bipolarity · city · Delaney · mania · neighborhood

Dear Delaney (1)

Dear Delaney:

1) The day begins in the devil’s rain, and I am bodhisattva outside and my kid is spinning in it while my other one crawls into my lap on my perch on the porch.
2) I help walk Nic’s dogs and I take her into the canyon. She has a hummingbird tattooed on her right forearm and I want to show her the baby hummingbird that just learned to fly. They’re her spirit animal, and the dogs run around the canyon and we speak poetry sitting in a think spot while having coffee and the two hawks are there in attendance.
3) I chat with Elaine and it’s gotten to where we finish each other’s sentences and we share writings back and forth.
4) I have a great date with Frances Hap-Top. (she’s my laptop) I write prose with a stopwatch as challenge. I make beauty in ten minutes; I make beauty despite my name being writ on water, and with there being a need for permanence.
5) I meet Sara at Thorn St. and it’s like we’re new old friends, and we have some Japanese lager and chat furiously and I’m able to close out my tab while still sober, and I go home to where I’ve decorated the house in clippings of yarrow and lavender and where my wife is home.
6) Our friend Gary sends me menus and today I got the prize from Gary’s venture at Robuchon; Sara does the same thing: all this collecting of cookbooks and menus and today I scribble down suggestions for Ottolenghi; she collects Lucky Peach just like the t-shirt Gary sent me from Momofuku, but despite her husband being a chef doesn’t know Ottolenghi so I underscore the titles she needs to buy.
7) I bathe with charcoal and pine tar. I have a shrimp burrito with griddled cheese and chipotle mayonnaise. I have a burger with avocado and jalapenos, bacon and mushrooms. I know you appreciate the details.
8) I go see the Globetrotters with Cayde. Not sure if you’re aware of them, but they are the best. Cayde signals to me that the courtside seats are unsold, so we spend the last half of the show in the front row and high-five all the players. You’d totally dig this Delaney since you could do back-flips off a bar-top, but they set up a trsmpoline in front of a backboard and did somersaults and forward flips while shooting dunks. I yelled till I was hoarse.
9) I wrote part of a song today and am going to collaborate with my musician friends to grow it.
10) I make coffee for Jenn and sit with her as she applies makeup. “You’re the love of my life,” I say; “You’re the fucking story of mine,” she says, as we kiss in the rain.
11) Nic tells me a funny joke: “How do you tell when a blonde’s having a bad day?”……””When there’s a tampon behind her ear and she can’t find her pencil.” I know you’d find that funny. I tell Nic what Freud says about laughter, that it’s the id breaking through.
12) I go on a late night walk and get some ginger bee from Ricardo and we discuss cooking and the proper way to make a stesk. We shake hands compadre.
13) My cat keeps waking up my kid with her yowls; she wants my attention.

It was the best day, Delaney. Thought you should know. Love you, my Friend. Wings out and xo.

Delaney · penguins · people

The High Royal Order of Tinmen, a prologue

happy-feet-penguin_1973889cAntarctica is something Pre-Cambrian in age. The continent, on the whole, is a great thrustal uplift of limestone and sandstone. The continental rock sits atop dead seas, fossilized and regularly sedimented. Ice covers everything.

It’s ironic: Antarctica houses the global majority of freshwater, but it remains a desert. To date, the highest, driest desert in the world. Antarctica’s wonderment extends outward into the Southern Ocean where—as winds warm the seas and polypnas of calm and unfrozen waters form in between measures of pack ice—life blooms in explosions of phytoplankton and krill, great pink and green sub-oceanic clouds hemmed in by circular tides. Heavy salts precipitate into bottom waters. These are waters populated by barnacle-crusted baleen whales, by penguins; and these are waters, by virtue of movement and density, that create convergent lines definitively separating south from north.

In June of 2011, somewhere amid this all, an emperor penguin got lost. Invariably lost. Serendipity doesn’t usually pair well with lostness, but by virtue of this emperor washing ashore two thousand miles off course on a sandy beach in New Zealand, I eventually met Delaney Kelly, one of the great loves of my life. The emperor had crossed the convergence, and somehow so did Delaney and I, albeit through different channels. We would re-converge to become the High Royal Order of Tinmen, a two person battalion of lost and found. This is our story.


Delaney · family · Findlay · parenting

What Spectrum Means

Jenn furrows her brow in her sleep. Which seems ironic, because though rest is for the wicked, it seems the appropriate thing to relax your face while in Nod when you’re not actually wicked.

Jenn, of course, is far from wicked.

I know better, now, then to try and smooth her forehead with my thumb; she’ll just consternate worse on the pillow. And then she’ll be grumpy at me for having tried.

Not that she’s mad at me. We all just have ways of holding our face.

We all have ways of holding our face. I realized this with Finn the other day. He’s hypotonic, meaning he has low muscle control. But he walked far earlier than was predicted, and—before that—he learned how to express himself by manners of smiles and ‘Ta-da’s’, with hands held out in comic prediction of an audience.

I have to explain this all the goddamn time.

“Seems your kid’s high-functioning.”

I don’t get mad. I should. Then again, I shouldn’t. You learn things, and instantly you have to become a teacher for things you didn’t know the day before. You can’t be mad at people that didn’t have to do a quick-study, like we did, with absolutely no preparation.

I have to break out my lecture, constantly, the things I forced myself to learn within two nights of Finn being born.

There is no spectrum with Down Syndrome. Hypotonia means any muscle group can be affected. Voluntary, involuntary.

Finn had a bad heart. Everything else worked. But low muscle tone means there can be any number of effects. This can translate as lo-functioning or hi-functioning. But  isn’t that the case for all of us?

I tell people: this is not a spectrum. Just because I don’t want anything to be misunderstood. I have a fierce love for my kids, and being a Dad was my goal in life.

And while Finn was growing, and while we didn’t know what would be diagnosed later, I wrote every night to my friend while Jenn slept her pregnancy sleep.

Delaney had 174 IQ, Asperger’s—whatever is the new name for it. He was spectral, beautiful, a complete constellation unknowingly formed, and my gorgeous gorgeous friend.

I love spectrums, absolutely, like I love prisms; I just hate misdiagnosis. Delaney was my biggest comfort for the year before he died, and I hope I was his, too.

‘Spect’ is the root of ‘spectrum’, ‘spectacle’, and ‘spectacular’.

‘Spect’ means ‘see’.

So Finn: I realize recently how he holds his face. He waddles around the house, and immune to his diagnosis—still crooked like me—always turns his head up and to the right.

Psychiatrists who pretend these things, say that particular and phrenological posture means you’re constantly lying. If you’re looking up and to the right, it means you’re willfully withholding truth.

Finn doesn’t lie.

I watch him roam the house, happy.

I always combine Finn and Delaney as something experienced at once. Spectral, and not. Both, together.

How do I hold my own face? This I’m uncertain of. But I watch Finn play with his toys, everyday.


(He preps for show and tell).


Doesn’t matter what he picks. He always tells the truth.


death · Delaney · family · favorites


My friend unceremoniously visited the ‘Toaster’ today–his word–dressed in insouciant finery: a Sonic Youth tee and faded pink denims. I admire this idea of dressing down for an occasion, even when cremulators and fibered-brick are involved. RSVP generally calls for black-tie, but flamingo-colored jeans certainly help lighten the mood. 

Dear Delaney:

It’s hot today. My car broke down in near-one hundred degree weather.

Dear Thom:

It’s hotter where I am.

 Delaney had a wicked sense of humor. 2000 degrees won’t erase that. ‘Death’ becomes a strange noun at high temperature. Delaney pronounced it ‘det’ because he was Irish and wrote it as such in notebooks. ‘In Case of My Det’, he penned. He made his wife say ‘die’ and ‘death’ out loud. He figured Americans always anasepticize everything. Especially things terminal. ‘Get used to it,’ he said.

It’s perhaps funny: Irishmen don’t pronounce ‘th-.’ He made his wife say ‘death’ seeing as it was coming, but he got away with saying ‘det.’ Cheeky.

Call it a record: three mornings running and Cayde and I haven’t had an argument. Perhaps I’ve been inexorably changed through all of this. Perhaps curbing my caffeine consumption while otherwise reducing sleep has improved my relationship with my child. In which case, I need a block of cable-time and a catchy name for my new two-step program.

Then again, the program might not be very popular. Step one, after all, involves your friend dying, and the ‘Toaster’ is simply a charming word for the neighborhood crematorium.

I’m driving the 94–it’s really hot out–and I’m ferrying the boys to Lemon Grove, a grossly named suburb of San Diego. One plasticized and absurdly large lemon exists as curiosity in the middle of Broadway. A lemon statue. There are no lemon groves in the registrable vicinity, proving again that city names are mere successors to things they replace. Lemon Grove is supposed to have the ‘most perfect climate’ in all of the combined states. That’s Lemon Grove’s ‘claim to fame.’ But it doesn’t. Climate change is real and the plastic lemon can most likely be thermographed at 100 degrees. In which case, as my radiator issues steam upon parking 30 yards shy of the statued fruit, and as my car bleeds green and the radiator sends up its particular ghost, I’m left with two kids–one in a car seat–and eighty degrees worth of shade, spilt coolant, and a notion that this is far from where I’d choose to be.

Dear Delaney:

Hope you are well.

Dear Thom:

How is Finn?

Finn coos. I’m seated against the brick outside of ‘Mario’s Family Clothing.’ I’ve picked up Cayde’s school uniforms and am waiting for the tow truck. Parking was dramatic. Having finally found a spot, I pulled into it with a relief not generally reserved for asphalt lot luck. Steam issued from beneath the hood as if on cue. I pulled the emergency brake and the front of the car bellowed vapors.

I calmly closed my door, assessed the damage, and sighed. Delaney had most certainly met the kiln by now and the sun blazed tremendous; houses sat upon razed hills just to the north of everything. Cayden asked about SeaWorld (we were supposed to visit). I said, “Hold on, Cayde,” and walked the length of the car. Finn sweatily slept.

Across the street was an adult bookstore and a business advertising both lumber and pergo. I set myself down on the curb, watched the radiator fluid flow downhill. “Pergo,” I said out loud, “Pergo pergo pergo. Fucking pergo.”

Louder, I said: “Sorry, Cayde. SeaWorld tomorrow.” Of course he cried.

You can’t script this: a guy in a blue polo advertising his sobriety walked up. He had a tub-full of pixie sicks and was busking for money. Salvodorean by mention, acne-pocked, near toothless. The car was still spitting fumes and he waved a hand, pushing aside the smoke.

“Dear, Brother”–(he closed his eyes)–“Don’t know if you believe in God (voice rising) but, Brother, let Jesus heal this car and may your children be out of the sun.” He waved his hand over the hood of the car and the steam dissipated for a second.

I thanked him and let Cayden have a pixie stick. “Brother,” he added, “If there’s radiator fluid on the dipstick, then you’ve got a problem.  Head gasket.”  He raised his eyebrows as punctuation, pointed unnecessarily, and walked away.

Needless to say, I totally dug this guy, even though Cayde disliked the pixie stick.

So now we sit: me, Finn, and Cayde against the brick. Cayde shifts position, sits on my lap.

“Let’s play 20 Questions,” Cayde suggests.


I’m not in a bad mood. This is a fact suddenly important. Finn claps without any cue. Clap-clap. My son’s face belongs to a diagnosis–there’s no getting around this–and he smiles something stereotypic but I rock his car seat, smile back, and meanwhile guess correctly: ‘beluga whale.” Cayde says, “Yes!” Finn claps and laughs. The tow truck shows up and twenty questions is suddenly done in less than seven.

A man walks by as I get up. He points to Finn in an enthusiastic way–he’s a whistling, smiling kinduv guy, obviously–and says: “Number one reason for world peace right there!” He may have even made a clicking sound as he pointed. I wave a hand a smile as thanks; the asshole part of me wants to bring up Syria, else something to disprove his cheeriness, but a whistling-smiling guy doesn’t deserve that, and–although I’m not in a bad mood–I recognize that piece of me, that one unchecked coal which hasn’t yet ashed to white but smolders instead on the constant. I’m not in a bad mood, but part of me is angry and it’s hot; we’re in a Lemon Grove–a city I’ve always hated–and those houses atop the shaved-bald hill are repugnant. Delaney is dead, I’m in a remarkably good mood, and Cayde reports that the radiator fluid has since seeped to the end of the parking lot. I should be breaking down. Instead my car has, by manner of proxy.

Fidel’s the tow-truck driver. He’s small, Fillipino, and wears a sand-camo hat. He assesses our situation and says, “Oh, wow, Boss–you got a ride, right?” Jenn’s on her way. I say, “No worries,” sign what I have to on a clipboard and let Fidel do his thing. Cayde and I continue our game of 20 Questions while Finn continues being happy, irrevocably so; I guess ‘squirrel,’ ‘bean burrito,’ the color ‘green’ while Fidel chains my car’s wheels to the rig.

Cayden’s bouncy-happy. The tow truck is exciting and he almost stumped his dad on ‘sperm whale.’ He skips around–he can never sit still–and he keeps flicking his head up and to the left. He still thinks he has long hair though it’s since been cut and his bangs don’t fall anymore into his eyes.

“Daddy–” he jumps into my lap again, “–it’s really sad we can’t go to SeaWorld.” He says this with protruded lip–certainly affected–and a sorry tone. I kiss him on his tousled hair because I know he’s faking it.  “‘Nother day, Monkey.”

We’re having a good day. Fidel collects eight dollars from me for overage fees–it’s eight miles back to North Park and not Triple-A’s allotted seven–and he drives off.

With the heat and humidity, clouds form loomingly to the east. A few nights ago, when I had the intuition that Delaney was on his way out but before I spent the next two nights trying to write a letter–that last letter–to him, feverishly hot and waking up to only a blinking cursor at 1 a.m., 3 a.m., and 5; me and Jenn and Cayde sat on the front porch at nighttime and watched faraway and rumbling horizons bloom magenta. Cayde put arms round the both of us and pumped his legs as lightning illuminated the insides of clouds. Cayde laughed. I inventoried the weight and heat of Cayde’s hand on my shoulder, Jenn’s smiling presence, and the creeping salvia at my feet. I remember those clouds perfectly, but also the sudden and exact realization I had at that moment: I’m not ever going to meet Delaney.

Cayde points to the clouds today. “That one looks like a ramp,” he says, “And you jump from that cloud to that one. That one looks like an Imperial Star Destroyer, right Daddy?”

I say: “Yes.”

“And then you jump from that one to that one and it goes on forever.” I hold Cayde in my lap. Fidel has driven away, and once Jenn picks us up we’ll have ‘In n’ Out’.

It’s hot. I’m not in a bad mood.

Dear Delaney…

Dear Delaney…

Dear.  Delaney.