Just a House



I found a photo online today of one of the four houses I lived in as a child. (Chimineas Street In Northridge, California.) Just a house to anyone else but much more to me, of course.

I played Frisbee with my brother (now gone) in the summer on that grass.

I helped my dad (now gone) wash his car in that driveway.

My dog Skipper (a black terrier mix) pulled me on my skateboard down that sidewalk.

I planted a pine sapling in the front lawn because it was growing by a block wall and I knew it would be pulled out and thrown away when it got too big. It is now that giant pine tree on the right. It’s a strange thing to be able to climb a tree you planted. (One of those things that lets you know you’ve been around a while.)

I rushed home from school at Darby Elementary to eat scooter pies and watch Scooby Doo in that living room.

My brother and I shared the bedroom on the left. My bed was by the window. I used to look at the stars and pray, certain God heard every word. Lots of comics read under the covers with a flashlight, too.

I would trade a year for five minutes in that house again, at that time, with my brother and father. So much changes, and memories can be so clear that decades feel like days, even minutes.

Those of you who have lived long enough to know what I mean, have a listen to this song by my favorite singer/songwriter, David Wilcox. I think you’ll like it.


Etched in Stone

I do a lot of walking around my neighborhood in Burbank, California. It’s an old town so the sidewalks have a lot of etchings from bygone days. I started noticing them while walking my daughters in their stroller. After a while, I started photographing them. They interest me for the same reason I write – the “authors” of these etchings had one chance to write something meaningful in cement that was rapidly drying. I feel that way about my own writing most of the time. What am I going to say in this short life? What will my life mean when it’s over? Will I ever write anything socially redeeming enough to become “etched in stone.” Life is a lot like rapidly drying cement.

Here’s my collection so far.



The four-pointed star symbol in Christianity, also known as the Star of Bethlehem or natal star, represents both Jesus’ birth and the purpose for which He was born.


Friend made along the way.



I have always wondered how something as light as leaves make impressions in cement, even when it’s wet. Explanations from scientists and/or physicists are welcome!



Dogtown was a popular skateboarding club back in the 1970’s. A movie called Dogtown and Z-Boys (or something like that) was made about them recently.


” “Beach Boys Forever.” This could have been written anytime between 1965 and today.



Love – always a good reason to vandalize cement. I hope Barbie and Kenny are still together.



Here’s a guy who used his one chance at immortality in a slightly less mature manner.


“Rodene Wilson + Bob ’56”


Definitely from the 1960’s. LOL


“Surf Naked” – a popular phrase from the 1970’s, and something every self-respecting Californian needs to do at least once.


This one is as solid as the name Jack is. This particular Jack didn’t even bother putting his last name or initial. He’s Jack, dammit, and anybody who doesn’t know exactly which Jack he is can go straight to that hot place!


The winner for the oldest one I’ve found so far. 1940. And apparently written by a European who puts the day before the month.


On the sidewalk bordering the park where my six-year old plays tee-ball. Was this Beaver’s (from Leave it to Beaver) brother, Wally? If I could travel back to any year in my hometown, 1955 would be it. See below for etchings by Wally’s friends that same day.


Wally’s buddy Charlie started his own Grauman’s Chinese Theater walk of fame with a handprint.


Shorty, a friend of Wally and Charlie, no doubt. I wonder where Shorty is now. He’d be in his 70’s or 80’s, but the name the boy he was carved in cement is still there, after 63 years.


This one is in my own backyard. My house was once owned by Owen Engle, the original founder of the Burbank Road Kings, a hot rod club in the 50’s and 60’s. In fact, the steel girder beam they wedged between the walls of the garage to hang engine blocks on is still there. They cut all the rafter ties to get it in, which I had to rebuild to prevent the garage from falling over during an earthquake, but it’s still cool to own a part of Burbank Road Kings history. They were and still are a pretty big deal in classic car circles.

If you came across some wet cement today (and nobody was looking), what would you write? As Robin Williams’ character in Dead Poet’s Society said to his class, “The powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”



Too Full (poem)

This is an old one, written one day when I was lamenting more than usual the loss of childhood and the state of mind I had then. I don’t have many photos from those days so I’ll borrow a few from my favorite movie, Stand By Me, which is more or less the same thing.


Life, once,
was sharing secrets in tree-houses
on warm, summer nights
as a golden sun set over a perfect world.

Life, once,
was Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher,
the flush of spring on their cheeks,
walking in the sunlight
along the banks of the Mississippi.

Life, once,
was filled with friends
who looked right at me
with clear eyes, hiding nothing.
Friends whose hopes were my hopes,
whose enemies were my enemies,
whose dreams intermingled with my own.


But, now, I am too full,
too full of the world.
I have seen too much.
The minds of those that, once,
I believed to be noble, incorruptible,
defiled by greed and vanity.
Spirits as wide and open as the dawn
mutilated by disappointment.
Poets of the finest natures
who could reach into hidden paradises
and pluck out rare blossoms
twisted by fear and desperation.


I am too full.
I have absorbed this world,
so bloated with pain and pretense.
It is in my pores too deep to wash away.
I can no longer recall
what it was to be clean, hopeful.
I have been polluted, inside and out.
I have seen too much.
I have breathed in, too long, this air
so thick with despair.


You were right, Robert,
though I didn’t believe it,
couldn’t believe it
from my lofty, teenage perch
twenty years ago.
But you were right,
“Nothing gold can stay.”

They say time heals all wounds.
Some it has but mostly
it has made my spirit lonely,
crying out for friends it once knew
before time took them away.
Friends whose word was everything;
friends who came running when trouble started;
friends who judged me for who I was,
not what I had accomplished.
But they are all gone now,
lost in the parade.


I forgive them
for I know what life demands of us.
I’ve changed, too.
But logic comforts only the cold intellect
and makes no less the longing,
no less the sorrow.


Do you remember me?
I remember you.
We were blood brothers once.
We pricked our thumbs, pressed them together,
and said we were bound for all time
but I don’t know where you are today.

Susan, my childhood love,
we drew a chalk rainbow on the sidewalk
and made promises, simple but deeply felt,
promises we knew we would keep
no matter how old we became.

Are the promises of childhood
still floating in the high air
above the sidewalk,
waiting to be fulfilled?
Or were they washed away
by time and the elements
along with the chalk rainbow?


None I have today fit the definition I had back then.
And I miss them.
I miss them
and I wish they could come back
though I know it is impossible.
Slugs have consumed the gardens of their spirits
and I wouldn’t recognize them anymore.
Perhaps they wouldn’t recognize me, either.
A little more is forgotten each day
like the remnants of childhood
sold off at garage sales
or passed along to other children
who can put them to better use.
It’s true – we must put away childish things
or this world will swallow us whole.

But I can still remember
when I was young,
how the sun, streaming
through the edges of my curtain
made me want to run out into it,
to my friends,
to new adventures.
I remember how easy it was to shake off sleep
with them calling outside.

I want to feel the sunshine
pull me out into the world again
the way it used to.
Through my window and out into the world.
The world I once believed it to be.

~ Mark Rickerby