Wee tim’rous beastie, go fuck yourself

 

 I am a wreck.

I am not Bobby Burns, writing an ode despairing man’s cruel dominion over nature.  Nope, I want the mouses dead.  Dead. Dead.  Stiff, widowed, toes up.  I want patricide, matricide, infanticide, generations of you wriggling, poohing, dirty things off the mortal cool.  Anything short of moribund or better post mortem is not enough.

Somewhere in the universe if there is energy or spirit left lingering from the living soul that was my mother Pat, she is laughing loud and long at my misery.  It’s a cosmic joke begun decades ago as she cursed my very soul for her four-legged mini tormentors.

In New England, mouse are a different beast, methinks.  In the deep cold of winter, a field mouse might poke its nose into your home and sojourn there in the warmth and light with food at hand.  It’s Club Med for sure for mice in February.  

Quickly after discovery, you can box up your food, set a few traps, and the mouse Biarritz the murine spa is shut down for good.  All guests leave through the same exit, a broken neck from one late snack at the mousetrap buffet.   The episode ends and after a little cleaning, it’s a forgotten nuisance.

Periodically, not every winter but some, Pat’s house was host to a field mouse or to coming in from the cold.  They scared the ever-;pvomg shit out of her.

There were only two scenarios in my life where I can remember my mother channeling olympic speed.  The first was actually kind of wonderfully heroic.  She had at one time in her life passed the Red Cross rescue swimming certifications, and summers at the beach she’d sit in the sandchair circle with the other mothers.  But as soon as a kid seemed to have drifted out deep toward actual danger, she’d sprint to the water’s edge ready for action.

The second scenario is the point of these words.  Faced with a small rodent in her home, she could leap to a chair or countertop with an NBA-worthy vertical or run from the room in a burst of speed.  Arguably, it was the most helpless and weak that she had ever seemed to me.  Cowed by a three-inch flash of gray fur, squeezing under the counter.

When she lived alone, Pat could steel herself to buy, bait and set traps.  But there was no way in hell she’d go near the trap again, lest it had successfully fallen a victim.  Even a dead mouse was too much to bear.

She’d call me insistently to come and empty the traps.  

One day, I did my daughterly duty and came by to empty her mouse traps.  I was given a bag, a shovel and no furhter instructions.  When the very dead mouse was in the bag, which was then closed and rolled down on the top, thoroughly sealed, I went to ask my dear mother what was next.

The bag dangled in my hand, and she Usain Bolted from the room.  She ran to the bathroom and in one move, she jumped on the toilet and slammed the door. Through the closed door she screamed.  Then she screamed at me, Hysterically, she accused me of tormenting her and exercising acts of extreme cruelty.  In her version of the story, I was throwing multiple dead mice at her as she defenselessly cried for help.

It was then that she cursed me.  She accused me of bringing the mouse with me solely to hurt her.  

So here I am today.  The California mice have me beat.  They aren’t Bobby Burns’ mouse shivering I the track of his plough.  They aren’t New England field mice looking for respite from cruel winter weather.  They  are bad roommates who move in without lease or notice and shit on the floor.

I’m doing everything to clean up.  I have spent three days in a homemade hazmat suit of long sleeves coupled with rubber gloves and a bandana pulling out every corner and nook vacuuming up mountains of pellets of pooh. I’ve loaded the washing machine with loads of pillows, blankets, clothes, napkins, towels, everything that may have been touched by their creepy, dirty paws.  

A professional wildlife eradicator guy has set traps and plugged some holes.  He’s taped up a duct that was likely a mouse highway to our inside from the outside.  He’s toured our garage, our yard and crawled the full length and breadth of our crawlspace under the house leaving bait and traps.

We are having our carpets cleaned and getting help overturning every remaining place where they might have been.

The haD been An unfortunate moment in which we uncovered a nest that had me screaming horror film shrieks.  But mostly I’ve been maintaining.  Head down, I’ve been doing what needs to get done.

Until tonight.  I found my favorite measuring cup and glass bowls sprinkled with feces.  As I rinsed and threw them into the dishwasher I gagged and began to cry, completely undone.

I just want them gone.  I want this over.  I want everything to be clean again.  I want the anxiety as I peek around the corners of the room as I type this entry to subside.

And I wish my mother was here, because I am sure she wouldn’t stop gleefully laughing at my rodent driven madness.

Pat 2015

I’ve been thinking about my mom, but I can’t figure out the angle here.  Well, there’s the anniversary of her day of birth.  But, maybe it’s this:  After getting my perfomance reviewed at work — corporate America’s annual dance or bloodletting depending on how you are doing–I keep wondering if she’d be happy or pissed at me.

First week of the month, I was going full-on existential postal.  I can’t think much about where I am in life before I start thinking of all the places that I am not.  I am not rich, famous and beautiful, and I’d be good at all three, goddamnit, so I should be.  The crisis du month, though, was the triple-decker pileup of my birthday, my performance review and this thing at my place of toil that I can’t describe but involves sharing stuff about yourself.  

Amid the self-loathing caused by age and excess self reflection, I had a fleeting thought about my mother. A point I will get to after I set it up with too much detail.

Some days, I think I confound some of my coworkers.  The environment of my paycheck generation is well-educated and high performing. It definitely charts about the curve by most definitions, or it’s proof positive that with the right motivation and circumstances, and money to pay for it, anyone can get a graduate degree.  There’s a metric ton of letters after people’s names.

I was too desirous of money and the associated purchases — groceries and rent mainly — to stick around ivied halls any longer than I had to do to get my bachelor’s.  I wasn’t burning for any more learning of the formal sort circa 1985.

From 1985 almost to the day she died, Pat, my mother, reminded me I could still go to grad school.  I let her down on that decision for decades.

Today, I am docorate-less and masters-less in a sea of masters and doctors.  I have more years of relevant experience than many, though, so I hold my own with common sense and moxie.  Hence the confounding, I just don’t defer to not knowing shit, because there’s a lot of shit I know even without the sheepskin to prove it.  

it’s a bit like the end of the Wizard of Oz; I grant myself a doctorate of thinkology.

Now here’s where Pat comes in… That woman worked hard, year after year, helping to educate other people’s kids.  That hard work full on cramped the woman’s style.  Some of the other teachers and the school administrators crushed a bit of her creative sparkle. She was a little pounded down.  By retirement, she was caved in by it all.

She indoctrinated me into a fear about work.  A fear that you could lose your job for many types of infractions.  She had near perfect attendance over years and years.  She carried out all of the side jobs and extra tasks asked of teachers with nary a complaint — bus duty, after hours tutoring, grading papers on her own time, mentoring young teachers and helping with banquets and school events in the evenings.

I learned and listened and I have almost perfect attendance and do a lot of good citizeny extras at work.  But try as I might I can’t bury my non-conformist tendencies.  I am a good worker bee in a happy hive, but I’m a square peg in a round-holed world.

Problem is, I like it.

So, I work in a job that is easy for me.  I sacrifice some pay and will likely never have a good title, but I know everyone in the building.  My days are laid out with honkingly wide swathes of leeway and not a lot of  having my clocked punched by somebody else.

It’s a trade off.  It’s a choice.  And, it’s a little bit of anxiety.  If I got the gig where I got the pay that meant I have to manage stuff, I might fail.  I might have to leave my sneakers at home.  I might have to be at my desk for geometrically larger periods of time than I am now.

I think Pat might see the genius of my choice.  For good benefits and a not awful paycheck, the man isn’t keepnmg me down and the thoughts inside my head are free to breathe.

Outwardly, she’d tell me to do more.  She’d ask about promotions and growth opportunities.  She’d worry. 

Or maybe she’d smile.

I am my mother, Act 1

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I’m not sure, but I think one thing that was crazy about my relationship with my mother, Pat, besides calling her Pat far too frequently, was knowing a great deal about her trials, tribulations and occasional successes at work. Maybe other people write their parent’s job performance reviews?

Because of this knowledge, I know that I am as equally fucked up as her in a distinct way. As employees we are beloved and hated in crazy polar opposites, in melodramatic huge shifts. She had people who were Shakespearean ne’er-do-wells looking to score points with kings (or superintendents) off of Pat’s guileless and unprotected flanks. She championed the good and got hurt by the bad.

I knew of the love. She had friends who became my teachers. She had students who were my peers. They adored her (albeit weirdly brisk and aloof) warmth. They gushed about how great a teacher she was and how she had transformed lives with patience and care. She literally gave clothes and peanut butter sandwiches to those without them. If her version of history has any accuracy (she was not one for laser focus in her storytelling), she helped boost the career of a new teacher who was labeled by the aforementioned ne’er-do-wells as an odd duck who maybe shouldn’t be near kids. That teacher turned out to be one of the most memorable science teachers in our town, ultimately still remembered by her own grandchildren years after his initial hazing.

Pat had enemies, though. There were fellow teachers who hated her focus on old-school techniques that had proven successful and took draconian steps in enlisting administration to force her to conform to new education trends. Both her shyness and her quirky sense of humor made her colleagues uncomfortable, I gather, and they would relish opportunities to make fun of her. She was also for many years a sole representative of what is now a normal state, a single, working mom.

As an absolutely unwavering advocate for the children she taught, she also had a fair amount of complaints from parents. The saddest case was when she was brought into court to testify that a junior high student told her that something was wrong, and she and her friend the school nurse helped him get treatment for a sexually transmitted disease. She was devastated by the rock and a hard place of saving a kid from child abuse at home, but then helping the courts send him into the chaos and uncertainty of foster care.

On bus duty, she was thrown into a shouting match with a threatening dad, who resorted to dirty names, because she wouldn’t let his spawn off the bus. A fact of modern life with a prevalence of custody battles and other perils is that parents must notify schools if they are to change the routine or pick up their children outside of the prearranged plans. Pat took the name calling and the screaming unwilling to be bullied into sending a kid into the hands of a screaming maniac without knowing for sure if he was indeed dear old dad. At least in a calmer moment, he called to apologize.

So, right then, what the fuck is the point I am feebly making about myself?

I have enemies. Well, I don’t have enemies, since I’d have to give a bit more of a fuck to gin up the passion to hate certain people. But enemies have me. Some people just don’t dig the groove I be laying down.

My true exemplar of attracting the wrong kind of attention in the work place was, of course, the great employment drama of July 2004. July is now and forever a wonderful month of the sweet trumping the bitter. In 2004, I found out scientifically from a therapist that I am not a psychopath and essentially got a paid year off from office life, and now I live in a town that does July 4 like it’s 1970. Eventually, I even got to hear the end of my own story and of my vindication. Done in by a co-worker who wanted me done in, who himself was ultimately found out and done in. Karma is a good thing, and one of us now sells real estate.

But all of the above is history, and with the Grateful Dead coming up in iTunes while I sit in a surfer town down the coast from the city where hippies once ruled, I must be here now!

Modern day Silicon Valley is where I have had the privilege of meeting my first Californian-flavored antagonist. Better yet, I got to find out how hard she was gunning for me as she exited the door, moving away to a place in which our paths likely will never cross again. In the grand scheme of things, I weather the dark side much better now. Still and all, some people just don’t like me and what stands me apart from the crowd, they have the need to tell me.

Like my mother before me, I took it. I listened. I refused to assume the worst until the worst was done. Thankfully, and perhaps because of Pat’s and my own stories, over the past couple of years I never quite got sucked into the dark vortex. I mean for me I full on walked a path that Gandhi himself would have said “holy fuckballs, you are have saint-like patience.” OK, he probably would have said something wise in Hindi or Gujarati, and he might not have said holy fuckballs or made a saint reference, but he could have. (My computer spell checked that as duckbills. Oh ‘puter, you don’t know me.)

In the end, the final act, right before the credits rolled, I thought we had come to a late in the movie understanding, a cathartic understanding that bygones could and would be bygones. That life had moved on and there would be a golden sunset, as enemies hugged and forgot why they had ever fought.

I am an idiot.

The last scene was instead a monolog of vindictiveness. I was told that I am a manipulator extraordinaire, a genius of subterfuge, flatteringly the only person in a long and storied life and career who had ever acted unkindly or stabbed a back so deeply. I am clearly super human by the amount of credit for cruelty I was given. My favorite line, since it was one of those moments when someone is talking that you just have to not burst out in laughter lest you get cracked in the face, was the following bit of twisted logic:

I figured out who you are. You’re the kind of person who makes themselves indispensable, who really works hard to get management to like their work, and then you can do know wrong. You are indispensable and they trust you and you then use that to get to them and they listen. You used that against me.

So, wait, I almost blurted, you fucking hate me, because I’m competent?

For a little while I have sat with this tale and the criticisms lobbed that were lobbed at my head. I weighed it all and felt sad that a fellow human was clearly hurt and had misunderstood so much so completely. Chump that I am, I tried to explain myself while effusing out piles of empathy.

In the end, I told the story to someone who knows us both. Someone who is also one of the least dramatic or prone to hyperbole I know. The final word that hadn’t occurred to me about my situation, but that I had always considered whenever Pat was similarly embroiled, some humans are mean. Just mean, malevolent souls.

And, I happily walk away knowing, I am just not that mean.

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Rolling, rolling, rolling

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Back in the 70s, freedom had two wheels, a chain and pedals. Every day after school and all summer long, grab your bike and go.

My first bike was a pink Huffy, 3-speed road bike. I always have essentially hated pink, but I suppose my mother got a great deal on it. I had a love hate relationship with that bike.

My heart, my coveting, my lust was a Sting Ray with a sissy bar, banana seat, ape hanger handle bars. Maybe some handle bar tassles. My brothers, normal sized boys for their ages, they got those bikes. Orange or green, ready to do wheelies and burn rubber with coaster brakes.

I was a big girl, though, and even at 9 or 10 years old, I could straddle a small woman’s bike frame. I imagine Pat, my mother, also was hedging her investment. If I kept growing, a tiny girls bike could be crushed under my weight.

(Ironically, and looking back, I was big for a kid but I couldn’t have been that big. I’m a short grown up who has to have a small frame and/or crank the seat post low. Sigh.)

The pink Huffy was big and heavy compared to a Sting Ray, but he’ll if I didn’t ride it for miles and miles and miles and miles. In my gel-softened lens memory, it took me places in a hurry and on a hot summer’s day there was nothing quite like pedaling maniacally to a destination, like a friend’s house or the local park, and flinging yourself and your bike into the cool, green grass of the suburbs.

Of course, I have a distant memory of a lawn fling that landed on some dog shit and the subsequent furious rinsing out of my shirt in my friend’s bathroom sink. Life is a bittersweet ride.

The Huffy, though, perhaps because it was not the bike of my dreams and got tossed carelessly onto sidewalks and lawns, suffered an ignominious fate. Without a kickstand, I had dropped it flat on the side of a friend’s grass not noticing the wheels jutting onto the asphalt of the driveway. As we played nearby, her dad’s car ground the wheels under its tires and pulled the frame into a twisted mess.

I waked the pretzel home, crying in shame for my part in the massacre and sadness for the loss. In my head I tried to come up with something to say to soothe the yelling that would be unleashed in Pat. Yell she did, and the Huffy was out out in the trash.

It was a while before I got another bike, and shoe leather was my only transportation. On a bike you can cover ground quickly and work is like play. Walking, on the other hand, in the long streets of suburban neighbors is a death march that feels like hours and days gone.

Thinking back, I thought the reason I couldn’t get a new bike right away was punitive. Probably it wasn’t entirely. The household budget kept by my mother likely only allotted one bike per kid in a multi-year plan.

Finally, my day came, and I was presented with a completely awesome Raleigh sports 3-speed hub gear touring bike with a leather seat. That bike was completely a great bike, and I should have held onto it forever. It rode sweet and lasted for years. I’m not actually sure when it left my life.

I suspect it was a victim of Pat’s damp basement and the tides of changing technology and fashion.

When I was a kid, most bikes were fixed gear or 3-speed. Serious bike riders, people like my oldest brother who had a racing bike of whatever alloy was lightest and super thin, slick tires, had 10 speeds. Mere mortals pedaled around primitively, as derailleurs were pricey and rare.

By the 80s and 90s, that changed to every bike having many gears, different type of shifters, and normal people talking about gear ratios. Mountain bikes with knobby tires and forks and treads to handle any terrain were the bike to have. My Raleigh was a quaint old British gal not torqued up for life in the fast lane.

On my own, a young adult in the city, I needed a ride to cover miles when cars and public transportation were not on track. My Specialized Hardrock was a basic mountain bike with semi-slick tires for the urban jungle.

That red machine covered all manner of terrain from potholes to sandy ditches in every neighborhood of Cambridge and a good chunk of Boston. It was my commuter ride to more than one job, when I was relatively fit and the subway and busses too slow. It saved me hundreds in parking fees had I driven.

It was on that bike I was flipped over a car door, sprawled on Mass. Ave. directly in front of Harvard Law’s Pound Hall. It was also that bike that often took me to the Walsh Brothers Great and Secret Show.. And, it was the bike I has when I met the man who would become my husband, who cruised town almost exclusively on two wheels.

That awesome bit of freedoms was sold for the great move west. I’m sad I don’t have a picture.

I’m now on my third California bike. The Cannondale hybrid bought in San Jose, which gave me an extra radius to explore our new neighborhood, is gone and only dimly remembered. It may have been red. Or white. Or a color. It left my possession ironically.

I bought the bike when we were living in a sketchy neighborhood in a sketchy apartment, maintained by a sketchy landlord. The carport where I mostly kept it wasn’t the safest shelter, but it survived the mean streets.

Moving on up to an upscale suburb and a decent neighborhood, we moved to a nicer place. The lock was cut and it was gone.

M. and I both bought Giants. His is red and built for speed. Mine was green and built for commuting.

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A great ride broken in for commuting like none of my bikes before. The green machine now lives with a 13-year-old in Santa Cruz. I was misty as I said goodbye, but my old body couldn’t give the bike what she needs.

And, now the real point of all of this writing. I have come full circle.

I never had Jan Brady’s bike. I never had a two-wheeler built for looks and heading to California beaches. I couldn’t have in the 70s the Sting Ray bike I wanted.

This cruiser is my future and my past. Everything old is new again and I know that there are many miles to go.

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Grace, as though I know anything

There are several meanings of the word “grace,” and I'm not good with any of them.

There's the conceptual grace of religion and god and all of that, but I think job one would be, I dunno, totally believing in god. I think the all mighty fireball of power ain't shedding much of the old grace on me.

There's physical grace. I don't even walk so good. If grace is a swan, I am an ostrich.

I had an aunt Grace. I liked her. She seemed tough but fair and kind to me as a kid. You didn't mess with Grace, but she seemed cool.

Then there's what got me thinking about the word and the thing and the concept. Maybe what I really mean is graciousness, but grace-type stuff for sure.

Here's the thing. This summer M. and I have been inundating ourselves with visitors and parties and meeting people. M. even changed jobs, introducing more new people. It's been a melting pot, as the kids say, of old and new friends.

Comparisons are natural, if not always kind or useful. We're trying to figure out if the East Coasters just complain more than the Westerners or if it's simply the people we know.

We're mighty comfortable here. Fat, dumb and happy without a lot of angst or worry about what the other guy is doing or has. For sure, many of the people we know here don't spend a lot of time shitting on other people. Maybe we did a good job of vetting our Cali friends.

Some days I attribute it to the sunshine. If the sun is out, the waves are stroking the beach, and my belly is full of the kind of good food that makes locavores salivate, what do I have to bitch about?

Then there's begrudgery, which I've written about before, and I first heard from my uncle Jerry. Everywhere you go in Boston, you pretty much can find a character complaining about someone or something. OK, full honesty, you can find that everywhere. But Boston is really good at it.

There can be a humor to it all, and I love bitching and wallow in it. My brother walking down the street in my California neighborhood declaring every dude with a goatee or skateboard way too old for whatever he was doing is the grumbly part of Boston I occasionally miss.

(Apropos nothing, best part of my brother's visit: woman with parrot on her head, calling me a bitch in front of her kids for my pulling into the crosswalk too far.)

M. declaring that kids today are soft, because when he was the age of one of our friend's kids he was climbing coconut trees not whining, is the equatorial version of Boston's walking to school in the snow uphill both ways.

We still have some East Coast sensibilities. So maybe it's just the people we know who seem to complain a lot. Maybe we're just being bigots when we stereotype Massholes?

Afterall, as I mentioned to M., there are people like Dot, which brings me back around to grace. Dot is Massachusetts through and through, and I'm happy to report blogging again. She's from AHHlington on the Red Line and everything.

But that one, she ain't no complainer. I think for Dot to waste time trashtalking, you'd really have to rile her up good and proper. I'm pretty sure she even complimented the musical chops of one of those ex-boyfriends everyone has who ends up treating you lousy.

And, that woman, she writes thank you notes, and she's not nearly 80. A dying art the thank you note, but much appreciated. I've wanted to write a note back to thank her for the thank you note, but that could go on into an M.C. Escher meta loop forever.

Maybe she's just one of the good ones.

Probably the reality is we are all getting old. I'm starting to notice here from the vantage point of what I guess is young-ish middle age that choices have to be made.

A couple or several years ago, Norah Ephron gave an interview in which she was recognizing that life changes when you get older. She espoused the notion that basically you just don't know if you're going to get hit by a bus, so maybe you should go ahead with the doughnut today knowing full well it's not health food. She pretty much called it correctly for herself, enjoying meals today before her unexpected bus accident of dying from leukemia.

I'm not going nuts on doughnuts, and I like keep my treats slightly infrequent so they still feel like treats. (A year of working at Brigham's Ice Cream in the olden days taught me one thing — ice cream every day just makes ice cream, that wonderful elixir, ambrosia of the gods, nauseating.) But holy fuck, I want to waste less and less time with that which sucks and spend more time with the good.

In desserts and in meals and in friends, I want deliciousness. Good conversations, laughter, pleasure. For the inevitable nastiness and dark moments of our meager little human existences, I'd rather spend time with someone exploring a new cookie recipe or pretty much doing anything, as long as they are doing.

Anecdotally and tangentially, it seems to me that the folks who complain the most and criticize the most and can spend hours running down what's wrong in the world in their corner or globally, have little or no solutions. Don't tell me all of the stories about what is wrong without telling me what you are going to fucking do to fix it, make change, get the hell out or otherwise act.

Yeah we all long for people, jobs, adventures that are interesting. If you tell me someone is not interesting, though, you better be damn entertaining.

Victims and critics are fucking boring. And, who has time left to be miserable?

Where the fuck am I?

Dateline: Nighttime. Not in the Serenghetti.

Even without the local labeled wine I drank, thank you Russian River for rolling along next to some grape vineyards, I'm sitting here in 11 shades of crazy.

I may be sleepless from a flock of flamingos yakking it up all night and day. I predict sun cutting in at a sunrise kind of hour, slicing my canvas walls and eyeballs into some kind of daytime. I'm not sure, but I think that's what the sun will do or what it thinks it ought to do.

Before said wine and some huge ass barbecue pit ribs, I watched giraffes. Later the Big Dipper smacked itself onto my retina like a picture book constellation. Straight up, the stars are right where they say they are in the guidebooks.

Where the fuck am I? I am in the craziest place on earth. In California. Nay, in wine country in California, hard by Santa Rosa and Calistoga where folks go to see geysers, rejuvenate in healing waters and drink the local fermented libations, that's where I am. I'm also some place where some other folks imported animals. African animals.

In California. We're all just chilling. I'm smack dab in it. Me, the giraffes, the lemurs, the monkeys we are all from someplace else. But now we are here. Here in California.

You can look it up. Safari West, it's called. I'm not in Africa and neither are the animals from there.

Looks like we all might live.

 

I guess the song is right

Bette Midler and others have sung about you gotta have friends, and you know Bette’s a sharp cookie. The New York Times also has this ‘blog item floating around on the Interwebs, most especially in my Facebook feed, which got me thinking.

The other things that have got me thinking are our bonanza of visitors this year and a goofy talk with a current buddy. That last bit might be the amusing part of this whole entire stupid thing I’m writing right here and now, in the here and now.

I might be lucky or I might have the personality of a serial killer. Hard to say.

Lucky because I’ve always had some friends around. People who you could maybe call if you needed a jump start or bail posted. Folks who would let you cry on their shoulders, both of them. And, enough acquaintances that I could find something interesting to talk about or do, on those seldom occasions when I’ve felt like leaving the couch.

Social media is an extension of both. In some cases it’s an, albeit light, touch or tenuous hold to people who have been important to me in the past. Episodes of life that will never be forgotten, even as other events, meetings and distances have pushed them physically in another direction.

I might be a serial killer, because I don’t know that I have ever had that one single defining friend through thick and thin that has remained immutable. It all ebbs and flows, and at the risk of shallowness or being feckless, besties have come and gone.

Like lovers, I kind of just assume friends ebb, flow, appear and disappear, as you need. I take the existence of both lovers and friends for granted, that they will be there in some form or another. Foolhardy and arrogant for sure, but for going onto five decades, something’s always worked out, even when I have only ever wanted a hermit’s garret on an isolated island.

I’m probably a big, fat douchebag in that I look back on some people, and it is as hard to pinpoint what brought us together as it is why we drifted apart.

Although, there’s a whole group of folks I found as I was finding myself in a time when I needed the clichĂ© of “finding myself” the most. Grieving, unsure of my future, unhappy with my current life, I discovered my tribe. Writers, performers, artists, musicians and fools. The people I picked, and they picked me, although our only common bond is entertainment.

M., despite not actually going on stage, is part of that tribe for me. He, his energy and his unstoppable optimism and grandiose plans share the ethos of everyone who has ever tried to create.

In truth, I am the worst, and perhaps the most awkward about maintaining and cultivating and reaping and sowing and any other gardening metaphor that group of friends. However, they are the ones who post the most interesting things on the webs. And, they are the ones with whom, if they show up on my doorstep, I feel an instant flow. No time or distance is between us in those moments.

I tested that early in the summer when a working actress crashed a couple of days at our place, while filming in San Jose. The conversation and the wine was easy.

Other friends challenge me.

Have I changed, here in the more frequent sunshine and moderate temperatures of a California coast town? Am I, as my native California friends have mockingly claimed, now more native than they are, barely a transplant, grafted to a foreign tree? Apparently, every time I choose spinach over fried anything a little bit of Massachusetts cries.

Or, have my friends back in my native, birth state changed?

Maybe it’s neither. Maybe the alchemy of time and place is too ephemeral. Remove time or place and the gold changes back into another element. See above and the possibility of my emotional depth as akin to a serial killer.

In all of the wondering about my own shallowness and reading the NYTimes about how other people struggle with friendships, I did have one interesting realization. This section is the possibly interesting and amusing part.

At every stage of my adult life, or adult-ish, I’ve always, always, always had at least one male friend upon whom I thrust any responsibility for my imbibing of frothy, malted, hops-filled beverages. Those might be the friends I love the most, because nothing is too difficult when you have beer money and know how to use it.

I deny responsibility for my own control of sobriety, because the best thing about all of these friendships is my susceptibility to peer pressure. Some nights of laughing and talking would ideally never end, and I happily will get talked into “just one more” to see if time might stop. Although, in more recent years, I have been known to skip a round or two to save my head and growing wide body as long as the jokes still continued.

In high school, it was the nerdy group who later all came out of the closet. Among the players was Jimmy, perhaps my first sexual crush, who served his beer-serving role twice in my life. As kids and into college summers, and then again, we met up years later coincidentally working in the same profession, to people watch and entertain ourselves at an annual convention.

In college, it was Al. Everyone pushed us to date or assumed that we were, but we just talked into the wee hours.

Early post-college, it may have been Kevin, the American version. He’s my longest in years and endurance friend, since we met in junior high and bonded on the 8th-grade field trip to Washington, DC. Apart from a handful of rocky years, we’ve generally been able to enjoy a cocktail and amusing conversations. He too was of the nerdy pre-gay high school group.

Then, late 80s into the 90s, it was the Brits. Biologists, postdocs and beer drinkers unparalleled. Kevin, the British version, and I had game plans and essential daily checkins on how to drink, when to drink. We always kept our eye on the ultimate prize — getting laid. If it were not for his Mephistopheles qualities, several local drummers may not have gotten laid so easily. There certainly would not have been a renaissance of balloon-animal making in pubs, bars and clubs across Cambridge, Boston and Somerville.

The new millenium brought comedy clubs into my routine. Comedy clubs have no shortage of young men willing to hang out, tell jokes, talk, people watch and drink. I couldn’t list all of the drinking buddies I met in my years of hitting Boston comedy clubs hard. And, in those years, some of the guys who shared beers were also women, proving to me I wasn’t a freak of beer-drinking nature.

Today, it’s my co-manager of our company softball team. It is insane and improper and all sorts of things that have to do with decorum for a middle-aged woman like me to hang out in a city ball park once the lights have been turned off and cradle a cold one. But, it’s a comfortable place to be with shadows of summer evenings and nostalgically remembering sporadically mispent time.

Fortuitously, as a work event was under-crowded and they opened the food and drinks up to the rank and file, my current peer-pressurer beckoned me over with an ice chilled bottle on a warm day. As others sat down, it was one of those moments on one of those days where friendship is as hard as swapping stories and reveling in simple, good times.

If I’m emotionally stunted and shallow, at least I find time to unwind. Isn’t that what friends are for?

 

 

Almost Hollywood

As M. and I have been majorly occupied with scouting houses, I’ve been waiting irrationally for a sign. I mean with housing costs so high (about as high as my fear of commitment), you don’t want to be eating government cheese on a granite countertop in a cozy nook of a regretted purchase.

Actually, we found a condo with a small back yard, a seemingly non-retarded Homeowners’ Association at reasonable rates and a huge garage the current dwellers have tricked out with a work bench and some fitness junk. I can totally grok inside my mind’s eye my crafting away on the work bench getting all artsy messy, while M. does manly pull-ups on the rings suspended from the ceiling. Totally doable, livable, if we got a fair price.

But, it’s definitely, definitively, qualifiedly, certifiably the suburbs. The second to last house on the border between upper, upper middle-class, braggable school districts and the genuine capital-G ghetto. We dig that juxtaposition actually. But, the true and true, red, white and blue, ‘burbs. We still could call that place home.

We scratched our heads and thought about what would a couple of double-income no kids folks like us need with pure suburbia. Maybe, there was another niche between the city and the suburbs, and M. thought one up — THE SEA. The actual ocean, that she devil, not the bay that gives the Bay Area its name, tamed with landfills and split-level ranches and developments. No, the wild cliffs and not at all pacific Pacific Ocean side of the coast. The full on left coast, she is a wild mistress, the sea.

Monday, we dined on fried sea food at this little burg just south of SF on the ocean side of the Peninsula called Pacifica and had ourselves a look around.

Plug the town Pacifica into a search engine, Google it, as the young might say, and the single most prominent characteristic would be fog. Like John Carpenter’s The Fog. (The good one from 1980, not the crappy one that M. and I saw together at the moving picture shows this millenium.) But, presumably, without the leprous, revenge-seeking ghosts, although I’ll have to read up on town history.

I thought the movie might have been shot there. Some places nearby definitely and the “Northern California town” with ocean and fog could have been a whole lot of places. But, in my research, I realized something better. In fact, flipping through Youtube.com, I realized how I’m living in the midst of film greatness all around me.

One of the world’s best fucking movies ever was filmed up and down the places I go every week. And, the ultimate scene was filmed in the backyard of the town we are considering. I love this movie and through it I realized I came to appreciate Pat’s quirks and how there was more going on inside that head than mere teacher/mother white-bread complacency. It was the only movie I remember her quoting or retelling.

Harold and Maude, Hal Ashby’s masterpiece. I have it downloading on iTunes right now, because I realized I should own it (which I may have done on VHS, but my tape player is far, far gone and possibly still sitting in a Boston comedian’s den or family room).

The cliffs to which Harold sacrifices his Porsche hearse very well could become my view in a daily commute.

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