Just live…

“It’s not a wake.  It’s a ‘wake the fuck up'”.

Direct quote from my friend Denise as we planned my 50th birthday party.  i’d played with the idea of using a “Practice Wake” theme — to make sure the folks in my life know what i expect them to do when i die… but she thought that a bit melodramatic.

She’s right, of course.  So it’s just gonna be a big ass ol’ fashioned throw down.

My forties have been rather spectacular.  Not sure if my fifties can top them, but that’s the goal… Try as i might to ignore the significance of a milestone birthday, it’s tough not to notice that i’m well past the halfway point in my life, if things go according to statistics.

Which they don’t always do.

My imaginary friend inside my computer, Bad Yogi, has been my virtual muse for the past 18 months.  He’s done the hardest thing i can imagine.  He buried a child.

As i tried to support a friend who was going through it, Yogi was my spirit guide.  Reminding me to pay close attention 3, 4 and 5 months out — when others begin to pull away.  It was good advice.

He just marked the second year anniversary of the death of his daughter, Alysia.  He did it with this piece.

And this is just what i want my friends to know before i go “poof”.

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“When you hear that I have died, think of this.

“Think of cool nights breezes while you walk to meet your friends for a beer on a Thursday. Think of waking up in flannel sheets on a snowy morning and kissing someone you love. Think of hung-over diner breakfasts and the best cup of coffee in the world. Think of the sound of tires on seamed highways while you travel, think of French kissing and leather jackets and push-up bras and bourbon, think of the joy of hard work with friends. Then think of me.

“Not sad, not the melancholy solitude of empty skies, but the full days and crowded bars and signed contracts, a smile too big for my face, remember I said I stay busy enough to fit three lives into one.

“When you hear that I have died, know that I want laughter, and dancing, real dancing, to music that makes you move without thinking, you’re wearing boots and jeans and a great t-shirt and wondering if the girl at the edge thinks you’re cute. And you motherfuckers had best DANCE, none of this bull­shit rock-nod hands-in-the-pockets shoegazer nonsense. No, make an ass out of yourself, feel your hips, kick off the high heels and sway on the shoulder of a stranger.

“When I die, you’d better be laughing your ass off on sidewalks, eating deliciously unhealthy food, drinking shots and tipping your bartender well no matter how much money you make.

“When you hear that I have died, the best thing you can do is to get laid that night with a comfortable stranger, use my story to get their sympathy, and when you kiss them for the first time, think of me then.

“When you hear that I have died, and you will, remember your best revenge is to live well, take risks, save up money and chase your perfect happiness. Beat the system and learn to make your art really support you, craft into something your audience can’t live without. Then make the world an even slightly better place ― stop throwing your cigarettes on the ground, vote in the next election, graffiti your life on the eyes of the hungry.

“Then just do me one last favor. Please. Love some thing. Anything. Start with your self, but find passion in everything, from an apple pie to a novel, make a family, get a degree, walk what ever path is yours with your chin up and feet planted firmly. Have the best stories to tell in the old folk’s home, about life long friendships and epic love affairs, about the time you lost every thing and yet found yourself happier than when you began.. and remember that time we got in SO much trouble…

“Poets, remember: This is the story that never ends. When one of us leaves, another walks through the door. The pages turn, the sun keeps rising. All you can do in the meanwhile…is to speak for yourself. Raise your voice high, tell your story, join hands against the dark and sing our souls to the sky. Know the best in me comes from the best in you, that as you tell your story, you will be telling mine, and our lives will be linked together for ever, and every one who hears you will become a part of the change we make.

“So when you hear that I have died… just …live.”

Gabrielle Bouliane

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The honor was mine…

Another week?  Another early morning flight yesterday.

i arrived at Washington National Airport at 7:30 am.  My meeting was south of the city at 2:00 pm.  i had tried to set up other meetings, but ended up with a lot of time to kill.  Rather than rush over to the rental car counter and drive headlong (and sleep-deprived) into rush hour traffic, i decided to snooze at the airport.

Now that i’m on a first name basis with the north African women at the Gordon Biersch brewery on Concourse C, i stopped in for breakfast.  From there?  i found a corner to go to sleep.  My superpower is being able to sleep anywhere.  i was asleep within minutes.

i was awakened around 10:00 am by the sound of a trumpet.  Unmistakable sound of a warm up.  And then a baritone horn.  What the fuck?  School kids on their summer trip to the capital?  Playing a game called “Annoy the sleepy Travel People”?  Grrr….

But the ‘warm up’ sounds were better than high school. Shook off my ‘sleep funk’ and got up to investigate.

Brass Quintet at Gate 35.  Balloons.  What the hell?  Marines?  School kids with flags?

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An Honor Flight* was coming in from Fort Wayne, Indiana.  When the WWII Vets come in to visit the WWII memorial, these folks have a welcoming committee.  Music.  Decorations. Greeters. An ad hoc audience of whoever happens to be on the concourse when they get there. This happens a few times a week, organized by the “Honor Flight” non-profit organization…

As they started to deplane, the quintet played military marches.  A crowd of cranky business travel people assembled.  And we stood there clapping for a half hour as seventy men in their late 80’s and 90’s came through Gate 35.

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The last dozen off the plane were in wheelchairs.  Wheelchairs pushed by Marines in full dress uniform.

That’s when i completely lost my shit.

Young kids.  Barely old enough to shave.  Young men and women who have already had a few tours of duty in our current war.  Pushing men who had been that age when they went into the unknown.  Both signing on a dotted line that says “Yeah.  I’ll die for my country. Even though I’m probably not really sure what that means.”

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Had to hit the restroom and completely re-do my face before i went to the rental car counter…  Damn it.

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“We can’t all be heroes. Some of us have to stand on the curb and clap as they go by.”  Will Rogers

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* The Honor Flight Network is a non-profit organization that transports veterans to  Washington, D.C. to visit those memorials dedicated to honor their service and  sacrifices.  At no cost to the veterans.  Nice.

There is life after high school…

If it hadn’t been for Angie, i would have ignored the invitation.  A High School Marching Band reunion.  i played bass clarinet in the marching band for two years, before bailing out to drink and smoke weed focus on academics.

She was an enthusiastic clarinetist, a year behind me in school.  She was the reason i switched to bass clarinet.  As a second year student, i was “second chair, first clarinet” and Angie was “first chair, second clarinet”.   She wanted to move up, and i was in her way, so just about every week she would “challenge”.

i got tired of it, and asked to play bass.  i was a slug, but i wasn’t going to let her beat me!

i’ve gotten pretty attached to her through the eff-books.  An engaging woman, battling her lifelong problem with her weight, she has been one of the few positive voices in the cacophony that is facebook.  We’ve corresponded over a variety of things – from her challenges with her teenager, weight loss/gain, and medical issues.

She is a five-year survivor of ovarian cancer.  She was recently diagnosed with early stage MS.  She drove 500 miles to go to that damn reunion.  i wanted to give her a hug.

And i did…

We started collecting at the American Legion hall.  The reunion was for all years of marching band alumni, including the drill and flag team members, so there were about a hundred folks attending.

What?  No bar.  No beer.  Crap.  No flask, either.  Deep breath.  Realized it wasn’t the end of the world, but when dealing with ghosts of the horrid high school years, it’s a reasonable way to take the edge off.  Potato chips?  Close enough…

Angie wasn’t too far behind me – and i got to deliver that hug i’ve wanted to give her for the past few years.  It felt good.

The big surprise of the night?  The Band Director, retired after 30 + years, showed up.  Mr. P.  A wiry, hyper man. Yelled a lot.  Cute as hell, we all had terrible crushes on him.  Jazz musician, he’d won our hearts with his quirky sense of humor and crooked smile.

His greatest talent, however, was being able to bitch us out in a constant stream while pulling, packing, lighting and smoking a cigarette.  Throwing his clipboard to the turf, he’d stomp around, and give us holy hell for being losers…

These are, sadly, all things that teachers can’t do anymore.  A pity.

When Mr. P walked in with his wife, the place erupted in cheers!  Mrs. P, another band alumni, had been one of my pals from those years ago, and it was great to see her, too.  She was a couple of years behind me in school…

By the time i wandered over to say hello, Mrs. P’s eyes bugged out of her head as they moved from my face to my name tag, and back again.  “Daisyfae?  Really?”

They both dug around for words… but i saved them the trouble.

“Go ahead.  Say it.  i look better now than i did then.  Same weight as i was then, i just stopped giving a shit about it, and i own it… and i’m really happy.”

But given how i looked in high school?  It really doesn’t take much to look better….

i’ll just sit here. quietly. in the dark….

There are extensive written rules regarding airline travel.  Certainly in the US, we are given gigabytes of information on the ‘do’s and don’t’s regarding our behavior in and around airplanes.

That shit is easy.

Don’t carry liquids through security.  Ticket and photo ID at check in.  Take your shoes off for no rational reason whatsoever.  Allow yourself to be visually raped at the TSA checkpoint.  Don’t joke about “bombs”, even if you’re just talking about the most recent any Jennifer Aniston film.

It’s the unwritten rules that are constantly violated.  They’re not written down – but these are common sense, polite behaviors.  Things that fall into the “do unto others…” genre.

Oh, let’s take a hypothetical example.  Early morning “O-dark-thirty” flights.  Commuter jet, with perhaps twenty sleep-deprived humans aboard.  If the flight is leaving at 6 am?  NO ONE climbing on board this flight slept past 4 am.

Passengers sleep on these flights.  Flight attendants are careful with the announcements.  With the beverage cart.  With the lights.

Someone apparently forgot to inform Mr. Yappy McDickweed about this before my flight this morning.

He was seated behind me, across the aisle.  An older gent, in business attire.  His cute, young female co-worker in the seat next to him.

This oxygen thief did not stop talking for two solid hours.  Pre-departure, i was willing to cut him some slack.  It was when he jacked up his personal volume to compensate for the engine noise that i realized that he was an endurance mouth-alete…

After we cleared 10,000 feet, i snagged two napkins from the beverage cart.  Leaning into the aisle, i made a production number out of rolling them into tight plugs and then stuffing them in my ears.  A few disdainful glances over my shoulder for good measure.

i  managed to get in about 30 minutes of sleep, interrupted by his snorts as he laughed at his own jokes.  His companion was of no  help. Equally oblivious.

On arrival at the gate, he was still going – full bore.  Standing up as the ‘seat belt’ light went off, i turned around to face him – and caught a half a dozen other passengers glaring at him as well.

Making full  use of my training as a thespian, i pulled the improvised ear plugs from my ears – with a deep sigh and exaggerated eye roll.  My passive aggression fell on a deaf and blind man, however.

He never missed a beat as he regaled his young seat-mate with tales of past corporate glory.

The moral of this story:  Passive-aggressive behavior is ineffective.  i should have hauled off and punched him.

image found here. and if you enjoy passive aggressive refrigerator notes, check out this site.  But the mother lode of passive aggressive notes is right here.

Save a horse…

Had an opportunity to skip town for a few days.  Cap’n Bligh suggested we go ride horsies in the desert.  In the fractional nanosecond it took for me to respond, i wondered if i would end up being more of a spectator….

i spent an hour yesterday afternoon chasing five nervous calves around a paddock.  From the back of a gorgeous Appaloosa named Chip. 

And it was an absolute blast!  Who doesn’t want to be a cowboy?  For 60 minutes, i was living that schoolgirl fantasy.

These places make their money on feeding the dreams of middle-aged folks reclaiming their childhood.  The wranglers make it work… And also don’t want you (or their horses) to get hurt in the process.

More riding ahead. 

If i’ve been scarce in your comment boxes, it’s because i’m off to chase them dogies… Loping my doughy, middle-aged ass across the Sonoran desert.  Pretending that i’m a Cartwright… Singing “Sweet Baby James” to my horse. 

“Regulators!  Mount up!”

Watch out for the salt….

Four weeks ago, my immediate management chain started preparing for the annual goat rope known as “Spring Review”.  Panties were bunched, upper lips steeled, and strategy sessions were held…

i attended.

Initial planning had me preparing, and delivering, a one hour presentation to our Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Technical Officer (CTO) and the entire senior leadership group.

“This is our chance to shine!  To show them how good we are!”

Awww… Isn’t my new division boss cute?  She genuinely believed this…

Three weeks ago, things got more intense.  More strategic planning sessions were held.  Budgets were analyzed.  Programs were chopped or reorganized.  Facilities were documented.

i put together a few responses to targeted taskings.  Then went to the gym.

But wait!  Stop the presses!  We’re getting feedback from the front office — they don’t want technical stuff, they want management stuff!  We need to kick this up to a higher level review.

Cool!  The “Horsie/Duckie” stuff is in my wheel house!  Even better…And my one hour presentation is now only going to be 30 minutes….  Well.  Look at the time?  That’s lunch!

So by last week – in the home stretch – we did a complete 180 degree turn.  New strategy.  New “required” presentation charts.  Those other charts they asked for three weeks ago?  Put ’em in back up… Just in case anyone asks…

Time for my horseback riding lesson.  i’ll get right on that tomorrow.

By the time we got to the “Final Friday Strategy Session” before our big “Monday Review” today?  i was only on the hook for a 20 minute pop.

Damn good thing i hadn’t wasted a single minute of the past few weeks working on my one hour presentation.

i worked an 8 hour charity event on Saturday.  Sunday?  Took four hours out to ride my bike to a minor league baseball game and enjoy some time in the sun.  Poked at the presentation over the weekend.  Submitted it to management at 7pm last night.

And delivered it this morning.  To rave reviews.

So the lesson for all of you parents fretting that your little hippie kids are farting around with those theater classes when you think they should be studying hard sciences, or getting trained in something that can provide a living wage?

Let ’em take that improv class.  It’ll pay off when they’re older.

Oh, and it also genuinely helps to not give a shit about your own career advancement….

Driving Toward Istanbul

It was only 60 miles, but i drove The Girl closer to Istanbul last night.  She was spending the night with The Boy, and then catching a flight home today.

Home.

Yep.  It’s her home now.  She’s been living there since July.  Her bed is there.  Most of her friends are there.

The only incentives i offer?  A large brown dog and a surly orange cat.

Her dad bought the ticket.  Since he’s busy with work and hates travel, it seemed a reasonable solution.  She spent a few days with The Boy in the big university town, hanging out with her best gal pal there.  The Boy drove them north to visit their dad for a few days.

They arrived at my place last Thursday night.  As always, there was an ‘over/under’ bet involved.  This time?  They bet on Mr. Pickles abilities as a guard dog.

The Girl:  How long do you think we’ll be in the house before he wakes up?

The Boy:  Two minutes.

The Girl:  I’ll take “over”.

The Boy actually won this round, as the sleepy old brown dog shot out of my bed like a rocket as soon as the front door opened.  Even the cat went to investigate.  The Boy had been chauffeur for the week, driving her where she needed to go.  He needed to get back to work.  And by then, they’d had more than enough “brother-sister bonding time”.

Four days.  We made the most of it…

Friday night was “My Drunk Kitchen” night.  The Girl and her best gal pal went with me to a big downtown hipster bash, and we stopped for supplies on the way home.  i made “Froot Loop Russians”* while they baked S’more brownies from scratch.  It was a good night.

Saturday morning?  Off to the local market for crepes, cheese, veggies and people-watching.  She got in lots of shopping – access to a car, rather than public transportation, made it far easier for picking up gifts, and essentials.

The Girl:  I’m buying America.  I need to find things to bring back that are inherently American.  Do you think they’d have Busch beer coozies at the gas station?  Belt buckle beer bottle openers?

Studley and i took her out to dinner at a Turkish restaurant that night – in case she was missing the cuisine of home.  i’d been using my pigeon Turkish on the poor servers at this restaurant since my trip in December, and was excited to show them how cool my daughter was, being comfortably conversant in their native language.

We never stop being proud of our children.  Or coming up with new ways to embarrass them…

We stopped at the liquor store on the way back home.  Mostly to get more Froot Loop vodka, as she knew she wouldn’t be able to get that in Turkey.  Still jazzed from the chance to let her show off her language skills, i continued to brag on her to Studley.

daisyfae:  That’s my kid!

Studley:  Yup!  You made her!

daisyfae:  She came out of my vagina.

The Girl:  It was a c-section.  Technically, out of your stomach.

liquor store clerk: Do you want all this in a bag?

daisyfae:  Nah.  We’re just going to drink it in the parking lot.

These kids are remarkably tough to embarrass…

We both sort of dreaded it, but Sunday was the visit to The Park.  She wanted to see Mom, but it was when i told her that the entire Clampett Clan would be descending upon the ol’ Hibachi Grill and Buffet** that we both cringed.

The Girl:  I really want to see Granny.  And Aunt S is ok.  Would be great to see Uncle T, too.  But DQ?  BJ?  Their spawn?

We made it through.  She had a good time talking with Granny.  And Granny loved her gifts… And the time with a functional grandchild.  Who doesn’t ask her for money.

We also listened to BJs tales of training for “Mixed Martial Arts” cage fighting.  Of their newest 4-wheeler toy.  Their four-year old saying “I’m gonna fart on you and give you pink eye”.

Yay.

The Girl managed to get all the liquor her gifts packed up, and we drove eastward last night.  Met up with The Boy at his place around 11:30 when he got home from work.

Seeing as i’d missed Easter for both of them, i was prepared.  There is a history of coming up with ridiculously blasphemous easter basket inclusions.  This year?  i think i outdid myself.

The Boy found this in his kitchen when he came in from a long day at the factory.

i left shortly afterwards.  Drove westward in the rain.  Only cried for the first 20 miles.  i’m getting better…

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* From the “I can’t make this up” files.  Three Olives Loopy Vodka.  If you mix it with milk?  Tastes like the leftover stuff in the bowl after you finish your Froot Loops We were hammered before the brownies came out of the oven…

** Pronounced “boo-FAY”.