If I Had It To Do All Over Again

Hourglass

A salesman came to the door yesterday.  I was drinking black coffee in the living room when I heard the knock.   We don’t get many uninvited callers on our long dead-end street, which works out well for me.  I slowly set down my old white porcelain mug and rose from my writing perch on the dark brown leather sofa.  Click went the lock. We have no peephole so the next bit would have to be a surprise.  There he stood, in a smart black suit, attaché case in his left hand, right hand cupped to his mouth.  Think he was checking the state of his breath.  

“Hello,” I said.

“Good afternoon,” he replied, quickly lowering his hand.

“My name is Xavier Mulligan, may I please have a moment of your time to present a most irresistible opportunity?”

“How irresistible?” I asked, wreaking of doubt.

“Exceedingly irresistible sir, I assure you.  Give me but two minutes to introduce the offer and if by that time you are not interested I will vacate directly,”  he said with unwavering confidence.

“Ah, okay.” I reluctantly mumbled.

“May I come in?”  

“I suppose,” I said.  My hesitation painting my face into a near grimace.  Though truth be told, I was a tad intrigued.

“Thank you kindly,” he said accepting the opening door with a quick step forward and then there we were in my living room.  My cooling coffee cup reminding me of traditional hosting duties. 

“And how would you like to be called?”

“Excuse me?” I said.

“Your name?” He nodded.

“Oh, Landon, Landon Cooper,” I said.  Then with the slightest of disarmed stutters, “Would you like a cup of coffee Mr…?”

“Please, call me Xavier,” he offered politely.

I almost laughed thinking that calling him “Xavier” seemed a thousand times more formal than using any surname I’d ever heard. 

“Alright, coffee then Xavier?”

“No thank you, but I would love a spot of tea if you happen to have the leaf in-house.”

“I do,” I said fighting the involuntary raise of my eyebrow.  “Will Earl Grey do?”

“Oh yes, that would be splendid,” he said, running his free hand through his silvering dark hair.

I realized that by asking for tea, he had cleverly extended the original terms of his ‘two-minute pitch cap.’  What had I gotten myself into?

As I microwaved the water for his “spot of Tea” I found myself thinking, “spot of tea?”  “Did this guy come to the neighborhood in a Tardis?”  My next thought was, “This fucker may be completely psycho and looking to eat my liver with those beans and a fine Chianti.”

I mentally checked in with the baseball bat in the hall closet, then the shotgun in the laundry room; took a breath, set the Earl Grey tea bag in the steaming mug and returned to the living room in the full bloom of questioning my sanity for letting this tea drinking stranger into my home.

“Thank you, sir,” he said, taking the mug and bouncing the bag to encourage the darkening of its brew.

“Again I don’t want to waste your time, so I’ll get right to it.” He said, adopting a serious tone and looking me straight in the eye.

“I’m in the business of unique opportunity.”  He began, “extremely rare opportunity actually.”  He paused, sipping his tea, eyeing me with a calm, confident smile.

“I see,” I said.  “And what sort of opportunity are we talking about?” I asked with a hint of polite aggression.

“I’m in the business of second chances,” he offered, taking another sip of tea.

I stared at him.  No words formed.

“Yes, it is an unusual product, to be certain.”  He offered,  “In short supply and little known on the open market.”

My blank stare slowly transformed into an open-mouthed “huh?”

“Mr. Cooper, if you had it to do all over again would you?”  He asked.

“Do what all over again?”  I’m sure my tone of voice unveiled the blend of curiosity, incredulity, and consternation coursing through my mind.  A mind that had minutes before been at relative peace.  Which for me is saying something.

“It, all of it, your life!” He stated matter of factly.

“Okay, what the hell,” Was all I could come up with.

He stared into my eyes, took a long sip from his mug then spoke.  “I’m am authorized to offer you a do-over; a second go at this very life you are living right now.  

“How…what the…how the hell would that work?” I sputtered.

“Very simply actually.  You sign a few documents acknowledging your desire to indeed “Do it all over again” then poof, off you go to take a second run at this one life.”

I gaped at him in total disbelief, absent-mindedly spilling a bit of black coffee into my lap.

“Poof!” I stammered.  “What exactly do you mean by poof?”

“I mean you would be born again into this world to have another go.  Don’t you think it would be amazing to have a second chance at a lifetime here on earth?  Think of all the things you could do, create, accomplish with a second chance!”  He settled back on the sofa opposite me and waited, unblinking.

“What about this life?” I thought to myself.  “I love this life.”  I took a gulp of lukewarm coffee which suddenly seem not nearly strong enough.

“Forgive the language Xavier, but what the fuck are you talking about?  How the hell would that work and why should it?  More importantly, why have I of all people been selected for this, and I quote ‘unique opportunity’?” My voice rising to a crescendo of insolence by the end of the sentence.

“You’ve earned it,” he offered politely.  “I understand that this is, well, odd at the very least but I assure you this opportunity is most legitimate.  Please take a moment to sit with it.  May I refill my tea?  The kitchen is just through there yes?”

I nodded.  Xavier rose and headed toward the kitchen; the clip-clop of his dress shoes on the hardwoods gradually fading.  I fidgeted on the couch, uneasy, certain that I was either dreaming, crazy, or had accidentally made myself an unbelievably strong midday Irish coffee.  Not my habit.  

“As a rule, there are knives in a kitchen,” I thought.  But if he came here for that purpose, he’d most likely have everything he needed for the job in that attaché case of his.  I accepted the likelihood that he was not going to the kitchen for a knife and turned my thoughts the far more ridiculous reason for his visit, offering me a do-over!  

Was he offering me a second chance at life because I’d fumbled this one?  Was the offer a reward, an act of charity, or on a more sinister note, was it a punishment?  Was it a test?  I took quick synaptic inventory of my many years and saw ample flashes of regret.  Yes, I found things I would have done differently if I had them to do over again.  I also found moments, hours, years that I would not trade for all the Earl Grey in China or anywhere else.  I sipped the now cold coffee.  

There are a million ways to do life; to lose and to win, to surrender and just let it happen. There are moments of triumph and moments of regret.  There are memories to wish away, others to celebrate.  Perhaps, most importantly all those instances are available to make peace with.  Though I’m sure these thoughts have lived in my subconscious every day, I realized in that instant that I’m not proud of everything I’ve done, neither am I ashamed of the life I’ve chosen.  Are we here to be perfect, or to learn, and grow?  And there was the answer.  Crashing out of my flashback trance, I released a deep sigh.  Mr. Xavier Mulligan returned with his tea, smiling.

“So,” he said, “What’s the verdict?”

“Hmm, Mr. Mulligan?”

“Please, call me Xavier.” He corrected

“Oh right, Xavier, I’m, ah, I’m going to have to say no to your kind offer,”  I said with a new found smile.

“Really,” he said taking a sip of what seemed from the copious amount of steam to be scalding hot tea, without wincing.

“Yes,” I said.  “I’m grateful for the gesture, and I do believe this is a most rare opportunity indeed.  That said, I also realize that the very trip I’m engaged in at this moment is also a rare opportunity.  An opportunity to experience my ‘one’ life, complete with all its gifts, and its share of misfortune; experiences which I’m not likely to recapture should I abandon it now.”  I said raising my mug to swill the last bit of room temperature clarity.

“I see,” he said.  “Understood, understood.  Well then, I suppose it is time for me to take my leave as we have no further business here.  Before I go, are you absolutely sure of your choice?”  He asked.

“Yes, I am,” I said.  Then in what appeared to be a choreographed moment we rose simultaneously, his steaming cup still holding court on its coaster.  He lifted his attaché, gave a slight bow, and strode toward the front door.  I followed and reached to open it as he buttoned his coat.  

“Thank you for your time Mr. Cooper, I’m sorry to have wasted it,” He said.

“Not at all Mr. Mulligan, if fact it seems you’ve given me a gift.”  I offered.

“Have I?” He smiled.  “Excellent!”  He said crossing the threshold and making his way down the front steps into the brilliant sunlight of the late spring day.

#fiction

Apologies

Im sorry

Apologies. I’m guessing I haven’t offered enough of them in my lifetime.  Neither I’m sure, have I received some that might have been deserved, but that bit is beyond my control.  “Deserve’s got nothing to do with,”  or so I’ve heard Clint Eastwood say, and so I’ll leave that be for now.  Apologizing is the most potent acts of healing in the human relational inventory.  A heartfelt apology can repair seemingly permanent damage.  The act can even spark the rebuilding of ostensibly terminal relationships.  Apologizing is a two-way wonder drug.  So why is it that when it’s needed most this seemingly simple choice can appear so utterly unavailable to us?

Hello Ego!  The pride-o-meter sits pinned at eleven.  “Sorry?” I spit.  “Ha, I’m not sorry, I’m fucking pissed!”  Sound familiar?  “It’s they, not I who should be asking for forgiveness.”  Here I am once again, facing a barricade I’ve built obstructing the pathway to reconciliation and so created the need for the other person’s permission to move forward.  Waiting for an apology is just that, waiting.  Waiting in lieu of acting, of taking the chance, of creating an opportunity for resolution.  

Pride is a fickle mistress.  It can afford us the intense bravado needed to inflate our personal myth of invincibility, which in a fight or flight situation can be useful.  However, when the peak intensity of such an engagement subsides, we are left with the stance we took based on pride, not on love.  “Love,” where did that come from?  Hmmm, from the idea that if we truly want peace, we have to choose it.  Peace is my favorite, but clearly not a universal choice for ‘state of being.’  Have you ever apologized to someone only to find that the words had no effect on them?  Come to understand that your act of contrition bore no fruit in your effort to create healing?  Me too!  Some people thrive on conflict, and that is either a nature, nurture or both thing, over which we have no power other than a heartfelt, “ugh!”

Sometimes offering an apology is not a practical option.  In such downward spiraling relationships, we may find the right answer to be ‘cut and run.’  Sometimes we have to let things go.  The real challenge lies in determining, and owning the difference between circumstances beyond our control, i.e., dealing with an ‘unreasonable’ person, and situations in which we have been party to the wrongs that might well be righted by a diminishment of our own ego posturing.  Difficult yes, but not insurmountable.  It is painful to think about lost friendships or loves that might have been saved by an apology.  Could they still be?

These days I find myself apologizing rather frequently; though I’m sure I still miss some prime opportunities to take responsibility.  I say “I’m sorry” to my sons when I’ve wrapped up a solid performance of being less than the father I’d like to be.  I can see in their eyes that it lands, and moves them.  Perhaps, more importantly, it may someday help them with the task of owing their own spells of less than stellar behavior.  Hopefully, it will instill in them the notion that choosing to initiate the making of amends is not an act of weakness.  Rather, it is an act of strength, or so I believe, survivable and often enriching.

Heartfelt apologies spring from a bottomless well within us.  They are an infinitely renewable resource.  The courage to make the first move of reparations may be buried deep.  At times it may seem utterly impossible to grasp.  Even so, I believe it is always worth the reach.

 

Social Decorum & the Horse It Rode In On

Table manners bwThis random thought began as a journal note in 2014. 

Table manners.  Ah yes!  A tiny window view into the vast array of merit badge earning opportunities awaiting on the shoulder-sash of parenthood.

My youngest son is hyperactive…seriously!  I’ve been told that during his toddler years, when he was scheduled to attend mother’s day out the staff added an extra person just to handle him.  Ha, that’s my boy.  Nowadays he can often be seen orbiting the table while we enjoy family dinner, which at my choosing we share every night.  It appears he came into this world with a wicked case of the “can’t-be-stills!”  I could force him to sit…but why?  Will he turn out to be a better citizen if I make him do so?  Will he feel it’s okay to be him if I force him to “not be him?”  Will any of us digest our meal more healthfully, or feel the world has been made a better place if I declare martial law at the dinner table?  Probably not.  However, at times, while chewing my food, seated within the gyroscopic whirl of his dining room orbit I do hear distant murmurs of a disapproving throng.

“Can’t you control that kid?”

“That walking about is not proper dinner time behavior!”

“Have the decency to teach the boy some manners!”

As though having trouble staying seated while masticating will lead directly to the unraveling of the social fabric of our entire culture.

As a nod to Emily Post and her followers,  I have explained to my son that some people will expect the use of traditional, “proper” manners and that table-orbiting may not be considered acceptable in the homes of his friends.  He gets it.  He has managed to avoid becoming “that kid in the principal’s office” at school, etc.  When required, he’s capable of masterful-ish self-control.  Perhaps the best way to look at manners is in context.   Are our opinions about the matter based on childhood experience?  If so they are traditional, possibly passed down through multiple generations.  Yes, these specific rules of behavior have been taught, but are they still supremely relevant?  The doctrine of a flat Earth was too once widely taught.  Do these lessons still hold their weight in the face of scientific, or in this case cultural evolution?

With that view in mind, one has to decide the goal, and more importantly the ultimate impact of one’s parental decisions.  I find that after deconstructing most etiquette protocol and running it through the, “Does this rule truly make the world a better place” test, flexibility and acceptance usually win the day.  Because really, are we here to “control” children, or help them flourish?  I know which answer sits, or doesn’t sit (pardon the pun) best with me.  I’m not advocating mannerlessness.  I’ve taught my boys every social rule and regulation that I’ve ever learned.  They are aware of and able to adhere to social decorum protocol at will.  Afterall, knowing the rules is a perfect starting point on the road to doing the right thing, staying out of trouble, and for those of you who remember high school, avoiding embarrassment.

Long after we are gone, our children will unconsciously run their lives on the operating systems we’ve implanted in them.  Our decisions about how to handle their youthful “behavior issues” will have shaped more than those teaching “moments.”  That is why I let the kid orbit the table at dinner time.  And no, I don’t let him do laps at Thanksgiving with the extended family.  Even I have my limits.  There are times and places for rules to be followed, and at least in my universe, times and places for their bending.  Most adults unconsciously carry childhood memories of being brought to heel over issues of manners or rules.  How the lessons were “taught” matters, even decades later.  The cumulative effect of an upbringing may leave one with a deep-seated sense of self-acceptance, ambivalence or shame.  I know which perspective I’d like to see shaping the future of this world.  I bet you do too.

 

Do you have a similar experience to relate?  Please comment.  Life is bigger and better with shared experience!

The​ Living Room of an Old Person’s Home

Old persons living room V5

The living room of an old person’s home has a thing about it.  “Their thing,” to be precise.  Such a place usually has a particular feel, scent, dust/grime quotient, and a frozen in time quality, that is both haunting and intriguing.

The carpet, the furniture, and the wallpaper all have born witness to the arc of a life or lives that have gone from actively growing, reaching, and achieving to stillness, passivity, unwitting disengagement, and ultimately decay.  Once the occupants of this place were counted in the numbers of an up and coming vanguard generation.  The status quo creaked and groaned under the pressure of the change they demanded, finally acquiescing as a new world was forged by the sheer force of their will.  So it is with each generation.  Cliche warning: change is the only constant, until it’s not.

“Dad jokes,” ha!  The beginning of generational culture division is humorously summarized in those two simple words.  Dad jokes are the harbinger of connectivity obsolescence which makes them extra funny, or morbidly awkward.  Take your pick.  

Getting older is a foregone conclusion, getting wiser is not.  Dad jokes are optional. An aging generation can opt for continuing education, the conscious act of learning about and remaining connected to the next generation, or not.  These options bear the seeds of individual cultural choice that if not planted wisely may well find their harvest in the living room of an old person’s home.  

I’m not saying that redecorating is the key to staying relevant.  Of course, such endeavors require the allocation of resources that may or may not be in short supply depending on personal circumstance.  Following trends and continually updating one’s position in this world is a slippery slope to be sure.  The justification for such efforts is inextricably tied to the end goal.  What can we expect a quest for relevance to yield?  

Social evolution is historically proven, factually undeniable.  To remain relevant one must acknowledge, embrace and act in accordance with the principles lifting that wave.  Here we are confronted with the specter of “Identity.”  The crescendo of identity formation is represented by the metaphorical “brand new living room” conceived and actualized at the pinnacle of a life where we make our victorious statement, whether we realize it or not.  “We’ve arrived,” and here’s the interior design masterpiece to prove it; insert modernist decor, steampunk accoutrements, colonial, mid-century or whatever statement seems fitting to illustrate the reaching of one’s personal triumph at the perceived summit of their material journey.  This perch is a victory that in its very achievement can, if we are not vigilant, become a living tomb.  An apex reached may by definition offer only descent as a next step.  That’s where choice, and particularly choosing to step outside the box becomes an engaging, challenging, potentially life-affirming if ego-threatening moment, and at best, a most welcome alternative to programmed obsolescence. 

I’m not suggesting that we don the sailor outfit our mother’s had us wear for our four-year-old portrait, or the nightmare ruffled pastel leisure suit style tuxedo we wore to the prom a thousand years ago.  I am however suggesting that resting on accomplishments of any kind leads to the possibility of disconnection from the inevitable; from tomorrow, the day after, and so on.  Retaining accrued wisdom while remaining open to fresh, if potentially identity challenging perspectives means we still get to be ourselves, but in liquid rather than solid form, metaphorically speaking.

Being relevant is not an inalienable human right.  Being relevant is a quest that requires constant attention, adjustment, acceptance of that we do not yet fully understand, and most importantly the willingness to allow for the possibility that identity is ephemeral.  In the game of relevance, personal commitment to evolution is the only winning strategy.  Identity, if not fluid, becomes the anchor that prevents us from riding the wave of social metamorphosis.  The real kicker is that our identity issues have the superpower of invisibility as it relates to our ability to honestly see ourselves as others see us.  Ugh!

If I find myself in the weeks leading up to my death stripping wallpaper, tearing up carpet, and fondling paint samples, it will be no more than a physical manifestation of my desire to understand the current consciousness of my children’s or my children’s children’s world.  My last valiant effort to understand and assimilate the language, challenges, and opportunities that are continuously spawning in perpetuity outside the soul prison walls of the living room of an old person’s home.

#metaphor

In The Company Of Chaos

Chaos JH

In The Company Of Chaos

Right now I am not…in the company of chaos that is. If I choose that the boundaries of my home are the ends of the universe all seems to stand in a state of relative calm. However, should I venture into the realm of online news, social media, or wander into the wrong place at the wrong time I find myself in a veritable shit storm of well…chaos.

As a rule, I choose peace. Am I in the minority? More and more it would seem that whether chosen or not, some manner of war is the order of the day.  Why?  Why stir things up? Why choose a harsh word, or a bullet instead of lending a hand, or kind word? Why indeed? Why choose to inflict harm, be it physical or psychological, instead of help or even, as a commitment to the possible benefits of non-action, resort to silence?

Human drama, a sport, a whim, perhaps a necessary evil? Is it evil?  To me, it feels that way, but I have been most fortunate in my life to always have Maslow’s hierarchy met, so who am I to say. Some in my same situation seem to feel more alive taking stands on behalf of those who sell division as a commodity.  Ego is a tempestuous mistress. I feel more alive when more people have the chance to join me in that act; the act of feeling alive that is, and at peace.

Balance is ancient.  Historically, balance seems to be the adversarial antidote to chaos. Chaos in turn, seems to be a human psychologically supported virus of sorts.  A virus by nature identifies, attacks and overtakes its host in order to survive.  Curiously when the virus has accomplished its goal the host is ultimately brought down, and so comes to an end.  ‘The virus’ having attained its goal of domination ensures by its success its own demise.  Chaos, if viral at its core is calling to the “Dionysian Being” in all those who will listen.  We cannot live in chaos for long, pursuing chaos we ensure only our own temporary fix of adrenaline, followed then by our unavoidable ruin.

Does the desperate need for meaning lead to this ‘run of the lemmings’ in our human species?  Some behavior I’ve witnessed would lend credence to this hypothesis.  Could the need for meaning instead lead to a reach for calm, peace, perspective…a pause?  One would certainly hope so. But where would we get our precious drama?

It is easy to imagine solutions when not under fire. Corrections or right answers seem so obvious in the tranquility of a placid, comfortable familiar repose.  Many people struggle in ways I cannot fathom.  Others live opulent lifestyles afforded them by hard work, commitment and no small turn of good fortune, for which they most likely take full credit.  I’m not saying these beings don’t work for what they have but are we not all members of this world, and so potentially capable of perspective, empathy, and humility?  Be these situations as they may, chaos stirs, in and around us all.

Do we look, or look away?  Hiding our heads as long as we presume ourselves safe.  If the floodgates that have until now kept chaos in check finally burst, there will be no hiding from its faceless wrath.  What then?  What solutions will we wish we had committed to when we had the chance.  What sacrifices will we wish we had made.  What courage will we muster when the gun barrel finds us, be we armed, or empty-handed?

Have thoughts on the subject?  Please comment.  Life is bigger and better with shared experience!

Aiming For A Glass Of Water

Glass of water

 

Being single at 50 something on the dating scene is like jumping off the high dive aiming for a glass of water.

Divorce is fun…for masochists. It’s that moment when you realize everything you promised will end up broken. You may be an angry narcissist, in denial of course, or you may just be angry…no judgment. You may be a giver; give, give, give never take. You may be afraid of conflict. You may be a bully. You may be a nice, well-balanced person who made a bad choice in the partnership department. Whatever your position on the spectrum of coping mechanisms, behavior patterns or denial, divorce is the shits.

Will it be hard to start over? Maybe. Are there fish in the sea? Plenty. Will any of them appeal to you? Absolutely! Will those who do appeal to you be age appropriate? Highly unlikely! Online dating: Men with their bare-chested, or fish holding pix, rock on you silly geese! Women with their rudimentary photoshop skills shouting out “look at me” from the polished profile pic saying, “no really…I’m young” looking for a second chance. How could that pool have gotten so small?

It’s not easy to find what you had looked for so many years ago. You may have kids now. If you don’t want more kids the pool narrows. You may want dogs or cats in your life, you may not. The pool narrows. You may have voted red state, you may have voted blue. The pool narrows. You may like hiking or kayaking, or wine tasting, cooking classes, running, volunteering or even knitting/gunplay…the pool narrows. The pool narrows until you look between your two big toes and see that the pool has shrunk to the size of a glass of water. Should you jump?

Are you willing to come to grips with why your marriage/relationship ended? It’s easy during a divorce to cast oneself as the hero. I was exceptionally good at it. The facts more likely point to two sides of the story, and I bring this up for a reason. If we don’t at least attempt to understand our contribution to the chaos then we will visit that same ill fate on whatever poor soul awaits us in that tiny glass of water below.

So what positives can we pull; what gems can we glean from the denouement of a primary relationship, and ensuing diminished chance of future relational bliss? What understanding can we assimilate as we stand on the platform poised to dive into the narrow cup of opportunity that awaits us? An insight gained in the sleepless hours before dawn perhaps? Appreciation for the now not so rare moments of silence afforded to one who has no other? Pausing long enough to hear a truth about ourselves whether we want to or not? If we learn anything…it is everything in that moment. A moment of victory!

 

Have thoughts on the subject?  Please comment.  Life is bigger and better with shared experience!

Stepmom-O-Rama

Here We Go Again

stripper shoes crop

Juliet zipped her dress and gave herself a once over in the hotel room mirror.  “Here we go again,” she half spoke, half laughed then took a swig of Stoli straight from the bottle.

I peered around her well-preserved, thirty-something body into the mirror straightening my tie.  “If I have to go to one more of dad’s weddings I swear I’ll set myself on fire!” I said.

“Really? Oh, that would be so sad for me.  I’d have to go to all his future weddings without my favorite brother.  Besides I thought you always wanted to die in a killer whale attack.”

“Yes,” I acknowledged, “killer whale attack has long been my preferred legendary death scenario…and I’m your ‘only’ brother.”

“Which makes you a shoe-in for ‘favorite’ you awesome man.”  She laughed.

Both of my sisters are wonderful, but Jules and I have always been especially close.   Our senior, and noticeably absent sister Samantha was supposed to be with us for pre-ceremony cocktails, but it seemed her chronic tardiness had struck again.

Juliet handed me the Stoli, “At least we’ll never have to live with this one.” She smiled.

“True.” I mused.  “I suppose being somewhat grown up and thoroughly self-sufficient has its perks.”

The door flew open.  “Sorry, I’m late!” Samantha rolled into the room like a runaway circus train, garment bag, cosmetics kit, and other undefined bits of tiny luggage hanging from her person.  “What are we drinking?”

“The usual pre-dad’s-wedding fair…vodka.”  I handed her the bottle, and as her lips touched it, we had once again closed the circle, completing a ritual celebration that had been part of the Montfort family culture since we were in high school.  Other family’s had Thanksgiving or Christmas; we had Dad’s weddings.

Sam lowered the bottle, “Well, here we go again!  How long do you think this one’ll last?”

Juliet sat on the edge of the bed pulling on her high heels. She motioned for a bottle pass.  “Her name is Candy for Christ’s sake…it can’t last too long!”

“I don’t know,” I interjected.  “Bambi lasted almost 13 months…come on…Bambi?  I give ‘Candy’ better odds.

By now the average observer may be wondering why three siblings in their late thirties to early forties were in a hotel room preparing for a wedding with no significant others in tow.  As it happens, the old expression about the falling apple and the inevitable proximity of its final resting place relative to the tree from which it came is beautifully illustrated by our family.  That’s right, my sisters and I are all divorced.

The advent of dad’s pending nuptials had Samantha in a reminiscent mood. “Do you remember the screaming red Christmas tree that Cinnamon put up my senior year?  The place looked like a holiday whore house.”

“Who could forget,” I laughed.  “How about Buffy’s pink Corvette with the heart decals?”  To this day her dropping me off at school in that thing ranks among my most awkward moments.  Idiot high school boys alternately calling me a fag for coming to school in a pink car, then saying they wanna ‘tag’ my mom.  “Ew,” I’d protest, “she’s not my mom”…and as an afterthought, “and I’m not gay you assholes!”

My darling sisters laughed.  We’re a fucked up bunch to be sure, but at least we have each other.  The shared experience of growing up in the company of a fast-moving parade of “dancers” has had the effect of “Gorilla Glue for the Soul” on us.  Jules looked at her watch and grimaced.   Then as her right hand applied deep red lipstick, her left reached into her carry-on luggage sized purse.   Without turning her attention from the mirror, she found, apparently by Braille, and produced three silver flasks.   She tossed them at me with a playful wink.  “Fill ‘em up bro; it’s go time!”  As I poured and spilled the Stoli into the unreasonably small flask openings, I laughed to myself.  Thank god for my two wonderful sisters.  We may not be well equipped for matrimonial endeavors of our own, but we make a hell of a team at a stripper’s wedding.

We raised the dripping flasks high. “To Pops and…uh, Candy is it?” Sam hissed.

Jules snorted, which turned my snigger into a guffaw.  I quickly composed myself.  Cleared my throat and in my best, if hastily conceived oratorical tone confirmed the name of the stepmom de jour.  “Yes, yes, to Pops and Candy, and the two most wonderfully inappropriate, dazzlingly witty and truly lovely siblings-in-arms a brother could ask for!”

“Goddamnit,” Jules scolded.  “If you make me tear up I’ll wipe my runny-makeup face all over that white shirt!”    I laughed.  We finished the toast with the clink of silver and a quick slug.  Next stop, stepmom-o-rama!

#fiction

Have thoughts on the subject?  Please comment.  Life is bigger and better with shared experience!

Free Fall

Free Fall JH 2

“What do you mean ‘bad’?” I asked.

“I think it’s self-explanatory.” He said.

“Nice bedside manner doc!”

He reached into his lab coat and produced a flask and two plastic shot glasses, “Cheers!”

“Ha, we’re celebrating my terminal diagnosis?” I said with a hastily shaken tone cocktail of irony, indignation and false bravery.

“We all have a terminal diagnosis, my friend.  I love you, and this shot is to celebrate your life.  The life behind you, that left before you, and most importantly this moment, when we here together face the inevitable; the heartache, the confusion, the freedom, and the truth, that we all try so desperately to ignore.”

I found myself smiling in spite of the dour news, “I love you, man.”

Doctor James had been my college roommate freshman year, and my best friend for the last thirty years of my now seemingly bookended life.  Together we had surfed the waves off the Santa Barbara coast, chased the same woman at parties and fought over the outcome, ridden a motorcycle through the courtyard of a dormitory with frantic RAs chasing us.  This was the man who knew me better than anyone on the planet.  He had supported me every step of the way.  He knew when to say “I’m sorry,” and he knew how to forgive.  He was the perfect person the usher me onto the crowded tarmac for those awaiting passage to the hereafter.

“So by ‘no’ you mean there’s no cure?” I asked.

He looked me in the eye, raised his plastic shot glass to offer a toast, I obliged with a shaky reciprocal gesture.

“There is only one cure for life, and as mortals, we will all one day be cured.  May you rock the fuck out of the days, months, or years left to you.  May you know that I love you like a brother with all my heart and will ride this last wave with you wherever it may take us.”  He held his glass and my gaze.

Damn him; the fucking bitch made me tear up.  I killed the shot and immediately put my cup out for a second.

“How long?” I asked.

“I don’t fucking know…six months, six years, it’s so fucking random.  Let’s see, no sugar diets, kale, and on the uh-oh side, hidden guilt, self-hatred, or an emerging heretofore unseen badass extreme will to live.  I could tell you some number, but then that number enters your reality and who the fuck am I to shape your perspective on something like this?  I’m just a doctor.”  James laughed as he filled our little plastic shot cups.

“Let’s go to the mountains and hike.” He said.  “I’ll clear my schedule; we’ll go to my place in the Sierras, spend a couple of days and let this percolate.”

“Are you coming on to me?”  My super thin, false bravado wavering.

“Ha, fuck you, I’ll bring coffee, be ready by 8 am.”  Doctor J. hissed with a shit-eating grin.

“Thanks?”  I had to laugh.  Hiking would be good!

#fiction

Have thoughts on the subject?  Please comment.  Life is bigger and better with shared experience!

Adventures In Plumbing

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The kitchen faucet in our house has been dripping for at least a year.  The jar for our blender has hence become a fixture in the sink.  It’s been dutifully catching the drops of life-giving H2O so that they can be poured into our Berkey Water filtration system rather than down the drain.  That solution, until yesterday accomplished the goals of A. Not “wasting” water (my California drought guilt at work), ironic since it has rained here at least every other day for the last two months, and B. Not having to fix the f’ing faucet, I mean really, time is precious right?  If you’ve ever done plumbing work on a 60 plus-year-old house (which all of my homes have been) you’ll know this logic is sound.  If you haven’t you’re in for a treat.  Why?  Wait for it…

I woke up Saturday morning to this text from my seventeen-year-old.

Chris:

Hey I don’t want to wake you up

But the bathroom sink is leaking

It wasn’t until I ran water

Underneath it is absolutely soaked

I was looking for duct tape to patch it but couldn’t find any

I cleared out the bottom of it and put a towel down

It only leaks if you run water

Sent 5:37am

He did the best he could then left for work.  Love that kid, and the fact that he has a job.  The obtaining of which I had no part in.

So… great, excellent!  The bathroom too!  Looks like it’s time to address the elephant in the pipes.  After a to the brim full cup of black coffee I surveyed the admittedly heretofore overlooked bathroom situation, assuming that the faucet had gone bad.  Wrong!  I cranked the taps, crouched to survey the outcome and discovered that the drain pipe had a leak, and was shooting a firehose-like stream of water into the vanity base.  Awesome!  Well I may as well replace the thousand-year-old faucet while I’m at it right?

As it happened my youngest and I had a date that morning to attend the premiere party for the new TBS show Final Space created by one of his youtuber faves Olan Rogers.  Great show!  Loved it, and Jackson got to meet one of his heroes; a “Mr. Rogers” for a new generation.  Olan that is.

On the way home I informed JJ that we would be stopping at Home Depot to pick up the plumbing supplies needed to deal with our “situation” at the house and that his help would be most appreciated.  I also informed him that when committing to amateur plumbing on an aging home one must expect several same day return trips back to Home Depot…I estimated a minimum of four.  He winced, and said a silent “ugh.”

Upon returning home, I went straight to it in the bathroom.  Replacing the drain was easy enough.  Then, while assessing the faucet replacement scenario, I noticed evidence of the amateur plumber’s nightmare.  No shutoff valves under the sink!  Water to the whole house would have to be shut off to pull the old faucet and place the new one.  My thought at the moment…”fuck it!”  It’s not leaking, so I’m not going to mess with it.  Jackson and I cleaned/mopped up the bathroom mess and closed that case.  On to the kitchen

“Thank god,” I thought as I worked my way through the frat house mess we’ed created under the kitchen sink, at least there are shut off valves.  But wait, new lessons in amateur plumbing lurked in the very near future.  I stood up, stretched, gave the blender jar an informal salute for its twelve months of service, then dove back in.  The stuck cold water valve resisted for a minute then reluctantly gave way.  I closed the valve and moved on to the hot water side.  My past experience informs me that things are going smoothly, too smoothly.  My cynicism was soon rewarded.

I grasped the hot water shut off valve and began wrestling it to the off position.  This house was built in 1950.  Who knows how long this demon valve had waited for its moment.  Well, the wait was over.  As I broke it free from its wide open position something miraculous happened.  I didn’t know such a thing was possible. While cranking the handle to the closed position hot water blasted from the valve in all directions.  Within two seconds I was thoroughly soaked head to toe and water was rushing across the kitchen.

“JACKSON, I NEED TOWELS PLEASE!”

“How many” he shouts.

“ALL OF THEM,” said I.

The valve was only gushing for a few moments, but in that short time, I found my drenched self sitting in a quarter inch of water.  To stop the flow I had to turn the valve back to the on position.  The physics of this solution made no sense to me, but so it goes with plumbing, a dark art to be sure.

“Damnit!”  I have to shut off all water to the house in order finish the operation.  Tools in hand I make my way to the street.  The water main valve lay is a muddy housing, a spider-filled joy box if you will.  Leaning over the edge I tried with all my might, and with all the tools I had at hand to wrench the valve closed.  The value was neither impressed nor willing.  Shit!  There must be a shutoff valve in the crawl space.  By crawl space, I mean belly crawling under HVAC ducts in the dark, dank underworld of our humble cape cod.

As I made my way to the presumed location of the sacred “shut off valve” I was greeted by the overwhelming stench of cat shit!  Really!  Simultaneously, I identified the location of the valve and realized the fact that one or more of our cats had removed the vent covers to the crawl space, and had claimed said space as their personal outhouse.  A veritable cat shit minefield presented, complete with pools of cat piss rippling in the pockets of the vapor barrier.  Had I a free hand I’d have plugged my nose, but alas… Scent notwithstanding, I dragged myself toward the shutoff.  A quick twist and it’s closed…I hope.

From the black abyss, I contacted JJ via cell phone, “Turn on a water faucet on please.”

“Nothing’s coming out!”

“Excellent!” I exclaimed.

I dragged myself, somewhat disgusted by the state of our crawl space back to the opening and marched toward the car; a new hot water valve had to be procured; Home Depot trip two.

I retured with the new valve and proceeded to remove the old one.  Some hack rig coming from the wall that had male threading at all three connections.  I bought the house from a plumber…it figured.  Of course, the valve I purchased at Le Depot is female, male, male.  So, Back to the car.

Home Depot trip three engaged!  I wait an eternity for a turn with the plumbing guy.

“We don’t have that fitting…where’d you find that?”

“Under my kitchen sink,” I said…(in my head “duh”).

“Try this Shark Bite fitting; it should grab on to the pipe and work fine.”

“Chaa, thanks.” I left…at a brisk jog.

Back at home, hours into this ‘simple task’ I affixed the fitting, tightened the new valve and put Jackson on alert.

“I’ll call you from under the house.  Let me know if it leaks.”

As Buddy, the Elf might say, “I passed through the crawl space trap door, past the sea of swirly twirly cat poops, and then I crawled to the magical water shut off valve.”

“IT’S LEAKING!” He yelled into the phone.

“SHIT!” I don’t think I said it ‘under my breath.’

Back up through the crawl space hatch to the living floors of the house; which were now steeped in the waning February afternoon light filtering through the rain-spattered windows.  Resigned I went, back to the car, back to home depot.  As I stepped out of the car, I checked for my wallet.  On a typical day this gesture would be a gift to all pickpockets in the area, (so that’s where he keeps it), but not today!  “FUCK!”  I’d left my wallet at home.  Back in the car, I raced toward the wallet.  Twenty-two minutes later I was back at the Depot. The wait was longer this time, and when I finally get advice it was:

“That valve you just brought back will do just fine, simply remove those unnecessary parts in-between and attach it.”

“But what about a dielectric union?  You know the thing you’re supposed to use when you attach galvanized plumbing to brass or copper?”

“We don’t have those.  Just use a bunch of Teflon tape.”

In my head’ “Are you fucking kidding me?”  From my mouth, “ Ok, thanks.”

Back home.

“Ok JJ, hold the faucet steady while I loosen these bolts.”  The faucet bolts don’t budge.  “Please go grab me a hammer,” I asked, in a regrettably peeved tone.

He appeared in a flash with a hammer.  After a bit of a beating the faucet fixture came free, but try as we might the sprayer socket would not budge.  I climbed from under the sink, lower back complaining all the while for plumbing is a younger man’s work, and grabbed a pair of vice grips.  As my son looked on in horror, I unwittingly released a stream of awesomely vulgar obscenities while beating the sprayer nozzle viciously with the vise grips.  When it is over, and I had returned from werewolf to human form the sprayer was loosened, but still stood defiantly in its battered socket.  Jackson appeared to have mild PTSD.

Resigned, I climbed back under the sink and asked him to cut the sprayer hose.

“Use Scissors, hacksaw, knife, whatever please.”

He dutifully grabbed our bread knife and made quick work of severing the hose.  I learned later that the following moment made all the stress of this escapade worth it for him.  As he cut the hose and it snaked back through its hole in the sink top, it sprayed me in the face with its residual water load.  addingInsulttoingury.com!  Hose sprayed face notwithstanding I was finally clear to install the new faucet.  Ten minutes later I was back in the cat shit forest, earbuds in, JJ on the line.

“Ok buddy, I’m turning it on now!”

“Nothing.”

Me, “Really?  Awesome!”

My joy at this news overshadowed the scent of feline occupation as I belly crawled my way out of that ‘shit box.’  It was now 6:30 pm. We had somewhere to be at 7:00.  Back under the sink.  On when the valves, no flood, winner, winner chicken something.  To avoid tainting the new faucet I removed the aerator, closed my eyes, and turned the handle.  Water poured through.  Clean, pure-ish, life-giving water.  Success!

We collected the multitude of saturated beach towels from the kitchen floor, washed our hands, piled into the car and made our way to the “Final Space” Premiere After Party.  On the way, Jackson told me that for him it had been a stressful day watching Dad go maniac-style on the household water service.  We had a good laugh and spirited discussion about it after which he intimated that he thought we should keep the bludgeoned sprayer in our family museum as a reminder of this ‘special’ day.  So be it!

Do you have a similar experience to relate?  Please comment.  Life is bigger and better with shared experience!