Friday, September 28, 2012

Lost Whimsy

I lost my whimsy.

All of it...gone.

I’m not sure where.

I’m thinking I may have left it behind at Starbucks the other day.

I remember putting it down on the chair next to me…so I guess I might have just left it behind when I ran out of there.

Which is a problem….

Because my whimsy loves lo-fat vanilla lattes.


And when my whimsy gets over caffeinated …well, you end up with things like Zombies and Skinny Jeans…and this.

Until you end up scratching your head a lot.

So I thought I would give you a heads up.

You deserve it.

Of course, I’m sure you could tell I lost my whole sense of humor back around mid-august.

I don’t have a clue what happened to that.

Possibly too many strawberry daiquiris.

Or maybe it was the Milky Ways.

Not sure.

I just know that I went to wake it up one morning and it was gone.

Not even a note.

But at least I still had my whimsy, so I thought I could get by on that.

But now that’s gone I’m pretty much screwed.

Oh sure…some of the cleverness is still there, but that only gets me into trouble on its own.

That’s how cleverness is…smug…cocky.

No one likes clever…not without a little whimsy to soften the edges.

Still, I suppose it could’ve been worse.

I could’ve lost my pride again…like the time I left it at Wall-Mart, when I bought that combination foot deodorizer and mildew remover.

Hey, my feet were a problem back then…what did you expect me to do?

So I lost my pride at Wal-Mart.

But I got it back when they had a two for one sale on ear and nose trimmers.

Then there was the time I lost my sense of direction…I mean completely lost it.

So I spent a lot of time driving around strange cities in strange states I had no intention of ever visiting.

It was weird.

Of course this was before I lost my pride so I couldn’t stop and ask for directions either.

Eventually, I downloaded a GPS, named Michelle, onto my phone, which circumvented the problem…or recalculated it as Michelle likes to say.

So what do you think happens then? 

You guessed it…my sense of direction shows up, hat in hand, all weepy and apologetic.

Like I’m just supposed to welcome it back with open arms?

I don’t think so.

Besides, Michelle and I have a little bit of a thing going on…and I don’t want to mess that up.

So I’m still content to do without it…at least for a while.

Who knows…maybe forever.

So what if I have trouble finding the men’s room in restaurants?

I get there eventually…usually in time.

So that’s where I am….I mean I think I am.

Never really sure….

Like I said, I thought you should know.

I’m pretty cetain my whimsy will come back, sooner or later.

I mean whimsy alone doesn’t get very far.

Just ask Todd Mariatti….


See what I’m saying…..



Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Big Chill Weekend

It may be Fall, but we’re actually planning a short trip back to the Jersey shore for a long weekend with some friends.

We were going to go with some enemies, but decided against it because it’s always so hard to make dinner plans with enemies….

Plus they think nothing of using all your clean towels.

So we’re going with friends.

We’ve done this for quite a while now, in one form or another...but not in the last two years, because, you know…that silly restraining order.

We’re an odd group in that most of the men all went to the same High School, and were even in the same class. A few of us, even the same grammar school.

The same with most of the women, but of course they attended a different school, because of the Catholic thing.

Can’t put boys and girls together because…heaven forbid…someone might drop a knee sock.

Anyway, even though we’ve all been in close proximity to one another for decades, some of the current friendships didn't always stretch that far back. They seasoned in their own time, like most things worth keeping, and are all the richer for it today.

Connections were made, and sometimes lost, but all in all, the core of us still remain…and we don’t take each other’s towels…usually.

It’s funny how we all came together, back in the late 70’s. A little weird in a cosmic roll of the dice sort of way, actually.

I had already been dating Z for about 5 years, at the time, while most of my friends, Lotharios all, had been breaking hearts all over the east coast. 

Well, at least that’s how they would probably like to remember it.

Back then, being all of 24 and still limber of limbs, we, the guys, were pretty big into playing softball. We played in organized leagues and even had a more informal, weekly pick-up game at the local college, which mostly entailed drinking beer and trying not to puke while running.

As was our custom, after one such beer game we wandered down the hill to our local tavern, because all that running usually made us even thirstier.  Some of us walked into the bar, relatively inoffensive in sight and smell, but still wearing the sweat and grime of 7 innings. Others went home to shower, including one particular fellow, who was not in the habit of doing so. He was also humming a show tune from "West Side Story” as he drove offeven more peculiarbut we put it off to dehydration.

Okay, I made that part up. It wasn’t “West Side Story”; it was really something from “Sweeney Todd.  So maybe it wasn’t all that odd….

Anyway, on the other side of the bar, in the booth directly across from the rest of usthe great unwashed—sat two women, one consoling the other over a relationship gone awry.

One of the guys in my booth looks up and recognizes the consolee, as he was, at one time, another of her relationships, gone awry.

Not that there was a pattern here or anything. Just a fluky coincidence type thing.

I swear….

Anyway, the short version is: this former boyfriend, soon to be married to another…at least for a weekend or two…slides across the aisle and settles in for a chat next to his currently broken hearted ex, who may or may not have been pleased to see him.

This part of the story pretty much ends there, and while not particularly crucial to what follows, does provide context.

Soon after, some of the more hygienically correct folks stumble in and re-join us. They see this booth of two un-attached women, with one of their own already ensconced, the ice broken, liquor flowing, and immediately join the festivities, which to me, observing this phenomena from across the aisle—mostly so I could write about it 34 years hence—was odd, since the majority of these guys had already been measured for monastic robes.

One thing leads to another—mostly drink orders— the guys fawn over the women, the showered guy ends up marrying the consoler, who introduced her cousin to someone, who introduced another friend to another friend, who brought in another friend…until a week and a half ago, when we all found ourselves sitting around a table at the wedding of two of our own’s son, which was another odd experience, at least for me, since I had trouble locating the table where all the old people usually sit at weddings. At least the weddings I remember from 25 years ago.

Go figure….

And as I sat there boogeying to the music with this group of friends, which, over the years, has evolved more into a family than friends, including the initial consolee and consoler, I thought about that night, 34 years ago, and how most of us would not have been together on this day, in this exact way, had it not been for the pain of one broken heart. Nor would there have been numerous marriages and a good number of kids who now walk around with college diplomas.

But that’s how life goes. Every moment brings another...every action brings a reaction.

Even when you least expect it...especially when you least expect it.

And in this case, 34 years later, we’ll reassemble in a couple of  weeks, back at the beach, for a “Big Chill” weekend…minus the body. 

Well, there was that one time, but that only turned out to be indigestion, and we hadn’t completely buried his head under the sand before he woke up….

And like I said that restraining order’s been lifted.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Fall Descends

It seems fall descended on us over the weekend.

I know because Z changed out the summer pillow for the fall pillow, along with the rest of the seasonal d├ęcor.

We live in a very seasonal environment, so I’m always aware of the time of year.

But all is cool…I mean both literally and in a Maynard G. Krebbs “Far Out, Daddio!” kind of way.
The days are warm enough that I think I can still sneak a few modified beach days in, now and again, through October…maybe.

Modified in that, this time of year, the days are literally shrinking.  Time is at a premium; the sun moves quicker across the sky, shadows are longer…it just instills a more contemplative, quiet mood, fueled by contemplative, quiet thoughts.

Like…Maybe it really is time for beef stew this Sunday.

Should I swap out the Gin & Tonics, for Rum & Coke…or give it a few more weeks?

Maybe martinis are the way to go, now.

Would I need to buy an ascot?

But that could just be the way I think…not you.

Any way you cut it…it’s time to get ready for a long winter’s night, which is just around the corner.

I’d like to say, I hope it stays there, but I can’t since it doesn’t coincide with my new philosophy of embracing all the seasons.

And I’m not talking about the 3 Season sisters, who live up the street, mostly because that would be wrong…even if they are in their 80’s.

No, I mean my new philosophy of taking each day as it comes and whatever comes with it…even if it means those guys who want to clean my chimney and pave my driveway…you know…just because they’re gonna be in the neighborhood anyway.

It’s time to move on and break out the rust colored sweaters and t-necks.

Time to sharpen the rakes, can the corn and chase the squirrels off my lawn…. 

Have you noticed? 

The squirrels are getting more and more nuts every day.

I mean literally getting nuts and burying them just about anywhere they can think of…well, as much as a thing can think with an almond sized brain.

I actually found a nut hidden in the BBQ this morning. How a squirrel got the cover off and the top open I’ll never know.  Maybe the squirrels have been having BBQ’s during the day when no one’s around.

And aside from actually gathering nuts for the winter, they’re actually getting nutty and nuttier as the days grow shorter. 

They zig and zag all across the lawn, up the tree then down. They don’t always quite seem to know exactly where they’re going and why they wanted to get there in the first place. 

Kind of like me about 10 PM, when I go into the kitchen and stand there wondering why it is I had come in there in the first place. But I usually solve that by opening the refrigerator door and just staring into it until it comes to me.

If it doesn’t come to me, I just fix myself a bowl of ice cream, because 90% of the time that’s what I came in for. Then as I sit down and start eating the ice cream I suddenly remember that I had really meant to go to the bathroom and not the kitchen at all.

But at least I got ice cream.

So I don’t begrudge the squirrels their insanity.

But I do begrudge them their aggressive behavior, especially when they chase me out of the yard.  They must think I’m peeking and will come back later and take one of their silly little nuts.

Like I need one of their dumb squirrel nuts.

I’d rather take their iPhones.

Don’t ask me what that means…I’m as nutty as the squirrels these days.

I guess it all comes with the territory.

Just another sign….

Fall descends….

Friday, September 21, 2012

View from the Top

Sometimes it’s nice to get a view from the top.

You get a whole different perspective from up there.

All of our little day to day nuisances and annoyances seem to shrink away along with the sight and sound of the ocean waves and distant towns as we stand on our lofty perch and breathe in the ever freshening air…along with the cigar smoke provided by a guy named Harry.

Actually, there was no cigar smoke...just a bit of hyperbole on my part for literary enhancement purposes.

This was our view from the top of the Fire Island lighthouse, just a week ago…and Harry was the poor guy assigned to stand up there all day, regardless of weather, and point out the sights to those hearty enough to climb the 192 narrow, winding steps to the top.

We had just returned from yet another state park, out on Long Island, earlier that morning, where Z was able to get her fill of the prize winning Dahlias that they feature there.

Since the Fire Island National Seashore was close by, we checked it out on the way back, took a swim, enjoyed our lunch and took a walk over to the old lighthouse.

On the way, we stopped in at the newly constructed building that houses the original 19th century lens from the original 19th century light, and took in some 19th century historical info, plus the invitation to climb and see the current 19th century light.

Of course Z is not one to let a challenge like climbing a lighthouse pass us by, so off we went, onward and upward, which for me is kind of dicey since I have one of those irrational fear of heights things.

I say irrational fear of heights because that’s how most people usually refer to it…most people without an irrational fear of heights, that is.

What’s so irrational about falling off of a light house?

I mean is that teeny tiny little railing up there really gonna keep a grown person from falling over the edge should he or she happen to trip over a juju bee or something.


It was a tight little squeeze of a stairway to the top, but since it was mostly enclosed, except for these little informational window perches along the way, I was okay.

That is until Z complimented me on how well I was doing, and pointed out just high above sea level we actually were…according to one of the little informational signs in one of the little informational window perches.

That and the fact that she told me not to look down through the grated stairs…which of course…you know….you then have to look down.

But ever the trooper, upward ho I go, which was greeted with a brisk round of applause by the dozen or so folks that had backed up behind me.

Everyone knows, by design, a lighthouse starts out wide at the bottom and ends up about the size of a number 2 pencil at the top. So the last couple of levels abandon the sturdy iron steps in favor of a couple of much smaller conveyances in the form of rickety wooden steps, which are really not much more than a couple of old ladders with a  rope strung down the side; I guess so you can lash yourself to the rungs in the event of an unexpected hurricane.

But I have to say, it was worth the climb to see the late afternoon sun glistening off the lightly rolling sea, the beach spreading along the coastline and the distant skyline of Manhattan, including the new Freedom Tower, rising into the future.

Breathtaking actually, which really wasn’t necessary since I had left most of my wind behind at step 125.

Z and Harry chatted for a while about the various sights, sounds and adventures of a lighthouse keeper, while I, for the most part, hugged the bricks, but did, at one point, manage to step to the rail and peek over the side at the sea gulls flying below.

I admit it was a hard thing to do, and if I had coughed I might have lost a couple of internal organs, but I was glad I did it and even managed to appear cool, calm and collected, despite the betrayal of white knuckles clutching the rail.

Once we had our fill of scenic splendor, and Harry, we climbed back down, where I appreciated my feat even more, not to mention my actual feet back on the ground by finally realizing just how high we had actually climbed. 

Looking up, there was Harry still pointing out the sights; just a speck now, as were we to those above.

All very cool.

It really is about perspective…. fear....

Everything changes…everything stays the same…it just depends on the vantage point from which you stand.

Whether coming or going…or even not going….


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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

On it Goes…Especially if You Don’t

One of the nicest things about post Labor Day beachin is that the beaches are pretty empty.

None of that joyful kid squealing as they frolic in the ocean waves, dig in the sand and do whatever it is that kids do at the beach stuff.

I mean is the beach really the place for joyful kid squealing?

Anyway, joyful squeals aside, the weather here, last week, was top 10 for anytime of the year.

Cool nights and warm days with negligible humidity.

The ocean was near gulf like in color and in temperature.

So that’s how we spent the midweek of not going.

Just reading and eating, with a mix of snoozing on the side,

Even Z gave in and conked out for a while; lists of lists of things undone in hand.

Couldn’t ask for anything better.

But of course there’s always a price to pay for such idleness, so the next day was catch up day; catching up on all the little nagging chores and errands that had been pushed aside the last few days.

Kind of the curse of the not going vacation.

That itchy feeling that the mundane details of everyday life need to be heeded…not going or not.

When you go, you can’t, so you don’t…and you don’t even think about it.

But when you don’t go…well, you know…you can, so you do…and some people can’t help but think about it.

Some people….

So we stayed home the next day and did things like mow the lawn, hit the dry cleaners, de-claw the neighbor’s cat, move the laundry along, etc. etc.

Oh…and ironically enough—you know, because of the not going—we went and applied for our passports because come January, we actually are going…someplace…somewhere…which requires a passport.

I know…it’s just September…really not that big of a rush…not that big of a deal.

But Z likes to stay ahead of theses deadline type things, lest we get caught short, start panicking to get it done at the last minute and end up procuring a passport from a guy named Stinky, behind the dumpster at Costco.

And to be honest, I appreciate that, since I would probably show up at the airport in January asking where the photo booth is.

So that was a big item on the agenda.

Especially since passports are good for 10 years and you don’t want to look like some sort of burned out rock n roller from the 80’s, which is kind of what I looked like on my last passport from 95.

Another story for another retort.

Anyway, this time was going to be different. This time we were going to do it right…so after 3 hours with the hair and makeup lady we were ready to go.

Or I was ready to go…Z, who insisted on doing her own hair and makeup, was rotating the tires…again…on the new car.

I elected to go the easy route for passport application, which meant a simple trip to the post office to submit our pre-filled applications, along with birth certificates, baptismal certificates, Z’s 8th grade certificate of perfect attendance, honor society pins, Freshman history paper on the founding fathers and their mothers…plus anything else I could think of that would attest to our good citizenship.

We handed this all over to Buddy, a no nonsense postal employee who had just sent the woman ahead of us home in tears, telling her she would be lucky if her package made it to its destination by the next decade judging by the way it was addressed. 

Buddy, who was visibly gnashing his teeth at the prospect of passport duty over stamp duty, looked through all of our documents and shook his head at the fact that I received a B+ on the founding fathers paper, which he thought deserved no better than a C-.

I told him it was graded on a curve and he grunted some more.

Eventually, he sorted through the pile of certificates and awards and took only Z’s birth certificate and my old expired passport…though he did congratulate Z on her perfect attendance record.

Then, it was the moment we had waited for as Buddy directed us over to the official post office professional passport photography area…which was a white wall by the window.

However, the light was perfect, but not so much the official post office professional passport photographer…which happened to be Buddy…who apparently also doubled as the official post office professional most wanted list photographer.

So in the end, despite our best efforts, our photos ended up looking like this….

Not bad, considering Buddy was also texting at the time.

But at least the applications are in and Z can relax…plus we got to buy our 2015 Christmas stamps as well, which wasn’t even on the list…yet.

So on and on it goes…especially when you don’t go.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Back from Not Going

We’re officially back now, from not going.

And I have to say, quite a bit has changed since we left to stay home on our vacation.

Well, I don’t have to say it, I guess, but I need to say something, or else this would be a lot like this past Friday, where I said nothing, which is hard to read.

The weather, for one thing, has changed; it’s gotten a quite a bit cooler, bordering on the 40’s this morning with a cold dew blanketing everything.

So I’m not in my usual summer spot, out back, on the porch, under my umbrella ella, listening to my neighbors brush their teeth.

Some sort of weird acoustical phenomena, that sometimes makes it sound as if they’re broadcasting live from the next room.

We never noticed it in the previous 11 years we’ve lived here, mostly, I guess, because the preceding neighbors always had their windows shut.  

Not sure why; maybe they didn’t like to listen to me brushing my teeth.

Maybe they thought that was weird.

I don’t know…to each his own.

So I like to talk to my teeth, when I brush them…is that wrong of me?

And address each one by name…what about it?

So I’m inside, in the sunroom, with the big windows closed up tight, in my cool weather position…not listening to anyone brush their teeth.

I’m also wearing pants, which pleases the rest of the folks on the block; but not me.

I know when I'm wearing pants, the summer is on notice.

4 days and counting.

And that’s official.

But what the heck….there’s a lot to be said for fall.

Especially if you like to wear variations of orange.
And rake leaves.

Anyway, as I said, we’re back…from not going.

And like any vacation, when it’s over, and you’re back…even from not going…there’s a certain amount of mixed feelings involved as you look back and re-live all of your past week’s adventures, from the comfort of your own little corner of the world—which, officially, you never left for more than 8 or 9 hours at a time.

As I mentioned in my last missive, we kept pretty busy—from hiking some of the rugged trails of upper Dutchess County to some lazy days just sitting on the post-labor day beach, watching the waves roll in and out with our idle thoughts.

Well, my idle thoughts, which are idle on most days, regardless of the activity involved, but not Z’s, who’s thought are always compiling some sort of list of upcoming activities that are sorely in need of doing.

Like dusting that one pesky little coil in the back underside of the refrigerator that has vexed her for months because it’s impossible to reach with any kind of modern day cleaning utensil.

But someday…someday….

True to my previous word (what, you think I would fib) we spent a day at the Botanical Garden enjoying the exhibit on Mr. Monet’s gardens.

It was pretty cool…even had a reproduction of the famous bridge that he painted in various shades and shadows over the years.

Of course, everyone had to walk over it and pose for pictures, trying to recreate that iconic view…well everyone except me of course who instead wanted to capture the view of the bridge from the lilly ponds perspective.

Unfortunately, as you can imagine, that particular perspective was difficult to achieve, not to mention frowned upon, because some other exhibit goers (not mentioning any names…or letters at the end of the alphabet), didn’t appreciate being dripped on for the remainder of the tour.

Plus the security guards seemed to have a problem with it.

Anyway, from what I did see, and what Z told me about when she finally caught up to me in the holding cell, it was really quite spectacular.

You could see the same imaginative eye at work in the assembly of color and light that is found in this artist’s multitude of impressionistic paintings.

Who would have thought this man who looked like he lived under a bridge, rather than owned one, contained the capacity to capture and express the natural beauty that surrounds all of us, every day, in some for or another, if we only open our eyes.

Well, I guess Z would, and she never fails to point it out to me, whether were in some hollow deep in the woods or Mr. Monet’s garden.

And when it comes to creativity, it’s not the packaging that counts, but what’s inside busting to get out.

At least that’s what I tell all my neighbors, especially the ones that have a problem with the not wearing pants thing….

There’s a lot more to tell about our not going adventures but I’m already late, and I better get actually going…somewhere…not sure where.

Which is never disappointing….