Sunday, January 15, 2017

Bruce, Could I Have the GPS Coordinates?

Before he even wrote the words, I did what he told me to do: I grabbed my ticket and suitcase. I didn't know where I was going, but I knew I wouldn't be back. When I was weary, I laid my head upon his (figurative) chest. And I took what I could carry. And I left the rest. He did provide for me. He did stand by my side. He has been a great companion for this part of the ride.

But what I'm wondering, my darling Bruce, where, exactly is that fuckin' land of hope and dreams? I'm on board. There's a shitload of saints and sinners, of losers and winners, of whores and gamblers, of the broken-hearted, of thieves and sweet souls departed, and of fools and kings thrown along with me. We're all here.

But, Bruce, man, it seems the train has been stopped dead in its tracks. Bruce, man, it's jumping the tracks. It's derailing.

So we're getting off that train, and we're taking to the streets, and we're preparing to do battle with he-who-shall-not-be-named and his Death Eaters. Remember all of our battles in the '80s through to '93? They're like a walk in the park compared to now. Under George W.? Easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy.

This is far worse, Bruce. So if you'd be so kind as to give me clear directions on how to get to that land of hope and dreams, I'd be ever so grateful. I'll make my way there as I do battle in the streets.


Lyrics to Springsteen's "Land of Hope and Dreams"
A YouTube video of him performing it at a concert I attended in 2012


Friday, January 13, 2017

On Friendship

Generally speaking, I'm not a good friend to have. I almost never hold up my end of the bargain when it comes to maintaining the friendship. At various times in my life, I have had almost zero contact for months (or even years) with folks I consider my closest friends. Social media only reinforces that lack of contact because we convince ourselves that liking or commenting on a post is the same as being in touch.

It's not.

But I can't blame social media for my failure because I have truly always been this way. I dropped out of touch with people whom I love for years and years at a time. We'd reconnect somehow, and then I'd be gone again for the same period of time. My life and its trappings of the moment -- be it young adulthood, working with a lot of travel, marriage, kids, more work -- is all I could (or would) pay attention to. As I'm a fairly solitary person to begin with -- hello, Eldest, in case you were wondering where you get it from -- it's so easy to do.

Approaching 60 as I am...

[Oh my fuckin god! I wrote those words just then and my heart started pounding. I'm nearly 60. Damn. Eh.]

Approaching 60 as I am, I have many people in my life whom I have known 40 years and whom I consider good friends. I have told myself that they recognize this flaw in me and they accept me even with that critical flaw. I wonder today, though, if that's really true. I know on my end that any one of them could ask me to do something and I'd do it in a nanosecond. [Moral compass notwithstanding.] I wouldn't think twice about it. They're my friends.

Lousy friend that I am.

No point to this post. No gratuitous begging for confirmation from anyone that it's no problem. Just one of the random thoughts bouncing around in my head.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Another Photo Album Created

It was a Christmas break that none of us expected as it found us entirely by ourselves for most of the nearly three-week period when my nuclear family was in the same general place at the same general time with about the same general amount of free time. What we ended up doing was a whole lot of hanging out in the same general place at the same general time and often all going out and doing something together. It was both nothing extraordinary and something amazing.

Petty differences that plagued us for years have dissolved almost entirely into faux arguments to recall days of yore. I don't know that I could ever articulate how unexpected it is to have that happen within my lifetime. My father and his sister didn't mend fences until just one year before he died at a tragically young(ish) age. I don't expect to ever have a relationship of any kind with one brother. I will always only infrequently see my other two brothers. (My sister will be stuck with me forever.) Only far later in life, long after my father's death, did our relationships become cemented.

My senior year of college, the five "kids" were all at my father's for Christmas. I do not remember the visit fondly. You can see that from the photos taken at the time. I can see it in my mind without looking for any photos. In light of my parents' divorce, my mother was not there so it was a gathering of a nearly complete family that had been beaten and battered. I'm guessing you understand why I don't need no stinkin' photos.

The past three weeks, we've seen some really great movies, we've enjoyed some fabulous meals, we've had friends over, we've nearly escaped from prison, we've taken death marches, and we've done nothing at all. As Christmases go, it was far more chill than we've seen over the years. As families go, it's the most chill I've ever known, and I'm happy to have more photos for my life album.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Cheesecake as Solace

It wasn't until after I graduated high school that a close friend of mine lost a parent. It was actually in the spring semester of my freshman year of college that, in quick succession, three deaths occurred: a friend's father, the nephew of my mom's boyfriend, and then my own friend from high school. I can't imagine how devastating it was for the families of all three of the deceased.

Since that spring semester my college freshman year, there have been many deaths which have touched me and mine. Now that my kids are all nearly grown, I breathe a sigh of relief for them that they have remain remarkably unscathed.

When I started writing this post, I actually had an idea of what I wanted to say. I don't know if I do anymore. As often happens, I guess, when you live in an area long enough, your circles of acquaintances and friends overlap repeatedly. A mother whose kid played soccer with Youngest at 5 turns up waiting outside the basketball court for her now-8-year-old kid's game to start while my kid's game wraps up, and then reappears at back to school night in middle school, and ends up being part of the meal train for a fellow parent whose spouse is ailing.

I think I first met Ben and his wife Julie about five years ago. They have a daughter and a son. The daughter is a junior in college. The son is a sophomore in high school. When Youngest first started playing soccer competitively, he played with kids a year older for a couple of seasons. Ben and Julie's son was on that first team. He's gregarious, that Ben. Anyone who encounters him, he counts as a friend for life. Active in the schools and sports, Ben has circles of folks from all walks of life in this town.

The meal train started in early November, about the time JV soccer had its tryouts with Ben as assistant coach. Pete made a batch of fried chicken and mashed potatoes. Dates to choose to bring a meal were snapped up and three meals a week were set for months on end.

In mid-December, upon our return from England, I ran into Ben at a Japanese restaurant. He didn't come right out and say it -- Youngest was with me -- but when asked how he was doing, he remarked that it was a process and the measure of a person was how he got through that process.

Mid-baking frenzy with my kids all here, and I get a burr up my butt to make a cheesecake. So I do. But with only three cheesecake-eating folks in the house, I've got to give away half if we are to have any hope. So I call Ben up and say, "Hey, want half a cheesecake?" Spur of the moment, I ask Youngest if he'd like to accompany me to deliver the cheesecake and raspberry compote. Which is how we end up at Ben's house a few days ago.

Youngest stands at the precipice of the house, safely in the hallway. I stand in the kitchen with Ben, as he tries the cheesecake and the still-warm raspberry compote on it. He has just brought Julie home from treatment. She loves cheesecake, he says, so he knows she'll devour it. I don't see Julie. I go to leave after a few minutes of chatting, retrieving Youngest from the living room, where he eventually joined his friend only after being told by Ben that it was safe to go further into the house.

I repeat my standing offer of anything you need, anything I can do, anything at all.

She died New Year's Eve. I had just washed the dish that had held the cheesecake when I got the news.

I don't really believe in forces colluding in the universe except when it comes to tennis balls. Every time Corrie the Wonder Mutt loses a ball, the universe lets me find a replacement one. I thank the universe every single time. I will now assign to the universe an additional miracle: the desire to make a cheesecake.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

I'll be in Touch

I'm not a socially touchy person. The use of "touchy" here is the third on dictionary.com: sensitive to touch. Or maybe I am a socially touchy person -- same word usage -- if my sensitivity to touch is a deep kind of cringe I experience whenever I have to hug someone. Those who know me already know the exceptions to this hug-avoidance include my family (or at least the loved ones among it) and (really) (good) friends I haven't seen in a long while.

Everyone else? Please, don't touch me. I'm guessing that, just as my avoidance of peas can be traced directly to the forced consumption of said disgusting, squirty, wrinkly ugh, my avoidance of hugging can be traced directly to the forced hugging of distant aunts, uncles, great-aunts, great-uncles, boyfriends of second-cousins twice-removed, and so on. Chalk that up to another "ugh."

One of my resolutions this year is to lean in to such encounters with acquaintances, run-of-the-mill friends, newly introduced members of whatever social group I am purported to be a part of, and so on. I believe that you can re-train your brain to learn to accept just about anything not out of your realm of morals. [Heh. I worked in a reference to people who elected Voldemort. #VOTUS #resist]

A few days ago, after Youngest and I encountered a chatty clerk at Staples, he related a story of how he was out with his dad awhile back at Staples and encountered an entirely different chatty clerk. Youngest said that after, his dad complained about it. I then told him his story reminded me to tell him that one of my resolutions for the new year is to hug people more. His jaw dropped and he stared at me incredulously, "You mean strangers, like that clerk?!"

For the record, no, I don't mean strangers. Even with that caveat, I imagine those who know me best look a little like jaw-dropped Youngest did in the Staples parking lot the other day.

***Hugs***


Thursday, December 29, 2016

On Walkabout

[Bad move to start a post with a completely unrelated aside, but I have a vague memory of being in like 5th grade and going to see a movie called "Walkabout." I'm pretty sure it was rated PG. A gaggle of kids belonging to a rather strict major and his wife accompanied me and whatever other kids to see the movie. The parents went, too. I'm fuzzy on what the movie was about, as my only memories of the movie itself revolve around some naked native women and a couple of lost kids. Anyway, that strict major and his wife went ape-shit about the content of the movie. I reckon it's only right about now that their parents would allow those kids to see a PG-13 movie.]

We have a rule in our house. It's a rule I'm fairly strict about. [No, it has nothing to do with what movies my kids watch. Don't care. Never have.] Starting November 1, we no longer purchase things people want. We only purchase things people need.

I have my own personal rule. It's one I started at the beginning of the year. I walk. I now walk at least 13,000 steps a day. I started the year off resolving to walk 10,000 steps a day. Within two or three days, I realized that wasn't really a stretch, so I upped it to 11,000. I probably started doing the 13,000 steps each day in early November.

I remember that it was early November and not late October because of that house rule we have about buying only what we need and not what we want. And I know it was early November because that's when I discovered that, in addition to being pretty beat up with holes and such, the heel of my left sneaker had come nearly completely away from the rest of the sneaker.

I have other pairs of shoes, including some less sturdy frou-frou sneakers and a pair of Tom's Le Daughter left behind because, you know, they were so worn and dirty. [Hey, how is that laundry life working out for you in college, girlfriend?] I also had a pair of shit-kicker boots (which had a huge weed-whacker-caused hole in the right boot). So I didn't really need a new pair of sneakers.

Every time I wore those beat up sneakers with the heel coming apart, my dear family made fun of me. That just made me more proud to wear them. That is, until the rains started and we were headed to England for 10 days in December.

I broke the house rule. I did. On my Christmas list was a pair of waterproof boots. In Pete's closet was a pair of waterproof boots. Like Eve tempted Adam, that boy tempted me with those waterproof boots. And, oh lordie, they were awesome. I wore them the whole time I was in England (except when I would proudly wear and freeze in my raggedy sneakers).

And then when we came home, I put them back in the box and they sat under the tree, nestled among wrapped gifts like new sneakers. And on Christmas Eve, when we each got to open one package, I...opened the harmonica Aunt Margaret got me in England. But on Christmas Day, I opened everything else.

I'm ready for my walkabout, through any weather, so long as the dog can keep up and so long as she doesn't howl too loudly as I teach myself how to play the harmonica.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Stand up, Village People!

A teen girl, I guess a senior at the local high school, posted on her personal FB page a rant about some 2016 alumni at a party doing a Secret Santa exchange. She named six people -- three young women and three young men -- as being there as well as a seventh, whom she specifically cited as not having received the gift meant for him.

The gift? A blow-up doll with that teen girl's photo pasted on it. Instagram was a flurry with videos and photos of it, apparently.

A member of a local "In the Know" page posted a screenshot of the girl's post. A few people commented. Within a couple of hours, of course, it was removed. The girl also removed the post. I've heard nothing else about it since the removal of the posting on Christmas Eve.

I've thought about it quite a bit, little thoughts, sandwiched in between the happiness of these last few days and the coming days, intruding. Of the six adults the girl specifically called out, I know two of the men and the mother of one of the women.

I want you to read that last sentence again. A girl -- the one who says this happened so the alleged victim in this account -- is no more than a senior in high school. Those six people she named are all high school graduates attending college who are presumably all at least 18. If what she alleges happened, then those six -- and anyone else there who participated in the act and were recorded doing so and sharing it on social media -- have committed crimes and need to go down for it in a blaze of fucking glory.

And if it's a lie, then that girl needs to go down for it in a blaze of fucking glory.

But in no way should something like this be allowed to play out and the real fucking adults among us sit by and let it. And that is why, my dear friends, I took screenshots of the post and intend to forward it to the authorities. Who is with me?



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