"Do Something" Means
The Beat of a
with Jim Chapin
to Make a
Message as Key
Freedom of Choice
in the Cradle...
LUNCH for WHY
Howard Fields and
Al Stewart in
Benefit KIDS Can
Make a Difference
Readers Share Thoughts
in Second Annual
to read previous
issues of Circle!
Cat's in the Cradle...
Note: The following story was originally published in January 2004 on
and has been reprinted with the permission of the author. © 2004 Nate
by Nathan Landerman
As a man,
it's difficult to cry. Not just embarrassing; not simply effeminate --
We are not permitted the luxury. There is a relay in the male brain that
is tied to a moisture-actuated switch in our tear ducts. By the time the
first dribble of saline begins to moisten our eyelids, a tiny drill instructor
has been resurrected from cryogenic storage in the depths of our subconscious
and has begun the litany of verbal abuse that will soon cause us to wipe
our eyes and be a man. Sheepishly, we look around. After all, the
person in the car next to you could be our best friend, our old high school
football coach, our father! Be cool, for chrissake!
Psychologists will tell you that keeping emotions bottled up inside is
a terrible strain on one's psyche. They have told me, at least. The human
mind is much like a grain silo. Silently, invisibly the space around what
we want to keep there is filled with volatile compounds that will explode
in a shower of flaming wreckage given the slightest provocation. A tiny
spark, a mere fraction of a second, a chance happening; suddenly we are
destroyed along with everyone around us, the kernels of our id spread
to the four winds.
I find myself traveling a lot lately. Business of one sort or another
keeps me on the road, in the air, breathing in the heady scent of fresh
money and stale hotel rooms. It's a lonely life. Empty whiskey bottles
make for cold bedfellows. Sometimes, when I find myself alone in the car
or in the hotel room, I will hear a song on the radio that stirs something
so deep inside of me that my male circuits are overridden and the tears
begin to flow. Last month, it happened again. Driving my rental car up
El Camino in the Mexican part of Redwood City called "Redwood City",
I heard a voice I hadn't heard in a while. It was Harry Chapin.
with his son Josh.
Photo courtesy of the Chapin Family.
I love music.
All kinds. But there are a few songs that I hold dear, songs I know by
heart. Songs that have, at some point in my life, been anthems. Social
Distortion's Take Away This Ball and Chain, Bob Seger's Turn
the Page, the Ballad of Johnny Rotten, and most recently The
Cat's In the Cradle have all occupied this special place in my heart.
At the risk of diverging even more, I recently got a Maori tattoo from
T's Tattoos in Rarotonga. Posted above his studio is his motto: "Visible
Marks of Life's Journey". I look back on these songs now as I did
at my arms and legs when I read the sign. He's right. They are. We naturally
gravitate towards art that describes us at that particular time in our
lives. Sometimes it gets under your skin and sticks.
It's been a month since I heard Harry croon his tale of longing and regret.
I'm still emotional about it. Life, I've found, is different on the road.
Outside of my normal habitat, removed from my daily routine, I have the
perspective to analyze my life. Years of charging hard and making money
have distanced me from those I love. I feel the pain of the lyrics because
it is my pain, it is my father's pain, and it will be my son's. This is
Sometimes, I think about what would happen if a person I love were to
die. What would I say to their headstone that I didn't have the balls
to say to their face? I don't want my father to die without telling him
how important he has been in my life. All of my success is owed to him
and one simple thing he told me when I was young that has guided every
decision I have made in my life.
Raising a child is a funny thing. Like Emily Dickenson said, "The
incidents of love are better than the events." For all of my father's
advice that went unheard or ignored, it was one simple question uttered
in a garage behind a Volkswagen that shaped the rest of my life. I was
about 14. My father and I had been working on restoring a '73 SuperBeetle
for my sister when she turned 16. It was a great time in my life. Being
a 14-year-old boy, I had a passion for all things automotive that to this
day has not dwindled. From those months spent twisted under the dash of
a Volkswagen trying to translate old German wiring diagrams was born a
work ethic that has carried me ever higher in the corporate world.
One day, I was wrestling with a particularly stubborn bolt. It may have
been in the engine compartment, I don't really remember the details. But
it was in a particularly crowded area of the car, even for a Beetle. I
was applying every bit of strength I had in my young arms to the wrench
when my dad looked over my shoulder and quietly said, "Where is your
hand going to be when that bolt finally gives?" I stopped. I looked.
The interior bits of a partially restored Volkswagen are fraught with
peril. Had I pressed on, the incident would have almost certainly ended
in tears and bloody knuckles. I know this because for once, I took my
father's words to heart. I shifted my grip and pressed the wrench with
the palm of my hand, thankful now that the only contact from the sudden
release of tension was metal-on-metal.
Years have passed, but I still remember those words as if he were still
here looking over me. Not a single decision I have made since has been
without the thought of probable repercussion. Not a line of code is written,
not a single deal made without thinking about the consequences. Sure,
I've ignored it at times. That's the great thing about advice. Sometimes
it goes unheeded. Sometimes it pays off, sometimes it hurts. But at least
you know that you're rolling the dice.
Today, I have taken a few hours to write this down. Yes, there are still
planes to catch and bills to pay, but some things are more important.
Dad, I hope you read this, because I don't think I have the balls to say
it to your face.
I love you.
Nate Landerman is an author, entrepreneur, husband and father. His
internet publishing company currently produces three websites on which
his work can be seen:
For more information on Nate or to request a reprint, please visit http://www.landerman.org.
for the Next Issue of Circle! on September 7