Archive for January, 2016

You Aint Free

Posted in My Poetry, Uncategorized with tags , , on January 21, 2016 by sethdellinger

I was sittin’ down in a greasy diner
thinkin’ ’bout eatin’ the food I bought
(yes, I bought).
The meals were piled ten feet high.
But I just couldn’t wait for the bill to arrive!
Well, man, you can have anything you want,
but you know there’s gonna be a cost.
No use gettin’ on your knees.
Somebody’s gotta mop these floors
and get these dishes clean–
but don’t look at me!
‘Cause you aint free.

Well I was sittin’ on a bench on Market Square.
I was sittin’ watchin’ the cars drive by.
I was watchin’ them put their break lights on,
smellin’ the fumes made by their gas,
the radios blastin’ tunes and talks,
the lease agreement tucked in the glovebox.
Well girl, you can drive anywhere you want,
but you know there’s gonna be a cost.
Somebody’s gotta keep the system greased–
but don’t look at me!
‘Cause you aint free.

Our Own Cause and Effect

Posted in Memoir, real life, Uncategorized with tags , , , on January 19, 2016 by sethdellinger

Somebody recently shared a picture of me from back in my days as a cook for a family restaurant—a job I had for eight years (and a company I worked for for over fifteen).  I was astounded by how long it had been since I had spent any amount of time remembering  that job, that kitchen.  Eight years is a long time, but it’s interesting how easily even eight years of your life can be compartmentalized, filed away under PAST and visited only briefly and periodically henceforth.


My eight year tenure as a line cook saw sea changes within myself that dwarf even the largest of the recent growth I’ve undergone.  I literally evolved into the basic version of the man I am now over the course of that job.  Thinking back to who I was the day I started there—that guy is unrecognizable now.  I wonder how I would have ended up if I had gotten a different job?


I knew every inch of that kitchen.  Every contour of stainless steel, every equipment wheel, every floor tile—I had a history with it.  I knew where the problem areas were, where grease pooled and mops didn’t reach.  I knew which reach-in doors closed too slowly and which hood baffles would cut you.  I had a physical and emotional relationship with the kitchen.  Of course I had an even larger and more complex relationship with the restaurant and company itself, but it is this relationship of minutiae with the kitchen that my memory is most apt to gloss over.


My personal evolution in the kitchen itself seems more significant the more I ponder it.  My first day in cook training (I had spent my first few months with the company as a dishwasher) I was timid, clueless and constantly intimidated.  Although I had worked (in the kitchen) of a fast food restaurant for three years prior, I know now this could hardly be said to be experience with food—it is basically putting Legos together.  And while foodies would say this job cooking for a family restaurant is much of the same—that may be true, but the Legos are much more complicated.  My first few hours in the kitchen, I was hard-pressed to remember how to make the toast.  Literally.  Eight years later I was the unabashed, brash, dare-I-say courageous acknowledged leader of the kitchen staff, making decisions with store management about things that would affect the operations of the restaurant.  My evolution within the kitchen lead me to a career in management, first with the company I had cooked for, then leaving the nest and essentially never looking back.


Over the past five years, since leaving the original company I cooked for, I have worked for two organizations, both times as a store manager.  Granted, I’m not a Five-Star General leading troops into battle, but I do lead people, every day.  I’m responsible for entire buildings, and everything that happens in them.  This is what I do for a living, and it is a reflection of who I am.  While I am the last person alive to define themselves by their profession, I can’t deny that part of who I am inside as a person is why I’ve ended up in this career.


What I can’t seem to figure out is how I became that person.  Was that kitchen the exact right place for me to evolve the way I was meant to?  Or did I evolve the way I did because I was in that kitchen?  It’s kind of a nature vs. nurture question.


Time and experience have conspired to make me lose sight of that kitchen, and who I was then and how I changed (I think you’ll find time and experience have done similar things to you).  Now, I come into work every day, take it for granted I am in charge of everybody and everything, start making decisions with a well-used decision muscle, delicately maneuvering my operation to where I want it to go.  This from a guy who was once intimidated by toast.


Once we start pondering our own cause-and-effect (how we got where, what motivated us, what propelled us) the only natural thing to dwell on then is the now.  What forces are acting on me now?  Where is my current situation leading me?  Our human minds naturally think, at every moment, we are currently and finally the finished version of ourselves, but ask: how am I changing, now?

Posted in Uncategorized on January 19, 2016 by sethdellinger

The Power that Drives the Universe

Posted in Uncategorized on January 10, 2016 by sethdellinger

For many years of my life, I professed regret that men could not bear children.  From the ages of approximately 19 until 27, whenever conversation allowed, I would state my position that I wished it were possible for me to have a child–that growing a person inside oneself seemed to me like the sort of transformative experience I wanted to be able to have.

Naturally, I suppose, this opinion changed as my own desire to have a child changed.  I spent about a decade telling folks I thanked my lucky stars men didn’t have to have children.  Turning away from the fact of the miracle, I turned my attention to the pain of childbirth and the discomfort of pregnancy–things I didn’t want to experience.  This was also the same decade of my life when I wanted to be completely solo–no partner, no kids.  In retrospect these opinions are clearly intertwined.

I’ve now lived with a child I am helping to raise for close to a year, and it’s no stretch to say it’s been the most rewarding, intense, exhilarating time of my life.  My love for him can’t easily be described or explained; even without a biological link, my affection for him feels elemental, timeless–quite like the love I feel for my parents, but even more inexplicable.  I love Karla more than I ever could have imagined, but with our boy it is still somehow different; it is constantly acute.

It was this morning that I realized I again pined for the ability to bear a child myself.  All three of us were in his bedroom while we got ready for the day.  I had been playing cars with him, when Mommy sat down and announced it was time to cut his toenails.  He is no fan of the task, but dutifully sat in her lap and kept playing with his car.  She bent over and steadied her hands, bringing the clipper to his pinkie toe.  It was a routine scene, but filled with a beauty and caring so rich, I almost had to turn away.  The bond created by literally being each other’s flesh is one of atoms, and also something…else.

I make great efforts to forge a relationship with our boy that is very affectionate, not one grounded in traditional masculine trope.  I take as great pains as I can to be ever vigilant about our parental roles, making sure our little person grows up knowing he can change diapers, or sweep floors, or cry or feel fear, and that women can be brave and also get to relax while men clear the table.  I want him to know that when he wants love–deep, desperate love–he can feel free to put his arms around my neck, or his mother’s neck, whichever he wants.  And the great news is that he and I do have an amazing relationship, often filled with magical, delightful moments of unfettered love.

But watching her cut his toenails this morning, I knew that there is simply never a substitute for growing the person inside you.  It’s nobody’s fault, it’s just how we’re built, but still…there it is.  But it’s also more than that.

For years now, I’ve been writing things, and making little movies, and taking photographs, writing notes from the fire, all in search of one thing, and it’s been right in front of me all along.  This electric, unbreakable, unimpeachable love between two people whose bodies were once one, that is the power that drives the universe.

The Floating World

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on January 5, 2016 by sethdellinger

…living on for the moment, turning our full attention to the pleasures of the moment, to the pleasures of the moon, the snow when the snow deems its existence now-worthy, the cherries in bloom and the maple leaves if you are lucky to live somewhere near maple and maybe taking home a jug of real maple syrup that will get hard and grainy and unusable before you know it but you’ll get 6 maybe 8 of the best pancakes of your life out of that stuff before it goes, singing songs, oh singing songs, drinkng the most succulent fruit beverages you can find hopefully with pieces of mango or papaya immersed in the nectar, and I am not talking about pulp but pieces, diverting ourselves in just floating, floating along like otters in the most something of something, oh the words leave me dear but I’m sure you can picture the otter, can’t you?  Not giving a whit for setbacks staring us in the face, what some folks call troughs,  not to be disheartened, not to be withdrawn or fake, like a gourd just floating along a peacable current, this is what we call the floating world, the world of glorious life taking you where it will take you, and the things we see and feel, like your skin against my hand, laughing on the couch at my impressions and your jokes, your mouth contorting as you laugh so genuine, while outside the temperature drops and the darkness closes us in and the dog whimpers at the shadowy truths we all know but we deny just now, just for this moment, as we turn our full attention to the pleasures of the moment…

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