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!

Last Day On Earth

earth

Last Day On Earth

What would I do if I learned that today was my last day on earth?  Hmmm, if we asked a random group of people that question we’ed get a spectrum of answers.  Would the spectrum be narrow, the answers similar, or would they be divergent, deeply personal and unlikely to overlap?  Some might say; “I’d want to be with my family.” Others might choose to find a pound of cocaine and dance naked in a rainstorm of hookers.  Might some go skydiving?  Or Google the one love that got away and purchase a plane ticket, or find a church and pray until their tongue cramped?  Perhaps some would hide in bed, crying away their last hours.

I imagine the answers might share some commonalities if the interviewees found themselves in a similar place on the arcs of their lives.  If not, the answers could be strewn all over the mental universe.  I, for example, am a parent, and so would hope that some part of that ‘last day’ could be spent with the children whom I love and cherish more than anything in this world.  What if that weren’t possible.  What if I learned at 6am that my life would end at midnight and both of my sons were nowhere to be found?  Maybe they’d be hiking some distant mountain range, or off on a hitchhiking adventure across Canada…whatever.  The point here being, the desired spend of my last few hours would not be attainable.  Were that the case I would have to find another way to make the most of my last hours as an earthling.   I could spend my last day lamenting this misfortune, or?  What would you do?

Perhaps there’s a better question to ask.  Maybe we’ed be better served by taking a less conventional approach, asking a different question than “What would I do if it was my last day on earth?”  The query, “what I’d do” is powerful, yet impractical.  If I’m asking to learn anything other than how I’d choose to use a minuscule number of hours that, statistically speaking, I’m unlikely to be presented with, it has little value.  This is because the probability of finding ourselves in such a situation is infinitesimally low.

Having a plan is excellent.  Carrying jumper cables in the trunk for example, or hiding a key to the front door under a rock in the yard are precautions likely to at some point take center stage under the “usefulness spotlight.”  These are premeditated solutions to scenarios we are likely to face.  I was not a Boy Scout, but I have borrowed, and benefitted from the Boy Scout motto, “Be prepared.”

It dawned on me today while out mountain biking in the color-rich Autumn woods, that I’d be better served if I knew the answer not to “What would I do if this was my last day on earth,”  But HOW I would do it!  How would I approach it…living my last day?  What attitude would I take?  The “how“ can be controlled, focused, owned.  The “what” cannot.  Perhaps you’ve already been down this philosophical road.  For me, it’s a new perspective.  I hadn’t spent time comparing the value of the endless passing days of my long-ass life to the single day that I knew would be my last.  “How” would I approach it?  Suddenly I felt in complete control of my last day on earth!  That, I could choose without the need for permission or the hope of right timing.

In my case pondering this ‘How’ made the lingering color of the late Autumn woods brighter to my eye.  The definition of things sharpened.  If I knew this was my last look at the majesty of life, I would look closer, deeper.  This perspective caused my energy to swell dramatically.  I took the jumps higher, the hills faster.  The strength, love, the gratitude within me grew noticeably, all because of a thought.  I dare say I had a bit of a Grinch-like moment of realization, and everything in the world was better, more meaningful and more of a gift than it had been in the moments before.

The expression “live every day as though it were you last” therefore may be commonly misconstrued, or at least in my case misapplied.  It tends to call up the ‘What’ when in fact it’s the ‘How to accept/approach it’ that may be the true gift hidden in that cat-poster quote.  On any day leading up to my last the answer to the question “How” I would choose to live my last day on earth is a gift, a revelation, a tool that can be used to make every day more than it otherwise might have been.  So Namaste friends, Nama-f’ing-ste.

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!

Butterfly Girl

PAPILIO MACHAON

The wooden window frame creaks gently at the caress of the breeze.  Dew drops tremble on the laden blades of grass running from the mailbox to the front steps.  Sunglow shines at the edge of the world, kissing the brickwork of the sleepy cottage, built long ago for someone’s profit, filled this day mostly with love.  In the kitchen, the faintest click signals the release of water, soon to be steam, then to become the rich black elixir that she loves with just a dash of cream.

As always the alarm is set but unneeded.  Her long lashes flutter open to the glow of this new day.  Most mornings her first thoughts are steeped in gratitude…for all of it.  For her life, her child, her present moment, and still with some difficulty she embraces and acknowledges her gratitude for the past.  Every day has lead to this moment, the aroma of coffee, the faint light filling the skylights, the peace that once seemed a phantom now seems a life.

“Mom”

“Yes, my darling one.”

“Can I have some coffee?”  Her son Jonah asks.

“Certainly, but no sugar please.”

“Nevermind.”

“Joey, have you noticed what an amazing gift this morning is?”

“Yes mom, I said my gratitudes,” his words wander naturally down this well-worn path.

“Excellent! I love you!”

“Love you too.”

Three paintings hang on the wall, across the room from her king size bed.  The painting on the left is of an intricately patterned caterpillar making its way across a birch branch in what looks to be late Summer.  The next is of a delicate chrysalis suspended from a similar branch in the Fall.  The painting on the right is of a magnificent butterfly taking wing in the Spring.  So it goes that not every day has been this day, full of comfort, and love.  But today, a few before, and many after will be very much like this one.

Discomfort, I’ve heard tell, is the price of admission to a meaningful life.  Knowing the Butterfly Girl’s story, I believe that to be true.

#fiction

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

Let Go Of The Plane

16th Jump 11_20_15 With J Ivey

I gripped the frame of the exit door with Hulk-like strength, except for the Hulk-like, and strength bits.  Suffice it to say I used everything I had to hold on.  In my experience, there’s no greater motivating force within a human being than fear.  The jump light turned from “two minutes” yellow to green.  Time to go.  I don’t know if I remembered to take a breath.  Forgetting to breathe in everyday terrestrial life is an issue for me as it is, no doubt at the moment of exit I had accidentally become nearly ‘oxygen free.’  Air starved brain notwithstanding I did remember to lean out, lean in, then launch, and let go of the plane.

My body tumbled in the wind wash created by my earthward trajectory coupled with the rapid westward bearing of the Twin Otter aircraft.

“Breathe, and calm the fuck down,” I said to myself.

After a bit more negotiating my body finally arched into a V shape.  Legs up, head up, plummeting toward earth in gravity’s firm embrace.  With the flight of my person finally stabilized I could take a moment to connect with this singular experience; moving through space at over 120 miles per hours without mechanical assistance.  The sensation is indescribable, and not commonly known.  Why?  Fear? The result of good decision making?  You decide.

I can’t speak for others who choose to jump from 14,000 feet with no more than a nylon lifeline, but I have to believe that some of them leap, or at least made their first jump for the same reason I did; to slay a dragon.  To confront fear in the now, or never.  To stand over it, perhaps for the first time with a triumphant smile.  If only a smile of sweet relief once we’ed reconnected with mother earth.

One’s inaugural exit, that first jump is exponentially more mind-blowing than any of the next hundred, thousand, or infinity and beyond.  It’s a threshold that cannot be recrossed.  On my very first solo jump, I experience a minor equipment malfunction.  I say minor because in hindsight everything worked out.  However, as it was all going down, I thought I might have a one jump career, and be remembered as the most unlucky skydiver of all time.

On a first AFF jump, (Accelerated Free Fall, Category A) one exits the aircraft at 14,000 feet gripped by two instructors.  At 6000 feet the ‘pull’ sequence is initiated.  If you the student have freaked out, one of the instructors, assuming you haven’t shaken them loose in a wild tumble, pulls for you.  As for the “wild tumble” bit, youtube.com offers an endless supply of “oh shit” scenarios @AFF SKYDIVE GOES BAD.  On my first AFF jump, I pulled the ripcord, at which point I was on my own.  Thankfully the chute deployed.  I dialed my freak from 11 to 9.  Next order of business, fly the thing.  I reached for the control toggles, gripped and pulled hard to free them.  One complied, the other did not.  Suddenly I was in a death spiral; corkscrew spinning under canopy plummeting from 5000 feet.  I distinctly remember thinking, “Are you fucking kidding me???”

The six hours of ground school that morning had scared the shit out of me.  Videos and anecdotes had elaborated on everything that could go wrong, and there I was starring in a new episode.  Somehow I found clarity in this “now or never moment.”  I let go of the left control toggle and went after the right ‘stuck’ one with both desperate hands.  Eventually, it came free at which point the ocean blue Saber II canopy leveled out.  Just like that, I survived.

It’s a numbers game, skydiving.  I’ve known jumpers burned severely when their path crossed a set of power lines.  I’ve known jumpers who are dead now due to equipment malfunction.  I’ve jumped a mere fifty-five times, mostly without incident, a total novice.   I know the odds are that if I keep jumping one day I’ll end up taking “reserve ride.”  Also known as a ‘cutaway,’ a reserve ride occurs when one’s main chute fails at which point that panicked soul pulls a handle to cut/release the bad chute, and pulls another to deploy the reserve canopy.

Though I’ve not had the pleasure, I assume this operation is accompanied by increased heart rate, heavy breathing, and a healthy dose of holy FU#K style “oh shits!”  The beauty of a reserve chute is that, well, it’s available.  It’s a second chance to survive the day.  Your day.  Your kid’s day, assuming you have kids. Your parent’s day if they happen to still be with you, your friend’s day, and your life insurance company’s day.  If the reserve fails, someone’s looking at a lot of paperwork!

I’m currently on hiatus from the sky life.  That said, I know that learning to skydive has been one of the most transformational experiences of my seemingly endless life.  Seemingly endless?  Yes!  Once I entered the red zone known as midlife, time while flying by seems to have been doing so for eons.  I will go back to jumping when the time is right because the experience is life-affirming, and it gives me something I just can’t get inside “a perfectly good airplane.”

If we have roadblocks in our lives, they are most likely made of fear.  If they are in fact made of fear, they are most likely difficult, if not seemingly impossible to surmount.  We as a culture have a fair amount of shame attached to fear, and so we bury it, deny it, negotiate with it, and finally relegate it to the ego basement.  Avoiding fear is comfortable, useful, life-saving …or is it?  Nowadays when I find myself in a place of deep fear, I remember my time in the sky.  The only way forward, the only way through, is to let go of the plane.

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

Black Bird

Black Bird Peggy Michik 2

It’s weird how we all take flight at the same time.  Pecking away at the lawn one minute, in a barren tree the next.  Sometimes I wonder if we are all bound to a single consciousness.  If we all came from one bird, and so share some genetic connection that lets us anticipate each other’s thoughts.  That would be cool.  Where would the first bird have come from? An egg?  That doesn’t make much sense.  Oh well, I’m just a bird with a bird brain, but I think I’m at least an average, if not above average blackbird, and that’s cool.

I like the migration ritual.  It always happens around the same time. We fly over all the places that won’t be warm enough, stop on a high wire overlooking buildings, or a road, then move on.  It seems like the wires are getting easier to find every year.  More wires, fewer trees.  I guess that’s what the humans call progress.  I call it weird.  How many wires, roads or building does one species need, right?  Oh well, I’m just a bird looking for berries and seeds.  Sometimes as a protest to all the pavement I eat a bunch of berries and then set my flight path so that I can poop on cars.  It’s my little way of saying “hello, we live here too.”  It’s especially fun to hit the ones that are moving, windshield hits are my favorite.

Anyway, enough about progress.  The trip has gotten easier over the last few years.  Not sure why, but we don’t have to fly as far to find warmth.  The most interesting thing about the trip is seeing all the new stuff that humans build each year.  Sometimes, after flying for a long time we all suddenly decide to visit a tree or field that we liked a lot on our last trip.  No one chirps about it, we all just go.  Last year after a long stretch of flying I found myself extra hungry and tired.  I was dreaming of a big field beside a red barn that we’d stopped at last year.  Apparently, I wasn’t the only one because the whole flock was aiming for it like one colossal multi-part being.  Anyway, when we got there, it was a parking lot, and shopping mall, bummer.

We collectively thought “Well shit!” then perched on power lines overlooking that grassless space.  People were coming and going with armloads of stuff, shopping carts, sunglass, the works.   I guess they make more humans every year.  That must be why they keep building stuff.  There are fewer of us this year than last.  Not a big difference but it does feel weird.  Like the collective consciousness of bird-dom is being downsized.  I guess that’s sad, but it means more food for me if we find a nice spot.

Speaking of nice spots.  I wonder if sometime in years to come will be warm enough to just stay home for the winter.

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