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My fond heart is breaking.

My friend Bob passed away this afternoon.

Thankfully, I was able to see him that one last time, Saturday afternoon. When Ashes and Annie wanted to visit.

I can still see him there. Spread across on the couch, restlessly moving about. Eyes fluttering closed, then open. Country guitar music filling the room. Every so often he'd reach out his arms and start playing air guitar. A lazy smile on his face. Always trying to entertain, to keep our spirits lifted.
One song that played that day fits my mood perfectly right now:

"From this valley they say you are going,
We will miss your bright eyes and sweet smile,
For they say you are taking the sunshine
Which has brightened our pathways a while.
Won't you think of the valley you're leaving,
Oh, how lonely and sad it will be,
Just think of the fond heart you're breaking,
And the grief you are causing to me?"


I was glad to be able to sit by your side one last time, Bob. To hug you and have you say goodbye. You were truly one of a kind, and I know you're up there with Sandy and the Lees and all our other friends from Fufolatia, looking over us for eternity.
Happy trails, pardner. The shadow you cast in this Red River Valley looms large and will never be forgotten.

Tags:

Trapped in Amber.


Last night at bedtime, Corb put down Clash of Kings (which he is totally obsessed with, may I add) to say, "I enjoyed the show tonight."

I wiggled my toes under the blanket, pleased. "That's so funny. You don't usually enjoy shows at that theater."

I will spare you the dialogue that followed, seeing as it involves a recitation of the various shows we have seen at this local black box theater and Corb's review of all of those shows. Suffice it to say: yes, he has actually enjoyed quite a few. But to my point, there have been quite a few he has really, really not liked. This evening was different. We went to see a production of Our Town, a show Corb's never seen before.

"I went there expecting to hate it," he replied. "Especially when my mom said how boring it was. But I really thought it was excellent, especially the final act in the cemetary. I like the idea of people sitting in chairs next to each other at their graves, forgetting their humanity as time goes by."

I dog-eared a page of Outlander and closed the book. "It reminded me of my visit to Bob this afternoon." I closed my eyes.

I had gone with Josie, once again, although this time, we brough Annie and Ashes along with us. Bob, who by the way is suffering from pulmonary hypertension, had been medicated by his nurse about an hour before we went, so he was not half as animated as he had been before. He sat there on the couch, listening to country music and pretending to play air guitar every now and then. The girls didn't say that much. We simply traded small talk and stories about camping until Bob finally said, "Well, I hate to break this up, but I think I'm going to take a rest."

And that was that.

But as I look back at the play we watched, the overwhelming thought I have involves about all the memories I have struggled to bring up with Bob every time I have gone to see him, and how far short my attempts to communicate have fallen from the actual experience. These experiences meant something. They were a big part of my life. Acting, camping, game parties. And yet, when you get right down to it, what do they all boil down to? "Remember when we did this?" And fumbling half-remembered stories that everyone has a different interpretation about (and I, of course, have a tendancy to embellish.)

Our Town is so right. Humans are so bad at details. We never pay attention to the mundane, never are truly in the moment, never appreciate what we truly have, until it's often too late. And if we could go back? The rich fabric, the waste of so much potential, would overwhelm us.

If I could go back in time, what day would I pick? The play asks that, and advises people to pick a mundane, average day, if any day at all. I kept trying in the moment to think what day I would pick. If it can't be overly special, then there was one sumer day I spent swimming with Theo our little pool in the backyard, which might be fun to go back to. I have often thought about the heat on my back and the sheer joy of swimming back and forth with my little guy.

Or, I was thinking, some sexual moment. That might be kind of fun, right?

That's another reason, by the way, I think it's so helpful to journal. At least when we journal we attempt to trap in amber some of the days we have spent. But I also have to admit, it can be difficult to go back and take a look at what you have written, years later. At least, for me. Ah, such imprecise words! Such misplaced anger. So many gaps. Our Town is right: it's the mundane that so often gets lost and discounted. And makes up so much of our lives.

My first journal entry was written on August 16, 1979. I was 14 years old at the time. It reads as follows: "A day of changes. Laurie is going to Nana Hall's because Mom and Dad don't want her around. Dad is planning to go to Block Island today, and Ted begins band."

I used to write about myself in the third person. I know, that weird. But hmmm, I guess those are all pretty big things. But the next entry reads: "Kerrie informs Diane and Michelle that Laurie won't "be here." Dianne doesn't like pears, so Kerrie and Michelle exclude her from them. Nana and Mom enter. Mom had to pick up Nana."

Well, that is certainly a bit more mundane. I couldn't pick Dianne out from a police line-up nowadays if you paid me, but I certainly do remember that she doesn't like pears, even after all these years. Captured in amber, that fact was. I wish I had more of that.

Soon after, I picked up my book and Corb went back to playing his game.

There are so many things I would like to capture in amber. Night times with Corb spent talking over the days mundane events? That certainly goes to the top of the list. Things like the fact that he turns his side of the heating blanket on to full for about ten minutes. I tend to put my side on five, but let it stay that way for an hour or so. Either way, it takes the cold out of our feet and makes the bed a welcome place.

For the record: I love pears.  

Tales of the Anal Conductor


I laugh and place my book onto my lap (Outlander, btw. Really enjoying it!)

"Can you believe it when Tony called himself an 'an anal conductor'?" I ask out of the blue to Corb, who's relaxing next to me in bed, conquering the world through his phone. Clash of Kings. It's our nightly ritual.

"Oh my God," Corb says, putting his phone down. "I was trying so hard not to laugh. I looked right across the room at Coco and she totally didn't get it. She has no sense of humor, sometimes."

This evening, we held the first production meeting for Young Frankenstein at Green Victoria. Everyone was in attendence, including Coco (art and artwork) and Tony (music direction).

"I mean, I know what he was trying to say: he's really detail oriented and a big pain in the ass, but really? The anal conductor?"

I couldn't help it. At the time, I gave everyone my best Groucho look and said, "Sounds like a really bad porno movie."  Cue laughter. I guess everyone else had been thinking the same thing.

"I can just see the movie, too," Corb says, stretching out his long legs under the covers. "Guy is on a train, turns to conductor. Says to him, 'I can't afford to pay for my train ticket. The conductor moves closer to him, places a hand on his shoulder. Gives him a dirty look, licks his lips. 'I can think of a way,' he says. Boom chicka wah wah."

"See, I was thinking of a totally different movie. Hunky guy is a saxophone player in a symphony orchestra. He bends over to take his instrument out from its case. His firm buttocks are hugging his tight pants. The orchestra conductor moves over and reaches his baton out to stroke the crack in his buttocks. The sax player looks up, turns his head. Eyes meet. 'I've got an instrument for you to play,' says the conductor. Cue music. Boom chicka wah wah."

"That could be the sequel." Corb pauses. "But I like my dirty conductor story better." He squints his eyes, contemplating, then shakes his head. "I don't think there could be another scenario, do you? So, only two Anal Conductor movies. What a shame."

I chew it over for a minute. Then, excitedly: "Sure there could be another. After a freak accident at the local electrical plant, this weird blue jolt starts zapping people in the ass as they are sitting on their Barcaloungers, making them inexplcably horny for anal sex!"

Corb smiles and then shakes his head. Picks up his phone. Back to Clash of Kings. "I'm really not sure how well that one would sell..."

I pick up my book to go back to reading. Hmmm. Well, he may have a point there...  

Visiting Bob in Hospice, 2017

Old friend, I loved seeing you tonight.

I wish I had been able to talk with you about the times I remember so vividly: the lazy afternoons working on set at Seven Arrows Herb Farm for the Diary of Anne Frank...all those times you'd play the Duke and would say "Howdy pardner" in that slow southern drawl you'd always assume...the parties, playing Tabloid Teasers and laughing until I couldn't breathe, thinking about the ridiculous things you'd say and write (and all those cucumber patch jokes)...all those summer vacations, where you'd just show up randomly and spend a day, delighting the kids (and me, I may add). It was always like Bob Hope coming to visit.

Just seeing you always makes my heart feel lighter and yearn for a simpler time.

But I COULDN'T say them, because every time I'd start, I'd begin to choke up and tears would well up in my eyes. I could barely get "I love you, man" out. Barely. And the words. Fall. Away.

Fall away, but they will always be there. The times I've spent with you are among my favorites. It's true. This is what I wish I had been able to say to you, but who ever does? Who ever can?

Know this, old friend: this energy will always remain. 30 years of friendship. You knew me back when I was a kid. I'm not a kid any more. None of us are kids any more, I guess. Even our kids aren't kids any more.

But that energy is the most important thing in life, right? It's what makes life worth living. The connections we forge. The bonds we make. The laughter we share. Life is not properties and products. That's just backdrop. Life is about the people we are blessed to have around us to fill that backdrop. The players on the stage, dear friend. That's what makes the play worth acting out.

I wish I had stayed longer. I don't know what the appropriate length of time is. But Pauline said she was going and I stupidly said "I will walk you out" and stood up and that was that and...I hope there will be a next time. I want to stay longer.

And I want to say this here.

Thank you for being a true friend, Bob Ryan. A true, dyed-in-the-wool, good times and bad, friend.

Thank you for greeting me with "hello, pardner" tonight. To see your blue eyes light up from a light sleep on the couch meant the world to me. To hear those words from you once again. Uttered so lightly, but touching me so deeply. I don't know if you know how much that means.

And thank you for all the adventures we've been on. There isn't one I don't cherish.

I want to say this while there is still a chance and I'm not getting all choked up fumbling for the right word or looking in the rear view mirror, wishing I had said this for you to hear before it was too late.

Hello, pardner. And happy trails. Always.

Tags:

Weird science





One of the things my daughter Ashes has become obsessed with the past few months is the concept of the Mandela Effect.

Have you heard of it? Buzzfeed defines it in an article as: "those curious instances in which many of us are certain we remember something a particular way, but it turns out we’re incorrect."

A classic instance is the fact that some people "remember" Mickey Mouse as having suspenders, when in fact, the classic image of Mickey only has him with pants and buttons and white space where the suspenders should be. Or, the one that Ashes sent Corb and me the other day: that an entire movie called "Shazam" has been wiped out of existence and replaced with a movie called Kazaam.

The Buzzfeed article is diplomatic and attributes the cause of this "effect" as a result of parallel universes or time travel...or maybe just bad memory.

Of course, that latter possibility is ignored on the YouTube sites Ashes frequents. Instead, they ascribe more sinister motives to this "effect" and blame Big Government or some kind of future society traveling back in time to fuck things up as the culprit. Because, of course. I mean, that makes more sense, right?

Here's my personal theory. Some people are so self-absorbed these days and increasingly unable to differentiate truth from fiction that instead of admitting they were wrong, they would prefer to dream up some Big Conspiracy. That is, rather than attribute their error to:

  • Lack of attention to detail

  • Pure ignorance

  • The fact they may have been distracted by a shiny object at some point, or

  • The incident/fad/phenomena originally occurred before they were born so they really have no damn first-hand knowledge of the incident to begin with.

Why do some people remember Mickey having suspenders? Think about it. What's a quick way to create a Mickey Mouse costume and have the pants stay up? Add suspenders. Voila!

Why would people think there was a movie called Shazam when in fact it was called Kazaam? Think about it. Fawcett Comics created an iconic character called Shazam back in the 1940s, to compete against the popularity of Superman. All Billy Batson had to do was say the words "Shazam" and he would turn into Captain Marvel. Which, by the way, is precisely why there couldn't possibly be a movie called Shazam starring Sinbad. Ever hear of a little thing called copyright violations? (Which incidentally, was precisely the reason Shazam waned in popularity in the 1950s to begin with...DC Comics sued Fawcett, claiming the Shazam character was too close to Superman, and eventually, Fawcett stopped fighting. DC took over the character. He never was the same.)

It seems these days some people have chosen to ignore the famous adage "Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it." Instead, the prefer to re-write things to say, "Those who don't know history are being victimized by our Evil Time Overlord Masters who are trying to mess with our heads just because...well, Evil Time Overlord Masters." There's the real Mandela effect for you.

The corollary to this one is the growing number of people who would rather believe in fake news and won't actually bother to do some research to ascertain what is closer to the actual truth (that is, as close to it as we can get for anything). This one's called "the Trump Effect."


Holiday cheer oozing from every orifice...


This year, Corb decided to put up three Christmas trees at Green Victoria.

He says it's a tradition he learned from a former boss at his work. "You put up a Christmas tree for every year that you've been living in your house."

I frowned. "What happens when you've been living there for 30 years? That's an awful lot of trees. Wouldn't your house start to look like a forest at that point?"

Corb laughed and brushed me aside. "Oh, it doesn't have to be 30 big trees. You can have trees of all shapes and sizes. Big ones that take up a corner of the room. Or small ones that you place on an end table. But right now, we are focusing on the big trees. So, since we've been here for three years, I need to add a third tree."

So, there you go. We have three trees. One is in our kitchen, which is pictured above. It's where we place all our holiday cards. Then we have our traditional tree--the fake one we've had for years, ever since we experimented with a live tree and didn't know how the hell to get rid of it, years ago. Our traditional tree is in the living room.

And now, we have a third tree, on our porch. Corb bought it for $35 from someone on Craigslist. It's not complete yet: he plans to surround it with Christmas presents made out of all the empty boxes from Amazon deliveries we have received. I'll post photos of the other two in the days ahead, promise.

So, three Christmas trees. Yes, we completely have holiday cheer coming out our asses.

###

In other news, we still have 17 partially dug holes in our backyard.

No surprise, I suppose, we gave up trying to dig out those holes and finally contacted the gay electrician. But between the Halloween craziness and planning our awesome Thanksgiving dinner, and all the work John was doing at the time, it took him a while to come over.

John said he could do it before the ground froze...but, well, now it's December and that ground seems pretty frozen to me.

"Just do it in the spring," Corb's boss told him, when he mentioned it yesterday.

"Our builder said the siding could become discolored if we wait until spring." Corb replied.

His boss (who is a bit of an asshole) looked at him as if he had two heads. "The siding could become discolored if you wait until spring," he repeated. "Isn't it outside siding? Why would it discolor?"

Hmm, interesting point. "But wouldn't the boards become warped if they sat in our driveway all winter?" Corb asked. "Don't we need to cover them up with a tarp?"

Again, same look. Two heads. "The boards will become warped if they sat in your driveway all winter," he repeated. "Aren't the boards for your outside deck? Why would they warp? Why would you need to cover them with a tarp?"

Gee thanks, asshole boss. You may have a point there.

Even so, we may still cover them with a tarp. 

Eight straight

Finally! Vacation is here.

No more work to think of (although I had to work on a project or my boss for about an hour this morning.)

No more theater to think of (well, at least, for the next few days).

Just shopping and perhaps some writing. That's all I plan on doing for at least 48 hours. 

After the big dinner

After the big dinner, Corb and I have been focusing on relaxing (for the most part) this week-end. No Black Fridays for these guys! Lotta binge watching.

Friday night we hung around with Ashes: Chinese food and movies. We each chose one movie, and it was a rather eclectic mix: Corb chose The Hot Chick (why Lord, oh way?), Ashes chose Anastasia, and I chose Spaceballs. Oddly enough Anastasia and Spaceballs both have a similar plot thread: the somewhat rough and tumble hero assigned to protect the heroine appears to be doing it only for the money, but gives up the reward at the end of the movie and when she finds out, she realizes she loves him. Who would have thought?

Yesterday morning I resolved to tackle digging out the dirt in the holes for the deck. I managed to dig out two: one about two and a half feet down, the other at least three feet. That leaves 14 more to go. Slow and steady, I guess.

That night, we invited Corb's mother over for dinner and started to watch Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. We watched one episode with her, then promised to wait til she could come back to watch the rest.

We lied. We watched one more that night and one today.

I am enjoying the return to Star's Hollow very much. Am most surprised by the change in Miss Patty. Boy, she lost a lot of weight! I completely did not recognize her in episode three.

I especially liked the continuing reference to the Thirty Something Gang in episode three. I guess I can relate to the idea of spoiled Millennials, having raised at least one myself. And in many ways, Rory is the model for the pampered wonder child, who was raised to believe that everything she had to say and do was ever so precious and wonderful. Which may explain why she turned out the way she did. Lovely to look at, but morally quite ambiguous and without a clear sense of direction about anything. All three Gilmore Girls seem to be suffering from this sort of malaise. I hope they get their act together by episode four. (I also hope there is a Season Two.)

Tonight we bring Ashes back to Salem. Right now doing laundry. What an exciting life we lead.

Thanksgiving accomplished

...and a splendid time was had by all. :)


The big clean.

Worked until 1:30 today. Then, deep cleaning at Green Victoria began.

Corb, in the meantime, has taken the entire week off. He has been in cleaning and prep mode since Monday, and was sweating bullets by the end of the night.

The trips to the supermarket never ended. We had three in all today. The last one was fifteen minutes before the supermarket closed.

I think we are all set for Thanksgiving. But it is going to be a race to the finish line: dinner starts tomorrow at two.

Gentlemen, start your motors! 

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