Saturday, March 29, 2014

A Scene from The Summer of Bluz

Looking into my murky crystal ball, I might see something like this in store for me this summer:

Those ran a couple years ago and became my instant favorites, especially this part:

 I saw something in the paper on Friday that looked to contribute to the Summer of Bluz.  I’m not much one for concerts anymore; I’ve pretty much left those to the days of my youth.  I takes a perfect combination of criteria to get me to go to a show now.  But what I saw fit the bill.

In August, the rock group Boston is coming to an outdoor amphitheater down on the Inner Harbor.  It’s perfect for me because:

·    Boston is an important band from my teen years.  I know I wore out several cassettes of their first album, and they made an appearance at every Barn Party.  (I can still totally air drum to More Than A Feeling, beat for beat.)  (I know, “Nerd Alert!”)  To me, their sound is timeless, and the recording techniques they used back in the mid-70s still hold up today.  Next time you hear one of their songs on the radio (ha), turn it up.  Listen to how crisp and clear every instrument sounds. 

·    They’re playing right here in town.  In fact, I can walk there right after work.  (The show is on a Tuesday night.)  All I have to do is find a way to kill some time before show time.  Maybe there’s some kind of establishment nearby, wherein people will bring me drinks in exchange for money.  I notified Sitcom Kelly of an upcoming happy hour. 

·    Tickets were relatively cheap… got my seat for $63.00 (including $13 in assorted fees).  OK, it’s outrageous compared to what I used to pay for concert tickets, but in today’s market?  Not bad.

The only down side is that I’m going alone.  I suppose I could have gambled on finding accompaniment, but I have rotten luck in buying extra tickets on spec.  It rarely works out.  (And before you ask, Sitcom Kelly already declined.  It’s not really her kind of music, plus she’s saving up for the Hall and Oates show the next month.)

I thought about taking my nephew, with whom I was I had tickets to see Van Halen two summers ago, before they cancelled the show.  But this show will be during the last week of August, and I’m pretty sure that will be his first week of school.  No way will his mama let him out late on a school night, especially with his Black Sheep Uncle.

I suppose I could have gotten an extra in case I meet someone this summer, but I know my track record.  That’s not something on which I would bet $60.

So, I’m hitting this one solo.  I used to go to concerts by myself all the time, and I still go alone a lot of baseball games.  I also found out it’s easier to get a good seat when you only need one.  In fact, I was just about to finalize the purchase of a seat, but backed out, because it was probably too good.

See, I’m concerned about my hearing.  And it’s not for nothing… since last summer, I’ve had a constant whistling in my ears.  (It’s called tinnitus.)  So the last thing I need is to go to some blasting rock concert, right?

Here’s the seating chart:

In the publicity pictures, Boston founder and guitarist Tom Sholtz was on the left side of the stage, so that’s where I wanted to sit.  I found a single open seat in the first row on the aisle of section 109 (marked “A”).  I was about to lock it down when I realized I’d be smack in front of a giant stack of speakers.  Even with the foam earplugs I plan to wear, that could still cause a problem.  (I probably wore ear plugs to most of the concerts I’ve ever seen, ever since I found myself at the front of the stage for George Thorogood, with my right ear about 10 feet from a giant Marshall stack.  My ear rung for 3 solid days afterward.)

Instead, I looked one section back, and found one in 204, third row on the aisle (marked “B”).  I figured I’d still get a decent view, and the sound shouldn’t be quite so jarring.

I saw Boston play the Richfield Coliseum when I worked in Cleveland, back in 1987.  (I was comped, but the ticket price was only $18.00.)  They were on tour for their third album, “Third Stage.” 
I had a chance to go backstage and meet them, but the label rep only had one backstage pass.  Because I was there with a friend, I felt I couldn’t go off and leave her alone, so I declined.  (Dumbass!)

They’ve got a new album out now; I suppose I better check it out, so I’ll know what they’re playing.

Anyway, I’m pretty excited about this adventure.  Now I just have to hope it’s not one of those steamy Baltimore August nights, with temps in the mid-90s and 80% humidity…

[…he says, whistling past the graveyard…]

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

How Tonsils Lead to Comedy

I was reading a post from my Blog Sister, Red Pen Mama, yesterday, about how she’s considering having her young daughter’s tonsils removed, to help address a chronic sinus problem.  That got me thinking about when I got my tonsils and adenoids out. 

And when I hear the word “adenoid,” all I can think about is this:

You know Domino’s created a memorable ad campaign when it’s still rattling around in your head almost 30 years later.

I was about 4 when I got my tonsils and adenoids out, and come to think of it, that was the only time I needed to go to a hospital until my first heart procedure, roughly 35 years later.  I guess I had quite a run. 

I don’t remember being especially sick beforehand, other than having various allergy-related maladies.  But Mom told me I was having problems breathing through my nose.  (Yes, I was a little mouth-breather.)  I do vaguely recall being frequently told to close my mouth and breathe through my nose, but I guess it didn’t work very well.

As everyone knows, the way parents get little kids to cooperate with surgery in a big, scary hospital, is to promise them all the ice cream in the world they can eat.  As someone who was consistently deprived of Pop Tarts and the “good” cereals, this was like hitting the jackpot.  So I didn’t put up much of a fuss at all.

What strikes me as very strange, now that I think about it, is that they admitted me to the hospital the day before my surgery, and I stayed overnight.  I can’t fathom that now… it was a routine surgery even back in the mid-60s.  I don’t know why I had to be there a day early.  I guess hospital stays were a lot cheaper then.

Not that I’m complaining, mind you…  I had a blast.  I was in a big room with about 6 other boys who were getting their tonsils out too.  Our room must have looked like play time at the monkey house.  Each of us had a big, tall bed, with “crib” railings on it, which snapped up and down, depending on if they wanted us caged up or not.

That’s the first time I learned that grownups can be really sneaky.  I remember running around with the other boys, when a nurse waved me over and told me to hop up into the bed/crib.  I ran over and jumped up, the edge of the bed hitting me just about belt high.  Before I could squirm all the way up, she said, “Stop right there,” pulled up my hospital gown and hit me with the thermometer.  You know, the one they don’t put in your mouth…  She skewered me like a little Bluz-ka-bob.

Well played, Nurse Ratchet, well played.  But I’ll have my revenge…”

Eventually all the parents disappeared, I assume they went home to put my siblings to bed and drink martinis, and the rest of us bunked down for the night.  But do you think we went to sleep?  It was hard enough to go to sleep at home with my one brother in a room, in my own bed.  But a room full of other 4 and 5-year olds?  Please…  We were talking and carrying on like it was a slumber party.

But suddenly, and quite urgently, I had to pee.  The nurses told us that if we had to pee in the night, we were to call them, and they’d bring the bedpan (which really looked like a big tin jug).  But I was too shy to yell out from the dark, to some stranger, about my bathroom needs.  And I had seen where they put the “jug.”  It was on a lower shelf in a cabinet between our beds.

After consulting with my roommates, and with their enthusiastic approval and encouragement, I decided I should get out of bed and use the jug.  The railings?  Seriously?  I was up and over those like a tiny ninja.  (Young boys really are part monkey, I swear.)

I went over the bars, found the jug, used it, and put it back in the cabinet.  As I ninja’d back into bed, I wondered if anyone would even notice.

They noticed.  And I noticed they noticed the second I opened my eyes that morning, and found a net over my bed/crib.  I mean it… a big, freakin’, white net.  I assumed that mean the nurse was not amused.  Of course, I hadn’t been amused by her temperature-taking tactics, so… “touché.”

It wasn’t until this very morning, while I was emailing with my mom to firm up the details of the story, that I learned that she was the one that discovered my late-night jailbreak.  She ratted me out to the nurses, and they put up the netting.

“Et tu, Mommy, et tu?”

First I’m deprived of Pop Tarts and am forced to eat eggs, pancakes, waffles and good-for-you cereal, and then I’m caged up like a wild, stealth-peeing animal?  For shame…

Anyway, they wheeled us all in for surgery that morning and we all made it back out.  I remember waking up and feeling foggy and sore-throated.  I could barely even say “ice cream.”  I think the hospital gave me a measly little cup of institutional vanilla, with which I was aggressively unimpressed.

I think they took me home that night… I don’t remember another night in the cage.  As a present for my recuperation, my parents got me a new Bill Cosby album, the one that has a long bit about getting his own tonsils out.  It hurt to laugh at first, but by the second day, I was pretty much back on my feet and up to no good. 

Director’s DVD Commentary: I cut my comedy baby-teeth on the old Bill Cosby records.  I’d listen to them over and over… I didn’t even “get” a lot of the jokes, but they were still funny.  No one can describe being in the midst of chaos, like Cos.  The Tonsils bit was a favorite, as was Buck-Buck (which contained the origins of Fat Albert), Kindergarten, the Chicken Heart, Bill’s no-good little brothers, Noah and the Ark, The Great Go-Kart Race, Karate Schools, playing football for Temple against Hofstra University, and his masterpiece album, “To Russell, my Brother, Whom I Slept With.” 

The title track took up an entire album side, and was all about him and his brother messing around when they were supposed to be in bed, fighting with each other and trying to avoid having their Dad come up there with The Belt.  It’s no understatement that this one hit home with my brother and me.

If any of your kids have an interest in comedy, these albums are still available.  I’ve even downloaded a bunch of them as MP3s, because for “some reason,” the old albums are all scratched up.  I’m sure some of the references will be a little dated, but they’re funny, clean, relatable to children, and contain nary a swear word.

I mean, I grew up on them and look how I turned out!

OK, never mind.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Chef Bluzardee

I haven’t really cooked anything for quite a while.  Once I met Pinky, she basically took over the cooking duties and I’ve basically been a “re-heater.”  Even since I’ve been single again, I’ve mostly stuck to things for which “Microwave for 90 seconds” has been the first and only step.

See, when I come home from work, the last thing I want to do is cook anything.  (Obviously, by “cook,” I mean “prepare food in a fashion that requires more than one step.)  I just want to come home, feed, browse the computer, maybe pound out a blog post, and then hit the prime time TV lineup or Penguins game.  So I live on Progresso soups, Chef Boyardee lasagna, chicken tenders, microwaveable rice and string cheese.  Or if I had a big lunch, I don’t eat dinner at all.

On the weekends, I’ve made a few simple protein courses, like steaks, chicken, chops or fish.  (You may have heard about my pork chops… they’re to die for.)  That’s when I don’t just go to Wendy’s, or pick up some grocery store carry-out chicken.

But this weekend, I had a hankering to try something a little more complicated… I wanted to make a big bowl of pasta, with sauce that’s not orange.  I haven’t made pasta from scratch* in ages, probably since before Pinky.

*By “scratch,” I certainly don’t mean making the pasta by hand and rolling it out, or assembling the sauce from the ground up, the way my mom does.  I buy the pasta, like most everyone else.  (Bowties are my favorite.)  For sauce, I start with Prego, and then add our family’s “signature” spices, as well as anything else I have on hand to bulk it up. 

I was kind of excited, and ready to break in some of my new replacement cooking utensils.

OK, only the sauce pan and lid are new.  And the strainer thing.

I bought a sauce pan that’s “porcelain coated.”  I usually favor the Teflon, non-stick surfaces all the health-conscious people shun.  See, I don’t care if the Teflon particles come off and stick in my guts.  As far as I’m concerned, that should make my intestines “non-stick” and the food will shoot right through.  But if I ever want to cook for someone else, I figured I’d use a more palatable pan.

To me, the fun thing about making pasta is having multiple things going on at once.  I browned the ground beef first, (and I curse myself right now, because I realize I had Italian sausage in the freezer I could have used), and then while I boiled the water for the pasta, started assembling the sauce.

I had a quart of sauce left over from my recently departed girlfriend, and I added about a half a quart of Prego.  From there I added black olives and mushrooms, because, well, I add those to everything.  Mom always says I’d add black olives to a recipe for pie

I like putting in the spices because it’s a seat-of-your-pants kind of thing.  I never make the same quantity; therefore I can’t predict the proper amount of each spice.  I just shake some in there until I think it tastes right.  I suppose I could “go to the cards,” and consult the recipes Mom wrote for me when I first moved out on my own.  But then there might be math involved and I don’t have the patience to Google “lowest common denominator.”

It’s funny though… every time I’ve split up with a girl, I’ve always requested to take (or be left with) only the spices needed for my sauce.

The sauce had a nice chance to simmer while the water was boiling, and then the pasta cooked.  I don’t like to let the sauce simmer too long, or it starts to disappear (into the air, not into me.  Although if I had some fresh Italian bread on hand, I’d be telling a different story.)

If only you could smell what I smelled while taking this picture…

I also had a chance to begin the cleanup.  I hate having a huge pile of greasy pots and pans to wash at the end of the meal, so I always try to wash things out once I’m done with them.  It keeps the kitchen area neater, that way.

Since I’m “cooking for one,” I didn’t see the need to keep the pasta and sauce separately, so when it was done, the pasta went right into the sauce.

I’m not going to spell out how hard I hit that pasta Sunday night, so I’ll spare you the pictures of me with sauce in my beard and a bowties stuck to my head.

Somehow, I should have leftovers to last most of the week.


Friday, March 21, 2014

Oh Brother

Today is my brother’s birthday; the day he joins me here in Club Five-Oh. 

I know I’ve written a lot about my nephews, but not so much about my brother.  It’s not that he isn’t blog-worthy; it’s just that he’s a professional and you never know who might trip over this blog.  I’d hate for him to be up for some big promotion and then have his prospective boss find a post about the sordid stories of his past.

Granted, I tell the stories about the goofy shit I did, but that’s just because I’m about as accomplished as I’m going to get.  While I was having fun getting a degree in radio, my brother was taking more practical things like accounting and business classes.  So he still has room to maneuver and I’m loathe to impede that.

He’s the one that did everything right.  He got a serious degree, went to work in an office, moved up the food chain, got married, and stayed that way.  He produced the only grandchildren among our parents’ kids.  Getting to hang out with him was the reason I moved from Albany to Baltimore.  (Well, my sister too, until she left the state a couple years after I got here.)

People may think I’m the funny one, (because I’m probably more obvious about it), but he’s the funniest guy I know.  He’s always got a funny way of putting things, and putting things together.  He’s always been a good mimic, with total recall for movie quotes. 

In fact, Mom was just telling the story to the boys this weekend, about how Ed almost made her wet her pants during a long car trip, as he channeled the Bill Murray character from “Caddyshack.”  The real funny part was that Mom hadn’t seen “Caddyshack” yet, and thought he was taking on some kind of demented personality of his own.

Ed and I are about two and a half years apart and we pretty much grew up as Batman and Robin. 

 As the elder, I was always Batman.   But it’s funny because I’m the one in the yellow cape now.  He’s the respectable one and I’m the one with the standees in my apartment and hats on the wall. 

It’s been cool with us both working for the same company, in the same building.  Upon meeting us most people at work seem to think he’s the older brother.  Maybe it’s because he’s been there longer, or is much higher up in the organization.  Or maybe it’s his much more serious “professional” demeanor.

It wasn’t always like this.  My brother is very fortunate he made it out of adolescence.  By the time he was in junior high and high school, we were fighting like cats and dogs.  That wit of his I spoke of earlier manifested itself mostly in finding that flaw in other people, of which they were most self-conscious, and pounding the hell out of it.

Believe me, my buddies, the Vice President of Hell No and the Chairman of Fuck Off would have pounded the living crap out of him if I hadn’t (constantly) interceded.  I had to walk that line that most older brothers have to, when it comes to delivering an attitude adjustment to the younger brother.  You want to smack them hard enough to deliver the message, but not so hard that they run crying to Mom and Dad.  Because then, no matter what the younger one did first, it’s your fault and you would be the one in trouble. 

 Mom had a sense of humor about it though.  She often said, “I never beat any of my children, but with Edward, I often regret that.”

It helped when I started college, because even though I commuted, it got me out of the house most of the time.  But what really helped was when he went away to Ohio State.  I believe he started his freshman year when I was a senior.

Remember, we lived out in the country, in a very small town, surround by other very small towns.  It was a very white-bread area, full of essentially similar kids, who attended a well-run high school.  He and his friends were pretty big fish in their small pond.

But a school like OSU, with its 65,000 students, was an entirely different kind of pond.  Bro wasn’t such a king-shit in Columbus, and when he came back to town, he had a completely different attitude.  It was like he found a sense of humility.  Or, he just grew up.

But the end result of it was that we became much better friends.  I actually enjoyed his company, rather than just tolerating it.  And that’s how it’s been ever since.

I’ve told you just about all of my good stories about the adventures of my youth.  I only wish my brother wrote a blog, because if you ever heard his stories, like the one that personally involves the nation’s 40th president, you’d be on the freakin’ floor.  I’d cover them here, but as I said above, they’re not really mine to tell.  I’d get the laughs and he would have to bear the consequences.

But there is this one story that’s been on my idea list for a while…

We were having a Barn Party one summer night; I forget the occasion.  It might just have been an informal neighborhood get-together in the Barn… with beer and loud music.  Like I said, we were out in the country, and in the back yard, we had this big “vapor light,” hung high on the back of the house.  It literally lit up the entire back yard.

You know what a bright light attracts?  Bugs.  And you know what bugs attract?  Bats!  So when we saw the bats buzzing around and feasting on the bugs, somebody piped up with an idea.  If you moistened some toilet paper, wadded it up, and tossed it up in the air, the bats would chase it.  Thinking it was a big juicy bug, they’d grab it with their “hands” and then sensing it was not a meal, they’d release it.

So we played catch with the bats for a while.  Then Ed decided it would be more fun to try this from up on top of our garage.  (I learned not to ask him “why,” about things like that.)  So up on the steeply pointed garage roof, he climbed.  (It was an easy climb… saw-horse to outhouse roof, onto the storage shed roof, and then onto the garage. They were all positioned back to back.)

So, while teetering atop the crest of the garage, Ed started tossing up the TP bombs.  In doing so, he learned a valuable lesson… When you toss TP to the bats, they don’t always grab it at the highest point.  Sometimes, they wait until the TP has fallen right back down by your head.

One of those bats dove after that TP and damn near went right into Ed’s face. 

He recoiled so hard, he almost rolled right off the garage.  That put an end to the bat-baiting for the night.

Although we had to get up early for TP cleanup detail the next morning, because it looked like there had been a hail storm located exclusively over the back yard.

With that, I bid a Happy 50 to my brother Ed, wing-man, teammate and chief advisor.  Here’s to rockin’ the next 50…

Monday, March 17, 2014

Weekend with the Boys

My parents were in town this weekend, to watch my nephews while my brother and sister-in-law were out of town.  There were many activities on the schedule.  Having two active boys means there is little free time during the day.  The younger one had a floor-hockey game on Saturday and baseball tryouts on Sunday.  The older one had baseball practice and a scrimmage on Saturday.  We had to do some scrambling just to watch the Pens games, both of which were on during the afternoons.  (Thank you, DVR!)

Somehow, we went from beautiful baseball weather on Saturday…

 …to this on Monday:

Apparently, we’re postponing The Summer of Bluz, and continuing with The Winter of my Discontent.

Anyway, I spent most of my weekend with the folks and the boys, hence the lack of a weekend post.  But it was great fun.  I always enjoy hanging out with the boys and my parents, and it’s rare when I get to see both at the same time.  Plus my parents got to engage in some high-quality grand-parenting time (which mostly consisted of telling funny stories about the boys’ daddy).  By the way, that’s a staple of “Uncle-ing” too.

When I came home Friday night, I found that the package of my newest game jerseys had arrived, fresh from China’s finest sweatshops.

Three of the four.

By the time shipping and insurance was added in, they came to about $25 per jersey.  That’s nice and all, but you have to remember you get what you pay for.  Their quality control isn’t exactly the tightest.

This is the fourth.  See how the lettering has a gap in the middle?  Both sides are supposed to meet, flush.  Maybe I should augment it with an orange Sharpie.

This is the second Manny Machado jersey I’ve gotten boned on.  The previous, one upon which I spent $100, (through legitimate channels), was missing the front-side number, and the inner lettering had drawn-on stitching.  Also, that was the jersey I was wearing last year when I took that slug of cold beer and knocked my heart into A-fib.  So maybe this is Nature’s way of telling me I should leave the Machado jerseys alone… as if it being #13 wasn’t enough.

They didn’t get the collar trim right on my new Pirates/Andrew McCutchen jersey either.

Also, if you look at the picture with the three jerseys, I think the white Steeler jersey has two extra black stripes on the sleeve.

Anyway, that’s the risk you take when you go the Chinese knockoff route.  Still, it beats spending $300 a jersey.  I can get mustard stains on a cheap jersey just as easily as an expensive one.  That said; I can’t wait for baseball season!

On a less optimistic note, I was saddened to read of the passing of comedian David Brenner.  Not only was he a brilliant comic, he was an inspiration to me.

About 25 years ago, I was toying with the idea of writing a book, but I had no idea how to approach it, or what to even write about.  Then one day, I noticed a book by David Brenner on my bookcase, called “Hot Pretzels with Mustard.”  It was one of my favorites, and in it, he basically just wrote about funny stories and practical jokes from his childhood up through becoming a famous comedian.

I realized that was the exact approach I could take to write my own book.  Not only could I just tell stories, I could write them in any order, at any time.  I wouldn’t have to sit down in front of that blank tablet and proclaim, “I am going to write my book now!”  That’s a lot of pressure.

Instead, I could knock out a story whenever I felt like it.  Then one day when I had enough of them, I could tie them all together and voila!  Instant book.

So where is this book now?  You’re reading it.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

So What's Next?

Right.  Next question… what am I going to do now?  This summer is not going to unfold as I had expected.  What am I going to do instead?

I’ll tell you.  I expect to have a grand summer.  This will be the first time in a very long time that I will be living alone, and not broke.  When I first changed departments back in August of 2006, it came with a significant raise… a “quality-of-life-changing” raise.  But almost immediately after that happened, I basically began providing for a significant other.

In other words, I’ve never had the opportunity to single AND have some extra scratch.

Of course, I have to play it close to the vest for a while, to make back up the scratch I was set back over the last 4 months, which was considerable.  And I also have to replace a number of thing that I threw out, because hers were newer or better.  Thank goodness I put my foot down on parting with my furniture.

But I should have enough to allow me to see a bunch of Orioles games.  I can decide to go down to the ballpark after work just because it looks like a nice night.  Or maybe take a jaunt into The Burgh to see the Buccos a time or two, and maybe hang out with my blog-brothers and sisters.  With apologies to George Costanza, it'll be the Summer of Bluz!

It’s funny though.  I think about where to go if I want to “meet someone,” and I can’t help but think of that line from 30-Rock, where Liz Lemon is talking to a geeky film editor (played by Paul Giamatti). 

I went to hockey camp and joined up for Civil War re-enactments, but I still can’t seem to find the women.”*

That’s me, only they’re ballgames.  Maybe it’s time for me to go to one of those Planned Parenthood benefits to which I’m always getting emailed invites.  No, I wouldn’t go to a PP benefit just to hit on women.  That’s kind of creepy.  But it’s a cause I believe in, and there figures to be a lot more single women there than at a baseball game.

Maybe instead of doing like my friend Sherry, with her 52 at 52 series of activities, I’ll trim it down to, say, 1 at 52, and step out of my comfort zone long enough to go to a PP event.  Just as long as there is no Penguins game, or anything else good on TV…

Back in 2010, I wrote a whole post on the advantages of being a Bachelor Guy.  I just had a look, and it still holds up.  There are a number of up-sides to having complete autonomy. 

But I also intend to learn from my mistakes.  I need to take better care of the place.  I need to call the landlord when something is wrong or breaks, instead of just making do.  I vow to keep the goofy shit at bay, and only put things on the wall that are framed.  I can still keep an interesting place without cramming things into every vertical square foot in the room.  And I’ll probably keep the Hat Wall in the hallway.

I’m not saying anyone will mistake it for a grownup’s apartment, but it will be a step in the right direction.

* I paraphrased the line from memory.  Spent 20 minutes trying to find the exact quote online, but was unsuccessful.  But you get the point.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Most Improbable Love Story, Part 2

Unloading the truck was only half the battle.  Now we had to find places for all this stuff.  Well, I should more accurately say, “she” had to find places for her stuff.  I’d go to work, and she went about unpacking.  Even when I was home, there wasn’t much I could do.

She had all these knick-knacky things… commemorative plates, glass sets, china, figurines, dozens of cookbooks, most of which were left from her mother.  She wanted to deal with her stuff personally.  In fact, she pretty much didn’t want me anywhere around, while she unpacked.

Unsurprisingly, I had no problem with that.  It was fine with me if she preferred I go sit down and watch the Penguins and leave her to her business.  But still, it was a huge job, and it took its toll on both of our psyches.

Neither of us is fond of being surrounded by chaos, so it was kind of uncomfortable to have to pick our way from room to room, like we were hacking our way through the rainforest.

We eventually got to a place where the major things were in place.  I showed you the Franken-couch in the last post.  This is what else we did:

We parked her easy chair, ottoman, coffee table, hutch and bookcase in the bedroom.

The stack of small drawers and chests is hers, as well as the sweet TV.

Everything else went into the back bedroom, for her office. 

I also had to get “handy.”  (Stop laughing, Rik.)  In a fit of competence, I hung a cabinet in the bathroom…

…and a mirror on the back bedroom door.

In a major upheaval, I took down my old Hat Wall in the dining room…

…and on her “suggestion,” created a new Hat Wall, in the hallway.

 One Saturday night shortly after Moving Day, we “came out” on Facebook, and posted our new our relationship statuses, along with a flurry of updates.  I couldn’t help but think how the people who knew us both, back in our record store days, must have had the tops of their heads blow off.  Like I said, this was the most improbable relationship I’ve ever known.  That was a really good night.  And it was probably the last one.

Because both of us are former store managers and operations specialists, it got strained whenever we had opposing ideas on where something should go, or the best way to go about a particular task.

I don’t think a day went by when she wasn’t crying about something.  I told her, “You are the cryin’est woman I’ve ever met.”

I understand the feeling of helplessness in the face of an enormous challenge, especially when one has been displaced.   I figured we just had to get her new nest finished, so she could begin acclimating to her new surroundings, and we could establish some new kind of normal.  We needed time to bond, and get in sync with each other.

What I didn’t know was the toll being taken on her from being away from her kids and grandson.  While she talked, texted and Skyped with them, it didn’t seem to make her very happier.

In early February, she told me she got a tip on a really good job, back in her home town.  I was leery.  What good is a job there, when she’s here? 

She explained that it was Monday to Friday ad sales job, which involved traveling around an assigned turf.  She’d be out there during the week, then come back home on the weekends.  She said she was very good at that kind of thing, and because it is an expanding company, should be able to obtain a territory closer to Baltimore.  Then, she would shoot for an area-manager kind of position, which could be based anywhere.

There were a lot of perks too… nice commissions, car and phone allowances, full health care… the deal was pretty sweet.  Still, that wasn’t the deal I agreed to.  She hadn’t even begun to look for a job in Baltimore.  While I felt that her opportunity was a viable alternative if she was unable to find something here, she felt it was too lucrative to pass up.  Plus, she could stay in regular contact with her family. 

She went out there for a week in mid-February to see her family, and interview for the job.  Well, I thought it was going to be a week.  After 4-5 days, she told me it would be another week.  She ended up coming back 16 days later, having been offered the job.

We had a lot to talk about when she returned that Saturday night.  I figured I could hack it for a short time… 6-months… a year, maybe.  I knew that there was no way she was going to be coming all the way back here every weekend.  There would be family events, bad weather, and just plain fatigue. 

This meant that not only could we never do anything on weekdays; weekend plans would always be iffy as well.  We were supposed to go to hockey games, baseball games, and whatnot, but I’d be taking a chance any time I bought tickets before the day of the game.  It wasn’t at all what I had in mind, when we first discussed getting together.

Like I said, I wasn’t thrilled, but I could tough it out for a short time.  It was a good job at a time when she badly needed one.

Then she told me the rest of the news.

Her youngest daughter had developed a possibly serious medical condition.  The girl would soon be undergoing tests and (possibly) treatment, and she wanted her mother.

Well, that explained a lot of the emotional upheaval from the last month.  Her daughter was calling for her, and her son was missing her as well.  Heavy stuff.

We slept on it that night, and resumed discussions on Sunday.  That’s when she told me that she intended to keep a turf back home until her daughter graduates high school. 

In 4 years.

She wanted to maintain our relationship at a distance, through calls and visits, and then pick up again in what would be 2018.

With that, I knew I had to call it off.  I agreed that she needed to go be with her daughter.  I would never stand in between a mother and her child; especially a child in need.  But, this would not be the kind of relationship I could live with.  Spending most every day alone for four years?  No.  Sorry, not for me.

If this would have been the deal on the table from the outset, I’d have said “absolutely not.”  If I’m going to be alone, I at least need to be free to be available.  I’m 52 freaking years old; I don’t have time to spend 4 years in limbo.  I’d still like to find a compatible partner. 

Maybe if it’s 4 years down the road and we’re both still single, we can reassess the situation.  But until then, I have no intention of conducting a long distance relationship.  Even the Internet Age has its limitations.

Originally she was going to stay with a friend during the week, but that proved unsuitable.  But when she was out there, she found a nice apartment near her daughter’s school.  So that meant, regardless of what we did with our relationship, she was again going to have to pack up her stuff and move again. 

Unloading that truck the last time almost wrecked the both of us.  This time around, we found some people on Craig’s List that will help load a truck for you.  It’s worth the dough not to kill myself again, just 2 months after killing myself the first time.  (They just better show up!)

So, she spent the last week re-packing.  At least this time, the chaos is confined to the perimeter.  She left last weekend, and will be back to load out at the beginning of April.

I had such high hopes going into all of this.  All along, I couldn’t believe my good luck; to have someone special come back into my life and be with me happily ever after.  And I kept dwelling on, given our past, just how improbable the whole thing was.

Unfortunately sometimes, the improbable, is impossible as well.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Most Improbable Love Story Ever

There she was, chatting me up on Facebook again.

After we made contact in 2011, we’d only kept in touch sporadically.  That’s when I wrote what I came to refer to as “The Whatsername Trilogy.”  She seemed to be trying to get her life in order, by getting a divorce from her husband and moving back to her home town.

The thing that struck me was how she felt that “now” was her time.  She’d spent a lifetime caring for her children, but now two of them were spun off into their own lives, and her youngest daughter (13) was living with her father and his family.  Now, she said, it was time to live for herself.  She wanted to find a good man and start enjoying life.  She thought I might fit the bill.

I was intrigued, but wary.  Was I ready to jump straight into another relationship, this time, with someone I’d been with before and saw it end so badly?  (And repeatedly?)

We chatted over Facebook, and then sent each other a lot of emails, which soon gave way to phone conversations.  It sounded like we had a lot in common.  She liked all kinds of music, liked sports… even hockey!  She told me how over the years, she learned how to treat a man, and she’d be the best I’d ever been with.  She’d be good for me.

Everything sounded good in theory.  But in practice, she was there, and I was here, 6 hours away.  I explained that I had no intention of giving up my job, (which was definitely the best I’ve ever had).  She said there was no reason she couldn’t come out to Baltimore and find work here.  I didn’t doubt that… she is a highly capable individual with a ton of marketable skill.

That was in sync with what I was looking for.  I want a partner; someone to grab an oar and help me paddle along and navigate life’s currents.  It would be nice not to have to carry the entire financial load.  With two people earning, we can save for retirement and still be able to do some nice things.

The acid test was going to be in getting together.  I mean, we hadn’t set eyes on each other in about 27 years.  So she came out for a visit, to see if we might be able to make something work.

It did.  You could have cut the chemistry with a knife.  It was like there was an electric current running through the room.  All systems were “go.”

Still, I had to wonder about her leaving her family behind.  Aside from her youngest daughter, her son, (who I knew back when we first dated) had his own family, with one son and another baby on the way.  (She also has a daughter who is in the Navy, stationed on the west coast.)

There seemed to be a lot there for her, but she assured me that it was her time now.  The kids were basically spun off and it was time to live for herself.

The way I figure it, I’m no spring chicken any more.  There’s no sense in drawing out a prolonged inter-state courtship, which really won’t help.  Conducting a series of weekend dates won’t show you anything real, because everyone is on their best behavior.  You don’t know what you’re getting into until you throw yourselves together and see how things go on a daily basis.  So with that, we agreed for her to move in with me and see how things went.

During one of her visits, we went to work making room for her things.  We threw out a lot of my stuff.  I wasn’t crazy about the idea, but you can’t argue with geometry.  I live in a 2-bedroom apartment, and there is a finite amount of room.  We had to conduct a fair amount of “negotiation” in order to come into agreement about what should go where, although we wouldn’t truly know where things would fit until we tried them.
 The furniture was the tough part.  I admit that my furniture is a bit long in the tooth, but it’s in good condition, and more importantly, it fits me.  I did not want to part with it.

Her stuff was much newer, and more expensive.  It wouldn’t seem right to me to make her get rid of it, probably at a considerable loss.  We scoped out storage facilities, but man, the prices have really gone up since I last used one.  Not wanting to commit to a $100 a month bill for the foreseeable future, our only choice was to find a way to cram everything in.

I don’t know where I got the idea that she didn’t have much stuff, but boy, was I ever wrong.  She pulled in with a 16’ moving truck, and every square inch of that thing was packed.  Most of it was in plastic storage bins, so luckily it was easily stackable.

It was January, so naturally, it snowed on Moving Day, making it just that much more miserable.  She pulled in on a Friday night, and we started unloading about noon on Saturday afternoon.  We got the last box off the truck around 5:00, and I don’t think I’ve ever been that beat.  We were going to stop for lunch around 3:00, but I knew that if I stopped to rest, I’d never get back up again, so we pushed through.

The biggest problem was getting things into the back bedroom, where she was going to set up her office/crafting area.  We needed to get her desk, bookcases, a wing-back chair, and her sofa in there.  The problem was the closet had a “bump-out,” which was about 3 feet in front of the door, so we had to negotiate a hard left turn just to get into the room. 

We squeezed the chair in by removing the legs.  (The screws had been thoroughly stripped, so I couldn’t use my power screwdriver, or any screwdriver.  I had to use pliers.  That took forever!)  We got the desk in only by scraping the paint off the corner of the door jamb.  And the sofa… well, we tried turning it every which way, but we could not get it in the door.  That meant we had to go to Plan B.

I have a 7-piece sectional sofa set, set up like an “L,” with one short side.  We had to remove the corner piece and end piece, and slide her couch in to make a much larger “L.”  It worked, but it looked like the Frankenstein Monster of couches. 

My sectional (L) and her full sofa (R).

We then tried to stow my sectional pieces in the back bedroom, but they took up way too much room.  We ended up putting them behind the couch in the living room, an arrangement about which I was none too pleased.  But our options were limited.
My corner piece makes a place for a weary visitor to sit.  The other piece is behind the corner, under the loose chairs.  (Don’t ask.)

You should have seen the place after the unloading.  It was a nightmare.  I like routine and consistency.  I don’t do well living among chaos.

This was very embodiment of chaos.
From the dining room, to the living room.

From the living room back to the dining room.

The bedroom wasn’t too bad.  But only the bed and the end table beside it, were mine.  (My other stuff, a wardrobe and secretary desk, is out of frame, to the right.)

The kitchen was a nightmare.  Luckily, that’s the stuff she put away first.

The back bedroom.  That’s where most everything else went.  All of the rest of the room, which I couldn’t get in one shot, looks just like this.

So as you can see, we had our work cut out for us.  But I was excited to take this step.  I couldn’t wait until we got the chaos behind us, and were able to go on with a life together, step by step, in sync. 

I kept coming back to one thought… “How improbable is this whole story?”  I mean, if you’ve read the “The Whatsername Trilogy,”  you know our history.  How could a story like this be even remotely possible?  It makes no sense.  But here we are anyway.

So how did we do?  Come back and see in the next post.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Chatting It Up Part 5: Kicking the Habit

Right around when I decided to upgrade my Windows 98 “starter computer,” the Virtual Places (VP) world seemed to be winding down. 

They had introduced a voice function for a short time, but just as people were starting to embrace voice chat, they discontinued it.  I have a feeling there may have been some push-back from the big telecoms.  Verizon probably sent a couple gorillas over to the VP office, to “reason” with them about how it “might not be in their best interest” to give people a way to bypass traditional phone or cell service. 

How ‘bout youze deep-six that voice chat, before we have to bring you into the “Clinic?”

There was another site overhaul that was promoted as an upgrade, but in reality, stripped away some of the features that made VP so much fun.  By the time I updated my PC in 2004, I was just about done with the whole scene.  When I tried to install VP on my new unit, I couldn’t get it to work properly, and that was the last straw.

I heard from my chat-room regulars that some of them were going to a new pay-site for chat, but I wasn’t interested.  Pay for chat?  Like I was some kind of chat whore?  No thanks.  I moved on.

Tired of chatting with mysterious, far-away, unattainable women, I began going on, so I could chat with mysterious, local, unattainable women.  No, I’m not going into all of that.  I’m not up for another full series yet, but suffice to say, it was a trip.  Over all, I didn’t have much success, but at least it got me out of the house once in a while and I discovered some new places to go. used to piss me off though, because even though I specified women within a 25 mile radius, I kept getting responses from women in Annapolis, or on the Eastern Shore (of MD).  I consider anyone who’s more than an hour away to be a long-distance relationship, and in my experience, those never work.   I usually try to avoid them.

It’s funny though… the chat technology that I thought was so novel and cool is a run-of-the-mill feature now.  Even in my office, we have an IM function baked right into our desktop applications.

And apps like Facetime and Skype?  If you think about it, that’s right out of the 60s cartoon, “The Jetsons.”  All the futuristic sci-fi technology is slowly but surely coming to pass… all except the jet-packs.  Maybe someday… but when they do, I bet those mid-air person-to-person collisions are going to be epic. 

I can’t imagine people will be any more careful with their jet-packs than they are in their cars.  When jet-packs become available to the masses, I want to go live in a tall apartment building in the city, just to watch the action.  I suppose I’d better get some reinforced windows though.  It’ll be like “Road Warrior” with wings.

OK, I’m drifting now…

You never know where the tech is going to take you.  I mean, look at Facebook.  It’s a lot like the old chat rooms, wherein you can interact with lots of people, except you know everyone (at least in theory).  You can whine, complain, crack wise, flirt, argue, and provide pictures and videos of your kids and pets, just like you might at a neighborhood bar.

You know, all those years when I was living alone in a strange city, yearning for some connection with my friends and family, this stupid app could have been a great comfort.  Never has keeping in touch been so easy.  We should remind ourselves not to forget that.

Because, you never know when a voice from the past is going to come out of nowhere and smack you right between the eyes.  That’s what happened to me, a couple months ago.

An old friend noticed that my Facebook status had been changed to “Single,” and decided to make contact.  There were emails, then chats, then phone calls, and then a visit.

Thus began the most improbable love story I could imagine.  I might have even mentioned her here a time or two.

Just goes to show, no matter how you plan, life is unpredictable.