that point he was expected to help my Grandparents farm until he was old enough to buy his own. The other 6 children all finished high school – again at my Grandma's insistence.

In return for his sacrifice, my Grandparents helped my Uncle Bill and his young bride purchase a farm of their own. Grandpa and the other 5 boys helped crop Bill's land as if it were their own. They helped him build a barn there. They built his farmhouse together. And it was there – in that farmhouse - that my uncle passed in his chair on Sunday afternoon, his beloved bride of 64 years out in the kitchen fixing him a sandwich.

This morning, the extreme of nature and climate is evident again. I stare out my window on May 3rd at a world so warm and balmy and alive on Sunday afternoon, now shocked and stalled in a deep blanket of record snowfall. I can't help note the return of severity these past years. I can't help wonder if once again we haven't magnified conditions with our human activities.

My poor Aunt delayed Uncle Bill's funeral until today. It was expected the freak snowfall here on Wednesday and Thursday would be melted and nothing but topic of conversation by now. Records fall.

I can see my Uncle Bill's soft smile … picture him shake his head … at the 10 inches of white that covers everything ... throwing just a little more havoc into his time here. He would turn to my father and hand him the torch, as the new elder. And he would graciously point out the 'fortunate' of it all – that it wasn't the 18 inches lying an hour west of here.



Help Wanted

My wife's brother is going through divorce after 20+ years. I don't know anyone who challenges the wisdom of their decision - his wife and him. There is sadness, of course, but in today's world there is acceptance and tolerance.

We were surprised when he and his youngest - two daughters - announced they were returning here to live. His son is 22 years already and out on his own. His son will stay in California, where he has lived since about age 2. The plan was for the girls to spend summers in California and the school year here in Minnesota.

I'll admit I did scratch my head at the logic of a 13 and 8 yo girl living most their time with a single father. But I was glad to see he certainly wasn't shirking his parental duty. Neither he nor his wife had much relative experience in the break-up thing. They were each others first relationship of any length, and they were married at 18 & 19. Their respective parents have been married forever. So none had seen divorce 'close up.'

But after couple months of settling here, it became painfully clear these girls need their mama in their lives. Maybe not every single day, but more often than three months over summer break. The youngest moved back almost immediately - the 13 yo wanted to stay here. I wondered the wisdom of splitting them. But at Xmas, the oldest returned to California for a visit - which was actually a Xmas 'surprise' - she would be staying there.

Though this is likely best for these young girls, my brother-in-law remains here almost 2,000 miles from his kids. I cannot imagine being that far away from my children as they grow up. Not surprisingly, my brother-in-law's mental health - in my opinion at least - has suffered some. He has enjoyed reconnecting with his parents and other family, but at a cost too great ... in my eyes.

Enter hllbilly. My wife thought perhaps it would be useful to her brother - if I shared my experience as a child of divorce. When my own parents split back in the 70s, divorce no longer held the stigma of the 1950s, but here in the Midwest it was hardly common. I was the only 'divorced kid' in my circle of friends.

I was a lil flummoxed at this request, for a couple reasons.

First, my brother-in-law and his wife were married very young. Had anyone asked, I would have said 'too young.' I was 28 when I tied the knot. They went straight about the business of beginning a family. Their son was born about 12 months after they wed. My father-in-law built an 'apartment' in the former apple-processing shed on his property, so the two of them would have a separate bedroom for the newborn - they were unable to afford a 2-bedroom apartment.

About 6 months after the arrival of their first, my brother-in-law's wife stepped out on him. As devastating as this was for him, to me it didn't seem so terribly surprising - that an attractive young woman of 20 might allasudden realize she may never be with another man. She confessed this to him, as the guilt was evidently too much to bear. She wasn't interested in continuing her affair. She seemed truly remorseful.

I understand there is not much in the way of a manual on 'how to deal with a cheating spouse.' And there was likely less available back at the time. It's a 'stumble through' for most of us - like most any other curve ball life decides to send blazing toward our plate.

My brother-in-law decided to deal with this by leaving town. Unannounced. He told no one he was leaving. He contacted no one to let us know he was okay - or where he was. He was fired from his job. His parents had his wife and baby living 100 feet away on their property. The three-week mark came and went and folks began to get genuinely concerned.

There was understanding for his plight. But there began to be concern he'd done something stupid. Eventually, someone pondered the most dreaded - whether he might have taken his life. Fortunately, he called my home early one Saturday morning - wanting to speak with his sister, the oldest in their family. She was working.

It seemed at the time 'best' to let him speak what he felt like saying. I did ask if he was in trouble, and he laughed that 'No ... he wasn't in any trouble.' He stated he needed time to get things square in his head ... and wasn't sure when - or if - he'd be back.

Maybe not surprisingly, I decided to gamble - and open my pie hole. I told him I thought I could understand his pain and situation. But I thought he'd better consider that leaving town without a word for his wife - or a nickel for that matter - might be seen as abandonment in the eyes of a court ... that his behavior MIGHT have consequence. I asked if he was comfortable with the thought of her taking that baby and moving off wherever SHE felt like going ... without any input or say on his part.

He hung up on me.

He was back in two days. He'd been in northern California and had located work. He was forgiving his young wife and moving the three of them out there, away from the home where both their families lived. We learned this not from him, but my in-laws. They were sick at the thought of them leaving with so little money and a 7 month child.

That Sunday morning, I had just awoken after being out late for the usual Saturday night gig. My wife and I were seated on the couch drinking first cups of coffee and reading the paper. Suddenly my brother-in-law was standin in front of us in our living room, his wife several feet behind him ... with their baby in her arms.

He launched into a tirade about my lack of faith in him ... about my failure to understand the depth of their love and commitment ... he attacked my opinion that she might ever betray him by leaving with their child and moving somewhere without his knowledge or approval. This went on for some 10 minutes, while my wife and I sat there stunned at the intrusion - me in nothing but my boxers. The look on his wife's face grew sicker as he rambled and bitched at me. Neither my wife nor I spoke one word as he vented, though I silently wondered if he'd care to tell me what it was had changed his mind - why he'd suddenly decided he'd thought about things long enough and cleared his head ... decided it best to haul ass back to Minnesota in two days' time.

When his speech ran out of ammo, he stuck a finger toward me and asked what kind of brilliant response I had 'now.'

"You are lucky your sister, wife and baby are here, or you be lying on your back on my front sidewalk."

He grabbed his wife by the arm and stormed out my door, slamming it for good measure. Other than the odd occasional time when I'd answer his phone calls, we did not speak for 8 years.

So I am cautious, to say the least, about offering him counsel again today. Secondly, it has been a very long time - 40 years - since I was 'the divorced kid' in my circle. Time has softened it all in my mind. The tragedy of it has mellowed. I see it more as positive than negative today. I recognize that my parents would not be happy together.

As my wife pestered me - that her brother was pestering her about talking to me about bein the only 'divorced kid' in his family - I realized I maybe had less wisdom on the matter than anyone expected. I had 'reached out' to both my 22 yo nephew and 13 yo niece when their parents' split became public knowledge, telling them only that I had been down the path they were on now ... that it only gets better from here ... and that I am 'here' - should they need anyone to talk with about it.

My brother-in-law and I have improved our relationship the past 10 years. That distance - between California and here - probably helped a good deal. He was not pissed, but touched - that I had taken time to contact his older children about the divorce.

Last night, he once again showed up unannounced in my living room. This time was much more civil. Neither of us is interested in battling or insulting the other. I'd had a chance to prepare some, but I still felt like I had little to offer.

I told him my story of stumbling into the 'real of it.' My mom, sister and I were shopping for groceries, when my dad came around the end of an aisle shopping for his own groceries. At that point I recall it being painfully clear ... "We don't live with Dad any more."

I also mentioned that I thought daily contact should be HIS responsibility ... that telling his kids "You call me whenever you want" is not enough. I think kids need to KNOW he wants to hear from them every day, and there's no better way to demonstrate that than to initiate that contact himself. If he's truly 'bothering' them too much, they can let their phone ring through to the message system. But even then, they'll still smile at the reassurance that 'Dad called.'

And that was all I could come up with. I know ... old motor mouth at a loss for words of wisdom. This morning it occurred to me I had not tapped all my resources. A good plenty of you have been affected by divorce in some form or another. So if you been good enough to follow me this far, what would you add? Is there something important my brother-in-law should know about his children and how they will feel in coming years - now that they also are 'divorced kids?'

I'd like to know what you think. If you'd be kind enough to add here, I'll relay any help I can to him. Thanks in advance ... hllbilly.

Yarn #1

I am working at relaying some stories for my daughters. Much of these are things I want them to know in the event I'm not here when they're old enough to hear them - yet not so young as to be bored with the telling. I've decided to share em with those of you interested enough to follow along. So if you see somethin titled 'Yarn' - expect some more of what follows here today.

I'm real, y'know. This is how I am. The o-riginal hllbilly. As often as anything, people here at EP ponder the 'real' of those they encounter … the legitimacy is important for trust … accepted anonymity is powerful courtesy. So at times we wonder can one story or the other be real … or true ... or hokum.


At the back side of 50, we're free to reflect a lil more – head back to those glory days. There's just a lot more of em at 50. I've watched this phenomena most my life. I'm a son of a tavernkeep. And I, also, have kept tavern.


Memories are magical. This is so frickin cliché I could gag … you roll your eyes ... but it's true. They're our stories – and our history. Our experiences. Some will embellish their stories. Some will wait to tell their tale until they're too far up the path to recall it with much accuracy. I see a dab of it in my parents – now well into their 70s.


With that thought in mind I have decided to write my memoirs.


*insert applause*


Why would an everyman like me write memoirs … I mean besides the money? Well in my case, it's the mortality thing … combined with my children coming later in life. There are stories my girls should all hear one day, but some of these stories will have to wait until my daughters are out of their teens, I've decided.


Something will be the end of us all – every one of us. Lightning … lymphoma … city bus with our name on it … jetliner aimed right at our building. Sometime it comes sooner than we expect. We've got the life insurance. We bought the plot and the stone. I've set aside a couple of old-timey coffee cans for the ashes(truth). My loose ends are tied up as much as most.


I don't lead a particularly cautious existence. I'm not a stunt-man or mountain climber, but I've been in the ER as often as any 3 or 4 of you combined. I get away with shit. I'm charmed … horseshoe up my backside. While I can be thankful nothing has taken me down up to this point, I have to acknowledge that the choices I made – the ones that landed me in whichever calamity I survived this time – may not be the wisest.


Might be a lucky man never has death catch up to him. Wouldn't that be somethin? But maybe a lucky man actually has no more good luck than bad – if most of his life story is about survivin.


Anyhoooo … if I go next week – and there is no pending doom for me that I am aware – I want my girls to one day know all of my story. How I became the storyteller you know here at Ep. They know where I was born and when. They've been raised among their extended family and know them. But they don't know all the stories that made me who I am.


If I stay lucky and get to tell these stories to my grown children too many times, my memoirs may curse me … prevent me from embellishing and polishing the stories when I'm in my own 70s. I can live with that I think. But it will bug me if I find myself without time to tell em all. So here we go.


I am an entertainer. One of my earliest memories is singing for my Grandma Mac.


“Have you got a song for me before you go?”


And knowin how it would make her smile, of course I did. That face was creased and wrinkled and spotted from the garden and the floods and the rearing of her 10 children. Bringing out her warmth and joy by singing a simple song … sometimes hearing her softly join me … it was such a simple thing to do – to make another feel so good.


Some people remember dates. Some are very good with names. Some hear a joke only once and recall it perfectly the rest of their lives. I recall emotion of events. I maybe recognize potential for emotion more than the average Joe. When things get hilarious or heated or solemn, I try to be tolerant and inclusive. For as sure as there is unity in the sharing of emotion, there are few things lonelier than watchin as others share - while you are not able.


I want you to keep that in mind while I get back to that 'real' thing.


Believe me, you would not be the first to shake your head while you grin ear-to-ear and chuckle “Jesus christ, hllbilly … how can you have so many god-dammed stories?”


Well actually, I doubt I have any more stories than you or the next person. I just remember different things than others. I remember the emotional shit.


“I cut myself with a sharp knife when I was preparing the chicken before I grilled.”


Well yes … yes you did. And that's an event worth remembering. No one likes to open their skin with a knife(much). And there is some emotion in the pain of doin so.


But if we're gonna tell a story bout chicken, let's talk about butcherin chickens. Let's get emotional. Let's look at how some are just freaked out by the whole ordeal. How others can go to a place of determination and reverence for the task at hand. And finally, how that one guy(the strange fucker) – he just plain-out likes butcherin.


Bring on the emotion of life. Bring out the kink. Face facts and let's tell it like it was – if it was worth some emotion.


I don't know. But I think that may be why my stories capture a listener. That sounds cocky, I know. But I think that's why there are so many of the stories to tell – what sticks out in my glory days are emotions. More than accomplishment. More than unusual. More than cool. Emotion ain't always pretty, but it stirs us … and when we recall a story and neglect to relate the emotion of it all, we sell the story short.


So I will try to tell the all of it. The emotion of it. The why of it and the how of it and the real of it. And hopefully you will enjoy it. If one day you hear me tell these stories again – with a lil better version and flavor – you'll have these pages to learn the most clear, coherent and accurate version of the story.


Of course I wouldn't put you through all this explaining and reasoning without tellin one before I go. That wouldn't be right. So here goes.


Delmar & Judith Watkins 50th Anniversary


I am an entertainer … but I never really wanted to be a star. I am not that ambitious or obsessed or driven. Thank goodness. Because I think that's why more people opt to not entertain: If they cannot be the best, they will not be at all. Self-doubt has never been much issue for me.


We are who we are … we do what we wanna do.


Or not. But those are the choices. I do what I wanna do. Making people happy by singing … and then by playing guitar … and finally by performing in a band on stage … they were all things I liked and wanted to do. So I did them.


I got paid to do it, so I was a pro. After that it's all judgment, and there's plenty of it in entertainment – most of it self-inflicted. Read the stories of a Pete Townsend or an Eric Clapton, two of the most accomplished guitarists ever. Yet. Both of em tell stories of others they felt put their own efforts to shame. There's allays someone better. Entertainers can allow this to eat them up – the envy is what leads to the obsession and drive for many.


Or they can simply accept that some will out-entertain them - and enjoy the process – get and appreciate what is offered them. That's my school. I got to play couple big auditoriums, appeared on TV couple times, enjoyed some local celebrity, I spose.


But hands down, it was the filling of a dance-floor that drove me to play music … when folks are filled with the sound you make and it moves them to move. If you can recognize and appreciate that interaction – the emotion of it – then it really doesn't matter do you get paid or not. You could live on the emotion of it.


So this first tale will not be about TV appearances or big crowds. I wanna tell you bout the emotion of an anniversary dance we played.


Delmar and Judith Watkins farmed top of one of the hills overlooking the place where I was raised. It was a farm big as most in my own family back then – good productive land. Their farmhouse was bigger than most – an addition on every side of the original 2-story box so commonly simple for the pre-depression - when most farmplaces were established here.


It wasn't enough – the land or the house. Because Delmar and Judith( no one called her Judy) had 14 children. The youngest of these – we called her 'Quick' – was 2 years younger than me. The Watkins tribe filled a couple rows at minimum of the Lutheran church here every Sunday. Judith was very active in the church. Delmar was not a church-goer, save for Easter or Christmas or the many weddings he co-sponsored. Quick had nieces and nephews plenty who were older than she. Judith was involved in most everything because Delmar was busy with little – except figuring out how to keep 14 kids fed, clothed and warm.


Maybe other places the Watkins would been a family unusual and large enough the community would take em under their wing and help as much as they could. But here in farm country – in those days – they were hardly an anomaly. I can name you a half dozen local tribes with double-digit broods faster than you can spit twice – my own Mama's among em.


So Delmar was a seldom-seen man of few words ... Judith, an ever-present woman of many tasks. And the kids … well the kids were abundant, if nothing else.


My first encounter with Judith Watkins occurred when I was 10 years old. It was my first public appearance playing music ever – unless you count the 12th birthday gig a month earlier in Susie's Plank's garage. That shouldn't really count, because our drummer Mike Plank was Susie's nephew. And we played Indian Reservation(Cherokee People) like 11 times in our second set.


The Lutheran Church held – still holds – an Ice Cream Social every summer. In the 1960s this was one of THE events in a rural town of couple hundred. All three the other guys in our band attended Grace Lutheran. I went to United Methodist one block back. Methodists are 'almost religious' compared to the Lutheran Synod, in my hometown.


Ralph and Dave's parents got the notion we should perform at this Ice Cream Social. The four of us were plenty excited at the thought of playin before most everyone in town. So we rallied up a version of 'What A Friend We Have In Jesus', 'Down By The Riverside' – a capella no less, complete with hand-clappin – and 'Will The Circle Be Unbroken.' We pushed this up to 10 songs with some old classic country music.


Most everyone agreed would be something to have live music at an Ice Cream Social. But …


When some of the women serving at the Ice Cream Social saw us hauling electric amplifiers, guitars and an actual drum-set into the basement of God's house … well … mortified may not be an ample-enough word. Even at 10 years, I and the other boys knew that pulses had gone atwitter and tongues had started waggin.


Does that music have a place in a church?”


No one said there would be drums!”


We won't be able to hear ourselves think … let alone hold decent conversation.”


Quite likely – at that time – no one save for those who'd heard bout Susie Plank's birthday were even aware there were boys in town with electric guitars and drum sets. So no one could blame em if they thought boys like 'that' - whose parents would let em mess with electric guitars – might need a quick 'talking-to' before they decided to disrupt the pleasantness of an annual Ice Cream Social. No one could blame em for failin to realize that not only our parents, but the Pastor as well, had already given us a lengthy talking-to bout proper Ice Cream Social stage and material etiquette.


Was Judith Watkins decided to give us one last reminder as we set up our sinister gear … she being no stranger to dealing with adolescents.


“I hope you boys remember this is the Lord's house – not the Wyattville ballroom. I don't even know whose idea it was for you to perform here today. But I know this and believe you me … if you embarrass whoever stuck their neck out for you, I won't hesitate to yank the cord on your fancy machines. I'll grab that guitar and El Kabong every one of you.”


We laughed at her reference to Huckleberry Hound and she smiled at us. Judith was very effective and clear. Some time later I 'd recognize how she gave us the 'out' with her statement – finished up with a laugh to put everyone at ease about her decision. I bet you learn a lot ... bout human interaction ... with a husband and 14 children.


We didn't embarrass anyone. We played to the house … to smiles like my Grandma Mac's. After out first song they asked we turn it down 'just a tad' – and we did. They clapped along to 'Down By The Riverside.' As we finished out the last verse, last song of 'Will The Circle' most those good souls stood up and gave us an ovation.


Our parents beamed. We were all ear-to-ear as we bashfully made our way back into 'the crowd.' A good deal of back-slapping and congratulating ensued. Today, it is prolly the earliest experience of community I can recall … of tolerance and acceptance.


After a half-hour or so, it was decided we should do some more music. We decided against doing something different. This was no time to waste good will. We stuck with what had buttered our bread and decided to just do em all again.


As we started the 2nd or 3rd song of the ten again, Judith Watkins approached. There was spontaneous leapin of hearts up into throats as she strode confidently and purposefully toward the 4 of us. I recall bein happy that Dave - and not I - was singing. But Judith came toward me, and I remember turning beet-red … certain that we had somehow messed something up and I was about to hear about it. Judith leaned down into my 10 year-old ear.


“If you're going to do some repeats, would you mind playing 'Green, Green Grass Of Home' one more time?”


Relief rushed down through me. I nodded affirmative in the most mature style I could muster … like I'd been handling requests all my days. Just like The Wolfman. Mrs. Watkins smiled and so did I. I added a few more affirmative shakes of my pumpkin. I looked cross the room to where my mother had her eye-brow raised. And I grinned all the wider.


We finished our song as I stepped up to the mic. I was about to add something special to a very simple(for me) task. I was going to make someone even happier than she already was.


“Folks, I don't know if we'll ever make it to the big time, but I want to thank-you all for being so nice to us. And I wanna especially thank Mrs. Watkins, for making our first-ever special request! Green, Green Grass on 5 boys! One, two, three, four. One ...”


As I sang to em all how the old home town looked the same, some of those folks broke into applause in that tiny church basement. And that did it. I was hooked. Something I could do for people made them happy enough to show appreciation. I think today, 40-some years later, that's all most of us want – to be able to do something others appreciate … appreciate enough to let us know it is 'so.'


My mama once again was beamin, and I spose the other boys' mamas were just as happy. I remember that as we finished, and I told the folks how good it was to touch the green, green grass of home, Judith Watkins' eyes were shiny with tears. Like I said … I was absolutely hooked.





There's hierarchy in any tribe and families are no different. This can be fairly simple in a family of two siblings like my own. Believe me, I know my place. I'm sure it's a little more complicated – maybe more layers of hierarchy – when there are 14 kids in the family. Maybe the big kahuna is the oldest … or the most affluent … or simply the loudest of the squeaky wheels.


Mike Watkins is all of the above. And though they may not all be affluent, none of the Watkins could be termed a failure in the eyes of others. Not one is a mooch or deadbeat. I've known Mike for ages now (fact is, I know each of the Watkins kids includin those 'kids' that have passed on today). Still, Mike Watkins had never stood in my kitchen before. I was turning over his proposal carefully.


“Well first thing, Mike ...” I wanted to be clear, yet respectful. “This is a different band today. We'd play things like weddings and anniversaries every weekend … if it was affordable … for the guys in the band or folks who want us to”


“How much you get for a wedding?” Mike was on the same page, at least.


“We book weddings at $1500 these days. That may seem like a lot, but you gotta consider ...”


“Done. No problem. You need a check up front?” Mike was quick and definite.


Though I'd been out of the area for a decade, I wasn't worried that Mike Watkins' check – or word – was good. And Delmar and Judith still turned up occasionally, when we'd play a place where folks preferred the more classic of our song sets. Dave and I still made a point of stoppin by their table so Judith could tell everyone how she made 'the first request these boys ever played.' I never ever did tell her about Susie's birthday and 'Indian Reservation.'


But these days Delmar and Judith were gone home early, long before the faster, more current tunes that filed the floor with younger, rowdier and - yes - drunker dancers. My last concern was simply the matter of were we 'appropriate' for a 50th wedding anniversary celebration. I had not disappointed Judith yet, and didn't want to start at this point in her senior years.



“I'm not worried about getting paid, Mike. I am concerned whether we fit what you wanna do. Will Delmar and Judith like the new stuff we do? We don't play songs over and over any more … like when we were young.”


“We all talked bout that – us kids. I got another proposal. $250 more if you do a dozen of their old songs for em. Then you play whatever you normally play. It's the young folks will make this thing last late – if it does. I'm hopin it does ... so I can get my '4-hours-worth' out of you over-priced prima donnas.”


Like mother, like son. Mike had given me a chance to smile at what he wanted – at his decision. And $1750 would look awfully good to the band for a single Saturday night. Truth was it still hadn't registered - to a child from a family my size … how a big a deal this was to how many kids.


“$1750 really ain't that much when we're splittin it 14 ways. Just give them and their friends an hour of dancin that old shit they love so much, Mitch. Then let er rip. We got a deal?”


I smiled.


“I sure don't see why not. It's open on the calendar, so I'll give you a tentative like everyone else. Then I'll run it past the boys at practice to confirm it. I do wanna make sure they're all okay with mashin up some of those oldies. I haven't done those tunes in a long time. But I can come up with an hour's worth. If it's good with the other fellas, then yeah – you write me a check and the date is yours.”


“Fair enough.” Mike seemed happy and I thought the band would be too.





Delmar and Judith Watkins' 50th Anniversary arrived as steadily as the years that preceded it. The family held lunch at a local park. There they played horseshoes, drank beer, and loved each other. They rented a hall for dinner and dance that evening. Dinner was served at 5:30 and in consideration of the long day – and the elders – the dance would last from 7 – 11. None of the band members complained about odd hours resultin in us getting home a couple hours early.


Delmar bought a new suit for the occasion, and a great deal of fun was had at his expense. More than one man joked that he'd be buried in that suit. There's humor in simple truth ... and simple living ... and Delmar was buried in those very clothes. Each Watkins son and every Watkins son-in-law wore at least a sport coat to dinner that evening … for Judith.


The women of Grace Lutheran served 250 ham and chicken dinners that night, and would not take one penny in return. That Christmas season, the Watkins family presented Grace Lutheran with a new marquee for the front lawn – complete with 24-hour lighting and landscaping. It still stands today.


At 7 pm promptly, we went on stage and did the 'Senior Set' – as we called it while we re-learned the 15 classics we put together for the elders in the crowd. We were kinda pleased with ourselves at putting the time and effort into that Senior Set. And like we kinda expected, after 4 or 5 songs, some of the folks that age made way back to their tables for a little break.


I took advantage to do the necessary introductions and saluting our Guests of Honor. I turned the crowd's attention to the rear of the hall, where the Grace Lutheran women were rushing the last touches on clean-up – anxious for a dance or two themselves.


Then I turned to Judith … and realized I was about to make her even happier than she already was. Like I told you earlier, I am real. This is really how my life flows along … because I let it … I do what I wanna do.


“Young lady, you and I have a kinda special song … and really a kinda special musical relationship don't we?”


Judith's eyes were dancing in delight. I could see very clearly what Delmar Watkins saw in this woman. I could see it despite her 70 years. I leaned in close so she could be heard on the fancy remote headset-mic that had become standard equipment.


'Yes we do.” she said. “You aren't gonna bring that up are you?”


“You're kinda my groupie, aincha?” I leaned in and gave her a kiss on the cheek.


The crowd roared in laughter. Judith blushed and and flung a whack at my arm. Then she hit me even harder. I looked cautiously at Delmar, who evidently had no prollem with Judith being the center of attention - any more than he usually did. I read pride in Delmar's eyes, as he watched this woman 'take the room' like she may have in her younger days.


“C'mon Judith … everyone knows the real you … what a wild woman you are! I mean … 14 kids?”


I looked over at Delmar who was grinning now ear-to-ear as the room laughed and hooted. I pounced.


“Oh yeah … Mr. 'Romeo' Watkins? You had nothing to do with those 14 kids?”


Delmar reached his arm around his wife of 50 years to give her a kiss on the cheek. Judith whacked him one on the arm too. The crowd was howling now. These two actually were golden – in more ways than one. They were in love. They were happy as could be – surrounded by a couple hundred folks who also loved em. And the emotion was flowing like a river.


I stepped back and gave them an overly discerning look.


“C'mon you two … spill it. You got plenty of daughters and sons both. Ain't like you're the Johnsons havin 7 boys before you finally get a girl. You ain't Catholic – how do you end up with 14 of em swarming all over the town and the countryside? You kids all stand up!”


The topic had danced far enough to the edge. It was time to make certain I did not embarrass anyone who'd stuck their neck out for me.


The crowd got louder. All the Watkins kids stood up, and then one by one they all made their way to Mama Judith and Daddy Delmar Watkins and kissed em both. The crowd never ceased the clapping, as one after another 14 children leaned down and paid respect, devotion and love to the man and woman whose 'never quite enough' had turned out to be plenty.


I started back to the stage, confident of my next move. Then I saw Judith motioning to me. She had something to add.


“Mitch … Mitch … I was going to tell you … about the 14 children … how we ended up with so many?”


Judith was not taking – apparently – the out I was offering. She was ready to push.


“Well then please ... tell us how you wound up with 14 great kids, Mrs. Watkins.”


Judith took me by the shoulders and pulled me in like a microphone stand. She got way too close to the mic and her next words literally boomed across the room.


“Delmar can't keep his damned hands off me.”


Oh. My. God. And the crowd roared. I jammed my hat down over my eyes and twirled a 360 on my boot. Watkins boys were high-fiving each other. I ran for the stage and leaped back up. Watkins girls were holding their hands over their mouths in amazement and laughing till the tears came. Delmar Watkins raised his clenched fists in a ball over his head and shook em in victory. The crowd went hysterical.


“Judith ...” I said over the sound system. “Would you be willing to share our special music thing with everyone? Could you ask me what you asked all those years ago?”


Judith's eyes were bright with wet. The wet streamed down a face … creased and wrinkled and spotted … from the sun and the floods and the gardens. It had been very, very long … since I'd felt so sure I could increase the warmth and joy in a face. I held one hand high for the room to quiet. Judith stood. And Delmar came to his feet and took her hand. Judith led him confidently to the dance floor.


“Would you boys play 'Green, Grass Of Home' one more time?”


And again, the place erupted like Hank Williams had just walked onstage and called for 'Your Cheatin Heart.'


“Green, Green Grass on five fellas! One, two, three, four, One ...”


Delmar and Judith Watkins danced there 50th anniversary dance quietly and softly and tenderly ... while I told them bout Mary's hair of gold and lips like cherries. Their community and friends and family watched while they danced … as the moment maybe overwhelmed them. We all watched as they commented to each other and twirled each other and smiled at each other. We wondered what it might be … that two people who'd lived so much together ... might speak of ... in moments like that moment.


I know that's what I was watchin anyhow. I saw Judith begin to tremble some. I saw Delmar draw her closer. Judith began to shake. Delmar stroked her hair and led her steadily in rhythm. She buried her face in him … and I could see she was sobbing. Judith needed an out.


I twirled my finger in a circle, signaling a 'stay' for the boys to keep the music goin, as I hopped down to the dancefloor and cautiously approached the two of them. Delmar smiled that 'it's gonna be okay' smile at me, and Judith looked up to me and smiled as well.


“Judith … it's a special night ... “ I began. “Is there something special about this song for you? You're doing the same thing you did first time I played your request ... 30 years ago.”


Judith was nodding at me through her tears. She was smiling now. I leaned in as Delmar never lost the beat.


“Yes” was all Judith could manage. I smiled knowingly at her. I had a hunch why 'Green, Green Grass' was so special. Intuition.


“Well you told us bout the 14 kids … may as well get it all out in the open.”


It was an out for the crowd. Almost every one of em had moved up to the edge of the floor to see the honored couple. Again they honored them ... with applause, whistles and whoops.


“Yes Mitch … it was playing when Delmar asked for my hand.”


I smiled and turned back for the stage as the crowd let out a collective 'Awwww' at this precious confession. We all got secrets. As I jumped back up to the stage I asked Delmar if he had anything to add to that. Delmar smiled at me and silently, thoughtfully, shook his head 'no' across the floor.


Then I told them all the rest of it – even the part about the guard and the sad old Padre. Delmar held his sweet Judith - of the 50 years and 14 children – close. Judith's tears gave way to pleasure and the two of them finished the tune with eyes locked in adoration. It was a gen-u-ine Kodak moment. Dave – who was there the first time Judith Watkins cried ... that day so many decades back at the Ice Cream Social – motioned for all to get up and join the couple as I sang the last words to the song.


And the crowd gave Delmar and Judith Watkins an out – gathering them in warmth as they left their moment of emotion.


The night never got slow. Mike Watkins got his money's worth and then some. We played till midnight without givin it a second thought. I remember at the end of our first set, Delmar's daughters appeared with his Red Ball bibs. The ones he wore pretty much every day as he toiled his acres of not enough. He changed from the suit, but he kept the the white shirt and tie beneath his denims. Delmar and Judith stayed till the last guests were gone.


Before we started our third set, Delmar came to the stage and asked for a mic. He thanked all his friends and neighbors and the rest for making the day such a gift. Then he got a bit quieter and held his hand for quieter still.


“For my family … for you kids … you Grandkids and your kids too … I do wanna say something bout that song … bout memories … bout how they're enough. They're plenty … really. When I hear that song that makes Judy cry, I think bout my own emotions … the memory of them.”


“Don't be afraid to remember the emotions … the thrills and the agonies … there's not one bit of shame in the thrill of learnin Judy Swenson will marry you. I'm so glad Judygirl … I'm so humbled you said 'yes.' Come dance with me Judy.” Tears streamed down Delmar's face. My own eyes were wet. There weren't many eyes didn't shine with happiness at that moment.


lacremae rerum


Judith Watkins strode across the room confidently … with purpose … to dance with her man of 50 years and 14 children.


“Can you find me one more song I can keep up to, boys?” Delmar Watkins grinned back to the stage.


Dave softly leaned into each of us and whispered aside.


“Livin On Love – Alan Jackson. Livin On Love.”


We broke into some 2-step and so did Delmar and Judith Watkins. So did the rest still able to dance. Emotion ran high. Emotion ran high in the right direction.





And that's what I wanna share before I 'go' … here in these memoirs. How I came to value the emotion of life … more than the measure of it. Quite simply, the emotion prolly is the measure of it … the reason we keep a memory … the reason any of it matters. That's the stories I wanna tell.


It's these emotions have created the who and the what of me. I've maybe had some moments you'd consider more noteworthy … brushes with tragedy or death or celebrity. And I'll tell those too, if there's time. Maybe I can do it a lil more quickly than I've told you of Delmar and Judith's 50th Anniversary. But I'll need to tell the all and the real of them … the emotions of a moment … or there ain't much point in me telling stories at all.


I DO Have A Plan

I always have a plan. I just don't always know what it is.

For now, my immediate plan involves that '99 Silverado with the aggressive mudders and 250,000 clicks, a well-thought CD mix, the frozen muddy trails of Whitewater and wastin $50 worth of gas. Some smoke. No drink till I get back. And I will get back. Thank-you Jason. Thank-you Eric. Thank-you all.



Tell me that ain't better. And tell me again if you like. It's wayyyy better.

hillbilly Gone Wild

Contrary to media reports, I have not been apprehended - nor have I slipped into some pit of deep depression or crevass. I am simply back on the peninsula. Much has changed here on the Yucatan over the past 20 years, and much has remained the same. It is the 'same' that I came for, and I'm happy to report that I've found it.

It seems the decision to build Cancun 40-some years back was solid. So also, was the decision to build Coral Mar here on the barrier isle, rather than among the quickly sprouting resorst of the city's beach strip. The higher cabfares necessary to venture into the city for its treasures are a small price to pay for the security and quiet here along Pok-ta-Pok. The rapid growth of the city has flushed out the tiny path which once led only to this small resort and a golf course across that path.

And as the city has caused the street to flourish, the cost of airfare has caused the popularity of Coral Mar to do the same. Last I visited, there were 3 buildings of 6 units each. At that time, the buildings were shared by several vacation clubs. Today, there are 7 buildings and our group owns them all ... As much as foreigners can own anything in Mexico. Some still grouse at the carfare into the downtown area, but most now realize the value of the quiet and the remote.

I am happy that my friends King and Steinbeck were able to be here. King brought along a man named Bachman, and his tales are new and entertaining to me. There is little the other two can share that I have not already heard. If this were not enough, when I returned to Quintana Roo from the jungles of Yucatan last night, Koontz was waiting in the living room of the condo. We stayed up well past midnight together and have made plans to lie in the sun today and bake till we can stand no more. He's a bit creepy and dark at times, but he's been places I have not.

Other than this post to confirm my well-being, I cannot say that I have accomplished much in my time here so far ... though I did attend an all-you-can-eat buffet at Mayaland in a white shirt without soiling it. I hung it in the closet promptly on my return, and I'm happy to report that this morning it smells well enough for me to use it again sometime during the trip.

If I had the technical knowhow to transfer to transfer a picture to this iContraption, I would prove it to you. You'll have to take my word for it. Be safe, well and envious ...

(usual dumbass look n his face)

Ep Armen Got ALL Of That One

I am a curious sort. Yes, I'll agree with you – curious in more ways than one. I would say my curiosity has been far more beneficial than hindrance.


The Internet, for me, has been that convenient library that never existed in rural America. I've poked my nose in countless places I never imagined. And yes, one of those is Ep.


I am now somewhat of a 'long-timer' at Ep. My circle contains those have been here longer still. One of them is 'LetMeGo2.' She arrived here shortly before me. We are bout as opposites as can be. She is black, I am white. I am male, she is female. She holds strong faith in her GOD, I am agnostic. She is modest, I am … umm … you know what I am.


However, we both love to laugh and frolic – that attracted me to her. I've always thought Ep is LetMeGo2's lil guilty pleasure. The way you or I might eat an entire pint of ice cream in an evening … take in an adult vid for some self-gratification … or do a line at the holidays for old time's sake.


She exemplified certain things for me … patience … understanding and communication … peace-making … and tolerance. That last – tolerance – above all else. When it became evident I had fallen into disfavor among the 'in-crowd' back at Stone-Age Ep, she was among the first and loudest to stand by my side. Hers was the voice that always seemed perfectly suited to ask “Can't we all just get along?”


We communicated most often out in the open of comment sections back then. But LetMeGo2 and I did some occasional messaging as well. I don't think either of us were familiar with the concept of instant messaging back then, and all of ours took place here via the Ep message system … sometimes over the course of days.


Eventually, we came round to that infamous topic – 'How did you find Ep?'


I explained to her how I had been research surfing and which topic had interested me. She in turn, shared with me her reason for being here – the oldest of reasons. LetMeGo2 suffers Multiple Sclerosis. Some of you may not know the history behind Ep – I've written bout it a little before. LetMeGo2 pointed it out to me, and pointed me toward the info explaining as much at one of the Ep links.


Being a curious sort, I read through the history and did a little supplemental digging about Ep on the web. I was a bit flabbergasted that a woman so seemingly techno-inept knew the skinny better than I. It was not the last time I would learn from LetMeGo2, but it was probably one of the more memorable things she revealed for me.


And being the curious sort, I am still curious about the people and events that inspired Ep. So I decided to click this morning on the homepage banner link to the same.


Armen Berjikly - and 'no' ... I don't know how to pronounce that – was invited to speak at a TEDx gathering. These are independent TED gatherings encouraged by the folks at TED, but conducted separately from the large annual conference. I enjoy Armen's speaking manner. I can believe his enthusiasm bleeds into others around him. Quite frankly, he looks like the sort of boss I'd like to have, if I had to have one.


Something else has occurred to me. This 20 minute video is the ultimate among Ep experiences or confessions … or dreams. It is answer to the question … 'why does Ep exist?'

And here's your trophy for best answer rolled in to the original story, Armen.


I have rolled my eyes plenty here at Ep, though I'll add that I'm still here … ain't I. Some of the invitations to become studied or portrayed on reality shows have me shaking my head as much as the offers of Psychic readings and that little blonde who lives 2.9 miles from every one of us.


This link to Armen's talk is not those links. I think Armen's talk is a good thing for all of us to see … to know. There's so much to be said for experience … for patience … for communication and understanding … and yes, for tolerance as well. There's much as well, to be said for Experience Project. Ep Armen has done it well. Don't know I've ever felt more comfortable bout being here. Peace.




1-20 of 104 Blogs   

Previous Posts
Finding New Places, posted January 28th, 2015, 2 comments
Can We Still Blog Here at Ep?, posted January 23rd, 2015, 3 comments
Bay of Banderas, posted March 20th, 2014, 7 comments
How Do You Tell?, posted February 22nd, 2014, 6 comments
Moments in Raw Emotion, posted February 5th, 2014, 1 comment
What Did I Do Now?, posted January 7th, 2014, 10 comments
Blog Bugs, posted December 26th, 2013, 2 comments
How We Saved Ep, posted December 26th, 2013, 21 comments
Holy Crap, posted December 12th, 2013, 3 comments
4th Down, posted December 2nd, 2013, 4 comments
Sing It, Country Joe, posted October 11th, 2013
Shot of a Lifetime, posted September 28th, 2013, 3 comments
Dive Too Deep, posted September 14th, 2013
Open Confession, posted June 28th, 2013, 7 comments
Records and Torches, posted May 3rd, 2013, 1 comment
Help Wanted, posted March 8th, 2013, 7 comments
Yarn #1, posted March 3rd, 2013, 1 comment
I DO Have A Plan, posted February 28th, 2013
hillbilly Gone Wild, posted February 20th, 2013, 10 comments
Ep Armen Got ALL Of That One, posted January 23rd, 2013, 4 comments
Twins ... again., posted January 14th, 2013, 6 comments
Dadville, posted January 9th, 2013, 3 comments
This, posted December 29th, 2012, 4 comments
For What It's Worth, posted December 22nd, 2012, 2 comments
Good Days Gone Wrong, posted December 15th, 2012, 5 comments
Flake, posted December 9th, 2012
New Girl(s) In My Life, posted December 1st, 2012, 4 comments
The Jonestown Incident at Ep - October 2012, posted November 3rd, 2012, 11 comments
How The Truth Hurts, posted September 13th, 2012, 4 comments
I Know You're In There! Come Out With Your Hands Up!, posted September 10th, 2012, 8 comments
Acceptin The Keys, posted August 25th, 2012, 5 comments
Here for Art Thou 2, posted April 7th, 2012, 3 comments
Mutual Consent, posted April 3rd, 2012, 15 comments
Cure For What Ails, posted February 16th, 2012
Snow ... finally., posted January 12th, 2012, 7 comments
Real Men of Genius, posted December 31st, 2011, 10 comments
Mort & Gert, posted December 22nd, 2011, 7 comments
SRO - Sold Out?, posted August 31st, 2011, 20 comments
Tell Me Please, posted May 4th, 2011, 11 comments
A Time To Gather Stones Together, posted April 19th, 2011, 28 comments
New funcam! No bears either!!!, posted March 31st, 2011, 19 comments
Are You(th) Insane? #2, posted March 9th, 2011, 1 comment
Are You(th) Insane?, posted March 8th, 2011, 15 comments
Lily an Hope ... An More On The Way?, posted January 20th, 2011, 16 comments
When All You Have Is A Hammer ..., posted January 9th, 2011, 5 comments
The Truth Is We Can't Handle The Truth, posted December 9th, 2010, 4 comments
Up Is Down, Out Is In ... Everything Is Fine Again, posted December 5th, 2010, 13 comments
The GOP Has Spoken, posted December 2nd, 2010
hllbilly Hits the Washington Mall, posted November 8th, 2010
hllbilly Goes To Washington, posted November 3rd, 2010
1-50 of 109 Blog Posts   

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