Monday, October 02, 2017

And Now, I Live In Maryland

17 years on Long Island. Up to Massachusetts in 1984, with little side jaunts to Oregon and Atlanta. Back to Massachusetts in 1992. There ever since.

Until now.

I've told saga of our moving adventures twice before. This time, not as much saga. Having a company move you is a different world. The only problem this time was that I couldn't pre-clean a lot of things that I wanted to, so they got packed and moved, dusty. So now is the unpacking and cleaning portion of events.

Moving truck left on Thursday afternoon. Our initial plan was for me to start driving after the truck left, but I had a box of toys and things to give a friend, and she was to the north. She couldn't come down and get it, and the forecast was for rain - so I couldn't just leave it on the porch or in the garage.

Jess came with me to drive up to New Hampshire to drop off the box, and say goodbye. I took Jess home, and went to Carrie's to spend the night. Happily.

You know you have a good friend who makes you a cocktail and bacon & waffles at 11:30pm because she is worried that you did not eat.

The following morning, I still had a few things back at the old place to swing back and get, because of the stuff that I took to New Hampshire. Carrie came back with me and we did a swing through to gather items and trash to put out on the corner. The girl I hired to clean came to the house so we chatted with her a little while. And then it was time to go.

Except I had a box of bank statements and tax returns and items with our social security numbers on them, that I never got to bonfire one last time. I gave them to my neighbor Beth, and asked her to burn them. She agreed, and then she said ...

"What on earth happened to your eye?" 

My eye? I have no idea. I have showered in the past couple of days but Lord knows I have not looked at myself in a mirror. I got in the car again, and pulled the visor down. My right eye was solid red, pretty much to the whole left side (towards my temple).

The hell?

I tried to figure out what could have happened. I literally could not remember hitting myself or getting anything big in there. I know I got a little dust in there and rubbed my eye, but seriously - in 50 plus years I've never done anything like that. There was no pain, no obstruction to vision... but I had to go to my family doctor because what if... what if something was seriously wrong.

I drove the 1/2 hour to Jess' house - she was coming with me on the ride, thankfully. I've learned I just do not see well in the dark, and it is good to have a co-pilot. We called the doctor and they said they could squeeze me in at the beginning of the lunch hour - someone would take a look. So 40 minutes to the South East to my doctor, and luckily when your doctor has been your doctor since you were 19, he has a special affinity for you.

He looked and tested - put a drop in my eye to see if there was an abrasion. He told me that it is basically a bruise. I either must have bumped my eye, or that tiny bit of dust - rubbed my eye too hard to try and dislodge it. The blood thinners probably played a factor in this, but I'm uninjured. Just weird looking.

He said that it would probably take a week or two to clear up.

Great to hear - no damage. And now we are two hours behind schedule. But that's okay. That's alright, that's okay.

Hopped back in the car and drove like mad. Got down to the NY/Connecticut line just in time for rush hour. Waze told me to get off the highway and cut through Yonkers. Having never done that in my entire life, it was a little nerve-wracking. But we avoided a lot of traffic, and got down to Riverside Drive and onto the George Washington Bridge quickly. Traffic was a little heavy on the Jersey side - we sat by Met Life Stadium yelling about my machine being stuck in the mud way down in the swamps of Jersey.

After a while though, the rest of the trip flowed quickly. Philly - boom. Gone. Delaware bridge - zip. Done. Hello Maryland. Hello.

We got here around 11. I was so exhausted. I didn't sleep well because we were on an air mattress (thankful for it, since floors are hard) and my dog spent the night pacing.

Jess was in the guest room which we flipped back and forth calling it "Jess' Room" and the "Guest Room" or the "office" so it turned into the Jest Room.

Movers arrived on Friday morning - and unpacked all the boxes from the truck. And that's it. Done. Here. Maryland with my dog, my family, and my boxes.

Jess was helpful, Geoff has been more than helpful, and Doug built our bed, which hasn't been built for a couple of years. We've kept the mattress and boxspring on the floor for years, but now... Hello Bed. Hello.

Notes from this move:

  1. For the first time in many years, I actually felt somewhat in control and organized. Doug thought that was funny, because he isn't seeing it that way. But screw that, I literally think I know where everything is. 
  2. Except the Roku, the remote for the TV and the emergency back-up DVD player. 
  3. I said it before and now it is official - never moving myself again. Paying for someone to do it forever. Happy my company picked up the tab for this. But next time, I'm happily footing the bill.
  4. I should have cleaned a lot more stuff in advance of the move... Things are dusty and dingy in this bright white clean space. The moving company told me not to unload stuff from the cabinets, and I listened. I should have cleaned, and I should have washed every last thing. 
  5. The cleaning girl I hired to clean our place did a great job (with the material she had to work with. Our place was a dingy old mess). My landlord was so impressed he wanted her to clean the other half of the house on Saturday before the new tenants moved in there on Sunday. I don't think that worked out though. 
  6. I am hiring a once a month cleaner.
  7. Still purging things. 
  8. Not unpacking books at this time. Usually that is the first thing I unpack but I think now, they're in the basement in storage and I'm okay with that.
  9. My kitchen is too small. We have way too much kitchen stuff. We need shelving. 
  10. We left behind one piece of furniture which right now I wish to hell I had not. Geoff had a palate style bookcase that we got years ago - and it would be the absolute perfect height and depth and width to go next to our fridge. Doh. 
  11. My dishwasher is noisy.
  12. My washing machine is tiny! I'm so sad about that fact... 
  13. It is very quiet here - much quieter than my "country" house, even though we are in the city.
Doug discovered a little bar where they make the crispiest chicken wings, and toss them in Old Bay. And yes - everything. Every. Single. Thing. Here in Maryland has Old Bay on it. I really want some right now. 

People have asked about the house. It is a corner lot, and street parking. The one thing we wanted that this house didn't have was a driveway. We can live with that. A lot of the neighborhoods in the area have houses that are very close to one another, and this neighborhood is spread out nicely, without everyone having huge yards or anything. So parking is not an issue, and it is nice to know my son does not have to try and parallel park in a snowstorm.  

When you walk in the front door, to your left is a nice living room with a fire place, and to the right are two bedrooms (one bigger than the other) and a rather small bathroom. There is a linen closet by the second bedroom, and the living room has a spacious coat closet. We will be using the second bedroom for guests and an office. 

Walking further into the house, there is a nice sized dining room, and when you turn left you are in the kitchen. I wish it was open format - the kitchen feels way too small. The kitchen itself has all brand new, labels still on, IKEA cabinetry and a new fridge. The gas stove is a little older and was well used in the past. Turning right out of the kitchen, you go down a few steps to the left to a three-season porch, where we will probably put out some party furniture and lights, and enjoy that space. 

If you turn right, instead of going out onto the porch, you go down to the large, finished basement. There is a bedroom, tons of storage (closets for days) and a 3/4 bath. This is Geoff's domain. He has everything he'd need down there except a kitchen, so he feels completely independent and happy with the space of his own. The washer and dryer are down there, and everything is nice... it isn't a scary, gross basement like our last house. A proper, honest living space. 

Oh and speaking of Doug, he likes his job, his commute isn't too hellish, he says. He's home from work, and he is ready to find some dinner. Perhaps some wings with Old Bay on them. 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men Go Tits Up

We had a little adventure last night.

Phase 1 was complete, we got Doug down to Maryland and he enjoyed his first week in the new house and the new job. The plan was for him to fly home here on Friday (last night) and come to my office to pick me up after what would probably be a fun/bittersweet/sad night of saying goodbye to my people.

Text at about 6pm says his flight is delayed at least 2 hours, meaning he wouldn't land until after 10pm. I knew there was no way we'd be hanging out at the office that late so I was about to suggest he take the bus home, and I pick him up there when he told me he was going to jet over to the other counter and try to get the flight to Manchester NH.

Success. But, I had to leave the party to go get him. Thankfully I had only one beer before this transpired.

Co-workers helped me put stuff into my car, and lots of hugs and smell ya laters transpired. Amazingly, I didn't cry.

Got a text from Doug saying "taxing the runway. I'll race you." I told him "It's on."

I arrived in Manchester in time to actually see his flight landing. U2 live concert blaring from the speakers, I pulled into the cel phone lot and texted that I was there waiting for him. He texted back saying he'd call from the curb and I could come pick him up.

I turned the engine off, and waited. U2 still blaring from the speakers.

Ten minutes later, I went to start the car and got nothing but clicks - and then the alarm went off. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Doug called asking where I was.

"Houston, we have a problem," was my reply.

He walked over to my location. I had turned the car all the way off, let it rest, tried again - nothing. I got out, set the alarm, unset it, got in, tried again - nothing. Doug did the same - nothing. We called AAA and the guy tried to jump the battery. He said it was 100% drained - but all my interior lights and the radio were still working. The click click click part of things sounded to me like a starter problem. But he had no way to test that.

After about an hour - we opted to have it towed to our mechanic (Thank you AAA plus) and rented a car to drive home with.

Over the past 30 years, Doug and I have gotten to the point where we don't rattle easy. I know I posted a while back about our little pick up truck, check engine light, and "Born to Run" singing while we gunned it up the highway just hoping to get our asses home one summer night. We take a deep breath - and we just go.

While waiting for AAA we had good conversations about what our new Plan B was going to be, since they (Doug and Geoff) needed this vehicle to drive to Home 2 with. We decided he, the boy, and the dog and a car load of our things would go down. I'd stick around here as I was planning to do, only now I'd drive instead of fly on Friday. Our car is with our mechanic. I have a rental to get through the next couple of days and the list of things I have to do. And I'll head down either Thursday afternoon and break the trip up with a visit to my sister, or, one fell swoop on Friday. We'll see.

This morning, I gave my last tour of our church to an actual Lord and Lady from the British Parliament, so that was kind of neat. They were lovely and funny.  I had considered canceling my being tour guide on this day, giving it to someone else. I'm glad I kept it. It was a wonderful way to end our time here, especially at this church.

Doug just called and said they made it to the house, Geoff is settling in, and they are going to find some food and enjoy their first night at the house. So I'm happy to hear from them, and happy they are safe.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Operation GTFO

We got approved for our rental. Things are going to happen swiftly. Doug got up this morning and he immediately (but first, coffee) started the garage. Our neighbors are moving out also, so they have a dumpster, Doug made use of a bit of that space.

Here's the timeline:
1. He is leaving in the morning on 9/17
2. He starts his job 9/18
3. My office closes Friday 9/22, with shenanigans to follow, or all day, I'm sure
4. He's flying home either 9/22 or 9/23
5. My danish friends are visiting Boston for their annual Pats/Red Sox/etc pilgrimage, so we'll see them that night, and do more cleaning/packing
6. Doug will leave on 9/24 with the other car, Geoff, and the dog
7. Geoff will meet Verizon and utilities that need interior readings on 9/25

Now, here's where it is still fluid
1. Initially, I told our landlord the moving truck comes on 9/27 but he asked us to move the date to 9/25. Begrudgingly, I contacted the moving company to see if they can accommodate that request. His poor planning on when to make the apartment available is not my problem. I told him we were paying through the 30th, and he should make the apartment available for 10/15 but... he listed it for 10/1 Because I'm a nice person, and my husband, son, and dog will be in Maryland, I'm okay with moving up. Otherwise I'd say suck it.
2. Jess has her driving test on 9/28 and I kind of wanted to be here to hug her either way, pass or fail. But hopefully pass. Really, really hopefully pass. But she told me that I don't need to be here. My mom wasn't there when I got my road test so... Go, ma. Go. So ... I'll go. But if the movers come on the 27th, I'll stick around until after the road test to hug her, like it or not.

So that's the next couple of weeks. Shit got real, yo. And as my friend Rob sings "hush my mouth, I'm going south. Point me to the door."


Sunday, September 03, 2017

This Blog and Being Nice

Up early and firing on all cylinders. Sitting in a hotel somewhere in Maryland, in my Guster Happy Frappé T-shirt and yoga pants, sucking down a giant 7-11 coffee, filling out online application forms.

We found a place that we're applying to (so many forms) and so I need dates.

Dates. So many dates.

How long have you worked here? How long did you work there? What dates did you live there here and anywhere? How old is your dog?

I am so incredibly thankful for this blog.

Without the blog, where I kept records of things, I would never have the move in date when we moved into the 1774 Colonial (that we lost, thanks Bank That Shall Not Be Named) and I would not know how old Brodie is. When did I start working at my current job, and which time did I start working there.

Doug has a great memory for dates but I'm usually always a year off, up or down.

And I keep get lost in reading the blog. Losing the house entries should have a trigger warning on them for me because they are so stressful to read.

I hate getting stressed out about things, especially things that I can't undo, and couldn't control. And I blogged honestly about losing my shit in the midst of moves, and I know that I can be a bitch sometimes when things push me over the top. Hopefully this move won't be anything like that. Fingers Crossed.

I have a record of Early Morning Geoff waking up on the first morning in the 1774 house looking for breakfast, and I now recall with vivid recollection taking him to the town coffee shop at 6 am to get donuts and coffee, since we didn't know where any of our food really was in all of the boxes.

And I also am reminded that in the midst of things that are stressful (like losing our house) I have done good things for people, for strangers. Like paying $13 to help a girl who was short on her family shopping. Having my son tell me that I'm the nicest person he knows. Pondering even back then how no one is nice to anyone, and how there really are no roles of niceness in so many young people's lives - I think that I've done my best to be honest and kind and nice, even when I am losing my shit over things.

I keep telling myself I need to write more frequently so I remember things. I don't think I have dementia or anything, I'm just not really cognizant of what dates are.

After 50 it's all a blur, right?

I haven't gotten nostalgic or misty or anything yet. But in looking back on the entry from three years ago when we were moving in the deep heat of August into our house I wrote:

The way I see it, and this is my mantra, "It's only two years. Two years from right now, right this very minute, we can move again if we want to. Anywhere in the country. Anywhere in the world. Anywhere."

Here are more dates and facts that cover the last three years. We will be moving before the end of September. We spent 3 years in our house with our happy wood stove. We lost 2 of 3 dogs while at that house, and one of the finest dogs that ever lived among those. We graduated a boy and made him an Eagle. We broke two snow blowers. We had coyotes in the woods behind the house that sing at night and sometimes wake us up from our sleep when the windows are wide open. We had the loveliest neighbors across the street in our good friends the Kellers. We had a farm stand and ice cream parlor next door - one of which I'll miss horribly. And I can't believe I didn't shop at the farm stand more frequently. John would give us a free Christmas tree because I maintained the town Facebook page as a volunteer admin and he said it was a job that he didn't relish, so he admired me for doing it (again a nice thing that I do?) I will miss our library not for the books but for the Pokestop for Pokemon Go! And Team Valor will have a hard time maintaining the four Gyms in town without me and Doug running out in the middle of the night to kick Instinct out. Jess will have to drive over and take care of keeping things in order.

And here we are. More than two years later but. Here we are.

And. Here I am, in Maryland, a whole brave new world where I don't know hardly anyone, and I have to admit it is cool and somewhat terrifying because I don't know if anyone will be nice. Or if yet again, I'm going to be the only nice person my son knows.

We shall see.

Friday, September 01, 2017

The Big Update

The summer pretty much vanished. I started several posts but my brain was only focused on the fact there were no updates to share, so I abandoned the entries.

Then everything changed. Overnight.

Doug had three prospective, very good, very interesting jobs. He managed to get ahold of a recruiter, and then another recruiter called him, and finally one company called him after he submitted dozens and dozens of applications.

In one week he went from nothing to everything. He had interview after interview. The universe just clicked for him. He got an offer, he accepted it, and we're good to go. He starts his job on September 18, so we're looking for our place to live, working with a rental agent provided by my company (thanks Company!) and we have seven places to look at this weekend.

One of the jobs he interviewed for, he really wanted. Really. But the pay was more than 20k less than what he gets right now and we can't afford for him to make not near what he makes now. They offered him an extra week's vacation, but, you can't pay your bills with vacation time. One job was at a school district, and he realized the amount of work he'd need to do to get certified and re-licensed was crazy, and expensive. So he opted to remove himself from that candidacy.

The job he took is west of Baltimore, pays well, is a six month contract with the hopes of permanence and more money after the six months are up.

So he took that job, and if it doesn't work out, he now has access to two recruiters, both of whom were eager to place him in a position. He's open to whatever happens.

But step back a little and look where his job is.

Baltimore. That's not in DC. Or near DC.

If you know the region, you know that's a big distance. We looked at a lot of options for where to live, aiming for right in the middle.

Laurel, Odenton, College Park were all on the list. I stalked zillow listings, I eagerly awaited notifications from my realtor for new rentals fresh to the market.

In my heart of hearts I wanted to live in Brookland, and be a total hipster old lady, but the lowest rent we found was over $3000 a month. And that's just dumb. We can't afford to live inside Washington DC with the three of us and a dog - nothing is the right size in our price range.

Our realtor suggested we focus on Silver Spring, so I have easy access to the Metro, and Doug has a straight shot up to the town where he'll be working.

Additionally, we took into consideration Geoff and his life. Looking at the community college system, Montgomery County has a great college and programs he may do incredibly well at. So he is looking at classes for the spring. And we're close enough to DC, and the surrounding area is urban more than suburban, so he may have a lot more employment opportunities than say Millersville.

We are off to find a place to live this weekend. Fingers crossed. Silver Spring, here we come. Each of the places we're looking at are inside the beltway, inside 495. I'll have access to downtown to the red line Metro, and Doug will have easy access to getting up north.

In the meantime, I started a podcast, but haven't put the podcast out into iTunes yet. I still have some tech things to figure out about it. In the meantime, if you want, you can go to smellyalaterpodcast.wordpress.com and scroll down to the bottom for episode 1. I'm interviewing friends to say goodbye to them, but not goodbye - smell ya later.

Over the last week I've been purging and cleaning like mad. I had started pulling content down from the attic in June, and then stalled.

I took today off to do more. But first, coffee.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Brave new world

For those wondering about an update on the move, we don't really have an update.

Doug,  Geoff, and I recently went to DC to scope out neighborhoods and get the lay of the land.  We scoped out so much stuff. We know neighborhood after neighborhood between Fairfax and Rockville; DC neighborhoods and border towns up the northeast. The trip down was enlightening, and during the trip I wanted to just say forget it, we're not doing this. I'm so not in love with this. I question my motivation for why we decided to do this. I love my job. I want to keep my job. I don't want to go through 4 years of unemployment again really. Doug is not happy at his job. So in a lot of ways it makes total sense but I'm not loving this idea. I came back from that trip with a sadness, not an excitement or hopefulness, like everyone expected I would have.

We enjoyed dinner in Arlington, walking all around Old Town Alexandria, which felt a lot like "home" to us with its colonial brick stylings, waterfront, music, cafes and foodrinkeries. We got lost between Rockville and Colesville, and the middle of the day traffic was hellacious. Doug got hangry and we got to eat at Chic-fil-A for the first time ever. Pretty good chicken sandwich, I must say.

On a map, everything looks super close. In reality, it takes a lot longer to get from point A to B in DC than it does here in Boston. For instance, I currently live 36 miles away from my office. With no traffic, it is about a 50 minute trip. With traffic, up to 90.

In DC, living 36 miles away will probably be 2 hours, maybe more. Public transportation is indeed available, and will probably be what I have to do to keep my sanity, get to work on time, and the like. But that can still take well over an hour and a half depending on how far you live from a train or Metro station.

In all honesty, I'd really like to live closer to my new office. Before the company announced our office closure, Doug and I started looking at Salem, Beverly, Malden, Melrose... towns closer to Boston. We could cut our commute by half easily, and we were ready to do that. We were looking forward to that.

Now things are different and we have to do the search elsewhere.

I talked to several colleagues in the DC office, and found that to live within the radius of where I would like to live, those currently in that circle are paying around $3500 a month in rent. Even in incredibly "bad" neighborhoods that they lovingly encourage me to view as Up and Coming. In my heart of hearts I know neighborhoods transition, but I don't like being seen as an invader by residents whose families have lived somewhere for 40 years, who now can no longer afford rents because things are changing as people from spots like Logan Circle move east as those rents get even higher.

Where we live hinges on where Doug gets a job, and that's our hang up right now. That's our limbo.

We don't want to pick a place to live in a Maryland Suburb if he gets a job in Fairfax Virginia (see: commute info above). We don't want to pick somewhere in Western Alexandria if he gets a job in ... Baltimore.

Doug is applying (look at google maps) everywhere from Baltimore to Fairfax. My office is in the Northeast side of DC, so several towns in Maryland would be a good fit. If he got a job in Annapolis, Bowie would be a good target. If he got a job in Baltimore, Laurel or even Columbia would be good. But my commute, and his commute, would suck, and we wouldn't have the joy of being together like we do now.

And it is a joy, I don't joke about that. We love going together, and listening to the radio, and talking about stuff we see along the way and all the stupid things.

Doug began applying for jobs with earnest back at the end of may. He's received a lot of thank you emails. He had a couple pre-screening calls, but nothing has gotten him anywhere. He's starting to get frustrated and I cannot blame him at all.

I'm happy for the delay, personally. It gives us more time to pull money together in one place, to pack, clean, prepare. But he's chomping at the bit and wants to interview, wants to go. His frustration makes him unpleasant to be around, and makes me depressed because I feel like we are in two very different headspaces in regards to what needs done. I would like for him to organize his clothes, purge things we've been schlepping around for 10 years; he wants to apply for jobs. I want us to go out to the garage and start to clean shit out; he wants to apply for jobs.

We have done nothing fun, and you know us. We like fun.

I am feeling deeply sad and depressed about a lot of this.

For the past several weeks, I've looked at Zillow.com rentals, and keep putting little hearts on houses and townhouses and row houses that fit our price range and my requirements. There was a particularly lovely little brick home in a town called Takoma Park, Maryland. I stalked that listing daily to walk through the photo slideshow. Three bedrooms, full finished basement, three baths, gorgeous kitchen with exposed beams, and a fenced in yard. Everything about this house was me.  It was a tiny bit more than our target rental price, but I felt like we could totally do this. This was my house.

The house is no longer on Zillow. It was rented. And I'm kind of chuffed about it. I fully know that there is a good rental, a nice rental, out there for us. But that house. I could be totally happy in that house. And if Doug had a job and we knew where we needed to live, and that house wasn't geographically in the right area... well then I'd fully accept that. The inability to give notice on where we live, to pick a place, to sign a new lease, and to know what my kitchen is going to look like... stuff like this compounds my sadness.

Anyway.

So indeed - not much news of action. Just news of waiting for our trip to our brave new world. Hopefully my next post will be more good news. Cross your fingers and say a little prayer. It would be appreciated if the stars align, the cards on the table all point to a winning hand, and all those lovely metaphors of things working out would come into light.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Next Great Adventure

About a month ago, the company I work for announced they're closing our office, effective September 22nd. They offered all of us transfers to the main office. In Washington DC.

Let the shock of that sink in for a minute. You might be surprised in reading that. Hell, every single one of us in the room was stunned upon this news, and all immediately began to process the "what the hell" and the "what am I going to do" portions of life.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

It's not about what's supposed to be. It's about what is.

Note: I wrote a version of this for our church newsletter. I've edited it for the blog, and included the photos. My friend Greg edited it for me, and said "this is so wonderfully written, and your words are so kind, I wish it had a bigger audience." So, to that end, I'm sharing it here with all five of my readers to expand said audience.

Some of you don't believe in God or Jesus or anything like that, but perhaps you can take something away from what I'm trying to get at here that is true to your own heart and place.

_______________________________________________________


On Saturday afternoon, I was having a long talk with my mom. She turns 74 next week. She was commenting on the loss of one of my sister’s high school friends who died that morning.

“It isn’t supposed to be like this,” my mom said. “You kids shouldn’t be dying before me. I’m supposed to be gone before all of you.”  The sense of the unfairness of this fact was deeply reflected by the sadness and disappointment in her voice.

Thinking on that a little bit I offered the only consolation I could come up with. “Mom, it’s not about what’s supposed to be. It’s about what is.” She agreed sadly.

This time of year, thoughts turn to resurrection and rebirth: flowers escape their winter prisons; birds commute back from far off places; flip-flops escape from closets.

But this time of year I’m also reminded of death.
Chris P (aka Chrispy) on the left. Wayne on the right.
Conquered the "mountain" above Gloucester one fine late spring day
and shone victorious.
The death that is on my mind most this year is that of Wayne Hyde. Wayne died unexpectedly on April 13, 2015. Unlike my sister’s friend, he made it to the other side of 50. He left behind six fantastic children and a wife who showed more strength and grace in that private moment than I think I could ever imagine.

Several college friends were having a big discussion about our giant shared loss a few days after his passing. One friend said something to the effect of “Why are we sad? We know Wayne loved Jesus, lived his life for Jesus, and raised his children to love Jesus. We shouldn’t weep, but instead rejoice!”

Oh, but we did weep. And rejoicing was very hard, and still is very hard. I’m sure if you’ve lost someone whose life was so intertwined with yours, you understand that.

The discussion continued, and some were hurt by this sentiment that because we believe in the Resurrection and the Life that we should just turn our frowns upside down! But I think I understood where he was coming from. I explained that we weep for what he will miss, and will miss doing with us.

We weep for the “supposed tos” that are suddenly not going to be “it is.”

We’re arriving at one of those “it is” moments in this circle of friends. A few short weeks from now Wayne’s daughter Natalie will marry her college sweetheart, Caleb. Everyone looking at her, and I’m sure she will feel the same, will be aware of that twinge of the “supposed to” that my mom hearkened to this morning.

Wayne was “supposed to” be there to walk Natalie down the aisle. But instead there is the “it is” of her mom Marcia filling in, fancy dress and all.

When someone dies, all of those “supposed tos” are lost. We know we’ll be together again in glory when we meet our own homegoing, but the absence of the friend, father, husband is felt most powerfully. For some it is every day, for others it is in a church where a wedding is taking place.

This fact, this human fact, keeps us in mourning. No platitudes, self-help books, or good-hearted Christian friend telling you that you should rejoice will help you with this.

I look at the memorial garden that our church just dedicated to Steve Cunningham, and realize that if he had never passed, that would never be. It is a beautiful manifestation of the new reality of life without Steve.

The efforts of the congregation to dig in the dirt, lay wonderfully level stones, place the beautiful cross and welcoming bench in this spring garden remind us not just of our Steve, but of Jesus and His presence in our lives.

We look at the escaped daffodils and tulips springing from gardens. We look at those flip-flops contemplating pedicures going into the summer months. We hear the bird songs in the morning. We are reminded that there is life, life goes on, life returns, and life wins.  Things always happen in the wake of what was supposed to be, and those things become what is.

If you find yourself this spring feeling deep loss, and the veil of the sadness of memory of what was supposed to be, I wish you love and strength in connecting with the “it is” that is now with you.  I will not tell you to turn your frown upside down and cease your weeping or mourning. You will do what you need to do. You will handle your “it is” the way you see fit. Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you in that journey. Go sit on the memorial bench, take a walk in the woods, volunteer, and smile at a wedding.

Monday, April 24, 2017

A Train Journey

I'm sitting on an Amtrak train.

I haven't ridden one since college, when I thought myself fancy to be doing the Boston to NY thing in the years before the Acela train.

In 2002, I recounted an adventure that I had on one trip, where yours truly was a young and wide eyed darling who had a man sit beside her and chat her up, only to whip out a naked man magazine to enjoy, and leave in the seat back when he departed. Additionally, I told tale of a man masturbating while reading Shakespeare.

If you would like to read that post, which I think is still one of the funniest things I've ever written, go right ahead and click here. Then come back.

I was 18 when those adventures happened. Shortly after I got a car, and would drive back and forth with friends or Douglas, and life was so much better. I've had plenty of car adventures but holy cow those two train adventures took the cake for young me.

Now me would probably speak up. I'd ask the first guy what his deal was. I'd ask the other guy to go sit somewhere else, that I didn't really want to watch him climax to Shakespeare. I find I have a lot less patience for shit while traveling.

I just want to get from point A to point B safely and happily.

So here I am on the train. Headed to see my sister. Nothing adventurous happening. Everyone on their phones. I thought this was a quiet car but I guess not due to all the people around me making lots of noise. I canceled two calls this afternoon because I didn't want to disturb anyone. But so far, every talking person is well behaved and nice. It's all business, and no penises.

There are little victories.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

"laissez le bon temps rouler" - Doug and Chris in New Orleans

Doug and I recently took a trip to New Orleans. I am semi-regretting the cost right now due to the fact we did our taxes today and owe a lot more than I thought we would. Oops. Anyway, you can't change the past and we have enough to cover the taxes overall. It just kind of sucks to see so much money swooping out of the account all at once.

I won't do a full roundup of the day by day events because a lot of it is a blur. Instead, I offer observations. And as always, pictures are here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/amusings/albums/72157682132141475 I need to move my cell phone pictures into that collection. There are some good ones.

First, flying home in a blizzard sucks. Especially when you get on the plane and you have to pee, and then the pilot tells everyone they won't be allowed out of their seats for the entire flight due to the turbulence.

Even worse is driving home from the airport in said blizzard. When your 40 minute drive from the airport turns into a longer trip than it is to fly up from Baltimore to NH you know it's not good.

I'm way too old for Bourbon Street.

However, we enjoyed Frenchman Street much more as it was a little more grown-up, even if it was drunk.

Nothing fires white people up like a 10 piece horn and drum band playing "Seven Nation Army."

White people are also really cheap. Tip the fucking band, tourist dip-shits. They're working hard for you. Cough up a 5.

New Orleans is not a place to live if you're an alcoholic. Bars are open 24 hours a day, and I think the temptation to drink on the way to the office would be rather great.

We drank a lot more than we usually do. Day drinking on a patio at 85 degrees and 80% humidity is mandatory, to help assuage the heat. After coming straight from 20 degree temps to the "tropics" I thought I may wither and die like a hot house flower.

Bartenders are pretty friendly.

If we walk into your bar, and it is empty, and you don't acknowledge or welcome us, chances are we'll walk out. If we walk in and you say "hey guys! Welcome! Whattaya havin'?" you've got a customer. It's easy. Try it. We tip ridiculously well. Yeah, we're tourists, you don't really care where we're from. But just make pretend for a few minutes and ask me if I want a second drink.

Stumbling upon a very real Mississippi river funeral with a brass band playing hymns like "I'll Fly Away" is very moving. Finding out the funeral was for a 14 year old boy who was a member of that band is even more moving. Especially when it was a suicide. You may find yourself standing on the sidewalk crying your heart out for someone you never knew, and a family you want to console but you know it isn't really the right thing to do, and you should just move along after the band shuffles across to Jackson Square.

Knowing that these people are sharing an intensely personal moment in a very public venue that makes them look like they are simply entertainers like any other jazz group playing hymns in New Orleans is mind blowing. I thank them for being there at that time. And will not forget the roses flowing down towards the giant container ships and riverboats rolling out of the city.

Streetcars are for tourists. Knowing the streetcar routes will prevent you from a 90 minute bus ride all over the place. But that 90 minute bus ride all over the place will show you a lot of a city that you may never see.

Trust the Tulane student who tells you where to get off the bus instead of the bus driver who tells you where to get off.

Pay attention to your social media. When you realize a friend is there at the same time as you, overlapping vacations, hit them up. You may see amazing things together and have big laughs and walk arm in arm like 30 plus years never passed since you last snarled at one another in high school.

People and musician watching with a giant iced coffee in hand is an art I'm perfecting.

We never made it to Treme. The French Quarter is far bigger than you think. Especially coming from Boston where the area around Fanieul Hall is kind of what you expected for the size and scope of the area.

There need to be more benches for people.

The WWII museum is a fantastic place to visit. We spent 6 hours there. Could have spent more. And Tom Hanks is a national treasure. God bless that man and the work he does.

Don't be these guys:

Voodoo Kid on Spring Break
Oh look at you. Guy in the airport wearing all kinds of beads and holding some sort of voodoo statue picked up at a tourist trap, droning on and on to some girls about how much you know about Marie Laveau and ritual and how meaningful and beautiful it is. Shut up. You were on spring break and now what, you're so "woke" about this? No one is impressed, and put that stupid statue back in your backpack as you go back to your Maryland College life.

Jazz Sax Guy
You're in a band. A five piece band. Act like you're part of the team. When your solo is over, don't walk off to the right and check your phone while the guitarist or keyboard player "takes it away." Appreciate what they are doing. Groove on it. If you look into it, we'll look into it. You have 20 people on a little patio all to yourself. Quit making "Oh I fucked up that note" noises when you fuck up that note, because you know what? It's jazz. None of us noticed. We were enjoying it until you groaned like a rabid boar.

I'm sure I have some more observations. And it only took me four days of being back at work before I realized how much I wanted to go away again. I think that's a record.

Enjoy the photos.




Saturday, February 18, 2017

Oil Tank, Steven Page, Canadian Barcelona Restaurant - all in my dreams

This morning, I woke up to go to the bathroom around 2:30am. Upon return to bed, I thought it was kind of cold in the room, and whipped the blankets back up around me before settling back to sleep.

Dream:

In the dream that came after, Doug and I were getting ready to go to Canada for the weekend (you can tell I need a vacation if I'm dreaming about going to Canada in February). I was telling Geoff to keep the wood stove going, we were out of oil and the oil guy wouldn't be arriving for a couple of days. He should sleep on the couch, and bring the blankets downstairs that the dog sleeps on, or, if she decides to sleep on our bed make sure the fleece blanket she likes. He was in agreement and understood, and began bringing wood in from the yard.

Flash forward to wherever we are in Canada. We end up at a book tour stop where Martellus Bennett from the New England Patriots is signing copies of his book "Hey A.J., It's Saturday!" He was surrounded by little kids, and one of them I presumed was the official A.J., his daughter. So I said, "Hey! A.J.!" like you do.

"Oh, that's not the real A.J.," says Marty. "That's an actress I hired to play her on the book tour, because A.J. is in school and that's very important." Truth. So I realized I was talking to a grown woman who looked and was the size of a child. It seemed a little surreal. "Also," Marty continued, "it gets weird with her being on the tour because people act like they know her and they get really pushy and grabby. I have to protect my daughter and keep her safe. That's very important too." Agreed.

At the book signing, Doug and I managed to get split up, and I was in a town similar to Marblehead Massachusetts. Word on the street was Steven Page had opened up a Barcelonian restaurant and would be performing kind of a torch-song, lounge singer set nightly. That sounded pretty awesome to me.

I had no ride to get there, so a blonde woman in an SUV with Texas plates offered to drive me. She was drop dead funny, and she told me that people treated her weird. "Oh honey, that's cause you're from Texas and this is Canada. They think you're amusing." So we laughed and laughed as we drove through the small town. We got pulled over by a police officer who said she was "suspicious," and I told her it was because of the Texas plates. He then danced all around the vehicle and gave us directions on where to park around the bend for Steven's restaurant.

Pulling up into the parking garage, there were little terraces overlooking the restaurant, and the performance spaces. We parked the vehicle and she promptly disappeared, but Steven Page was hiding in one of the overlooks. Women were searching for him, screaming for him, and he was hiding. So I asked him what was wrong and he said he hated this, it was an awful idea, that these women were just insane and wouldn't leave him alone. Night after night they were grabbing him and groping him. He was humiliated and ashamed and didn't want to go on stage.

I was disappointed because I wanted to see his performance, and because I was kind of disappointed because these fans were such epic assholes. I encouraged him to maybe do his stage show from a higher platform. We looked at the restaurant and all the places he could be where people couldn't grab him. He cheered up and went to get ready.

Going down to the restaurant, the place was gorgeous. It looked like he put so much effort into the design, the lighting, the open restaurant where flames were shooting up out of grills as they made food. It was truly impressive. I found a seat at a small table near where we decided that he'd be safer, and I was ready to run interference to protect him if I had to. I took out my camera and took all kinds of pictures. The lighting changed shades and these beautiful balls of colored lighting were pulsing and changing levels of brightness. Every picture was different - all because of how the lights worked. It was delightful. I couldn't wait to find Steven Page later and tell him how great I thought the place was, whether or not he was the nightly singer - this was an outstanding presentation.

People began to push tables closer together to make a big table around mine, and I was kind of angry. I wanted to sit alone, but there I found myself surrounded by a dozen strangers. None of them Doug, and none of them the crazy Texan lady.

The waitress came and began pouring drinks. I asked for my own tab, because I don't know these people. She didn't speak English, and ignored my request. A giant, and I mean giant, margarita-type drink was placed in the center of the table and everyone started drinking through these giant straws. There was a man next to me who put his arm over my shoulder and tried to get me to share his straw, which completely grossed me out.

The waitress returned with three other women and began pouring giant bottles of what looked like Tequila, but because I was in Spain I figured it couldn't be, all over the place. They covered over the tables and the chairs, and us. The people at the table thought it was outstanding and wonderful, and they were laughing and opening their mouths. Everyone was cheering this spectacle, and I looked around the restaurant and saw the same scene unfolding at every single table.

I had to keep my camera away and safe from this process, and they wouldn't stop when I asked them to stop. They told me they couldn't stop. This was a special ritual of blessing that needed to be done.

Most of all, I thought I was completely disgusted by how much the cost must have been for these giant bottles of booze.

Steven came out on stage to perform, and he was amazing. What a voice, what a stage presence! He looked at me and I gave him a thumbs up because I knew he was in a safe position, and could sing and perform without being molested.

But then all these women started climbing on our table, kicking over the giant margarita thing, slipping in the "blessing" of booze on the surface. That kept them from getting any closer to him. I realized maybe this was his bright idea to make the surfaces slippery and unstable and prevent anyone from succeeding in climbing up.

I never got to try the food.  I'm sure it was great.

I left after the first song, the crushing crowd, the smell of alcohol, the chance my camera was going to be destroyed... all of these were too much for me to cope with. I went back up to the parking garage. People were lined up in the terraces watching the show. Doug was there. And it was a perfect vantage point for some great photos.

______________________

Morning:

The plan was to get up really early this morning and head to New York City for the holiday weekend. Doug came upstairs at about 10 am to wake me up and let me know that we had run out of oil.

So we had to wait for the oil guy to come, which he just did. I just saw a report on the morning news shows about Martellus Bennett and his daughter.

And unfortunately, no Steven Page sightings or Spanish cuisine have crossed my path today but ... I'm hopeful.