Haunted Houses & Bars of Orion

Lately I’ve been feeling like I’m 14 years old. Which is my typical maturity level, but no, I’m referring to the other cognitive signposts of that age. Take pickleball for instance.  As I compete in pickleball tournaments and the competitive juices flow, I feel 14 years old once more. Seven matches later, I realize I’m not 14, because every joint in my body is telling me to find a chair. Which reminds me of a story my Dad told to me about walking downtown in the shopping district with all the plate glass windows and looking aside he saw his own father in the glass before realizing it was simply his own reflection. We all have these moments when we are 14 again before something reminds us of the truth. 

Going to concerts also makes me feel young. Perhaps because I was 14 when I attended my first concert without my parents, Chicago Transit Authority at the Tulsa Civic Center. My friend Joey, drove my sister and I in a 1963 Mercury Comet and we ate at Denny’s after the concert.

Time passes much too quickly

When we’re together laughing

Beginnings has always been one of my favorite songs and I heard Beginnings in the midst of levitating doobie hipsters, long-haired mystics who were insiders to the sanctum of rhythm yet unknown to me. They danced and sang and swayed in the aisles, revivalists moving to horns, bongos, and bass that shook me and rattled my caged inhibitions. Still, I felt like an outsider at 14. 

I think that is why I go to concerts. I’m looking for the holy of holies, the inner room where music doesn’t just entertain you, it finds you and moves in and stays in your living room and eats out of your fridge. And once it finds you, within the throng of the broken-hearted and the euphoric, the high and lifted up, drifting above the mundane, you are no longer alone, you are sublime, you are no longer 14, you are ageless, and you have a permanent backstage pass.   

Recently, I convinced my wife to attend a Mark Knopfler concert. It wasn’t an easy sell, so I bribed her by booking a room at a Bed and Breakfast. Turns out the place was once an orphanage built in 1900 and it is apparently haunted and frequented by paranormal enthusiasts, one who came up to us breathlessly and told us that he had just seen a door open on it’s own, without the aid of a breeze or human effort. I nodded with all the empathy I could muster and thought of a door or two of my own that open paranormally and we went to our room, which was suite 5. On the door at eye level is a normal #5, and below that is the paranormal word, Boo. We were staying in the Boo room.

Earlier in the year a guest in the Boo room had awakened to see the apparition of a young girl (think twins in blue dresses in The Shining), standing at the foot of the bed staring at them. This is how I convinced Karen to go to Kansas City with me to hear the aging guitar genius Mark Knopfler, at an aging 1927 era theater while staying in an ancient 1900 era venue that was once upon a time called the Odd Fellows Orphanage. The Midland Theater in Kansas City is adorned with Renaissance Revival winged figures and five giant Czechoslovakian crystal chandeliers. We had a good view of the chandeliers from our balcony perch because I saved so much money buying SRO tickets on the balcony level hoping we could stand at the rail and watch through the chandeliers. We were ten deep at the rail and the acoustics near the ceiling were not great, so we walked out after 45 minutes, but not until we heard Romeo & Juliet…

And all I do is miss you and the way we used to be…

All I do is kiss you through the bars of Orion

Julie I’d do the stars with you any time

That song, it makes me feel 14 again. Like kissing someone through the bars of Orion…whatever that means. When you are 14, the bars of Orion seem reachable, mythic, nearby, and that song, well, it’s moved into my space and pitched a tent and it plays on my internal jukebox without asking permission.

Our good friends Bob and Sheila came to see us last week. The moon was rising to the east, just on the edge of the wedding tree where our daughter and their son exchanged vows 4 years ago. Like watching Knopfler through the crystals of a chandelier, we stood watching the edge of an orange moon peek above the trees and then rise through the ghostly limbs of that old hackberry tree that sits atop our hill above the pond. The autumn moon announced it’s rising with brilliant color and enormity stealing the show until it grew weary of attention and rose beyond the atmospheric prism, ever smaller, now whiter. Rising above the tree, the moon was now dimmer, less needy. Our standing ovation for the rising moon was over and we sat back down on the sofa and resumed our conversation.  

14 is like that moment with the autumn moon. You want to know what is going on backstage in the inner room. The adrenaline surges and passion ignites and you stand up, because you want to see what will rise up. How will the tree featured by the rising light of the moon, which isn’t really a source of light at all, but simply a refraction of light through the atmosphere, changing hues as it levitates, from the edge of the unseen to the blackened unknown firmament. How high will it rise?

I’m glad 14 is over. I wouldn’t go back if I could. But dreams and memory sometimes take us back and we see with fresh eyes what we missed before. I’m grateful for that, for reflection and wonder, for standing in my living room and looking at the brilliance of an everyday moment.

I was reading Anne Lamott recently and she wrote, “Do you know the first thing that God says to Moses? He says, ‘Take off your shoes.’ Because this is holy ground, all evidence to the contrary. It’s hard to believe, but it’s the truest thing I know.”

Bars of Orion

I saw burning bushes at 14 but I never took off my shoes. In our living room last week, watching the moon rise, we stood barefoot looking at the truest thing we know. The sun rises and sets, the moon basks in it’s glow, and a kiss can transcend the limits of space and time.

I was thinking about Knopfler and Romeo and Juliet and those lyrics about Orion. Some folks say the line goes like this… All I do is kiss you through the bars of a rhyme. Which doesn’t make much sense in light of the next line, Julie, I’d do the stars with you, anytime. So it must be Orion and the bars of light that trim the constellation, 1,343 light years away. God mentions these to Job, “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades or loosen the belt of Orion?” Job 38:31 

The answer for me is no, but I can take off my shoes and admire the show.

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