You need to learn how to play checkers


          “I don’t like the dating game but it’s almost necessary I guess” is the message I got from my young friend yesterday. He is a bartender in a large city and a damn good looking kid. I’m fifty now so I have earned the right to call anyone under thirty a kid.

          A twenty-five year old aspiring writer looking to make his mark in the world as well as trying to figure out the many love connection opportunities that are constantly availing themselves to him. But he is an idealist and a romantic so he hasn’t learned to let it be easy yet.

           Aside from thinking I know what I am doing and can help, he has some real talent when he gets out of his own way. So when he gets sideways on some things, I give him my ear and it seems to calm him down.

          He overanalyzes everything. I thought I had the market cornered on that but the kid gives me a real run for my money in that area.

          I keep telling him that he is at the height of his sexual powers. Girls fawn over him and the fact he is selective and sometimes too serious makes him even more appealing to members of the opposite sex.

          “Damit son. Quit studying the freaking menu and enjoy the world class buffet while it is right there in front of you. It won’t be there forever so enjoy it while you can.” I tell him repeatedly but it never seems to stick. I do understand the heart wants what the heart wants.

          His current dilemma is over a girl he has spent some time with that comes into the high end bar he works at. She is an impressive young woman from the pictures I have seen and what he tells me about her. They have gone out quite a few times even consummated their relationship in the biblical sense. Still, he insists he doesn’t know whether or not she ‘really likes him.’

          He is so sincere I don’t want to want him to feel awkward about talking to me about it. I have explained repeatedly she is probably intimidated by his good looks and how much attention he receives from other women. That doesn’t help.

          Quoting Shakespeare, “Tis a fool who searches for reason within the chambers of the human heart.” pacified him for a while but within a day or two he was right back to square one trying to figure this one particular woman and what she thinks about him.

          His questions don’t frustrate me. He is so intelligent I learn a great deal from our discourse. I just want my friend to enjoy himself more and learn to let go.

          After all I am an expert in the area of relationships. A fifty year old man who has been divorced and single for the better part of seventeen of years does qualify me to give that kind of advice right? (softly weeping as I typed that last line.)

          Hell, I have been such loner for so long, I am just a cardboard box and an overpass bridge away from being a card carrying hermit.

          So when the kid messaged me yesterday just one day after the Joe Thomas Jr. Guitar for the month of April it reminded me of story I thought might help the young fellow in the way of relationships as well as with his writing.

          Joe was delivering some picture frames to Auburn close to six years ago I believe it was  and we jumped on the chance to have a beer together downtown at the Mellow Mushroom. A few beers in I was telling Joe this long story about something that was weighing heavy on my mind. I cannot remember what it was about.

          Like me, Joe was not a wallflower when it came to talking. He was also a patient listener, a skill I try hard to emulate.

          After letting me babble on until I had exhausted myself with the story I was telling him, Joe sat there looking at me without saying a word. It was like he was still soaking in all of the ocean of thoughts I had spoken long after I stopped talking.

          “Bubba. You know what your problem is. Most of the world is playing checkers and you are playing chess all the time. You are always thinking three moves ahead. That is not a bad thing but sometimes you need to learn to play checkers, enjoy one move at a time and don’t worry about what your next move is going to be.”

          We parted company that day and I drove directly to Wal-Mart and purchased a cheap checker game. I still have it in the original box and often I will take it on the road with me to gigs. It is one of my few material treasures. I’m not sure I have ever played a game on the board but having it near me calms me down reminding me of a day well spent and telling me that it is okay to enjoy one move at a time without worrying about the next.


          Don’t quit playing chess with your thoughts my young friend, it is part of what makes you special. Just learn to how to play checkers too because like me...sometimes you forget.




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