Friday, November 30, 2001

Happy and Sad rock notes

It's a rock and roll kind of day.

Today, in my inbox (the physical mail, not the email inbox) there was a small package for me, courtesy of Shilo of Intelligent Records. Shilo used to be one of the students that worked for/with me at SSC, and is a Macintosh Demigod. He left school and started a music management company called Intelligent Records. He asked me once to make a website for one of the musicians on his dance card, Denise Hradecky. It's a very simple site, and i like the rollovers at the top of the page.

Shilo has been at this for a couple of years, promoting concerts, selling CDs, doing the distribution... and he sent me a CD of a new band he signed last month called Balsa Gliders. They are from the Washington DC area, but have North Carolina/Virginia roots. The CD is pretty good. I need to listen more closely. I think I really like it... It sometimes takes me a few listens of something to decide. The opening song "Armrest" initially made me think of John from They Might Be Giants' voice. I also enjoyed "Green Street." The website has MP3s you can download and a tour diary. I recommend them highly. Gotta love indie rock, and thanks Shilo!

So there was rejoicing for music.

Additionally, I spent a little time today looking up Kevin Hearn and leukemia on the internet. Found out he just released a solo album with his band, Kevin Hearn and the Thin Buckle, a couple weeks ago. Titled H-Wing, the name comes from the wing of the hospital he was laid up in while being isolated in treatment for the cancer. The article I read proudly states that "Kevin Hearn Kicks Cancer's ASS!!!!" and he's a survivor more so than Destiny's Child could ever imagine. Very nice. I've never heard him sing, haven't heard any of his solo work. I'm curious... must check it out. It also made me think of my friend Gregg who is in remission for Hodgkins, and anytime there's a thought that leads you to a friend you don't get to see too often, that's a good thing, darnit.

So thinking of Kevin's recovery, thinking of Gregg, there is more rejoicing for music.

But with happy, there is sad.

And in the sad part of the rock and roll scene, Once a Beatle, Always a Beatle George Harrison passed on today.

I wasn't a huge George fan in the 60s (I was very small) or the 70s for that matter. When I was growing up and discovering music, Paul was my favorite Beatle. I loved the way he shook his head back and forth while singing. I liked the fact he was a lefty. George was just kind of ... meh. There. Wallpaper.

But as their careers grew on, Paul became less interesting to me. Kind of grew full of himself as the luvable cockney artiste. Aw shucks, me mum says I'm a good geetar playa. And that ridiculous wife of his. And the Michael Jackson when he was still black thing. And now the poetry readings? Uh, okay. Whatever.

But Harrison quietly led his life... He did good works, went through difficult times Had the wife Pattie (aka Layla) struggle with Clapton, and eventually became good friends again with him, the both referring to each other as ex-husbands-in-law. Nice to see forgiveness in action I guess. And she ended up screwing Clapton over bigtime, and he became a raging alcoholic there, so Karma was a bitch, I guess.

I also became fond of George because he sort of looked like a guy I had a crush on in high school, or so my mother made me think.

And he just kind of grew on me.

"Give me Love" was an amazing song that I loved to sing along with on the radio. I thought the concerts for Bangladesh were amazing... even if they turned out to be a logistical nightmare. I thought it was too bad he got sued for allegedly ripping off the Chantall's "He's so Fine" where in this day and age that would just go unnoticed. He was a Traveling Wilbury. With Messrs. Orbison, Petty, Dylan, and Lynne.

And of course, he worked with the Pythons on Handmade Films, especially My Michael Palin. You know my adoration of Mr. Michael E. Palin of North London. Here's what Palin had to say:

"Michael Palin of Monty Python's Flying Circus said Harrison's spiritual side was balanced by a hardheaded business sense.

Harrison stepped in to finance Monty Python's "Life of Brian" film in 1978, and his Handmade Films company also produced Palin's "A Private Function."

"You know, George wasn't head in the clouds all the time. When it came to business and all that he was feet very much on the ground. So there was a mixture there, and it was a rather pleasant mixture." Palin said.

Palin said Harrison was more spirited than his nickname, "the quiet Beatle," indicated.

"He never stopped talking when I was with him," Palin said. "He wasn't the silent one that sat in the corner by any means." " (Boston Globe)

I bet they were fun to hang around with. He did a lot very quietly with the latter part of his life. Did some good work. "All those years ago" is a great song, for John Lennon. Now we have to contend with Paul writing George's obituary tribute song. It'll be pure schmaltz. Horrid. I can hardly wait.

So it's the weekend. I'm still feeling sick...have to shake this. We're going to the HydeAWay in Maine again on Sunday for dinner with a large group of extended friends... some of whom I haven't seen for a while. Should be interesting. Speaking of which, here's a picture of me from my birthday, thanks to Marcia, cake maker.You can see how red my skin is. I have been wearing makeup to lessen it, but didn't have any on this day. The cake was great.

Saturday we are cleaning the garage. Our tenant has a couple of snow mobiles that he wants to put into a safe space. Right now the garage is a damn disaster area, so it needs cleaned anyway. So, for our sake and for Pete's needs, we go to it. Clean away. We should be spending the time getting the interior of the house ready for when the cold comes, but this is rather important because we don't want his flatbed and snowmobiles getting pinched from the drive.

Plus, we can work inside any time. The weather lately here has been ridiculously balmy. Thanksgiving was in the upper 60s. This whole week we didn't drop below 40. I think that's why I'm sick. All the germs... surviving so well in the moist warm air.

I enjoy when fall lasts a long time. But tomorrow is December. Perhaps it is time for ole man winter to smack us on our comfy asses and get us some frostiness. Theoretically, I can still plant bulbs tomorrow too. What the heck.

I still have those pictures from the last trip to Maine. Lots of good shots of the kids. Must put them up. December photo gallery coming soon.

Okay. Off for home. Yesterday I got busted by my boss writing in the journal at 3pm. She didn't look too happy with me, so today I'm making a vow to only write after 5pm, or write the night before at home. Problem is, when at home I'd much rather sleep. So saving my entries for late in the day or just not writing for a day or so... that'd be smart. I don't want her firing me for goofing off like this.

Sigh. ON that note.

you're a mean one, Mr. Grinch

Warning: If you aren't a Christian, and you think I'm an idiot for being one, skip this entry. Come back tomorrow. Herein lies some Childhood Literature Interpretation stuff about "How The Grinch Stole Christmas." You won't like it. But, if you want to learn about me and how I see stuff, then please read on.

As I've mentioned, I went to a Christian College. One of the things they did there was to teach us to read literature in many ways. I was an English major, so I learned feminist interpretation, Liberation Theology interpretation, and Christian Interpretation. One of the things I do when I read is I try and see what message there is to me through the characters about God and what His take is on the situation. Keeping that in mind, read on.

So, this coming Sunday Doug and I get to play preacher for the kids. Something we've never done before. Something I've only done a couple of times for the Women's Group at our church.

Our church does something called "First Sunday," and every first Sunday of the month (gee, how appropo) the kids stay in chuch, don't go to Sunday School, and get to participate in the service. Which is cool. Because the Episcopal Church is kind of serious and stuffy, and if kids don't understand what the hell is going on in service, they tend to leave when they get older. Part of the goal here is to not let go of the Episcopal Service ways but to gear things toward them.

So the readings are done by the kids, the kids who've gotten interested in the choir get to sing a song without the grown ups... it's all kid geared, including the sermon.

This Sunday, getting into the Christmas Season, brings us to the Grinch. For a variety of reasons.

Everyone loves this story. The Grinch... the worst person on earth. He hates the Whos and everything they stand for down there in Whoville. The toys and the noise, the girls and boys their stockings their food... the Roast Beast. He is so full of hatred.

Why? The book and the 1966 cartoon version never say. Ron Howard goes out on a limb in his movie version, that Grinchy was picked on as a child, but I doubt that's the sole reason. The Grinch is just a crumudgeonly old crusty fart with a nasty bug up his butt. He's mean. And the thing is he can't stand when anyone else is happy. So he decides he'll end that happiness by Stealing Christmas. The whole thing.

But, after he steals the material trappings, Christmas comes just the same, the people sing, they join hands and sing that lovely song, and he realizes... he hears it for the first time... Christmas isn't about the toys and games, it is about love, togetherness, and a sense of good in the world.

Once he makes that realization something happens to him. This Epiphany and realization brings on a desire to change, his heart grows three sizes. This brings him to return the material trappings, be humbled, and then sit at the head of the table as honored guest to carve the formerly hated Roast Beast.

Now, I've read the story a million times. Seen the cartoon a million times. Had a boyfriend in college who could sing real deep like in the cartoon and he'd crack my shit up with that song in all months of the year. He still does. He'll sing it to me to make me laugh, in June.

But it wasn't until I saw the aforementioned Ron Howard version that it occurred to me what exactly happened to the Grinch. When Jim Carrey, in an amazing portrayal of this literary villian turned hero, changes... has that epiphany, what do you think CAUSED it? It wasn't a cerebral thought conclusion thing. He didn't just say "oh, yeah, Christmas isn't about material goods it's about love!"

I think it was the Holy Spirit.

The Grinch was so bad, so deep to his core, that he wouldn't just suddenly snap into the realization that he didn't do anything to stop Christmas from coming... No. He was that bad that deep, and it was going to take a little more.

If you haven't rented the movie, rent it, skip the whole film up to the point where his heart is going to grow three sizes, and watch what Jim Carrey does with that scene.

It is heartbreaking.

It is spiritbreaking.

It is evil-ending, and it is the Hand of God. I'm so sure of it.

When I saw Jim as Grinch hit the snow, when I saw that pain, that writhing... I couldn't believe how obvious it was. After all the years of reading the story, here it was on screen, live, and I started crying. This is what it looks like when the Hand of God, the Holy Spirit takes hold of your life. Sometimes you have to welcome it into you, other times, like with the Grinch, or Saul on the Road to Damascus, it doesn't give you a choice.

Bruce Cockburn sang:

"I'm blown like smoke and blind as wind
except for when your love breaks in.
Maybe to those who love is given sight
to pierce the wall of seeming night
and know it pure beyond all imagining. [...]
It's like a big fist breaking down my door --
I never felt such a love before!

Maybe to those who love it's given to hear
music too high for the human ear
and clear as hydrogen to go singing."
--"After the Rain"

To be lost like blown smoke except to be found by the hand that leads us. To have that strength beat at your soul and break the door down when you don't want it in there... To hear that music. To see that sight which is so pure. Amazing. Amazing... but I think honestly that's what the Grinch experiences. I'll never view the story the same again. Salvation. Redemption. Cleansing. Life Changing. Free.

Gah, it is so powerful to think of! I shudder at the thought of such power in our lives. I know many of you reading this are skeptical, and I've probably made you laugh at me, seeing this in a kid's book. But I think this is the message. Perhaps one day you'll see it too.

So on Sunday, we're going to read the kids the book. We're going to ask them if they know what is happening to the Grinch when his heart grows three sizes that day. We'll ask them to think of someone they know that needs prayer, that needs the loving fist to break down their door, and we'll pray. We'll talk about Saul and his becoming the UnGrinched Paul. We'll hopefully teach them that even the most horrid among us is worthy of salvation, redemption.

Even me.

Even you.

Tuesday, November 27, 2001

My turn to be sick

Inevitably I catch what the kids have. When they bring their germ soaked hands home from school and touch stuff in my house, it is a matter of time before I catch it.

Monday when I got home from work Jessica was greenish grey, sitting on the couch... I asked her if she felt okay and she could barely answer. Doug had ordered pizza, and for Jessie to NOT have a piece, seeing as she's queen of all things mushroomy and cheesey, well. That was bad.

I got the little bucket Geoff had used at Grandma's and made his own (thanks Grandma) and put it in front of her. She made good use of it and I got there just in time.

So here it goes. One kid had, next kid gets... mom is next.

All night Monday Jessica was in and out of the bathroom. Because she didn't eat anything only the first two throwup sessions were productive. The rest of it was dry heaving. She was hit more by the trots than anything else... and spent a good amount of time in the front bathroom, which she pretty much has made her own.

Tuesday morning early, I got up to use the bathroom before the alarm went off and knew I'd be staying home with her. At about 8 am, I was in full blown discharge mode, unloading quite a bit. Jessie and I both slept all day, and Tuesday afternoon found us enjoying reading time to ourselves sans the men of the household.

When I put Geoff to bed on Tuesday night he wanted a bedtime story... mind you, he doesn't want a book read to him. He wants me to make it up. He suggests things and I have to make the story. I told him I didn't have the energy, that I was sick. He insisted that I was well... and Doug popped his head in and said, "no, mommy is sick, give her a break." As Doug started to read to him (reading from dad is acceptable), Geoff said to him "a glass of water will make my mommy well."

It almost made me cry. A glass of water stayed down, and I went to bed hoping it would stay that way. Wednesday morning came and I still wasn't right with the world. I thought at any second I'd once again spew, so I got everyone ready, called in sick, crawled back into bed with the book I'm reading, and passed out after two pages. I woke up an hour later to let the dog out (no one had taken him out yet that morning, so he was desperate) and then fell back into bed. Next thing I knew, it was 2:45pm. I started watching Fawlty Towers (Doug was concerned that he'd bought me a birthday present that I didn't like or want. Truth is I never get the TV to myself when I'm in the mood to do something like WATCH a video... I prefer to mindlessly surf until I stumble across "Raising Arizona" or "A Fish called Wanda" or something). So I watched FT, and the family came home from their school day. Jessica enjoyed the Hotel Inspector episode, and Doug and I died watching the "Germans" episode where Cleese is head injured and keeps bringing up the war.

I feel much better today. Still have a cough, but the hurling is over. I ate a small meal of spaghetti last night and had a bagel this morning. I'm not hungry for lunch, and will probably crawl out of here early.

Thing about all of this is I don't have the fever that goes with. Normally, there's a great fever with this kind of illness and you get to have all kinds of delusions and hallucinations. I've got some great fever memories, most of which aren't memories of events but memories of said mental apparitions that grew from hot brain matter frying in my skull.

I have a great deal of work to accomplish having been out for two days. So I ought to get to that.

As Homer Simpson said during his food poisoning fever episode: "Duff Gardens! Hurrah!" Now I black out and hit the keyboard with my foreh---------

Monday, November 26, 2001

Post Thanksgiving Wrapup

I got lots of good feedback on the Thanksgiving 1989 trip outlined in the last entry. Lots of laughs. Memories... aaaaah they shine in the corners of my brain (to totally misquote Barbara "How DID I get so famous!?" Streisand-Brolin). Scott was amazed at the amount of detail I recall about that trip. He said I picked up some horrid book about Lenin's wife. Can't say I remember that part or even know where the hell it is to this day, so it must have been a great find.

This is the co-worker upon whom the A9 parking permit has been bestowed. I had it a full week and a half. Sigh. I could get used to parking right next to the building. Cuts a whole three minutes off the commute in, and gets you out of here three minutes earlier. I wish her great enjoyment with the A9. Sigh.

Okay, on to Thanksgiving. Our drive down was not nearly as interesting as in years past, thank God. When you have kids, and you're on a long car trip, the concept of such adventures is anathema. No longer do you say "Hey, if the car breaks down we can hoof it, or hitch..." The protection factor, the desire to get there in once piece, the longing for them to take a nap... these things weigh heavier on the parenting heart. Adventure don't enter into it none. Just getting there and opening a cold one is all you look forward to.

We left early Thursday morning, avoided the bulk of the traffic except on the Mass Pike (WBZ radio didn't mention that traffic from Rte 290 to the I-84 exit was at a standstill. Had they done that, we've stayed on 290/395 down to New London. But no. They didn't mention the 10 miles of parking lot we had to sit in with no chance of exit... bastards), and on the LIE where there was construction from the Clearview Expressway all the way to the Nassau County line. What a fucking mess that was! We so should have taken the GCP to the NSP, but Doug opted for the LIE because, again, the radio didn't mention it at all. Fucking News Stations with their bullshit traffic coverage.

Well, we got there in 5 hours nonetheless, which was very good. No one expected us until like 3 pm, so we took them by surprise. Never ever underestimate the Geiger Clan. When you think you've got us figured out as being perpetually late for stuff, we'll fuck your estimations right up baby. Yeah!

Upon arrival we all got to meet Rob. He's really nice and I liked him a lot. And I can't believe I didn't take one picture of him to slap in here. Duh. It is always good when siblings bring someone home who you can get along with. Linda has had a good track record of bringing home nice guys with great senses of humor. Face it. To put up with our family you gotta be able to laugh.

The kids played nintendo like crazy (my mom is a big nintendo addict. I'm recommending she seek counseling and treatment, and join a 12-step program) and we had a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn't be beat. Doug was exhausted, so he hit the hay at about 10. My mom, sister, Rob and I decided to play Trivial Pursuit... but because my mom has all the cards in Genus I memorized, we took six boxes of cards, one from each of the six versions that they own. We decided that once you landed on a color, you had to roll the die again to pick the box out of which your question would be asked. That proved fun, because you never could count on getting the box you wanted and it made it more challenging.

I ended up winning, but it took me forever. Every time I landed in the middle and got my final question, I fucked it up. My cousin Joe was up visiting from Florida, and he was sitting in the living room yelling out the answers to the questions, so at least one of them that I got had to be returned, to my chagrin, because he yelled the answer out before I said it. Little shit.

We ended up playing for like three hours, with some interruption. I got to bed at 2. Our plan was to get up very early and go to Atlantic City. We were booked in at the Tropicana Hotel, three rooms, one night. Yowsah.

We had intended on leaving at 10, but got on the road at about 11:30. My dad rode with us, and he did a good job at shotgun holding the EZ Pass up to the window so we could cruise through the 200 tollbooths between my parents' house and our destination. Goddamn tollbooths!

The trip was fairly uneventful. Traffic on the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn was horrific, but it always is. Views of NYC were sad from the Verazzano Narrows Bridge. No smoke rising from the sight though. It still broke my heart.

We got to ACNJ at about 4pm. My sister, mom and Rob rode in another car, so we checked them in and I called them on the cell phone to let them know to come up to their room when they got there and they could reimburse us later. This was the view from Rob and Linda's room.



Gone, just about. Linda and friends arrived just as the sun was setting. It was nice to watch the sunset. The room glowed bright orange, and was so pretty. Sigh. Well.

After they dumped their stuff we went to dinner at the Buffet downstairs below the casino. It was an interesting time, let me tell ya.

While we were in line there was a strange trio of people who were either from Baltimore or Delaware, with the weirdest accents I've ever heard. They were scummy looking and she was riding in a wheelchair with her bandaged foot up, and talking on a walkie talkie with someone up in the casino letting them know where they were in line and what the wait time would be. Reception on their piece of crap walkie talkie was poor in the first place, so we had to listen to her yell into the piece of shit for like 10 minutes. "What? I didn't hear you. Say that again." "I said ten more minutes..." Her charming groom was a corpulent weirdo who looked as if he hadn't bathed in a few, weeks, and he had on a set of earplugs so he could listen to this little hand held radio. When person number three would talk to him, he'd yell "What? I can't hear you. I'm listening to the radio. What?" Jackass, take the fucking plugs out of your ear and listen to the person trying to address you. Shithead.

They were probably THE most bizarre folk I've seen in quite some time. We got into the seating area, and he put his stuff down and RAN to the serving area like there was only one bag left of USA relief grain and he needed to feed his family.

He got a ton of vegetables from the salad area and went to the pasta chef. He cut everyone in line and gave the guy the pile of veggies and TOLD (note, told, didn't ask, request or inquire whether it could be done) to sauté them with some pasta. So the big pile of veggies took up 2 of the 3 little skillets the chef had. The Fat Jerk then went and cut someone in line to take food and walk back to his table. Linda saw the activity at the pasta bar. And the guy almost killed Geoff when he came to inquire as to the readiness of his dish. It wasn't quite ready so he left... pasta man made Geoff's noodles and we were sure to say thanks. The poor guy must suffer such abuse at the hands of people showing up acting like he's their personal fucking chef...

After a while, Fat Jerk's food was ready, and he was no where to be seen. Linda said the chef was disgusted. When Fat Jerk came back he was all full of attitude. "Well, is it DONE yet???" The chef gave him his food and the guy was pissed. "Where is it all. This is only half of it... what, did you throw half of it out?"

The Fat Jerk then went and did the dumbest thing in his life.

He cut in front of my husband.

First of all, being rude is one thing. Second, cutting any big guy at a buffet, that's suicide. Especially since Doug had witnessed him acting like a jackass for over an hour. He'd had it with this dorkus malorkus and said to him, "Getting between me and the buffet isn't something you want to do. You do it again, it'll be the last time you do much of anything."

So the guy gets into it with Doug, grabbing his arm and yanking the serving spoon out of his hand and just yelling shit at him. Doug easily could have beat the life's blood out of Fat Jerk, but FJ backed off and went away.

Great line though: "Getting between me and the buffet isn't something you want to do..." Bwa ha. Never cross Doug at the buffet. Damn.

The rest of the evening went swimmingly, no pun intended. I realized I had forgotten to pack a bathing suit, and the kids were hell bent to leather for swimming. Rob and Linda both had their suits, and took the kids swimming. The pool was too deep for Geoff to be in with just Jessica, so I'm ever so relieved they were prepared.

Error of the mommy: always making sure everyone has their shit, but you forget half of yours. That's what always happens to me, even though I think I'm all planned right. So kudos and muchos thankeros to Rob and Linda. They had about an hour in the pool, and the kids were worn out good. Geoff was asleep by 9, Jessie was up much later, but nice and mellow. My mom watched them so that the four of us "kids" could go down to the gaming area.

I love slot machines. I know they're mindless... but I like the spinning and the sound and the flashing. I'm no good at table games like black jack or poker, unless I'm playing for fake money or with Brian, Ben and Dan. Then I do great. But when it is real money, a quarter slot is okay by me.

At one point I think Doug was up about 400 bucks. He lost it of course. I hit for over 70 bucks on one of them, which was hot shit to me. I took my winnings and pocketed them... Doug kept handing me money. I figured if I held some aside there'd be lunch for us the next day. I knew we were going to lose our collective shirts, so I figured being safe and reserving some cash was wise.

Rob and Linda went over to the dollar slots, and Rob hit for $2500.

Uh, hello? What the fuck is up with THAT!!!

Linda came rushing over to us to tell us. And we were stunned. No shit. It was getting pretty late, and he was pretty much done, and just popped in one more token and wham.

So that was astounding. The night ended on a very up note. We had wings and beer at Hooters and hit the hay.

The next day we kind of slept in, cruised the Boardwalk for a few hours. Ate at an mediocre buffet. It didn't thrill me and made me kind of ill. We went to Ripley's Believe it or Not, which is always fun, even though this one seemed really small and close.

Rob, Linda and my mom split around 2, they had to get back to LI cause they were meeting some of Lin's friends for dinner... so Dad, Doug, the kids and I moseyed back and got home around 9.

The kids were famished, so we got them some grub. Geoff immediately got sick and puked all over. I didn't see that coming. He was sick all damn night. We were all waiting for it to hit each of us, figuring he's the smallest so it's gonna impact him first, like he's our personal Colemine Botulism Canary. But the rest of us stayed puke-free. So I've ruled out food poisoning. I'm not sure what he came in contact with, did, or ate that would have made him sick like that. He had no fever. Just puking, every 20 minutes. Dry heaves and everything. He finally got some good sleep between 4 and 6 am. I woke up every time he moved.

Sick children are so damn pathetic because there is NOTHING you can do to help them, just be there to hold them and encourage them that they'll be okay. He wanted a glass of water so badly, but every time he took a sip he'd immediately hurl. "A glass of water will make me well," he kept saying. It broke my heart, because I wanted him to be able to have one, but wetting his lips and letting him sip a bit was all that I could do. And it also broke my heart to hear him say the saddest little sentence in the world... "A glass of water will make me well."

He said well instead of better. sigh.

I slept from 6 to 9 off and on. Got up for about an hour. He kept a big cup of water down for a long time and didn't hurl again, so I felt confident I could go upstairs and grab a little extra sleep prior to our departure. At 1pm Doug got me up, all cranky and tired I was, and we loaded up and left. We hit the road at about 2. And thanks to the Rand McNally atlas we skirted a ton of accidents and backups by taking alternate routes, and made it home in about 5.5 hours. Geoff rode in the back with the green tub my mom gave him to throw up in, and managed to not get sick the whole way home. It was uneventful save for almost getting hit by a woman changing lanes with us right beside her. Doug beeped at her and scared the shit out of her. Serves her ass right.

So that was our adventure. We got home. We are home. I'm glad to be home. I wish I'd hit for $2500 bucks but at least someone I know made out well. I wish Geoff hadn't gotten all sick, but we weathered that storm and survived. I'm relieved Jessica didn't get ill. The only thing worse than one kid hurling is two.

I have some pictures that I will post of our trip to Maine and other stuff. But that's pretty much the update from here. I hope all your Thanksgivings were great. Suffice to say I'm glad we're staying put for Christmas.

Wednesday, November 21, 2001

Doug, Chris and Scott

First of all, an observation. I work with a lot of women. They like to talk about clothing a lot. What they wear, where they obtain it, how much it costs them. "I'm wearing Ann Taylor right now..." says one woman across the room. "These shoes I ordered through the 9West website. I had to send them back three times before I got the right size. Can you believe that?"

No. No I can't. My shirt is from Fashion Bug, I bought my jeans at Target, and my boots are the nicest things on my body right now, from the New Balance Factory Outlet. My underwear? Strictly WalMart. I think, all told, my clothes on my body right now cost me less than 100 bucks. As opposed to the blouse that is being discussed right now, which most likely cost the wearer about that.

A blouse mind you.

I just don't understand why people spend so much money on clothing. To be honest, they look average. It's an office. We sit around all day. We go to meetings. We work on some computer stuff. For crying out loud, why dress to the fucking nines? I just don't get it. I could see if there were tons of people to impress. Account executives, VPs, CEOs... but we're all general worker bees here. It doesn't make sense.

General need for haute couture is something that baffles me. I have never had an interest in who is wearing what and who made it and how low/high it is cut. I'm not one who can pull off wearing any of this stuff, so to me it is just kind of out there. I like this picture though. Dig that hairdo!

I had lunch today with an old friend who I swear I haven't seen since 1987. We were in college together, he's a couple years older than I am. I dated his cousin and was very close to his brother while we were in school. Funny how things change but stay exactly the same for some people. This wonderful person is pretty much exactly the same as when I saw him last, compared to so many of our peers who have changed so much. We talked extensively about family, kids. He told me he was madly in love with someone in California at one point but didn't get much further into that. I'm dying to know.

I think he'd be a real catch. Smart (doctorate from Duke Univ), kind, charming, polite, too short for me and way too skinny. His side of the clan was that way. I like people taller than me with "ginchy buns," you could say. He doesn't fit that profile.

But he is still an amazing person to spend time with and talk to. I don't think Douglas knows him but they'd probably have a lot of fun talking. They would get right on into it arguing and discussing philosophy, literature, conservativism, Catholic Vs. Protestant stuff. Perhaps next is an invite to the Way Out Inn for dinner (and being annoyed by a 4 year old boy).

Tomorrow at about this time, I'll be in New York for Thanksgiving. Hard to imagine. I've done this drive so many times over the last two decades it seems like old hat. There have been some amazing adventures in my getting from Boston to Long Island, but the best of all time is Thanksgiving 1989. The year of the 12 hour trip. A trip that should take no longer than five hours, mind you. Here's what happened.

Wednesday, 9am.
We set out early that morning from campus, I picked up Scott and Doug in the 1970 Volvo. Sven the Mighty, the glorious green sedan, blue doors, rolling saddleshoe with Grateful Dead stickers in the windows. It was a chilly New England day, very bright sunshine, leaves all blown off the trees. Scott was heading for his grandmother's house in Oyster Bay or Syossett or something, not too far from my parents', so we figured it'd be great to all go together.

We crossed the state line into Connecticut on I-84, cruising right along, when my car engine started to make nasty grinding noises. Unsure what the deal was, we pulled over north of Stafford Springs and Doug checked under the hood.

Sven's fan had come loose, and was grinding against the radiator. We knew there was a service station just down the highway, Goodhall's Garage there on I-84 north for those familiar with the area, so we figured we'd stop there. It was a little past 10am. We figured they'd be able to fix it up, and we'd be on our way.

We pulled in, explained to the mechanic dude what was happening. He nodded in agreement, said it sounded like the fan clutch, and said he'd fix it. We went over to the Traveler's Rest restaurant, where they have "Food and Books." It is quite the place. A free book with every meal you buy. Most of the books are absolute shite mind you, stuff that got published and no one knows why, but there are real gems there, and you can find them if you dig.

We had some grub, and Scott grabbed a copy of "The Great Gatsby." We sat in the waiting area of the garage, freezing our asses off, all of 20 something years in age just giggling and reading TGG out loud. I distinctly remember a woman in a fur coat standing in the bright room, flooded with sunlight from the low angle of the sun, trying not to look at the three of us and trying not to laugh. We were ridiculously stupid and loud and having a great old time, sort of like the people on the Group W bench in "Alice's Restaurant.

The mechanic came back and told us he couldn't fix the fan because my car was so old he didn't have the part. He did say that as long as we kept the car moving, the air was cold enough to cool the engine, so we should have no problem getting where we were going. Hot damn, that sounded pretty darn good, so the three of us piled back into the Luxury Sedan from Sweden and continued our Jaunt Southwards.

We were kicking ass and making great time. No one was on the road, and there wasn't a cop to be seen for thousands of miles. It was pretty cool. Then the unthinkable. We hit New Haven, and got onto I-95. Traffic soon came to a complete standstill. Southbound to New York wasn't moving at all. Come to find out, down in Darien, which is just about 3 exits from the NY State line, a Connecticut State Trooper was writing a ticket on the side of the Northbound side of the highway, and he got hit by the side view mirror of a passing truck. He was killed, and every Statey in the State of Connecticut was at the scene, which explained the dearth of public safety presence in the Northern areas of the state.


Traffic Southbound, our side of the highway, was backed up from the scene to behind us in Milford, and traffic northbound was backed up from the scene back to almost New Jersey.

It was the biggest traffic stoppage on I-95 EVER, and we were stuck in the middle of it, with a car that was going to overheat if we stopped moving. Overheat and explode.

It was well before the movie "Speed," but I felt the same sense of urgency to keep the vehicle moving as Ms. Bullock did when she had to keep the bus moving or it would explode. When I saw that movie I laughed my ass off because all I could think of was Sven the mighty Bomb Volvo. The temperature gauge crept upward as traffic crept along, and I decided we had to do something I hated: use the breakdown lane.

We cruised down the breakdown lane to the next exit. The way the highways are set up in Connecticut is pretty cool. At most exits, you can go up the ramp, stop at the light, go across the overpassing road, and down the ramp back onto the highway. We did that for quite a few exits. Sitting at the lights, we'd scream at the temperature gauge to not rise any higher and gun it when the light changed to green. Moving was life -- it kept the car cool and protected its mighty innards from melting down.

We had to stop a number of times because the breakdown lane wasn't doing us all the good we needed. We made it pretty far in a few hours. A stretch of road that should take probably an hour to cover took about five. It was torture. We made it past Darien, past the accident, and traffic let up. We were looking at wide open road to the bridge to Long Island.

The Throg's Neck Bridge is always a major clusterfuck, and this day, with the flow of traffic pent up for so long back into Connecticut, millions and billions of cars had made it to this crossing's paltry few toll booths. We found our sorry lame asses backed up all the way the hell back to Rye. Damn. Just when we thought we were home free.

Everyone in New York drives in the breakdown lane, so there was no refuge to be found there. We crept forward, and made it to just north of the bridge, when we decided to stop for a good long stretch next to the Villa Barone Manor, a big giant catering hall, cheesy as hell in all it's rampant New Yorkness. Gaudy, ridiculous, very very Sopranos, very Italian, Very Bronx. (By the way, you HAVE GOT to follow that link to their website. Not only is it the funniest, cheesiest website ever, it plays Carly Simon's "Nobody Does it Better" in .wav format. I almost peed my pants laughing).

Wednesday, 6pm
We watched traffic limp past, and waited until the traffic flow was about 15-20 MPH going forward to the bridge. It was now dark. We were cold. It was after 6pm. Damn. Time to get moving. We hopped back onto the expressway, which was non-expressy, and limped along with the others, praying to God that the car wouldn't overheat and pop a hose or spew liquid auto-life guts all over the road. I didn't want to be featured in the every 10 minute "Shadow Traffic" report on 1010WINS, the New York 24 hour news radio station, "You give us ten minutes, we'll give you the world..." "This just in, an uglyassed green Volvo with blue doors loaded with three naive college students is blocking all lanes of the Southbound Throg's Neck Bridge just north of the tolls. Avoid this area at all cost, it is recommended you skirt over to the Williamsburg to avoid this SNAFU..."

We got through the tollbooth just as the temp gauge was redlining, and floored it to get that icy cold above-the-deadly-sound air rushing through Sven's body. I could almost feel him sigh with relief. We cruised over the Bridge, NYC on our right, bathed in her resplendent glory and glow, and we headed down the Clearview Expressway towards the Long Island Expressway.

Shadow Traffic informed us of a huge accident on the LIE (I so love how this road is abbreviated LIE. That so kills me...) so we decided to take the Grand Central Parkway to the Northern State Parkway to home. The GCP to the NSP as it were.

We bailed and ended up in some neighborhood at a red light clogged with traffic. All three of us screamed as we realized we'd turned too early and missed the GCP exit and were doomed. Screaming now, the three of us were unhinged. I remember swearing at people, driving like a maniac, in efforts to keep that gauge from hitting red. We eventually found a sign pointing us the right way, and blasted onto the GCP. Traffic was heavy, we were stressed, but Damn We Were MOVING! It took another hour or two, but we made it to my parents' exit, to their house and to freedom. We broke down the door, fell into the living room and collapsed.

Twelve hours after leaving our homes.

We called Scott's relatives and informed them of our safe but late arrival, and my sister drove us to drop him off. Another 45 minutes in the car, but stress free 45 minutes and a radiator fan that worked.

It was the most ridiculous trip ever. I've had other ridiculous driving trips, and two very ridiculous train trips, both of them are penis-related. I should tell you about those... they're pretty freaky. But this trip was by far the most amazing.

I still have the copy of "The Great Gatsby" and read it in full for the first time last year. It sat in a box in the trunk of my car until the car died, then was transferred box and all to the trunk of Doug's car where it sat until that car died (the Rust Never Sleeps Mobile). I found it in the basement where the box was plopped after we bought the house.

We recently stopped at the Food and Books place and got some great books for Scott for Christmas... can't wait to give them to him. A couple years ago when he came to visit (I was pregnant with Geoff) he brought us two very horrible books. I think it is becoming kind of a new gift-giving tradition for us. As long as I have a reason to drive past that place, I'll be getting books for Scott. I can't believe that place doesn't have a website, I searched the web in my research for this (a)musing, and can't find one. Perhaps I'll offer the next time we stop.

So that's the twelve hour Long Island Trip. When I'm driving down there I think of it fondly while stifling in traffic... It Could Be Worse. We could be in Sven the Mighty parked in front of the Villa Barone Manor with two whiny kids... but we've got Rudy the Mighty Saturn now. Hopefully the days of side of the highway overheating prevention are well behind us and we'll not have to think about that ever again.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all... if you're reading and you participate in the traditions. I understand some consider it a national day of mourning, but perhaps it's time to move on from that and find something to be optimistic about for a change. I think that everyone this year should put the anger of their past behind and just reflect on what's good for once, damnit.

Don't eat too much (to the point of being sick) and remember the purpose of Thanksgiving. I'm sure you can find ONE thing at least that you are Thankful For. Lift it up in your mind and your heart, and may that thing be blessed for you.

What am I thankful for this year? Well, for starters my job. I am well paid to do very little compared to people I know who are busting hump for no satisfaction. I'm really happy here. I'm thankful for my great family. My son's ability to keep his glasses on, his doctors. My healthy and very smart daughter who constantly keeps me laughing. My wonderful husband who is better than 90% of the husbands out in the world, even if I find fault in him. My parents and my in-laws, even if they are far away I know they love us and care for us. My lovely sister who constantly makes me laugh my ass off and gives me hours of joy and entertainment, and a kindred spirit to which I can vent and bitch to my heart's content and know she doesn't mind. My dog, even if I miss my Missy. My church because the people there are cool and not in my face all the time asking me to commit to doing stuff. My long distance friendships with people like Scott, Smitty, Chris and Chrissy, people I wish I could be with all the time, but unfortunately can't (thank God for the internet... keeps me in close touch with those folk). Bonnie, Wayne and Marcia, Barenaked Ladies, Dave Matthews, Monty Python... A Christmas Story on TNT, okay now I'm getting silly. But finally, I'm happy and thankful for my home. It isn't Martha Stewart Land, but it is warm and open to all, and a great place to just have, when so many people don't have that reassurance of a place to belong. And, absolutely finally, I'm Thankful I Survived College, where so many things could have resulted in my inadvertent death or injury. I'm glad to be here now.

Tuesday, November 20, 2001

Photos from November 2001

These apples are delicious...

On my way in to work this morning I rearended a car. It was scary, but, it could have been a lot worse.

It was pouring out, and I was coughing (yes, coughing. My ass off. Trying not to pee my pants), and I looked up and saw her brakelights on. I hit my brakes, the anti-lock mechanism did its thing, had me skidding along, and then thump. I hit her.

We pulled over, and examined our cars. My license plate is slightly bent. There was no mark at all on her car, I didn't hit her that hard, it was more like a kiss. We shook on it and walked away. She was on her way to get a cast removed off her left hand from an accident she was in 2 months ago where she rearended someone, so she thought it was kind of amusing in a way. I followed her to her doctor's office, it was near my office, and we waved goodbye.

I'm sure she memorized my plate in her rearview mirror and I'll receive some sort of something in the mail saying she's got whiplash and she'll sue my ass. Or, perhaps, I'll be that lucky and I'll never hear from her. We shall see. Like I said, it could have been worse. Here's the entry I started yesterday, wrapping my 35th birthday bonanza up for those unable to attend:

November 19, 2001. Happy Birthday to me.

I came into the office to about 10 blue mountain cards in my inbox. I gotta love the fact that all my nerdy friends are so online and hooked up. They all made me smile... thank you all very much (and I know you are reading this...)

Okay so my last entry made me cry my ass off for a day. Writing about people you lose at a time when you should be celebrating life and joy is a bittersweet dose of reality. Death is part of life, and thinking of others who have gone before is just a testimony to the fact that while you live and live well, you still are aware of the inevitable and the loss.

On that note, let's talk birthday.

We went to Maine on Saturday, got there in the afternoon and hung out with Wayne and the kiddies, my son looks upon their 4 year old as his absolute best friend on earth, he is hard to drag away, and it is heartwrenchingly painful when it is time to leave. While we are there though they get on like a house on fire, and have a blast.

Jessica and Natalie disappear into their world of girl makebelieve, or Girltopia as they call it. They even have hats they wear celebrating their girltopianess. The hats are sofa armrest slipcovers. They look almost Masonic as they regally march about the house.

Doug and I went to the BNL concert Saturday night, leaving the kids with they Hydes and Eric Gustafson, also known as E to me and the Hydes. E is another friend from college whom I adore and wish we saw more often. He is so sweet and funny. The girls have him wrapped around their fingers, and he had an origami book and spent hours folding them any animal they begged. So with the shorties fully taken care of and in trusted hands, we were off to the Cumberland County Civic Center, in Portland, where BNL rocked our asses off.

When we got to the area where our seats were, the usher directed us up. Section U, row 24. We walked up the stairs and the section only has 23 rows. So we studied our tickets, yup, row 24... No row 24 to be found though. Confused, we decided that we would sit in the open air booth where the hockey announcers sit. There were 8 chairs up there, so we decided this must be row 24. We had a counter to lean on, and no one next to us, no one obstructing our view... it actually was pretty damn nice. If we'd wanted, we could have snuck up into the catwalk, but we quashed our desire to do so.

The opening act was horrifyingly lame. We got there after they got on stage and when they got off they didn't say their name, so we still have no idea who they are. They were there from San Francisco, and the crowd was underwhelmed by them.

The thing I didn't understand about them was that the girl lead singer person kept changing guitars... between every song the guitar tech brought her a different guitar. All the songs sounded like they were in the same key, so it wasn't for tuning. Once it was an electric guitar, then a 6 string, then 12, then back to 6, then the electric again.

Thing was, she barely played any of them. It wasn't like she needed guitar changes. She'd play two chords, strum strum and then sing and then jump around like she was trying to rock out. It was pretentious and annoying after a while. The lead guitarist did a great job, he also did keyboards, and they had a nice 80s style keyboard old INXS kind of thing going at one point. He was cool... and the drummer rocked... but they were overall super lame.

BNL took the stage and the place ERUPTED. "Old Apartment." Roof falling in. Walls shaking. Steve jumping around like a rock star, kicking in the air, rocking out totally, climbing up on the boxes beside the stage to sing out into the audience as if he were on the catwalk. The fans were insane.

The band played selections from just about every album, there was only one song that I didn't recognize, and I have all the albums. It could be off the new Greatest Hits album (which they made a big deal of, obviously) and I will become familiar with it as soon as I have it in my grubby little hands.

They played the intro that they use on "Rock Spectacle" to "These Apples," and then went into "Jane" which confused the audience greatly, but it was very funny. And Steven Page -- man alive, that bastard sure can sing. Holy Cow, you can totally tell that he went to music camp growing up (that's where he and Ed met... band camp). His stage presence is amazing. I'd love to see him in a Broadway musical. When he sings "Break Your Heart," and is at the part where he goes from singing softly to screaming ("You arrogant man, what do you think that I am? My heart will be fine, just stop wasting my time, AND NOW I Know that you will be okay, and that I got what I want, and that's rid of you. Goodbye.") he sings it like a torch song almost, so theatrical, so full. Ugh. Amazing.

They japed around a lot, the way BNL does. They made up a rap song about driving around in a car that is started by the key to the city, which they got from the mayor of Portland the last time they were there. They also talked a lot about the Lord of the Rings. Ed confessed that he can't wait for the movie but doesn't remember the story, but the hell he's gonna read 3000 pages again... so he just got the same BBC series that Doug and Jessica took across country with them so he can listen to the story and get his memory refreshed. He also said that Tyler Stewart should have been cast as one of the hobbits, "you should see how hairy HIS feet are!"

The audience was so super nerdy, and clean. So different than the DMB show where everyone was in college and drunk or stoned off their asses. There were full families there, little kids as young as five walking around. It amazed me. I don't know if I'd bring Geoff out to an arena show yet, he's a little young, but Jessica I would totally take to BNL.

The great thing about this show was one girl in the front row of the audience. We were high up on Steve's side of the stage so everyone on Ed's side was visible to us. She must have been in her early 20s if that, and she had on a Harry Potter style wizard hat. She wore glasses and had a green T-shirt on that said "I love" something that I couldn't read. She was the queen of all the nerds. And she was so in her element. So loving being there. She danced and danced and sang every song. I noticed her about three songs into the show, and I said to myself as I watched her dance Jessica's Pattented Hammerhands Dance, "Oh my God, that's my daughter in 10 years." So I nudged Doug and pointed her out. He started laughing immediately and I knew he saw the same thing. Totally Jessica.

I wanted to find that girl after the show, I wanted to tell her that I loved her. I was proud of her, and so happy to see her be so incredibly happy. I really did... and Doug said to me "go home and tell the person who she reminds you of those things..." so I did.

We went to dinner after the show at a Mexican joint right across from the Civic Center. The margaritas were amazing, but my quesadilla had velveeta cheese on it. Well, that's Maine for ya, I guess.

We got home after midnight. Everyone was in bed except E who was sort of waiting up for us. He was sleeping out in the yard, not for lack of place to sleep but because he wanted to see all of the Leonid meteor shower that was coming that morning. He didn't want to miss any of it... so he had a tent and sleeping bag and the whole nine yards out there to lay out in the field and watch. Wayne got up at about 4am, and thought about waking us up, but decided against it. Kinger barked when he was in the living room and woke me up, so by the time I had gotten up to pee and got my bearings about me, I'd decided to go out too. I took the dogs out with me, and joined E and Wayne out there, and sat for over an hour watching the show. It was amazing. There were some that lit the whole yard up like fireworks, but by the time we turned our heads to see them they were gone. It was the second coolest night of stargazing I'd ever done, the first was out in Oregon one night, but I'll write about that another time. I went inside at about 5 because I couldn't take the cold any more, and E told me that the "finale" of this fireworks show was about 15 minutes after I'd gone in. Oh well. it was still cool.

E thought it was incredibly cool that the last time this meteor display was so strong was November 18, 1966, the day before my birth. He thought it was special that in my lifetime I was welcomed by the meteor shower and 35 years later was able to share it with friends. I thought that was cool. When we left to come home I told them that I'd always think of them when I saw wicked cool shooting stars. E and Wayne laughed and agreed they'd think of me as well. Thank you Leonid meteor shower for being the celestial display for my weekend, and thank you God for the clear skies and the lack of a stiff breeze so we could sit out and enjoy.

I didn't wake Doug up, because earlier in the day he'd totally scoffed at us for wanting to get up at 4am and go sit out in the cold. So I pretty much interpreted that as him not wanting to participate. He can be sort of brusk that way, and I figured he thought we were stupid so I wouldn't make the effort. He was pissed at me in the morning when he found out I went out there and didn't wake him up. I told him that he'd made it clear that he didn't want to... and Wayne said "Yeah, your negativity came back to bite you. Sometimes it does!" and we laughed at him. Ha. He got over it though, but I realize that sometimes he is a sarcastic jerk and I interpret his sarcasm as his actual thought. I should have told him I was heading out at least, and invited him and given him the chance to refuse rather than just going. But whatever, it's past now.

Marcia baked me a really nice cake yesterday afternoon and they sang happy birthday to me, and we feasted on it and were filled with the joy of cake and icecream. Then it came time for the parting. Geoff was his usual drama queen self, and Natalie was very sad to lose her Jessica (it was painful when I looked back into the kitchen and she had her chin on the dining table, colored pencil in hand, as I'd ripped her Jessie away from them in mid-coloring...) and we got everyone and the left over cake crammed into the car for the ride home.

I had a half day at the office today due to Jessica's parent/teacher conference in the afternoon. I had big plans for the afternoon, but this cold has worn me out, and with the added lack of sleep on Sunday morning, I felt that I needed a nap. So Jessie got invited to Megan's to check out the new kitten, and I slept like a big fat warm sleeping thing for 3 hours. Doug and Geoff went out and bought me birthday gifts. I didn't expect anything, I thought the concert was my gift, but much to my amazement and surprise, Doug goes and buys stuff. I got: A book by Michael Chabon called "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay" his latest; the full Fawlty Towers collection, all 12 episodes from the hotel reviewer to the hamster "Basil...;" "Black Adder V, Back and Forth," Douglas feeding my BritCom addiction wholeheartedly here; a dozen pale pink roses; and dinner out at Joe Fish in North Andover... all told, between meteors and roses, BNL and Bl'adder, I'm feeling this is the best birthday in a long time. Memorable on so many accounts.

Friday, November 16, 2001

About Tony

Setting: This morning, front entry, my company.

Me: Good morning, Karen [receptionist]
Karen: Good morning, Christine, how are you doing today?
Me: Great, and you?
Karen: Good, and you?

Luckily I made it to the next door and into the hallway. Otherwise that could have gone on all day.

More work related info: Today is the day I normally would relinquish possession of the A9 Parking Tag and give it to the next user in line. I checked with our Admin and she said since next week is a short week should just keep it for the three days so the next user can get an entire week. She also told me that she thought the gifts were wonderful and commended me on throwing a great party.

I thanked her on both accounts. The parking pass remains mine for three more work days, and I rejoice.

BNL, tomorrow night. cough. hack. wheeze. Oh why do you taunt me O Lord, why?! Well, I will be sure to dose myself with the best non-drowsy cough medicine ever and thoroughly enjoy the show. After all, I've adored these guys for so long, and this is my first time seeing them. I'm not letting a little phlegm stand between me and joy. In a couple of days I'll be 35, which slightly freaks me out, but I'm at the core comfortable with my age and okay with where I am in life.

Aside from my BNL obsession and my cold, there is nothing interesting to report. So I've decided today to write about an old friend who has been gone for quite some time, about six years this Christmas to be precise. His name was Tony.

We used to work with Tony at this coffeehouse in Marblehead, MA which has unfortunately folded. It was a great place to go while we were in college and of little money... then we got to know the staff, then we got to volunteering (which got us in for free, super bonus for that no-money college status) and then after that I ended up doing the booking and publicity for the shows. I think we get sucked into stuff a lot, and this was one of the better ventures we have been involved with.

Tony worked in the coffeehouse kitchen and was in his early 50s. From what we came to learn over the years in getting to know him, in his salad days he was a speech therapist, married, with two young boys. But he was in a car accident in the 70s in Pennsylvania, and ended up with a rogue bloodclot in his brain which resulted in right side paralysis, and a near complete loss of speech. Quite a horrible blow for a speech therapist.

And quite a blow for a man who was professional, fastidious, and proud.

And now there he was, divorced, estranged from his wife, far from his boys, kind of sad, and handicapped. Tony landed in his childhood home of Marblehead, in a large rambling Victorian, which was ill kept and messy, not because of lack of care on his part but lack of ability. He'd rented out the upstairs to people over time, some of them more noble than others. And we were living in Beverly and had to move out. He offered the upstairs to us for a song. 500 bucks a month. If we'd help him keep the property.

It was a disastrous mess up there. Years worth of abandoned furniture, boxes, crap, cracked window sashes and a layer of dirt thick as my arm is long covering everything. The last tenant had left an ton of belongs behind, most of which we threw out, except for this really cool army satchel which I used as a pocketbook for a few years and a very strange journal called "the book of knowledge" which we read and laughed at, and turned into a notebook to take messages from phonecalls in. (She showed up a year later looking for her stuff and was angry that we'd thrown her stuff out. I don't know what the hell she expected, she was a serious pothead, and someone who I am sure was a nice person at heart but abjectly clueless to the core).

It took me three months to get the upstairs livable. I cleaned every day after work, sometimes with Jessica (who was about 1 at the time) with me, other times joyfully alone. Tony would come up to check on me sometimes. He couldn't speak very well, but could let me know where things should go (trash, basement, keep it) and he was happy to see the place getting cleaned up.

We moved in July 4th weekend, 1993. We lived there until August 1995.

It was the best place I've ever lived. Downtown Marblehead, walking distance to my favorite Mexican restaurant. Walking distance to my job. A two bedroom, one bath, huge eat in kitchen, wonderful living room with little built in mini-bar, which we used to water the plants and kept guest beer in. Common entrance, no locks on the doors for him or for us, we could spend time with him, feel comfortable there, and play in the yard to our hearts content. He gladly let us get Missy, and loved having her there. He loved dogs. Doug would go downstairs and watch football with him. Because of his inability to speak, watching a football game was sometimes painful, especially if the Patriots were losing. Tony was full of nonverbal communications, and actually was quite happy to have Doug there with him to watch the games. They had a good time together.

Doug was inspired by Tony and later enrolled in Northeastern University and got his Masters in Speech Language Pathology. Tony was very relaxed around Doug, and actually able to speak more than one or two words at a time when with him. I think our being there made him happier.

At the coffeehouse, he was friendly, supportive to customers, helpful to the musicians, even if only half his body worked. Whenever anyone would tell him something, he usually would say "Oh, yeah yeah yeah... good." And that'd be the pat Tony response.

Once when I was very pregnant with Jessica, another volunteer (if you could call him that) named Bill was whining about being tired and having a back ache. Tony and I were the only other people there, and between the two of us we were both rather infirm in comparison to this Bill.

I went down the hall to get one of the very heavy racks of chairs, there were two, and Bill didn't join me to go get the second. When it was apparent that I'd have to get the second rack of chairs, Tony stopped me. He non-verbally communicated that Bill better go get the other rack, and when Bill refused, Tony punched him with his one good hand. Klocked him right in the cheek.

Bill left I think. All I know was I was surprised and shocked, and laughing all at once. That the healthy lazy male got whacked by the handicapped one. Tony and I went and got the rack of chairs. He was so angry and so indignant at Bill's refusal to help, and was so upset that he lost it like that. His frustration level was kind of low, and he'd get a tad flummoxed at times, but more or less I always was impressed at his ability to get stuff done more so than many able bodied humans out there.

I don't think anyone deserves violence, by the way. But I think Bill was taught a lesson that day.

Tony baked like a madman. He made stuff up. He'd sometimes bake the most transcendent desserts, other baking expeditions would end tragically. But his specialty was a lemon poppies cake that I can still taste when I close my eyes and think hard enough.

He loved music. He would sometimes get in his specially adapted minion and drive great distances to Western Mass or Vermont to hear music. Our coffeehouse closed in the summer, but he was on every FolkWeb mailing list out there, and would go see people all the time. Once he caught a double booking for Vance Gilbert and had me call him to notify him. Vance had managed to get himself booked at two coffeehouses in two different states on the same night. Because Tony was on every mailing list, he caught it. And we let him know.

Tony died right before Christmas 1994. We hadn't heard him go in or out of the door for a day or so, which wasn't unusual, because he would sometimes hole up in his apartment for a few days at a stretch if he was feeling kind of down. But Doug was leaving for work one day and noticed his TV was on at 3 in the morning. When he came home, the TV was still on, and the mail was piled up. One day was one thing; two days another... so he knocked. No answer. Knocked again, no answer. He opened the door and didn't see Tony in his large wingback leather chair in front of the TV, where he expected to maybe see him sitting asleep.

Tony had gone to lay down on his bed, perhaps to take a nap. He sat up, and the aforementioned bloodclot, which had been sitting idle for about 20 years, decided to finally move. Doctors had told him it would. When he had the accident, they said it could be in a day, in a month, in a few years, but eventually that bloodclot would move, and kill him.

What a thing to live with inside your head for 20 years.

I came home from work to find the town medical examiner and a hearse in front of my house parked in Tony's handicapped spot, which he never used (he always parked in the driveway behind the house). It was a crushing blow. The Christmas before I'd miscarried a baby; this Christmas I lose one of the nicest men in my life.

Tony was cremated, his remains are in the Waterside Cemetery in Marblehead if you ever want to swing by and say hi. Right along the water, there is the Giles family plot. A small inlaid stone marks his final resting place, with a view that a folk musician would gladly write a song about.

His sons were the executors of his estate and sold the house. We were offered first dibs on it, and in 1995 paying $220,000 for a house was way above what we could handle (the house is probably worth upwards to about $500,000 or more now). I packed up a great deal of Tony's belongings. We took the spices from his spice rack. I still have the poppy seeds.