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In My Room

Spotify playlist is churning in the corner of my home office. The end of a long day.

The Beach Boys. “In My Room”.

There’s a world where I can go and tell my secrets to
In my room, in my room
In this world I lock out all my worries and my fears
In my room, in my room

IMG_0024I’ve always needed my own space. My own room. Close the door. Read. Put my feet up. Watch. Listen. Doze. Think. Write. Surrounded by the things that make me the most comfortable. My books and CDs. An irish walking stick (my shillelagh). Tablets crammed with lyrics. My favorite green lamp and an engraved clock carved into anthracite coal. A Pittsburgh Steelers terrible towel. A Moravian College towel. An old golfing trophy. Family photos. Large frame portraits of a stunning Irish abbey, and one of Abraham Lincoln, surrounded by various posters from past musical and theatrical pursuits. A world atlas. A map of Ireland. Our family crest. A copy of Martin Luther King Jr’s “I’ve been to the mountaintop” speech. My guitars. a Who coffee mug. A Quadrophenia poster. A Bob Marley tapestry. A new 4 track recorder that I never learned how to use. A map of the coal seams under Scranton. A beat up couch. A portable space heater. Two small desks back to back. Drawers are filled with trinkets and cards given to me by my kids over the years. The purple heart of the now deceased husband of a childhood neighbor sits alone on a shelf. A brown swivel chair. An Amazon echo that my daughter just passed down to me sits on the right corner of the desk, ready for instructions that I don’t yet know how to give. The room is gleefully messy, but my wife isn’t ashamed when I welcome the rare visitor in, which tells me it’s not that bad.

There’s no window, and that’s the way I like it. I don’t want to look out. I don’t want anybody else able to look in.

I can hear the movement above my head. Feet on the floor. So the world goes on without me. One less thing to worry about.

As a kid I never had my own space. As a twin me and my brother shared a room smaller than the one I’m describing, and made do with bunk-beds. Hell, my father was a newspaperman and frequently wrote at home, and he didn’t have a space to retreat to. He’d sit at the dining room table at his Underwood typewriter and bash away as us 6 kids created chaos around him. Or he’d sit on the couch with a legal pad, TV blaring, and tear through page after page in his indecipherable scrawl (even he couldn’t read if after the fact). The only thing more chaotic than our house was the Scranton Times newsroom in those olden days, so not having 4 walls to cover himself with didn’t bother him at all. He could block it all out. But for whatever reason, I could not. I needed the barriers.

So I’d build my own. With blankets and small tables and piles of pillows, or with panels of wood from the garage that I could lean against each other to create some sort of makeshift room. I’d use the end tables saved for drinks when my parent’s had company over….and that would be my makeshift writing desk, and I’d sit and dream and write of whatever I was sure I would never share with anybody else ever.

There was another mass shooting today. Six more dead in Milwaukee. The story barely made a ripple with fears of a global pandemic on the rise. Our nation is woefully unprepared for the latter, and has shown a repeated, callous disregard to deal with the former. So that Beach Boys song really hit a nerve today.

But eventually we need to tear down the walls and come together. None of the dreams I can conjure up in here are gonna be worth much if we can’t agree on some sort of shared human decency when we’re inhabiting the same spaces. What Warren Zevon called “splendid isolation” may be part of the reason we’re where we are right now. Our days are like a war. Our instincts give us two options. Retreat. Or attack.

What’s missing is what folks used to do. They used to talk.

In a bit.



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