Pass the paper bag that holds the bottle

About 3 years ago, i wrote about a reconnection with a long-time friend, JK.  We’d found each other again after a solid gap of five years — and vowed not to let so much time pass between our conversations.

Well… Three and a half is less than five, so i guess we kinda sorta almost got it right.

Known for his brusque style and ability to follow through on projects, he carried a massive workload before he retired.  He was one of my first, and probably most frustrated, mentors.  We made quite a team back in the day!  Me in the miniskirts and stilettos stumping for funding.  Him doing all of the detail work, and keeping me from overselling the science.

Since our last conversation…

He’s finished up the renovation of his home on a lake, more than doubling the size.  Still has the sailboats, he had to give up competing in the national regattas because he’s blown out his knees.

Still painting… “I’ve got about 48 unfinished canvases in my studio”. 

Gardening is now a larger part of his life…  “You oughta see the size of my cucumbers!”

Filling him in on my adventures over the past few years?  On my second motorcycle.  Added a third gentleman to the rotation.  Continuing to attempt to learn to ski – and failing miserably.  Horseback riding lessons have been more rewarding – and far less painful.  Certified as a Master SCUBA diver last year.

JK:  SCUBA?  One of my brothers is pretty serious about that.  I’ve always been curious.

daisyfae:  It’s easy on the joints!  i’ll dive with you…

JK:  …

daisyfae:  And don’t you dare say it!  Don’t you DARE!  i dive with folks in their 60’s and 70’s!

We’ve each got daughters living abroad – mine in Turkey, his in Central America.  Sons pursuing arts and trades.  Everyone healthy.  Balanced lives – at least for the moment.

As we were planning our next lunch, and i prepared to go back to the office, he mentioned that his son is a finalist in the International Glass Prize competition in Belgium.

JK:  I don’t have much presence on the internet.  I don’t “tweet” or facebook or anything.  It’s some ‘popular opinion’ prize, in addition to the adjudicated prizes.  He could win grants, fellowships and shit…

The plan?  To continue the conversation in his double kayak once the weather warms up a bit.  i’m pretty sure i can talk him into taking out the sailboat again, too…

There are some remarkable works here – and if you feel compelled to cheer for a very talented young man, his work is entitled “Bottle”.  One vote per unique ip address…

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…like a fish needs a what?

Farting around.  Serving no greater purpose than focusing on the moment at hand.  For the better part of the last five years.  It’s what i’ve done.  It’s what i do.

Late last year, i attended a few meetings of a regional bicycle advocacy group.  After a few follow-up discussions, i was invited to join the board of directors.  The group has been in existence since the 1960’s, but became dormant in recent years.  The remainder of the board was making one last run at resurrection – and wanted me to fill the empty board seat.

What the hell?  i’ve been battling a bit of restlessness for the past few months.  They needed what i got.  Were very surprised when they saw my resume – combination of professional chubb with a long history of regional board memberships.  Despite my “Party Girl” reputation…

i started attending monthly board meetings in January, and have been working on a variety of projects and activities on my own time.  Most of our interaction happens via e-mail.  It’s hard to get to know strengths, weaknesses, and styles of colleagues without daily interaction, but we are definitely working through the glitches and getting things accomplished.  They are good animals, and it’s been fun so far.

If i really want to get inside the mind of another human being, i try to elicit laughter.  If you can make someone laugh?  You start to understand how he works.  As i try to get to know the other board members, this has proven invaluable.

The April meeting was on a fairly tight schedule, with a lot of turf to cover.  We met at Archie’s house – bringing laptops, notes and beer.  A nice balance of “business” and “pleasure”.  Much of our discussion was around planning activities for an upcoming event where we hope to make a visible splash with our resurrected presence in the region.

Bob (President, and Serious Businessman):  Would it be possible for us to find a vacant parking lot and launch an exhibition bike polo game?  How much room would you need?

Kendall (Radical cyclist, party animal, and historian):  We play 3-on-3 games, and that includes the goalies.  Would still take a good-sized lot…

daisyfae:  How did you teach the ponies to ride bicycles?

[crickets]

After a beat, three of the guys at the table laughed.  One rolled his eyes.

Kendall [looking confused]:  It’s bike polo.  We ride bikes, not horses?

daisyfae:  It was a joke.  Guess if i have to explain that, it’s a “failed joke”.

pic found here

Driving Me Mad

Spent four hours in the car with Mom last weekend.

Picked her up in The Park, and we went out to dinner, and then to a dance recital for my youngest nephew.  Drove an hour back to my place to spend the night and relax a little.  The next day, we drove to visit my cousin for the memorial service for her deceased husband.  After lunch with extended family, and a beer with The Boy, i drove her back to The Park Saturday evening.

A bit of a whirlwind visit – tiring for her, but she was a trooper and enjoyed herself.  Lots of time together to talk.  And talk she did.

In addition the continued “spleen vent” about the slow progress* on renovations to her home, updates on various family members, and the requisite recital of her current medical complaints, we also covered a few other family issues.

My brother, T, and his wife are getting a divorce.  His third.  Her first.  It appears to be civil.  My Mom and oldest sister, S, have been trying to provide emotional support to T as he gets things sorted out and prepares to set out on his own – yet again.

He and i have talked a few times over the past few months.  i’ve offered to listen, as needed.  He asked me to help him update his resume, as he’ll need to find a more substantial job.

Mom seemed a bit surprised that T had been in contact with me.

Mom:  He told us something in confidence.  Now, if I tell you this, it’s in confidence.  Did he tell you that he’d been raped when he was 12 years old?

daisyfae:  Yes.  Back in November.  i remember getting absolutely furious when that Penn State coach was busted for raping children around the same time he told me.

Mom:  He told you then?  Why didn’t you say something about it?

daisyfae:  He told me in confidence**.  He was working with a counselor to sort through all of it.  Said he planned to talk to you and S about it soon.  i figured it’s his issue.  He needed to handle it the way he needed to handle it.

Mom:  Well, it was bound to happen.  He was always wandering off and catching rides with strangers!  It really doesn’t surprise me that he was molested…

If it is physiologically possible for a human being to simultaneously drop her jaw and bite her tongue?  In that moment, i did it.

daisyfae:  It wasn’t his fault!  He was twelve years old!  [calming down so as to keep the car in the lane of travel].  There’s no excuse for raping a child.  It wasn’t his fault.

Mom:  If he’d have told us about it, we’d have contacted the police.  But he was always running off like that…

i tuned it out.  There were still forty miles to go before we got to where we were headed and i needed to drive.

But i had to wonder:  Did she say this to him when he told her?

i need to call my brother.  Check in to see how he’s doing.

image found here

* Some progress after 3 years.  My niece, DQ’s husband, BJ, is laid off again.  While he is getting unemployment compensation, he’s been able to do a little more work on prep for the heating/air conditioning system.  “Some progress” is better than the “micro-progress” that was happening last year. 

** And Momma wonders why i’ve never told her ANYTHING personal all these decades…

Amazing, Grace…

“Yes.  i can play “Amazing Grace” on the guitar at the service.  You want me to sing it, too?”

Do you say “no” to a cousin who asks you to sing a hymn at a memorial service for her dead husband just because you’re a secular humanist?

Although he died in December, 2009, my cousin recently planned an internment ceremony for the cremains of her husband.  She didn’t want anything fancy, nor a lot of attendees – she mostly wanted his ashes out of her closet.

i’d known about the service for a few months, and had already planned to attend.  Had even worked to finish the renovation of the guest room/office so i could bring Mom to visit me Friday night, and then bring her with me to the service this morning.

The request for musical support came on Wednesday.  Enough time for me to blow the dust off the guitar, try a few chords and respond with confidence that i would be able to tease appropriate noises from the strings.

Arriving this morning, the minister suggested we do four of the six verses of the hymn.

daisyfae [attempting to hide shock]:  Oh, yeah!  That’s right… Six verses….

Reverend Lovejoy:  How about doing the first, second, third and sixth?

daisyfae:  Ummm… Yes!  That would be perfect.  Uh… Can i use the lyrics on your podium?

Six verses of “Amazing Grace”?  Who the hell knows all six verses of “Amazing Grace”?

Tuned up the guitar, and stashed it in a convenient spot.  Sat next to my cousin up front.  And tried really hard to steal glances at those lyrics as the minister started the service.

After the final prayer, it was time.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me…. 

[Well… the ‘wretch’ part is accurate at least…]

Through many dangers, toils and snares…
we have already come.

[Yes.  i have survived participation in religious services before…such as my wedding.] 

When we’ve been here ten thousand years…
bright shining as the sun. 

[No.  It just seems like ten thousand years… Is this the last verse?]

Turns out, there are some seriously grand acoustics in a marble-encrusted mausoleum chapel.  It also turns out that my eyesight is sufficient to read a 14 point font at arm’s length.

i sang my little atheistic heart out, faking enough sincerity to avoid the galactic taser.

The greatest challenge, however, had nothing to do with acoustics, vision or my personal beliefs.

Did you know that the most effective way to get rid of an ear worm is to do the following:

Sing the lyrics of “Amazing Grace” to the tune of the “Gilligan’s Island” Theme song.

Go ahead.  Try it.

Not as hard as you might think.  The more difficult rendition is to sing the lyrics of the “Gilligan’s Island” Theme song to the tune of “Amazing Grace”.  Which i have been recently trying to do…

The greatest catastrophe avoided this morning?  Not launching into:

Just sit…. RI-iiiight baaaaaaack, and you’ll hear… a tale…. 

A tale… of a fate-ful TRIP…

image found here.  who knew?

* You can also do “Amazing Grace” / “House of the Rising Sun”.  These guys do a festive job of managing to mix up all three… And if you spend any time trying to do any of these permutations?  You can rid yourself of the most vicious ear worm!

Cats and Dogs

i’m relatively new to the realm of cats.  i added the gigantic orange cat, Huey Newton, to the family a couple of years ago – mostly to be a companion to my aging brown dog, Mr. Pickles.

The cat did not, however, sign on for that particular partnership arrangement.

But they co-exist nicely.  Mr. P always wants to play.  Huey wants nothing to do with this – except for rare moments of whimsy when he decides that it would be good fun to whack the sleeping dog in the nose and then run for cover.

i love them both.  My relationship with each is quite different.

As i sat in my bedroom comfy chair a couple of days after getting my leg stitched up, the difference between cats and dogs became fairly obvious.

Mr. P wanted to lick my stitches.  Make it all better.

Huey, on the other hand, decided that the strings sticking out of my shin bone would be big fun.  Catastrophe avoided, as i started a new game of “Kitty Aviator” before he finished swatting at my embroidered leg with extended claws.

Heard this a few years ago, and believe it to be true.

If a dog had thumbs?  He’d get you a beer.

If a cat had thumbs?  He’d steal your car.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Note:  Photos are approximate re-enactments.  The stitches came out today, and my leg looks like a rather disgusting pile of fetid ground beef.  i am only taking that wrapper off when absolutely necessary to re-pack the muck.  There’s a reason i chose engineering over medicine…. Only have to do this for about a month.  Blechhh.

Olfactory Outlet

It completely shocked my system.  It’s too early for that!  Winter’s barely over!  How can that be?

But there they were in all of their violet glory.  Lilacs.  In April.  The mild winter and early spring tricked them into bloom weeks ahead of schedule.

Driving the jeep yesterday.  Topless.  Through older city neighborhoods.  Hauling a rattling pile of chandelier nuggets and serviceable parts of my old ceiling fan off to be re-purposed at the Habitat for Humanity salvage shop, i was jolted by scented whispers of their presence as well.

Is there anything more powerful than a scent memory?

Mom had a treasured lilac bush at the edge of the driveway.  Grown from cuttings she had harvested from her mother’s home, the bush would burst into bloom in late May.  Unlike roses, you can’t buy lilacs at the florist.  They are there and gone.  Once a year.

The end of the school year.  My birthday.  The beginning of summer.  The best days of my childhood… Right there.  Next to the driveway.

For over twenty years, i lived in a large suburban home on a half-acre of land.  During that time, i could have easily cultivated a fortress of lilacs.  My husband, however, struggled every spring with debilitating allergies.  The cottonwood was bad enough.  Adding anything with pollen to our yard was out of the question.

So i was relegated to theft.  Usually around Mother’s Day, i’d bring flowers to Mom, take her out to lunch, and then harvest my own bounty from that old bush by the driveway.

After completing my errand to the “Re-Store”, i decided it was time for a raid.  Last year, i assaulted the big lilac bush in the cemetery near my home.  Packing up scissors, a cloth tote, and my dog, i set out to bring home something to brighten my mood.

Walking over a slight rise, i expected to be greeted with a wall of purple.  Nope.  Gone.  It had started to get a bit wild, and was over-growing some of the old headstones.  The grounds crew must have removed the lilac bush.

Defeated, i turned to head back home.  Mr. Pickles bounced along the path, finding an endless variety of interesting smells to hold his attention.  But he had a rather grumpy companion at the other end of the leash.

Since the night was pretty spectacular, i also took the jeep for my evening outing… Off to a dinner party at a friend’s house.  Pulling into his driveway, i smelled them before i saw them – and was freshly awed by the power of the scent memory.

Presenting my host with a bottle of wine, i asked “Would you be horrified if i swiped a few of those gorgeous lilacs next to your driveway?”

Between the stems i harvested last night, and the bundle i snagged from a luscious blooming bush next to a parking lot on a very busy street today on my lunch hour*, i have my lilacs.  They’ll be shriveled and gone within a couple of days.  Tonight, they’re on the dresser in my bedroom… their scent like a tranquilizer, sending me back in time.

If i’m lucky?  i’ll dream the dreams of an unbroken young girl…

* i’d spotted them earlier this week.  Since Studley was driving on lunch hour today, he had to man the get-away vehicle, and keep watch, as i hopped out of the car to break off several pounds of smelly lilac blooms!  We avoided capture…