Grandpa was…

My wife wrote this eulogy for her grandfather, Kensinger Jones. She read it at his memorial service last month.

Since the service, people who knew and loved Ken have been asking for a copy (including me).

I think it’s lovely.

Grandpa was a lot of things.

He was Grandpa, he was a conservationist, a farmer, a boy scout, an ad-man, a teacher, a father, a husband, a faithful friend to so many, and of course, a writer.

He liked writing poems. He liked poems that rhymed. He would write an original poem every year for my birthday card and every year for Christmas cards (and Grandma helped too, I know).

He wrote much more, of course. Books and radio plays and essays and articles…

Writing has life. Everything written is a creation. Every letter is a seed that has been planted in a row.

Everything about Grandpa was full of life. His personality, his writing, and his land. He planted trees, he planted flowers, he planted memories in that land. He wrote some of the best chapters of my childhood.

Knowing that the place where he walked, where he worked, where he wrote… The place that he looked out across every day and said the blessing “Lord we thank you for this day, we thank you for the beauty that surround us…”

Knowing that that place will be preserved and protected… It’s as if we know our childhood will be protected, too. And what kinder gift, what better story, could ever possibly be written?

Every blade of grass is a noun
every flower is an adjective
every field is a paragraph
every tree is a line of poetry

And people will be reading the story of the land, as Grandpa and Grandma wrote it together, for generations to come.

Keeley Geary
March 10, 2015

Keeley at Aurohn Lake

I don’t have a photo of Keeley and Ken, but here she is at Aurohn Lake — one of the many gifts he gave to us all.


I’ve talked about this before, but the latest surge in popularity for live video streaming apps like Periscope has reminded me of the digital clock I used to watch from my bedroom window late at night:

…and when I was young, I’d look out my window at night. There was this flashing clock on top of a building that I could see from my window. It flashed all night long. I used to watch it, counting. Seeing how long it would go on . . . just flashing the time away. I’d watch this from my window, when I was young. And sometimes I’d wonder, how long it had been going? How many years had it been there? How long would it keep going? And, maybe, thousands of years from now will it still be going? When everything else is cold and still, and the only sound is the wind blowing through an empty world. Will it stil be there? Flashing? And will it still have the exact time? And when it stops, finally, when it’s done, what time will it be?
— from Drawing Away

Apparently we never entirely shake off some of those little high school quirks — at least, maybe I didn’t.

Years ago, when I clumsily fired up the first version of this site, I had a little webcam that would deliver a static live snapshot every 30 seconds of whatever I was doing at the time. I usually left it on late at night when I was in my office writing — an odd blend of narcissism, introversion, and loneliness.

Over the years, the webcam captured a lot of unintended moments, like me obliviously singing my heart out…

Probably Not in Tune…arguing with [redacted]…

Arguing…and obsessively checking to see if I looked cool in the latest snapshot…

Cool?It was a little one sided, but somehow it touched that same little nerve that watching that clock used to do for me, all those years ago.

“…the single assumption which makes our existence viable – that someone is watching…”
— from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard

Staying up late when the rest of the house is quiet is something that I’ve been compelled to do since I was very young. I can remember being four or five years old and sitting up in bed, reading long into the night.

I’ve never really stopped.

I have always loved being awake in a sleeping house. The secrecy of it. That stillness, the privacy. The selfish solitude of bare feet and cold floors.
— from The Whispering Boy

At a certain point, the night takes on a surreal quality and it’s difficult to shake the feeling that you are, in fact, utterly alone in the world.

That isn’t always a bad feeling. In fact, it almost never is.

But the clock reminded me that I wasn’t alone. Sometimes I would sit and fantasize about who else might be out there, awake in the night, watching it from their window.

When I joined Twitter, I immediately recognized that old familiar cocktail of narcissism, introversion, and late-night loneliness. It was like coming home.

PeriscopeA few weeks back I got wind of Periscope and, once again, I was instantly mesmerized.

Quickly, here’s Periscope in a nutshell: It’s a mobile app that allows you to share live streaming video straight from your phone. People can watch your feed, post comments in real time, and tap their finger to give you “hearts” (imagine if you could click the Facebook “like” button over and over again).

The potential impact of Periscope on every aspect of our culture was immediately obvious to me and I could not stop talking about it to everyone.

PracticingIt’s fun and frightening and downright amazing.

The people streaming live video of their cats purring one Saturday morning — delightful.

The countless pre-teen girls crowded around their phones on a Friday night saying “Ask us anything” — horrifying.

The bands, practicing set lists in their basements and living rooms — awesome.

And on and on and on it goes…

The writer side of my mind was working overtime: Broadcasting live readings, holding Q&A sessions with my fans… Forging immediate connections with new readers… Setting up a floating “salon” of like-minded writers…

So many great ideas to explore. At the very least, it gave me a new way to mix up my cocktail — but, better than the old webcam, now we can interact with each other.

Mostly, I’ve just been telling ghost stories (true ones) or I only sit there and write while people watch and, in time, lose interest and leave.

So many ideas…

I work in Advertising, so Periscope represents a whole other world of opportunities and issues to explore for my clients — but that’s a different blog post for a different website.

More importantly, I have become obsessed with the immediate and profound sense of connection that Periscope provides.

Another writer called it “teleportation” — the ability to be anywhere in the world. Someone in the UAE can walk down the street and give me (and everyone else) a real time look at life on the other side of the world. A side of the world that, admittedly, people in my country sometimes tend to demonize or disassociate from. But Periscope broke down those boundaries.

IMG_3105New York, Dubai, South America, the UK, Nepal… I started looking for as broad a range of people and places that I could find.

One of my favorites is @neilpande. His broadcasts of the sunrise and sunset in Kathmandu are stunning. As is his own enthusiasm for the world he lives in. I can’t help but be swept up by it all. The connection is so strong that, when I woke up to the news of the earthquake this past weekend, I immediately thought of my “friend” there and checked to see if he was okay (he is, but the devastation and tragedy there is staggering… please help if you are able.)

That point of connection, the awareness of a single world and the ability to see it all . . . amazing.

One feed I ran across was titled “Awake, Cancer” — just a darkened room, a digital alarm clock on a nightstand. And a flood of comments with love and support from strangers all over the world.

I watched a snail in France crawl across a leaf.

Toby and familyAnother time I had the good fortune to see “Mama cat having kittens” and watch as, halfway around the world, a litter was born in the UK. The mama cat was named Snickers so everyone suggested candy bar names for the kittens. I’m proud to say that somewhere in England there is a kitten named “Toby” because of me (short for Toblerone).

There’s a flip side to all of this as well, of course. And it can get a little ugly.

Politics, journalism, law enforcement, celebrity, sexuality… all aspects of our culture are bound to mutate under the gamma radiation of a live worldwide video feed.

As I started getting more and more obsessed, I made all kinds of predictions. “It’s only a matter of time,” I told my remarkably patient family and colleagues. “Someone will broadcast a terrorist attack. Someone will commit suicide. Or a drive by shooting. Or a sexual assault.”

These things are bound to happen. Because the potential is there, for good or ill.

A few days ago, I found myself watching with equal parts admiration and dread as @paullewis of The Guardian UK ran a live feed from the midst of the protests in Baltimore following Freddie Gray’s death. I was watching, in real time and more or less unedited, an event that otherwise would be delivered to me in heavily produced and commented soundbites.

There was a freedom there but I was also well aware that I’d added a dash of voyeurism to the cocktail.

the snailI don’t know where Periscope goes from here. I think it has staying power and relevance. It’s strong enough that I’ve had to curtail my own use, because it was distracting me from my work.

As excited as I am to explore the possibilities, I’m equally enthusiastic to see how other people put it to use as well.

But mostly I’m just glad to have something that can remind me, when I’m wandering around the house in the dark hours of the night, that I’m not the only one.


Kensinger Jones

Kensinger JonesI first met Ken Jones on Thanksgiving Day in 2004.

We hit it off. Not surprising, as we had a lot of things in common. Each of us had been lucky enough to fall into careers in Advertising. We both discovered a love of books and writing at an early age. And we shared a delight in the spoken word, particularly in the form of long, rambling conversations punctuated by bad puns and jokes. The badder the better.

I loved talking with Ken. Every conversation with him was a delight.

In fact, part of my “What if I win the lottery?” daydream included stopping by to talk with Ken every day.

I looked forward to our visits and, when it was time to go, I was always so grateful when he said “Come back and see me again soon.”

Early on, I recognized that the almost immediate rapport that developed between us was something rare and special.

Over the years, though, I realized that it wasn’t our bond that was rare and special… it was Ken.

He was rare and special.

His mind, his creativity . . . all of the things he achieved in his work.

His sense of adventure, his enthusiasm for the world. The places he’d been, the people he’d met.

The connections he made with friends, colleagues, and students — relationships that he valued and sustained for decades.

That lifelong devotion he shared with his wife. His commitment to his family.

His generosity.

The amazing provisions he made to take care of the people he loved, to support the causes that he believed in, and to cultivate and preserve the wonderful gifts that he’d been given.

Ken was rare and special.

He lived a rare and special life. And he knew it. He didn’t take any of it for granted.

And, because he was Ken, he made life rare and special for all of us.

He made it rare and special for me.

I feel so lucky, so grateful to be able to say that he was my friend.

Ken passed away last night.

It’s not a tragedy.

We should all be so lucky to live such a rare and special life, to take our leave gently in the night holding the hand of our oldest, dearest friend.

We should all be so lucky.

And we are, because we knew Ken.

“When there is trap set up for you…”

It’s been a while since I posted some music — hell, it’s been a while since I posted anything, I know.

This song has been with me for a few days now (my middle daughter is taking accordion lessons). I’d forgotten how much I like it.

And there’s an Underworld connection too, if you’re looking hard enough for it.

Goodbye 2014

Wishes Take Flight by Tammie Bowden“Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.”

— William Shakespeare, The Tempest

(Photo by Tammie Bowden via Etsy)


This is a true story.

One afternoon this past summer, my 19-year-old son was walking down the middle of the street in a neighborhood here in our town. 

A car pulled up behind him. 

My son did not move out of the road, just kept walking.

After a moment the driver honked his horn.

Without turning around, without missing a beat, my son flipped the bird over his shoulder and kept walking.

I have no doubt that, had the car behind him been a police car, my son would’ve had a pretty uncomfortable afternoon after that.

I also have no doubt that my son would not have been arrested, let alone shot. 

Because my son is white.

As the news comes in from Ferguson that a grand jury has declined to indict Darren Wilson for the murder of Michael Brown, I am reminded that context is everything. 

And I am profoundly dejected.

“…and we change with them.”

When I moved to Michigan in 1996, one of the first things I set out to do in my new hometown was find a comic book store.

Finding the right comic book store is like finding the right church. And more difficult in a town where there is a church approximately, seemingly, within a quarter mile of wherever you happen to be standing.

But I digress.

It’s all about the people. A good comic book store is a place where you can count on the people who work there: They’ll hold your stuff for you… They’ll make suggestions based on what you like… They’ll talk to your kids and give them little toys or comics.

simpson comic book guyAfter a few weeks and a lot of really bad comic book stores. The owners were, mostly, the typical stereotype: Guys so loaded down with their own snark that they couldn’t help but sneer at everything, even things they liked. They lived The Simpsons cliché with a remarkable lack of self-awareness.

There was the guy who had a great little shop in the hip pre-hipster part of town with all kinds of rarities, pronounced “manga” properly like he was correcting the rest of the world, and refused to get me something so mainstream as Batman Animated Adventures for my two year old son. But he had no problem putting “recommendations” into my weekly pull bag and expecting me to buy them.

At another shop — the biggest one in town and possibly one of the best stocked comic stores I’ve ever been in — the guy behind the counter clearly had a large base of return customers with overstuffed pull bags . . . so he couldn’t be bothered to remember my two or three measly issues every month.

To use a technical term, they were all assholes.

Tardy's Collectors CornerI got lucky when someone pointed me towards a little rundown shop called Tardy’s Collectors Corner. The minute I walked in, I knew I was home.

Comic books have been a part of my life since I was very young. I’ve got my older brother Scott to thank for that. He had two big cardboard boxes of comics that I’d dig through, reading them over and over again.

Every so often, I would walk up to the local 7-11 where I’d paw through he rows of comics. I’d buy however many I could with the dollar my mother had given me. Or, if none caught my eyes, I’d get a slurpee and bubble gum. The slurpees sometimes came in collectible plastic cups with different comics characters on them and they were very cool.

slurpee cups superhero 1907'sI was probably five years old. It was different back then. I wandered around on my own all the time. And they sold comics everywhere: Drug stores, grocery stores, liquor stores, gas stations, toy stores — everywhere but book stores, oddly enough.

I remember the first time I went to an actual comic book store a few years later. It seemed… exotic. I’d never heard of such a thing before. I remember the bagged comics hanging on the wall behind the counter — stained glass windows behind the altar.

I read comics all through grade school and junior high. I don’t think I ever knew another kid who read comics. They’d read them when they came to my house. Same thing in high school, in college. Most of my friends read a comic for the first time, went to a comic book store for the first time, because of me.

Seduction of the Innocent by Frederic WerthamI read an article recently about the social and economic impact of Frederic Wertham’s impact on the comics industry. In the 1950’s, 95% of of elementary age kids were reading comics and sales topped 1 billion in sales. Thanks to Wertham and his trumped up witch hunt, most of my friends never read a comic before they met me. And the industry today is struggling with sales of only 7 million.

I don’t know how those numbers break down between Amazon and other online retailers, brick and mortar book stores selling the popular “graphic novels”, and the always-struggling independent comic book stores. But I’m guessing the comic stores are the ones who are seeing their numbers dropping year after year.

My first comic book store was a place in Orange County, California. Freedonia (after the Marx Brothers movie, of course) was where I bought my first issue of Cerebus. I met Chris Claremont there and he signed my copies of the Wolverine miniseries. I bought Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns there.

The guy who owned the place — I can see his face but I can’t remember his name — usually nodded approvingly over what I bought and made suggestions. Thanks to him I bought the first issues of Sandman and Hellblazer there. I bought my first issues of Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing there. I bought Watchmen.

That was a good place. I spent years looking for another one in two different states, three different cities. And failing.

So when I walked into Tardy’s, it was a relief.

The guy behind the counter was gruff, curmudgeonly. But he knew his stuff and clearly loved comics. And he had a little twinkle in his eye when he saw my son looking in awe at all the posters and naming each of the superheroes he saw.

stuffed cerebus dave simThere was a stuffed Cerebus on a high shelf behind the counter. Someone had thoughtfully put a pair of lace panties over one ear, a slightly disturbing but clever little nod to issue #95.

There was a custom sketch by Bob Burden (titled “The Girl with the Radar Shoulder”) on the wall behind the counter. It’s still there.

And, when my son asked to use the bathroom, I spied a little stack of those old collectible plastic slurpee cups by the sink.


Kirby — that was the owner’s first name, I later learned (and is there a better name for a comic book store owner than that?) — ran the place with his wife. They were friendly and welcoming, keeping their shop going in a neighborhood that had seen . . . well, maybe not better days but, at least, cleaner ones. Their store was the safe haven. A warm little corner of color and fun.

As near as I could tell, their shop and the bail bondsman on the corner were the only two ongoing survivors in the local retail apocalyptic landscape.

For over eighteen years I’ve been going to Tardy’s. Kirby and his wife have watched my kids grow up. My son, now twenty, has his own pull bag now. My four year old likes Adventure Time. My sixteen year old daughter just bought the first issue of Wytches and the lastest Batman/Superman there. I’m proud of all of them.

Comics are touchstones in my life. So is Tardy’s.

cerebus_300I bought the final issue of Sandman there. I bought the final issue of Cerebus there. I bought the final issue of Hellblazer there.

I sat in my car outside the store with each issue . . . having a little wake each time, saying goodbye to characters I’d loved for years.

I bought the first issue (and, then, all the issues) of Promethea at Tardy’s — thanks to recommendation from Kirby, of course — a book that would end up resonating through my life, beliefs, and work in ways I would have never expected.

The last few years, I’ve seen my share of hard times. Tardy’s has always been there, letting my pull bag go more than a few months past due when money was tight. And, in good times, they’ve always been glad to try and find some rarity or special order for me.

Yesterday at Tardy’s there were a few new faces behind the counter — at least, I didn’t recognize them. But that’s probably because, as I’ve gotten older, people tend to blur together a bit.

I didn’t think much of it. Kirby’s staff has fluctuated over the years. There were a few forgettable kids who came and went. But it was cool to see his son working the counter sometimes. Of course, Kirby and his wife were usually, almost always, there. And it’s always a lucky day when my visit falls on the same day when the excellent and friendly Tim — the Flying Dutchman of Tardy’s — is there.

alan moore glyconYesterday, my pull bag was empty (alas) but I found that issue of God is Dead that I’d heard about — the one with Alan Moore’s Glycon essay in it — so that was good. While Julia helped her little sister find a missing issue of Fiona and Cake, I looked around for some kid-friendly comics to hand out on Halloween.

I overheard the guy behind the counter talking to another customer. He was saying something about Kirby selling the business to him.

And my heart just fucking sank.

Omnia mutantur I reminded myself as I made my way to the front. So it goes.

The guy must have seen what I was holding (or he saw Julia’s comics) and said “Have you read Birthright?”

I hadn’t. He gave me a quick synopsis and it sounded like something I’d like. So I went and grabbed it.

While I was paying, I had to ask: Were they really buying the place?

They were. The two of them — Gavin and Deanna — were long time customers and, when Kirby started talking about retiring and selling off the stock, they stepped up and worked out a succession plan with him. It’ll take a couple of years but, in the end, the store will remain.

Somehow, taking with Gavin, my dread shifted over to relieved optimism. He’s enthusiastic and friendly, he’s got good ideas, and he clearly loves comics. He seems cut out for the challenge of keeping a somewhat anachronistic business in a marginalized industry up and running.

Omnia mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis.

One can only hope. If (fingers crossed) things work out, Gavin and Deanna just might be selling comics to my grandchildren.

Thanks, guys. May your gods bless you.

I’ll see you next week.


“Come back here and give me my daughter…”

Busy times right now, just a quick share of a song that’s been rattling around in my head for the past few days.

Still holds up, yeah? There’s also a very nice acoustic version of it out there as well.

It occurs to me that this song relates to a new project I’ve been working on for a while now. Maybe that’s why it’s been in my head lately. I’ve mentioned the project here before but the only thing you can see related to it is a Pinterest board showing some of the inspiration, imagery, and themes.

So, this kinda made my day…

mercer mayerWhen I was younger, two of my favorite books were Mercer Mayer’s Professor Wormbog in Search for the Zipperump-a-Zooand One Monster After Another.

Recently I dug them out of a box in the basement. They’re now my youngest’s favorite books.

She’s reading them over and over again, much as I did at her age… over forty years ago.




time and tide

My youngest started school today.

She was excited. She was ready.

It was a good morning, lots of memories.

A bit fraught, a little bittersweet.

We did okay.

We watched her walk to the door.

So confident.

She’s my hero.

But there were tears in the car and, later, more at home — ours, of course.

She was ready. We weren’t.

A flood of feelings while we watched the teacher walk our daughter up to the door.

Later, I thought about the times I’ve watched my children turn their backs and walk towards the future, watched them walk away from me.

It’s hard.

With the older ones — one is twenty and the other is almost sixteen, now — I remember them little.

I remember the feel of their small hands in mine.

I remember their voices.

It’s hard.

I’ve stood there in the night, countless times, and watched over them — watched the gentle rise and fall of their chest, watched the tide move in and out as they slept.

I stand there now, tonight, watching while my youngest rests after her very exciting first day.

And, well, it’s hard.

As hard as anything.

Maybe even harder than with her older brother and sister.

Because I know what’s coming. I know what she’s walking towards.

What she’s walking away from.

And, honestly, it’s a little bit like mourning.

There’s a death in there, somewhere . . . somewhere in me.

I remember the life that’s passed. I hold onto the hope of the life that’s to come.

They turn their backs, they take their steps.

I let them go.

I pray they’ll come back.

— — —

That’s what I want to be for them, as their father — a safe harbor to return to when they need it, a touchstone they can carry along the way.

I don’t feel any compulsion to guide their steps, to point them in the direction I think they should go. I don’t feel a need to shape them, to mold them in my image.

Their own images are so much more interesting and wonderful.

It’s more rewarding for me and, really, more useful for them to just watch and marvel over who they are and what they become.

I know lots of parents who talk about how proud they are of their children. Most of the time, what I hear is how proud the parent is of themselves.

“Look at what I made.”

So I don’t say that I am proud of my children — I am proud of them, of course, but not because I think I had anything to do with how wonderful they are.

No . . . what I am, is grateful.

I’m grateful that they were given to me, grateful to have so much that I really don’t deserve.

I’m grateful to have such wonderful people in my life, grateful to watch them grow and become even more wonderful.

I’m grateful that I didn’t do too bad a job with what the gods gave me.

I’m grateful that I have had each of them there to walk with me for a while through the highs and lows of my own life.

And I’m especially grateful that they’ve let me tag along as they’ve made their way through the world.

I pray that it will always be so.

— — —

The same day that my youngest started school, my oldest invited me to come by and see his new apartment.

This is his first place, a place of his own.

He’s working very hard. It’s a struggle, sketching out your own little piece of the world.

I remember his first room, the little apartment we lived in when he was born. I remember putting his crib together.

And now…

I was impressed to see how he’d made a place of his own — something I was far too immature and weak to have done at his age.

He’s always been stronger than me. He’s always been my hero.

I’m glad he’s doing it. I think it’s outstanding.

And, yeah, I still mourn . . . probably more than a little.

But I’m grateful that he invited me.

— — —

And that same day…

The same day my youngest started school…

The same day my oldest invited me over for a visit…

That same day, my middle child — and the middle is sometimes such an awkward place to be, but she’s exactly the younger sister that her brother needs and the big sister that her little sister loves . . . and I love her for it — she reminded me yet again of how glad I am that she’s my daughter.

She’s funny. She’s kind and sensitive.

She’s boldly talented, writing songs and recording them and setting them free into the world. She has far more bravery and creativity than I had at her age — maybe even more than I do now.

She’s my hero.

And I’m grateful for her, grateful that I have a teenage daughter who actually talks to me.

I’m grateful that she shares her ideas and songs with me, grateful that she trusts me and shares her life with me.

I can’t wait to see where her path takes her.

— — —

I can’t wait to see where all three of those paths lead.

I pray they don’t go too far.

— — —

I am rich with children.

And I am grateful.