Wifexit

This time is different. It’s always been different, but in minor ways. Now it’s just different.

Every June, at least for the past few years, my wife finishes grading her final exams and hops on a plane for Texas (sometimes to other places, but she usually ends up in Texas eventually). This is where our grandson, daughter and son-in-law are, of course, but also her mother, brother, and many other relatives who didn’t stray far.

And this Tuesday is her mom’s 90th birthday; they’re holding a big party today. But we’re here, not there, and here is what I’m talking about.

I’ve said this many times, but again: I was in the delivery room. I saw my son born, held him a few seconds later, and tried very hard over the next 26-1/2 years to hang on. I didn’t see that coming.

Still, this is just what you do. This is parenthood, or Parenthood. Your kids are who they are, and sometimes they need more than you imagine way back when.

My daughter and her husband know all about this. They had 17 months of baby bliss, a pretty bad couple of weeks, and then adjustment. Their boy needs extra attention, so they develop a knack for that.

It’s just that my knack has dimmed with time and age, and the inevitable changes that happen when a boy grows up. He’s been taller than I am for years now, eliminating the nudge as a way to manipulate him, and his awareness of the world, intellectual capacity, and advice are all increasing rapidly, as expected. He was supposed to catch up. He’s almost there.

So I have less of a son and more of a roommate, although neither of us feels compelled to put a tie or bandana on the doorknob to signal privacy. We do minor things to annoy each other, but mostly we manage just fine, a couple of guys who know each other, maybe, too well.

And on top of everything else – that’s a pretty big else – he’s progressively developed leg pain, spasms and just pain, radiating from his back. He’s a sedentary, overweight young man who’s very tall, but he has signs of arthritis and some disk issues. We’re waiting on approval for an MRI, and physical therapy is on the table, but there have been some days of driving from clinic to clinic. This will be an interesting summer.

Otherwise, we manage. Our tastes in pretty much everything are different, including music, movies and food, so we mostly just dance around each other, keeping track but otherwise staying out of the way. We take walks together, getting out of the house in this transitional weather (cloudy and some rain, moving into serious summer by tomorrow), wandering the aisles of Best Buy, window shopping for a video card that runs nearly $800, a Holy Grail for this gamer, unobtainable until circumstances change.

Circumstances, in fact, might change, but that’s down the road. I’m working on a project with a partner that seems ripe with possibilities, but we’ll wait to see. In the meantime, I have about 7 weeks to come up with around $4000 to cover expenses, and then that repeats for a couple of months. I was desperate enough to send out nearly 40 resumes, just looking for either part-time or fulltime work, even dumb, clerical or phone-answering work, anything to make a few temporary bucks. It appears that the world is not interested in 58-year-old men.

I still intend to make them interested. Kind of uphill at the moment.

***

I’d comment on Brexit, just for the sake of posterity, but I can’t find a comment. I have no idea what will happen, but I suspect similarities to our country and much of (at least) the Western world. Politicians can now lie with impunity, a remarkable thing considering we can fact-check in real time. Donald Trump, who of course is a unique individual in American history and so all bets can sort of be considered off, lies all the time. Doesn’t seem to hurt him.

There’s more of this directed toward Hillary Clinton, in fact, who is guarded and paranoid and answers questions about these situations in a very Clintonian fashion, which is to say she misspoke or was misunderstood. Some of these make sense, but it won’t stop the accusers.

And when Trump says that the United States is the highest taxed country in the world (it’s not; it sits in the middle of developed countries), it’s not true but he knows people want to believe it. As people in the UK apparently wanted to believe that leaving the EU would recreate an Anglo-Saxon Great Britain once again, or wanted to believe that they were sending hard-earned money to Poland, and half a dozen other misinformed opinions.

Is there blame here? News media, maybe, but then a lot of us consider the main outlets as worthless in terms of news. Particularly their bending-over-backwards attempt to say “both sides do it,” ignoring…well, just about everything. Both sides do something, and something we probably don’t approve of, but it’s not the same thing.

Anyway. I’m not all that interested; mildly interested. As I’m mildly interested in this current U.S. race. Assuming Trump is in for the long haul (I honestly don’t understand how the man’s ego is going to let him follow this road to ignominy or at least humiliation, but I see no signs of him dropping out), anything can happen, I guess, but he’s running against an unpopular candidate and he’s going to get creamed. He’s 70 years old, and assuming he sticks around another 20 years following Nov. 8, 2016, I can’t imagine that we’ll pay much attention anymore.

If you’re interested in a scientific approach, check out the Princeton Election Consortium, run by neuroscientist Sam Wang. He’s the science-minded alternative to Nate Silver, with no skin in the game as far as creating a talking head personality. He runs under the radar, and he’s more accurate than Silver, although as the election nears the difference is slight.

At this point, though, his aggregate sampling of state polls currently shows Clinton winning 328 electoral votes to Trump’s 210, with anywhere from 70 to 85% certainty. At this point in time. I plan to watch and wait. I’m really not that interested, as I say. Aside from surprises in Ohio or Pennsylvania, which are possible but seem daunting, I think this dinner is done.

***

A friend yesterday mentioned that I still looked pretty skinny, but I’ve managed to get solidly into the upper 160s, with a few heavy meals later in the evening kicking me into the lower 170s for a day or two. I take my vitamin D supplements and try to eat better, and if things get light I can always find a go-to meal to fill the coffers. Exercise is still erratic but getting better. Come September I may be able to ditch the antidepressant, which seems to have helped but is just one more pill. I like to avoid pills.

***

Finally, the numbers are fun, if probably meaningless. I turn 58 in a few weeks. I was also born in 1958, which means this will be…any ideas? Is your birthday that corresponds to the last two digits of the year of your birth a big deal? If so, it’s over quickly if you’re born at the early part of the century, and only a mathematical goal to await if your birthday falls toward the end of that century.

Me, born in the middle of the 20th century, I get my special year at what seems to be a special time. I’m working on a project that may change my life drastically. The Summer Olympics show up, as does the (wait for it) 58th presidential election.

I may actually have magical powers this year. Hard to say. You might want to brush by me to see if it rubs off.

In the meantime, I’m looking for an appropriate name for this phenomenon. Chronological convergence is all I can come up with at the moment. I welcome suggestions.

And thoughts and prayers and whatever else you do to privately show support for my son, who faces an ordeal and possibly back surgery. He’s way too young, but then he’s got 64 years until he reaches his own convergence. By then, we may understand how important this is.

I will be dead, of course, but in the meantime I’m keeping my eyes open for signs. A possible superpower is not out of the question.

Or just my wife back. I assume she’s coming back.

I assume the same thing for the United Kingdom, by the way. Just not sure how that plays out. Again. It might be an interesting year.

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Still The One: Tweet That.

(From a 2011 column, which popped up today in my On This Day feed. Feels appropriate somehow to repost.)

***

I take my unimportance in the world very seriously, since it frees up my day considerably when I acknowledge that the universe will exist without me, no sweat.

I also understand that the universe does not need pictures of me in a towel or my boxer shorts.  I’d be glad to pass this knowledge on to random members of Congress.  There is comfort in insignificance if you look at it the right way.

And although I’m weary of Rep. Weiner and all the rest, Sarah and Arnold and the summer stories like this that always crop up, I will say that there is a secret closely held by men of a certain age, men whose bodies are not suitable for framing.  Men who are sometimes short, or balding, or homely, or chubby, and often all of the above, and still have managed to sustain long relationships with lovely, alluring women without once sending them a suggestive tweet.  Men who have loved and lived with women they didn’t deserve, women who somehow tolerate them and aren’t tempted to place a pillow over their sleeping faces while they snore and forget to take it off.

But it’s a secret.

I will tell you this, though.  I had a very nice weekend, and it comes with a story.

I’d volunteered to help out some teenagers trying to raise money for a trip, which happened in the usual way.  That is, I found out after the fact that I’d offered to help. This is because other people know what’s best for me, and I’m married to them.

It was a good cause, a mission trip designed to be fun but also to teach young people the benefits that come from helping others, feeding hungry people among them. My daughter participated in a few trips like these when she was a teenager and came back with an appreciation for the lives of others and some skill with a hammer, always useful, so I was glad to pitch in.

The fundraiser involved a variety show, lots of people volunteering what talent they’d been storing in a closet somewhere.  If you’ve never been involved in this sort of project, if you’ve never seen perfectly ordinary-appearing people dust off their tap shoes or drag the saxophone out of the attic, you’ve missed a moment. You think you will laugh and poke fun, and you’ll realize later that the entire evening was infused with grace.  There is such hope for us, sometimes.

This was in my comfort zone. In college, needing a summer job, I got hired at a small dinner theater. I suspect they mostly wanted me to write skits for the show, although part of my job description involved singing and dancing. It was the first time I truly understood the phrase “comedy of errors,” but I had a great summer.

And I met a young woman, and so on. You either know or can guess the story. The next year we did it again. We even sang a duet, the sentimental and jokey “I Remember It Well” from the movie “Gigi,” two older people looking back on their long romance, remembering what they’ve forgotten.  We sang it every night, six nights a week.

Including the night we got married, by the way.  That was special.

So she and I were old hands at this variety show business.  I was given the job of emcee, no dancing required, and my wife accompanied some acts on the piano. She also sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” bringing down the house.  Of course.

Here’s the thing about my summers, long ago, spent on a stage in a college town: They were also infused with grace. I fell in love, I got married, I sang with my wife on the night we were wed. And when we were done, when we finished that last summer, packed our bags and headed for the Pacific Northwest, I knew my singing days were over. You can only fool all of the audience some of the time, and my time was up.

So 28 years later, when the suggestion came up that my wife and I sing together, I had some doubts. But we flipped through songbooks anyway, while we listened to a CD of accompaniment, and then we heard it.  A familiar intro, a few bars, a memory.

“We met at 9,” I croaked.

“We met at 8,” she answered.

“I was on time.”

“No, you were late.”

And we sang “I Remember It Well” until our faces got scrunchy and our voices caught. We settled on something from “The Fantastiks” instead. It went OK.

So here’s the secret, Rep. Weiner: Save your flirting for the one who married you, for she will be the one who tells you you’re not getting old. The one who remembers when you forget. The one who still loves you, who still dances with you, who still sings with you, after all these years.

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No Haven For The Hot

It’s slightly after 10am and 73 degrees outside, which is where I’m not. We’re supposed to have a high of 76 but I do believe that will be upgraded fairly soon.

It was 93 in Seattle yesterday, by the way. A record.

It’s always a little dicey when trying to explain warm weather in the Pacific Northwest. It’s almost always nice, seldom humid but not dry, just warm. I don’t blame people in other parts snorting at our complaints.

But it’s early June, and 93 is a bit warm for early June, or any day for that matter. We were expecting 60s. We tend to expect that.

And few have air conditioning, because there are few times we need it. Open the windows, turn on the ceiling fan, let the breezes begin. That’s what we do.

But 93 degrees is a new ball game. You buy new fans. You go to the mall. Or else you just go outside, where, again, it’s not humid or dry, just warm. Warm feels nice.

Inside, it’s not so nice. It’s actually kind of miserable, mostly because of its rarity. We survive. We drink a lot of water.

***

I wrote a column this morning about my 40th high school reunion. It wasn’t really the subject; that would be the future, or the future that awaited us. I did note, though, that the reunion committee, for what I’m sure are good reasons, but not that sure, scheduled this event to take place in August. In Phoenix.

Of course, in Arizona in the summer people just quickly move from air-conditioned places to air-conditioned cars, but when it’s 115 you still know. That’s August. I think I’ll pass.

***

My wife is currently in Connecticut, taking a seminar at Yale School of Divinity. Yesterday she noted the proximity of Grove Street Cemetery, where she’d heard famous people were buried. She’s going to check it out.

I told her to take a selfie in front of the grave of Walter Camp, the father of modern American football. Bart Giamatti, former commissioner of MLB and father to actor Paul, also lies in rest there.

Along with actor Raymond Massey, and a memorial to Glenn Miller (his body was never recovered after an airplane crash).

Eli Whitney is there somewhere, as is Noah Webster.

And Roger Sherman.

Sherman is an authentic Founder, the only man to sign all four founding documents (the Articles of Association, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution). He was also closely connected to Yale, and served as the mayor of New Haven, a position he held when he died.

I say get a selfie with him, too.

And he reminds me that the summer of 1776 was a particularly brutal one in Philadelphia, with high temperatures and stifling hot indoors. So again I apologize. 93 degrees isn’t that big of a deal. We don’t have to start a country or anything.

Roger Sherman
Roger Sherman
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That 70s Show

There are a dozen or so photographs of my father when he was in high school in the 50s, blue jeans with rolled-up cuffs, greasy and slicked back hair, cigarette between his teeth and a pack rolled up in his left white T-shirt sleeve, black leather jacket casually slung over his shoulder, smile across his lips that seemed friendly but simmering, somehow.

These pictures don’t actually exist, as far as I know, and also as far as I know they never did or would have. I can still see them.

I’m just superimposing a time, place, and culture over my father, reinforced by stereotype. He certainly always had that cigarette, and the shirt and jeans. He just wasn’t Fonzie, as far as I know.

***

I graduated from high school 40 years ago, on June 3, 1976. It wasn’t particularly memorable, although I’d mention that I got to graduate first (or maybe second, behind the valedictorian; I was student body president and got to lead everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance). There are other memories. It was fine.

This is the only picture I could find of that night, though. Mom has more, I’m sure, but now I wish I’d kept my clothes. If you’re too young to remember the 70s, this might be the polyester you’re looking for.

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The Miranda Mile

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I don’t think about luck. Don’t know, don’t care. Nothing looks like luck to me anymore. It just feels weird.

I’ve had several weird moments recently. The one I’m going to tell you about was the weirdest.

I picked up my wife on Tuesday at Seattle Pacific University, where she’s wrapping up the spring quarter, to drive across Lake Washington to an Italian restaurant in Renton, where we had the annual choir party (choir stops in the summer; small church).

It’s been called the Mercer Mess for as long as I remember, before and after a long, several-year project that completely changed that particular commute. It’s still a mess from the mid-afternoon until early evening, and we had to take it.

So we went slow. My wife drove, as she likes to do, particularly when she knows the way and I just rely on my phone. She was waiting on the sidewalk when I arrived, and I switched over to the passenger seat and she took the wheel. This is sort of important.

We’d just reached Mercer, in fact, at about the 10-minute mark, which means we essentially crawled the mile or so to reach that spot. My wife wanted to play some music from her phone, and while we waited at a red light, in the left turn lane, she had me search her purse for it. Then she searched. Then I called her phone. It was a long light.

I checked the Find My Friends app, which I often do when I’m trying to locate my wife, and it showed her phone was in the car. We just couldn’t hear it or, again, find it.

I’m tempted to talk about prepositions, since I love to talk about prepositions. But maybe George Carlin will do. Carlin always loved words and wordplay, but he went through a period when his act mostly consisted of riffs on the subject. One of his jokes along this line was about how he didn’t want to get on a plane, he wanted to get in it. Maybe you can see where I’m going.

My wife rolled down her window after getting a strange sensation from above her head and there it was, right where she placed it, on the edge of the roof on the driver’s side of the car. Her phone had a little joyride and no harm done.

I have no idea.

***

What she wanted to play, and did after the Mercer Miracle, was the soundtrack from Hamilton. She’s been playing it at home almost nonstop, and as I passed by her studio I heard rap and wondered. I wasn’t onboard.

I knew what a powerhouse talent Lin-Manuel Miranda was. I read the book it was based on. I was a big Alexander Hamilton guy. I was writing about him a decade ago. I looked.

I just hadn’t had the time, or the inclination, but now I’m a Hamilton guy. I think the universe wanted me to be.

***

You can’t study Alexander Hamilton, even casually, without thinking about factions. These founder guys were very concerned about factions. They got them anyway.

We now think of them as political parties, and in the past 30 years or so it’s become more binary as the two parties devolve into monolithism, which may not be an actual word. Hamilton and Jefferson started it, anyway, although it’s hard to draw parallels from 225 years ago. There was some bad blood at the beginning, at any rate, so there always has been.

For posterity, meaning future searches I intend to do of this very blog, here at the beginning of June 2016 there are still three viable candidates to be the 45th President of the United States. Only one of them appears to want the job.

And I assume she’ll get it. I’m not that excited. Maybe in the fall.

What’s interesting to me is Trump, of course, and how this plays out. I have no inside information, just journalism, but it appears to me that Trump has done what he threatened to do in 2012; run as a protest candidate, draw a lot of media attention, service his brand and increase his wealth. Which he says is 10 billion dollars, but which looks like a lot less. You don’t launch scam universities or sell steaks with your name on it, as Mark Cuban said the other day, if you have a bunch of billions.

I’m guessing that the Clinton camp wants this increased scrutiny to play out slowly, and for a really good reason: This is a bizarre scenario, and has been since September, when Trump started to look less like a joke and more like a candidate, albeit one who didn’t really want to be president, as I say, and obviously has very little idea about what the job entails.

I mean, the guy could just melt under the ego assault and be so damaged by this September that he’s no longer a candidate. Weirder things have really not happened.

Maybe the phone on the car roof was weirder, but again: I suspect the universe wanted me to appreciate Hamilton, and I do. Everything else is just history in waiting. This should be interesting.

The choir ladies and me.
The choir ladies and me.
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