Sunday, June 29, 2008

Henry: The Tree Stand

A light snow had fallen the night before. The sun was breaking through the forest canopy trying to melt the crystalline blanket, yet it was bitter in the shade of the trees.

I squatted in my father's tree stand and froze. I had begged him to take me hunting and he finally relented.

"Why did you build the fort here?" I asked.

My dad smiled, "This is a tree stand, not a fort."

"Why did you build the tree stand here?"

"The well-worn path you see at the base of the tree, that's where the deer wander past on their way to the creek."

"Why is the fort, I mean tree stand, so high up?"

"You don't want the deer to see or smell us, do you?"

"No, I guess not." I said.

I loved spending time with my dad. It was being allowed into the adult world, a sneak peek or coming attractions, if you will, of the future.

I gazed at the can of Budweiser beer my dad was drinking.

He caught me looking and asked me if I was thirsty.

My eyes widened and I nodded with a grin.

"Just a sip. Don't tell your mother," he said.

I grabbed the can and took a sip as he instructed.

I made a twisted expression.

"That's awful," I said.

He laughed and took the can and patted me on the back. "Hank," it was the first time I remember him calling me that, "we have to be quiet now and wait."

I placed my finger in the snow that had collected on the edge of the tree stand and ran my hand along the side watching the flurries drop to the ground. I waited in silence with my father.

Though we didn't see a deer at all that day, I now know that I succeeded in a rite of passage.

Originally posted as "Henry's Life: The Tree Stand" on the Axiom Report on 2/29/2008.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

On Track

Hey porter! Hey porter!
Please open up the door.
When they stop the train I'm gonna get off first
Cause I can't wait no more.
Tell that engineer I said thanks alot,
and I didn't mind the fare.
I'm gonna set my feet on Southern soil
and breathe that Southern air.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Henry: Renewed

I watched him from across a crowded party. He was sitting in an upright chair slumped over rubbing his pale hands together and staring straight ahead. He was a gentle looking man with kind eyes and a bushy beard.

Someone offered him a drink but he declined. Others tried to include him in their conversation but he seemed distant, perhaps only half listening to the people around him swapping stories.

A person next to me whispered that he was dying of cancer and then I recognized his emotion. It was the unfocused gaze of a battle-weary soldier who's facing death. I experienced it fifteen years ago in Korea. Things that once seemed important became trivial while the ant crawling on the edge of a blade of grass prevailed.

I watched him from where I sat on the sofa with a twenty year old pseudo intellectual, who was using slang like dig and freak out. Since she brought me, I pretended to listen to her self-indulgent philosophies but my mind was on him.

He stood up and headed for the door. Through the window, I saw him having a smoke.

"Where are you going Henry?" she asked.

"Does it matter?" I said standing.

I walked outside and said hello to him and pulled out my own pack lighting one and inhaling deeply.

"This is probably foolish" he said waving the cigarette in the air.

"No, it's not," I said.

I wish I could remember what we talked about and tell you it was monumentally prophetic but life isn't like that. Yet these accidental moments can turn the tide in one's existence.

We looked into the house through the haze of smoke to see one woman dancing nude as a hippie was drumming away on some imaginary bongo. My date was sharing a joint with a young man her age.

Dusk was giving way to night. I dropped the cigarette to the ground and extinguished the remainder with my heel.

"The best of luck to you," I said shaking his hand.

"And you," he said smiling.

I began walking down the dusty road that led back to the main highway. I looked over my shoulder once to see him walking through a small garden adjacent the house. He was watching a cat swipe its paw at the fireflies as they lit the darkening sky and disappeared.

Originally posted on the Axiom Report as "Henry's Life: Renewed" on 3/15/2008.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


Ok, I may be in a rut but it's a damn entertaining one. I picked up the 1998 Cate Blanchett film Elizabeth. Since I just finished season one of The Tudors I was in the mood for the next generation. Henry VIII went to drastic measures to have a male heir but it was both of his surviving daughters who ended up ruling. His one son with Jane Seymour, Edward VI, died at fifteen, turning the throne over to Lady Jane Grey, who ruled for only nine days. The kingdom then went to Mary, Henry's daughter with Catherine of Aragon. Under her reign, the persecution of Protestants earned her the title "Bloody Mary". There is disagreement as to the number of people put to death during Mary's five-years in power; however, several notable clerics were executed including one Thomas Cranmer. Mary died leaving no children, which left the throne to her half-sister Elizabeth. I love the irony that Anne Boleyn, who was beheaded for not delivering a son, gets 'revenge' when her daughter, Elizabeth, went on to reign for forty five years; the longest of the Tudors.

Cate Blanchett is arguably the greatest actress of her generation and turns in a splendid performance of a woman standing tall as religious conflicts rage around her and keeping many scheming advisers at bay. She learned her political savvy well from her mother's mistakes. Elizabeth's transformation from a princess to a queen is skillfully assisted by the utterly loyal Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush is exceptional as usual), who ruthlessly weeds out any opposition to his queen, and constantly reminds her of her duties when she must make unpleasant decisions. Interestingly, Elizabeth decides that she can have more political power by remaining unmarried, we find her sobbing in front of a statue of the Virgin Mary and she inherits the appellation The Virgin Queen.

My gripe with Hollywood continues with their attempt to condense (rewrite is a more appropriate term) history. The events of this movie - Elizabeth is locked up in the Tower, nearly married into an alliance with France, survived Norfolk's rebellion, and eventually transformed into The Virgin Queen persona - all actually took place over a period of roughly 30 years. What happened to aging actors? Condensing history is bad enough but the biggest crime is that they portray Robert Dudley (played by Joseph Fiennes) as betraying Elizabeth when in fact he remained a loyal subject until his death. It would be the equivalent of Bobby Kennedy turning on JFK or Karl Rove pulling a knife on W. I guess after 500 years nobody cares but we should.

I enjoyed the movie and wanted more and of course there is. Elizabeth: The Golden Age was released in 2007... and my English history lessons via Hollywood continue.