Sunday, February 26, 2017

Like Riding A Bike

Met up with some old friends yesterday.

Guys from the inner circle back in high school days. Guys I laughed with and got crazy with and felt close to and trusted in my youth. Guys I haven't seen for from 35 to 40 years.

And it was mind blowing. And the laughter and trust and craziness were still there.

Met up with my friend Dave at the nursing home where his 90+ mom is staying. His 90+ dad was there as well. As I walked towards the building Dave was standing out front; we hugged long, we hugged emotionally. There were tears.

And boom, we were off and running.

When we were teenagers Dave was close to my parents, I was close to his. A lot of time spent in each other's homes. A lot of dinners consumed.

That says a lot about a friendship when the parents are accepted and enjoyed instead of being the enemy.

It was hard seeing his mom. She has had a series of minor strokes and is pretty much confined to a bed. Fragile, kind of in and out of reality. But she lit up when Dave told her I was there. Lit up.

Made me feel so good. She had to hold my hand; had to have me close. I kissed her when we left and she smiled a big smile at me.

Dave's dad is in much better shape. He is sharp and still has the sense of humor that made me laugh in his home. He grilled me about my life; what I have done, what I am doing, my kids, my wife. And he made me laugh along the way.

Half an hour into the visit my friend Barry walked in; he lives close by. Again, a big hug. Quick reminiscing, grilling each other about our lives in between talking with Dave's parents.

We left the nursing home and headed to a supremely funky restaurant and bar, definitely my kind of place. And obviously my friends' kind of place. I dug the fact that we were on the same wavelength even in the choice of where to relax.

The three of us grabbed a table, grabbed a beer and fell into the rhythm of our friendship decades down the road. Unbelievable.

I was looking at these faces that have aged and marveling at how the personalities, the manner of talking, the sense of humor remain the same. So comforting. The shared memories. The camaraderie. All of it so familiar.

Dave and I ate, Barry did not - he had a retirement party to go to.

About an hour after we got there another old friend - Bobby - came bouncing in. Dave had been trying to get a hold of him all week and failed. Turns out Bobby finally called him back as we were leaving the nursing home. Dave didn't bother to tell me Bobby was coming, so when he showed up it was a surprise.

A big surprise. Bobby was always the madman of the group. He came up behind me out of my line of site, wrapped his arm around my neck and kissed me on the lips. It happened so fast I had no idea who the hell it was until I stood and turned around.

I laughed my ass off.

Four guys who graduated high school, getting together after 40 years in complete harmony, easy comfort.

Talking, laughing, reminiscing, updating each other on family and jobs and health and life.

Barry left for the retirement party; more hugs all around. Me, Dave and Bobby hung around for another hour.

Saying good bye was hard. But we committed to attending our 45th reunion together, which is happening in June. We committed to keeping this thing rolling, recognizing that these friendships are too valuable to take for granted.

Perspective is taking up space in my brain today. Thinking about who we were forty years ago, and thinking about who we are now. And, after visiting with Dave's parents, thinking about what may be to come.

My wheels are spinning, my brain and emotions are working overtime. It suddenly feels like there has been a void in my life for forty years. It feels like I need these friends back in my life NOW to reconnect me with who I am.

I feel energized. I hate that fucking overworked word but there is no other way to say it - I feel energized. And I feel positive.

Friendship is magic. Friends are people you are drawn to because of who they are. They are not obligated to love you, they are not born to the relationship. They are people you meet in life and make a connection with that becomes a tangible part of who you are; they affect you, you affect them, you love and trust each other.

Dave, Barry, Bobby - what an amazing day we shared yesterday.

These are my good friends, my friends from the wild, formative times that we all survived and that helped to shape us.

We were comfortable together when we were teenagers; we are comfortable together in our sixties, even after having not seen each other for four decades.

That is the very definition of friendship.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Chickens Come Home To Roost

Life does not fuck around; if you do not treat it with the respect it deserves it will come back to haunt you.

An old friend wound up in the obituary column lately. A guy I went to high school with and haven't seen since graduation. I read his death notice and was not surprised to find that he was quite accomplished. Had his own business; was a respected consultant in his field.

Bummed me out that he was dead. Bummed me out that my obituary right now would read as dark comedy in the professional arena.

Coincidentally, another old friend contacted me last week. One of my closest high school friends; a guy with whom I laughed and got insane with; a guy with whom I had great conversations - a guy who I respected.

Haven't seen him in at least 35 years.

We spent an hour on the phone yesterday. Bringing each other up to speed on our families and our "careers".

He is enormously successful. Respected in his field. No doubt with lots of cash in the wallet and the bank and a guaranteed comfortable retirement.

When I got around to talking about my "career" it was painful and embarrassing. I have accomplished nothing professionally in my life, and compared to the career he had described just one minute earlier, I looked like a fucking clown.

I tried to keep it upbeat but I'm sure he heard the bitterness and embarrassment in my voice.

My high school and college friends are smart guys. Destined to be successful. I am sure they thought the same of me so he had to be thinking to himself "How the fuck did this happen"?

Slap. That's what life does. You try to keep a low profile and hide your embarrassment in the dark. But life finds ways to show you what could have been; what should have been.

Life finds a way of pointing the finger at you and saying "What a fucking waste."

Strangely enough, although he lives in Virginia, he is going to be in the area this week. We are getting together. He is trying to get a hold of two or three other high school friends who live close by so we can engineer a mini-reunion.

My only hope is that at least one of them shows up with a shopping cart loaded with trash bags filled with his life's possessions.


Friday, February 17, 2017

Not Necessarily A Bad Thing

It is not necessarily a bad thing to kill old ladies.

Is it?

After all, they are old, they are vulnerable (easier to kill) and for the most part they got nothing going on.

Except volunteering. And reminiscing. Endlessly.

I know this guy who works with old broads and he really has them fooled. They think he is great; they love him. They tell him how happy they are to have him around and that they are glad he is happy there.

He listens attentively, laughs at their jokes that are so bad and so fucking boring. He listens to their old tymey frame of reference and refusal to move along with the world.

As he puts on his show he dreams of slit throats and bashed in heads.

Even a few shocking words would be satisfying.

"Hey Pablo, can you grab that bin of childrens' clothes for me?"

"Hey, old bag, why don't you just go fuck yourself. I am too goddamn relevant to be your fucking servant."

He has these dreams. Running them down with his car, clubbing them with a baseball bat, poisoning their fucking afternoon tea, spitting in their faces.

He could do these things.

Or he could just change jobs.

Life is full of tough choices.

Thank Me Later

Today's topic is songs from movies.

Watched "One More Time" with Christopher Walken the other night; fabulous movie. He plays a singer, a crooner, who was fabulously successful in his time. He is older now and looking for one more shot. He writes a song titled "When I Live My Life Over Again" and sings it in the movie.

I love Christopher Walken. And so do you.

I love this idea that songs are written for movies, that they are part of the plot, especially when the song is good. I guess what I like about them is that if you didn't watch the movie you would probably never have heard the song. That puts you in more exclusive company. Makes you feel like you are part of an inner circle.

It is kind of a big band, swing type song, which is cool, but the lyrics crawled right into my heart.

"If I'd been born in the Hindustan, I'd reincarnate like the Hindus can, I'll tell you sir I've got a plan, when I live my life over again.

I'm all warmed up and limber now, next time I swear I'm gonna make it count, thank God we get more than one go round.

Regrets, yes, I've had a few, perhaps I forgot to mention, but the passing years and greying beard are what got my attention.

Wise men say life's so strange, it goes fast like deja vu, but the one thing I wouldn't change, are the hours I spent with you.

So as a dress rehearsal this one's been fine, but now I'm gonna go for real this time, and smell the red roses when I'm living my life all over again, alert my friends when I live my life over again."

The song gives me hope even if you subtract the concept of reincarnation, which I don't believe in. It makes me feel that even as a 63 year old fading warrior I still got a chance. Love the words "I'm all warmed up and limber now", which makes me feel as if everything that came before has prepared me for one last shot, one informed, experienced attempt at self-realization.

Randomly, later in the week I heard "Fallin' and Flyin'" from the movie Crazy Heart, starring Jeff Bridges who also sings the song. Love the movie and the song feels like the soundtrack of my life.

"I was goin' where I shouldn't go, seein' who I shouldn't see, doin' what I shouldn't do, bein' who I shouldn't be.

A little voice told me it's all wrong, another voice told me it's all right, I used to think that I was strong, but lately I just lost the time.

It's funny how fallin' feels like flyin' for a little while, funny how fallin' feels like flyin' for a little while.

I got tired of bein' good, startin' missin' that old feelin' free, stopped actin' like I thought I should, and went on back to bein' me.

I never meant to hurt no one, I just had to have my way, if there's such a thing as too much fun, this must be the price to pay.

It's funny how fallin' feels like flyin' for a little while, funny how fallin' feels like flyin' for a little while.

You never see it comin' 'till it's gone, it all happens for a reason, even when it's wrong, especially when it's wrong.

It's funny how fallin' feels like flyin' for a little while, funny how fallin' feels like flyin' for a little while.

I was goin' where I shouldn't go, seein' who I shouldn't see, doin' what I shouldn't do, and bein' who I shouldn't be."

A little tougher to explain how this one makes me feel. In one sense it makes me feel like I need to recapture a certain part of me that I have let go. I've been living like a fucking priest for a few years now and it is an uncomfortable fit.

On the other hand I have gone too far in the past, gotten stupid and a little lost.

Maybe there is a middle ground, a place where I can have some fun without getting stupid.

I am 63 for Christ sake. It's worth a shot.

Anyway, two good movies, two good songs. Watch the movies, dig the music and thank me later.

Friday, February 10, 2017

February Winds

It was February 10th, it was 12 degrees outside, the fucking wind was howling and Jack felt it all slipping away.

Figures it would happen in February. February sucked; it was a nothing month. January held out false promise for change and March held out false promise for warmth but at least they put a ripple out into the universe.

February did nothing but stand up and say "Hey, it is fucking cold outside so deal with it. You got no hope and no future; cover up with another goddamn blanket and shut the hell up."

The Allman Brothers were playing, rather loudly, on Jack's ipod machine. He was glad to have them sound tracking this moment because they had been the soundtrack of his life.

One of the very few things he could count on, for almost fifty years now, to take him away to a spiritual place, a place that meant something to him, a place he could understand.

Nothing else made sense.

His life had devolved to a point of total incomprehension. It was a work of fiction, no different than the thousands of novels he had read in his lifetime.

Jack supposed there was some truth to his life at some point but he could not remember what that felt like or even if he had ever recognized it as such. What he could remember was nothingness; madness, absurdity, a sense of watching his life unfold as if he were watching an embarrassingly low budget movie.

The feeling was so intensely foreign that Jack lived in perpetual anxiety. He did not know how to relax; he did not know how to enjoy himself.

There was no peace.

Jack blew off work on February 10th. Fuck work. He had not worked one goddamn job in his life that meant anything to him. Every one of those fucking obligations stripped him of his soul and reduced him to a fraction of the man he truly was.

He started in on the whiskey around 8:00 that morning, shortly after his wife left for work. And he sat with his father's knife.

He had found this knife under the seat of his father's Cadillac; the Cadillac Jack inherited when his father died.

It was a vicious weapon. Insanely sharp with a killer point; serrated up top to inflict maximum damage.

He didn't know what compelled him to grab the knife from the cupboard it was displayed in; he hadn't touched the damn thing in a decade.

Today, somehow, it comforted him.

He drank, he reflected on a wasted life, and when he got too agitated he got up and walked around flashing the knife as if he could kill his reality.

Sometime around noon, Jack was dancing around the kitchen to The Allman Brothers when he slipped and fell, driving the knife right up inside his gut.

He wasn't sure exactly what kind of damage he had done but he was quite sure that it was serious.

He dragged himself over to the counter and sat with his back to the dishwasher. He left the knife right where it was and abstractedly watched the blood flow over his legs and onto the floor.

The pain was horrific but no harder to bear than the pain of the life he had pissed away, day after endless day.

Jack was surprised at how slowly his life leaked away but he was happy to sneak in three or four more songs.

He smiled and shook his head. What a strange way to go. Bleeding out from a self inflicted wound, a goddamn accident, not even suicide, as his cats lapped up the blood.

"No One To Run With" dialed up, a song Jack considered his theme song for the last 20 years or so. He fucking loved the song. Tried to sing along but the pain came in waves as his vision blurred.

It occurred to him there would be a hell of a lot of gruesome clean up when his wife got home, but it wasn't his problem. He really didn't fucking care.

His head fell to his chest and his cats contentedly returned to their cushy beds over the heating vent.

The February wind roared as Jack found his peace.

Good Luck, Buddy

And he thought to himself, "Well, I can still accomplish a lot in 10 and 1/2 months."

Wednesday, February 8, 2017