I love science, I have come to embrace that light travels faster than sound. That is why some people appear bright until they speak
Month: May 2018
I don’t know why I bother, I truly don’t.
I was on Facebook yesterday and Boston.com, along with every news and pseudo-news outlet ran a piece on the firing of Roseanne and the cancellation of her show. It certainly was the topic of the day.
Against my better judgment, I posted a comment about the firing. I strongly feel that the way bad behavior is handled is extremely uneven in this country and I felt compelled to voice that sentiment. So, without weighing in on the content of the remark or “tweet” in question I remarked that it is hypocritical to cancel the show but not to cancel or censure certain shows like The View, Late Night with Jimmy Kimmel and Samantha Bee, who routinely say horrible things about Conservatives and our President in particular. My comment was very to the point and politely stated, my point is that it is handled differently depending on what side is being attacked.
You, as my reader may disagree with me but I’m pretty comfortable with my statement.
I was immediately attacked as a racist, a Nazi, a “Trumpite” and a “Snowflake”(If you can imagine that). It became immediately clear that of all of the vitriolic responses were as if they never actually read my comment. I never endorsed her comment, it was despicable. I never said that it’s ok to liken African Americans to Apes. I simply stated that it’s a different ball game when someone attacks a conservative.
I am proud of myself for not lowering myself to the level of the commenters. I didn’t devolve into name-calling or the exchange of insults. I implored my commenters to read my comment again and finally turned off notifications.
I’m disgusted with the whole thing and I’m even more upset with myself for not refraining. See, I forgot that we no longer live in a country where reasonable discourse and civil conversation are allowed, even encouraged. We now live in an age of butt-hurt, overly sensitive and overly opinionated people who never learned to open their ears and eyes before growing “keyboard balls” and calling anyone who doesn’t agree with them names.
I am so glad to be a part of the blogging community. The people I encounter here are rational, tolerant and capable of disagreeing without long-term consequences. You all are truly special.
As for Facebook? I think I may have made my last comment ever on that platform
Like it was yesterday
It’s been 3 years already. I can’t believe how recent if feels.
3 years ago this morning my phone vibrated for what seemed like the one-hundredth time that morning. I was stuck in another endless meeting and I knew that checking my phone was taboo. In order to see if it was an important message or an FB notification required me to dig my phone out, it was a gamble because my megalomaniac boss had a “thing” about cell phones during meetings. I gambled, unlike most in my office, my job required of me a lot of access by our customers so it wasn’t uncommon for me to take a call. It was a company phone after all. I put the phone in front of me while feigning interest in the monotony going on around me and glanced at the toolbar. It was an FB message from my mountain biking buddy Barbara.
Did you hear about Rick?
He died last night
***shock sets in***
I’ll call you as soon as I can
That indelible moment when you realize you just lost a good friend.
Rick, Barbara, and I mountain biked together frequently. Barbara and I were part of a larger group but we paired up a lot because we were the same skill level, had similar schedules and were close friends. Rick was a Fire Chief by day who was a friend of a friend of Barbara’s who had recently joined us on some rides. Rick and I became fast friends and it wasn’t long before he and I would squeeze in an extra ride on nights when others weren’t available. The night before was one of those rides and I had the bloody shin and bruised ego to show for it.
Rick had gladly assumed the role of making me a better rider. He wasn’t much to look at but he was very athletic for his age and body type and surprisingly coordinated. He had been making me try increasingly difficult terrain and I was doing well. That night we went somewhere new, a State Forest notorious for its technical (difficult) terrain. 30 minutes and 2 miles in, I followed him across a makeshift bridge of 2X4’s over a muddy ravine. I panicked, helplessly watched as my front tire wobbled and I went in, face first.
It was horrible. There was only black, putrid mud. I went in elbows deep, my torso from my chest down was drenched. I stood up, in disbelief, starting scraping the shit off of me and there is Rick, laughing his ass off.
“I’m sorry to laugh, I should ask if you’re ok first.” He wasn’t sorry, he was having a blast. I must have been a sight!
I was a little bloody, but my ego was bruised worse than my leg. And my bike was broken, the front brakes were damaged. The wheel wouldn’t move. I was looking at a 2-mile hike carrying a bike. Then Rick somehow fixed it enough that I could ride it out. He just happened to have the tools.
In the parking lot, he looked at me and we both started laughing. I was a mess, covered in mosquito bites (the little bastards loved the smell of that mud) and I was stained black.
“Want a picture for memories sake?” Rick asked.
Defeated, I agreed.
I’m so thankful for this picture now, after all, how would I know that I would never see him again?
He died. At home. Of a heart attack about 4 hours after that picture was taken.
I stepped outside and called Barbara. She was an emotional wreck. She had found his body. She had gone to his house after he didn’t answer her calls. It would be then that I learned that she and Rick had been dating. She surmised that I may have been the last person to see him alive.
Rick was estranged from his wife, I knew that. He never mentioned her name, but told me that she was a “cheater and a liar” during our many conversations while pounding through the woods. She had betrayed him so he left her. I never interrupted as he talked of her, but if I did I could have told him a similar story. Mine was over 20 years ago but so similar.
Barbara asked if I would go to his wake with her. I gladly agreed.
Have you ever been to a Firefighter’s wake? Or a Chief’s for that matter? There were thousands of people, police details, Firefighters in full dress, friends, family and respectful citizens patiently waiting in a line that would wind through the old Victorian Funeral Home for 2 hours. Barbara and I and a few other Mountain Biking friends waited patiently together. Finally, as we reached the point where we could see into the viewing room, I saw a pair of legs that looked hauntingly familiar. The first thought that came to mind I immediately tried to chase out of my head.
No! The widow, AKA the cheater and liar is Deb?!?! I waited impatiently now, to get a better view. As I got closer I realized it was true. The widow was my first serious girlfriend out of High School. Not the one that got away, I let this one get away. She lied to me and cheated on me too. I, 20 years before Rick met her, parted ways with her for the same reasons.
She was the story I wanted to tell Rick about. What are the odds?
I got to the receiving line, Deb and I made very awkward small talk and I got the hell out of there. Outside, Barbara asked me why I looked so messed up. I told her. Her answer…
“Only you, dude. Only you could go to a funeral and have this happen.”
Barb and I would ride together for another year before I got sick again. We found a tree on our favorite trail and carved his initials in it. Every ride we would stop, take our helmets off and reflect, say a prayer by the side of the pond and then move on.
Rick was a very nice man. He walked the earth with zero pretense and true love for his fellow man. Our friendship was only beginning but I know we would have grown to be great friends had he lived. The world was a better place with him in it, that I know for sure.
As it turns out we shared a lot more than he would ever realize. I almost wish I could tell him about our common connection. I’m pretty sure that he would laugh his ass off. In fact, I know he would.
I bro-hugged Rick, mud and all, that night. I had every reason to believe that I would see him again but it felt right to let him know how I felt about him. That is the only real consolation I have. If you care about someone, tell them. You might not have another chance.
***segments of this post are borrowed from a previous post (of mine). Noone read it then so I added to and revised it on this 3rd anniversary of my dear friend’s passing***
38,325 days…a life truly lived. Cont’d
If you missed the first 2 installments of my tribute to my amazing Grandmother you can catch up here and here,
If having a normal childhood and maintaining friendships was possible to this point was challenging for my mother, it would prove to be a walk in the park after Mom’s recovery. This only suffered in comparison to when Mom started dating. When a young man “came-a-courtin” as my Grandfather so eloquently phrased it, he was subjected to a grilling that made the Spanish Inquisition look like a job interview. Marion wanted to know the entire family tree and required notarized copies of financials, in triplicate, before anyone would date her daughter. My grandfather thankfully balanced it out and usually managed to reassure the hapless young men that their testicles were safe…at least for the moment. Needless to say, Mom didn’t go on many dates, at least ones Marion knew about. It was just too much work for her and the poor guy. Of course, no man ever worried about his future reproductive viability than my Dad.
Mom was raised “middle middle-class” despite Marion’s attempts to present otherwise. Marion believed that if you carried yourself according to your aspirations then it would happen. Due to a lack of savings, Grandpa’s penchant for a new car every few years and a couple of failed business ventures they never graduated from that small but very nice, and homey, house North of Boston. Unfazed, Marion remained proper, well-dressed and impeccable of reputation.
I can only imagine her reaction when Mom brought home the handsome, hard-working boy from the “other side of the tracks” to meet the parents.
It wasn’t long before she found out that he wasn’t just from a poor family, but had come from a long line of poor families. When I say poor, I mean dirt floors and plastic on the windows poor. She did not approve of the pedigree at all. But Mom put her foot down, continued to date him and Marion would soon realize that her daughter was growing up despite her efforts to the contrary and that Billy Mac senior was not the type to be underestimated. He wasn’t going anywhere.
My dad may have been from the other side of town but he was by no means a typical resident. While raised in abject poverty, he was determined to break the cycle. He worked several jobs, earned and saved and most importantly treated my mother like a Princess. Marion eventually came to respect him. Mel really liked my Dad from day one, of course, he loved everyone. He would end up being the only one in his family to really make anything of himself, Marion either saw that or just had faith…as unlikely as that scenario is. In 1964, my dad on leave from Army training stateside at Fort Sam Houston, Texas they were married. In the wedding pictures, I can see a slight look of approval on Marion’s face.
She may not have had she known that I was in the picture as well, hidden neatly under the wedding dress.
Mom had to break the news to Marion that she was pregnant eventually, but if my understanding of the events is correct, no one really did the math after I was born. I was technically a “preemie.” In the summer of 1965, my very pregnant mother worried every day about my dad being sent overseas to Vietnam, His unit was notified in June that they would be called. Marion was doing everything in her power to keep mom away from all media. With regards to Vietnam, the news was all bad, She was unsuccessful and out of nervousness or panic, mom went into labor. When I entered the world, my dad was reassigned stateside where he would serve out the remainder of his enlistment. He visited us as often as he could.
Marion would become the backbone of her entire family until Dad came home. A role she was born to play.
to be continued…
the erroneous comment I wish I never heard about
“I overheard her say that she doesn’t love you anymore at the dinner table”
“Yeah, I don’t know who she was saying it to, I caught it at the last second but she said it.”
I felt like I had just tripped over a wasp’s nest but I kept my composure as the words set in.
I was having a glass of wine with my mom’s boyfriend. He was telling me about the dinner he had the previous day with my mom, my ex-wife and my oldest daughter on Mother’s Day. They had all gotten together at the restaurant my son works. It was an impromptu get together. My mom and Dave went down to MA to decorate the family stones with flowers and my ex-wife had called her to wish her a happy Mother’s Day. When they realized they were in the same state for once they made dinner plans. I didn’t even know about it until they got home that night. Mom told me all about it. The next night, that would be the time of this writing, it was just Dave and I for a while. I had just asked him of his account of the dinner, particularly because it was the first time he had met my ex-wife and oldest daughter. He had all good things to say and I was feeling good about it. Until he said that line about my ex-wife’s comment. Two questions came to mind; why did she say this and why do I care?
He continued talking as we watched the Red Sox play the A’s. I became noticeably quiet. Eventually, he asked me if he had crossed a line by telling me. I assured him that it was fine, I was just taken aback. While I was unsure why he mentioned it, it wasn’t done out of harm or malice. In fact, he probably mentioned it because it resonated with him after being in a terrible marriage himself. The pressing question remained. Why is this bothering me?
I truly don’t understand why I am having such trouble with this. I was married to this woman for 22 years and for the last 12 I would have chewed my arm off to escape her. There were times when I actually felt that I hated her. Towards the end, we de-escalated into a tolerant phase where we put up with each other but there was no love. Eventually, there was clearly no desire to even try to recapture what drew us together in the first place. When we separated I was relieved. When she asked for a divorce I was ready. When the divorce was finalized I felt liberated. So why am I surprised to hear, second-hand mind you, that she doesn’t love me anymore? It could easily have been said in the vein of “We still care about each other but aren’t in love anymore” as she explained to my mother, or my daughter, or the fucking waiter…again why does this bother me? Do I still even love her?
I do love her. I’m just not in love with her. I love her because we raised four wonderful children together. I love her because I spent most of my adult life with her and there were some good times. I can’t deny them.
I have dreams, vivid dreams of her. I dream of conversations in which she reveals past infidelities. I have dreamt of being with her, in the present, still married and talking about how we “almost split up.” Sadly, I even dreamt that I had died and she wasn’t at my funeral. These dreams are so lucid, so vivid that Freud and Jung could come back from the grave and revive their careers. When I wake from them I find myself wishing she was in my life. Then I shake it off and remind myself that I really don’t want what we had any longer. Still, I am wrought with these conflicting emotions.
I am burdened by memories, racked with guilt, saddled with regrets. A mere matter of months ago I was bitter, angry and resentful of her. Lately, I look back at photos in which we were all smiles. I find myself asking where it went wrong. I find myself asking if I could have done better by her. I remember how much she once loved me and I ask myself if I drove her away, caused her to morph into the cold, detached person that she was in the end. Did I, in the course of exorcising my demons and finding my real self, push her away?
I asked my mother last night if she had heard the comment at dinner. She said she had. It was said to one of my son’s friends who works at the same restaurant. He had come over to the table and asked my wife where I was. She had told him that we were divorced and he was surprised. So, she explained it. She cares about me, but she doesn’t love me anymore.
There you go, I have my explanation. For the comment at least. I still don’t know for the life of me why the explanation stings so badly.
the man who said NO
I’ve been everything I hate lately. I am a lazy, joyless sofa-bound fuck. The will to do anything has been sucked out of my body and I feel helpless to do anything about it. Even though I know I will kick this pneumonia eventually, I have just been down. If you have ever read me, quality of life is everything. By that logic, I have lost everything.
I can’t breathe. I am exhausted after the most minor exertion. I procrastinate on everything because I just don’t feel it. My life now consists of Dr.’s visits, consequent runs to the pharmacy, and sitting on the sofa. Last week I drove to the pharmacy and instead of going in I sat in my truck listening to the radio. I never went in, the seat was too comfortable and the front door was too far away.
Pain is temporary. A disease is treatable. It is very feasible that at some point I will walk around like a normal person. Right now that moment eludes me. I walk slow, resent those that breeze past me, breathing heavy and my body language reeks of “I’m done.” The day that I hoped would never come is here, it is now affecting my psyche. I’m acting out like never before. I am unfollowing friends on FB because I can’t look at how fucking happy they are; frolicking in the Bahamas on vacation, out at restaurants at tables full of smiling friends and family, scuba diving in Australia. I started leaving FB groups that I follow about mountain biking and weightlifting because they are terrible reminders of the dreaded used-to’s. I have been getting angry seeing people laughing and enjoying themselves doing activities that used to be routine for me. I watch TV and I see so many things that elicit anger and frustration. Or worse, the realization that I used to be able to do that thing and I never will again. A year ago I would have said “Someday”. Now I say “Yeah, you wish.”
On top of everything else, I have become the Introverted Extrovert. Yes, it’s a real thing. The introverted extrovert likes people but is prone to finding ways to avoid making or following through on plans. Once you’re there, you’re fine, it’s getting there that’s the problem. In short, I’m saying NO way more often than I used to. I have shut out my only asset, my support network. Something that I need now more than ever.
I don’t know how to shake this. I’ve never let the physical affect the emotional side of me. I have maintained an almost cheery attitude in the face of everything. But lately, I have felt like giving up. The worse part, I don’t even know what that means anymore. Give up on what? I don’t do anything!?
I was thinking this morning about a Jim Carrey movie that gave me a good chuckle. Inspiration comes in many forms and sometimes a silly movie will do it. Yes Man is about a guy who just won’t engage. He goes to great lengths to avoid interaction outside of work, either for fear of rejection or getting hurt. His favorite word is NO. Sound familiar? Until he attends a seminar that preaches one simple message…say yes to everything. Through all of the silliness and suspension of disbelief the movie attempts, it makes a good point. Saying yes is opening a door, saying no is hiding behind one. I’m definitely hiding right now behind the door of illness. It’s not even a screen door, at least that would provide some fresh air.
I need to find a way to embrace life again, to look forward to each new day as an opportunity, not another obstacle. I need to get back to enjoying my life, regardless of my position in it. I need that one moment where I leap out of my chair, fist clenched and scream at the top of my lungs YES, FUCK YES!
Today, that task seems insurmountable. Tomorrow it may be possible. I suspect that the outcome is largely up to me.
A bitter anniversary
For the last year, I have made wondrous progress in reconciling with my past. I have tried to get away from negativity, to stop beating myself up over mistakes made and poor decisions. Be that as it may, today is the 2 year anniversary of the worst decision of my life. 2 years ago today, I ignored my inner voice and better judgment and left the best job I ever had for what I thought was a better opportunity. There is no doubt in my mind that, had I not done so, I would be in a very different place right now.
I have spoken often of the “best job of my life”. I romanticized it a bit, truth be told there were some very difficult times, but in hindsight, it was more often great than not. After bouncing around in my career, making mostly upward and a few lateral changes in position I had a rare moment of good fortune. I just happened to meet someone looking for someone with my exact background. The initial interview was very exciting, I had never before felt so right about something. I was hired almost immediately and the owner made it clear that I would be given whatever I needed to establish and grow my own department. Who wouldn’t jump at an opportunity such as that?
It was a small company that was growing too fast when I joined them. It was a sub-prime auto loan company. By sub-prime it is understood that they dealt with people with poor to no credit. They were being inundated with repossessions and my short-term goal was to find an outlet for them; auction them off or remarket them to our dealer base. My long-term goal was to assist collections in determining the reason for the increase in defaults and try to find a way to stop the bleeding. I immediately found myself in a shitty situation. I would get tremendous opposition from the collections and sales departments who felt that I was meddling and feared that I would cost them money. Their paychecks weren’t predicated on losses, only on sales volume. I somehow managed to be very diplomatic, selective in the battles that I chose and eventually made them understand that I was there to help.
It eventually started clicking and my knowledge of appraising vehicles, my relationships with auctions all over the country and my work ethic made me a top manager in the first year. My biggest contribution ended up being problem-solving. I didn’t always have the answers but no one ever worked harder than I did to find one. In a building full of people able to make decisions, I became one of the only ones to follow through on them. The employees and dealers who we funded loans for, essentially making them our customers more than the debtors, came to appreciate and value my efforts. It came down to one essential ability that I had that you would think is common but strikingly not so…I knew how to talk to people and I worked with them, without hubris or bluster. It worked for everyone.
For a while, I almost thought it was too good to be true. Because I always think this way I waited patiently for the other shoe to drop. It didn’t take long. I soon saw the real personality of my manager, who I spent a lot of time with, and it wasn’t pretty. An accomplished man with the gift of gab, he really came across as a genuine and nice man. He was very good at his job. But underneath that exterior was an explosive temper and a very insecure personality. In short, he wanted me to be good but not as good as him. I could be smart, but not as smart as him. He was unpredictable in how he was offended and as volatile a man as I ever met. As I began to really establish myself, he became insanely jealous and tried to tear me down as often as he could for fear of becoming upstaged. I tolerated the closed-door meetings in which he would slyly try to put me down and sometimes burst out in angry tirades. For a while. Then I gave it back, sometimes in spades and our relationship deteriorated. We would be like this for the entire time I worked for the company. Overall, we got along more than we didn’t and we made it work.
It was difficult for me. As hard as it was to tolerate his megalomaniacal behavior, I both liked and needed the job. My relationship with the owner kept me grounded. A quiet, non-confrontational and highly intelligent man, the owner refused to get involved in personnel matters but he would always take care of me financially and he often referred to me in his distinguished class of businessman and clients as “the best in the business” at what I do.
Two years into my employment I hit a real downward slide. My ongoing financial woes, that I took with me upon hire and my health both came to a head at the same time. I had to declare bankruptcy, our house was foreclosed upon and we had to move. In addition, my illness progressed from maybe needing a transplant to definitely needing one. I would become increasingly ill for the next 2 years. While keeping up with my rigorous schedule, it was starting to take its toll. Until the greatest stroke of luck I ever had came my way.
A co-worker offered to donate a kidney to me. It would end up being a perfect match and she saved my life. In addition, my manager initiated a fund-raiser for me. The owner personally kicked in $15,000.00. I would end up getting the transplant before the fund-raiser. Deb and I limped in, a mere 7 days after our surgery, to a huge room filled with friends, family, and co-workers. I have to give my GM credit, he really stepped up for me. But little did I know that his gratitude would be a permanent wedge in our relationship. He held the fund-raiser over my head mercilessly.
As generous as Deb’s gift was, the only one who made me feel guilty was my manager. Whenever I appeared ungrateful, to be determined by him, I would get beaten down for my lack of reverence. Other than recovering, coming back to work in a mere 33 days total, and working harder than ever I will never be clear on the source of his animosity. But as I said before, the good days outnumbered the bad and I loved the job. I was a key player, I was in a position to help people, I was well-known and respected in my industry and earning a good living. I would stay for 9 years.
Towards the end of my ninth year, the company started getting visitors. Those visitors were involved in a lot of closed-door meetings that I wasn’t invited to. As it would turn out, the company was being sold. Not the worst news, many companies sell. But this buyer intended on liquidating us. Some knew some didn’t, but 2 months later everyone would hear that in April of 2016 we would write our last loan. The entire sales and most of the administrative staff was summarily let go with no notice and a very weak severance check. My GM was among those let go, he was livid, to say the least. I was asked to stay indefinitely because my role was a clean-up position and I was needed now more than ever.
My GM was so upset, due to a combination of embarrassment and not being consulted with in the process that he went on a tirade. He made a hell of a scene on his way out the door and conducted a serious phone campaign after to pull any remaining employees away. Myself included.
I was experiencing many powerful emotions. I was sad for the fate of my company. I was upset over the good friends that lost their jobs. I was relieved that I was safe for the moment but aware that it was definitely temporary. In the interim, I negotiated my terms for the immediate future.
At the same time, a good friend who had left the company a year before called me. He would never recruit me before, but now that the job was defunct it was perfectly legitimate to see if I wanted to join. I would be Operations Manager of a large finance company that specialized in financing motorcycles. The job was perfect for me. 3 interviews and 3 weeks later I was offered a position. I asked for an offer letter. It took them 9 days to provide one and I was very turned off by this. My wife and I were arguing, she thought I should stay and ride it out, I argued that I was on a sinking ship and I had a chance at a new beginning. Add to this mix my former GM calling me constantly urging me to take the job, joining him in sticking it to the company that wronged him. He put a lot of pressure on me. My decision was made when my present company immediately cut my pay. When the offer came I jumped at it.
I ended up working for the worst manager in history. Controlling, arrogant, unaccepting of any input than what spewed out of his fat, donut-stuffed mouth. It was a horrible experience. My staff loved me, I could do the job, but he was unbearable. I think he’s mentally ill. Speaking of ill, my new kidney began to fail and I started to miss a lot of work. The days of working for a company that cared for me and worked around my illness were long gone. I was laid off 3 months in. I had made a huge mistake.
I could have stayed at my previous company for years. They are still open, collecting on their portfolio. I’m not sure how long they would have kept me, but I know that I would have earned for a while longer and they would have worked with me as I dealt with my health issues.
Today is a day that is hard to just pretend never happened, regardless of how hard I try.
38,325 days… installment 2
As I stated in the last installment, my Grandparents’ marriage was not without tragedy.
In 1948, on a typical late fall afternoon, my Grandmother had just finished making dinner. A fresh pot of coffee was percolating in the kitchen and my Grandmother had just asked Charles to run into the living room and tell my Grandfather that dinner was ready. The distance from the kitchen to the living room was not even 15 feet but Grandpa’s game was to ignore her until she yelled then he would come into the kitchen with a big smirk on his face. Marion didn’t want to deal with the game. Charles did as he was told, and dutifully ran down the short corridor to call his dad. As he did, he accidentally tripped the power cord to the ancient coffeemaker. As if in slow motion, my Grandmother watched helplessly as the pot tipped and the scalding hot coffee poured down his back. He screamed, immediately went into shock and was dead moments later. My mother tells me that a team of doctors, with today’s technology, could not have saved him. My grandparents were completely crushed. My grandfather would retreat into himself, my grandmother would deal by completely, and I say this without exaggeration, smothering my mother, her only remaining child.
Not the grieving types, life went on. The UK in them sustained them. Grandpa was from Scotland, Grandma was from England, they were built of sturdy stock. My grandfather found work as an Oil Burner repairman and worked several side jobs. My grandmother busied herself immersing herself in her daughter’s life. She would find fault, in as matronly a manner as possible, with her friends, their parents, their houses, and their clothes. No one or nothing was good enough for her daughter. It wasn’t snobbery, although it looked an awful lot like it, it was merely overprotection. My mother somehow managed to maintain a small circle of friends, she simply coached them to look past the interrogations and disapproving looks and see the nice, battle-worn woman within. She managed to have a fairly normal childhood. At least for a while.
As it would turn out, tragedy would unfold again. After going upstairs during her 7th birthday party because she didn’t feel well, my mother would be found unconscious in her room. The diagnosis would be Viral Spinal Meningitis. In 1952, this disease had no cure. She would languish in a coma for a week until a young doctor approached Mel and Marion with a glimmer of hope. He told them of an experimental serum that had shown promise but was not approved by the government yet. With little to nothing to lose. they agreed to try it. It would save her life. It would take a year of recovery, including learning how to walk again, but my mother made a full recovery. I only wish the same could be said about Marion. The smothering would escalate to epic proportions.
to be continued…
The day the walls came crashing down
Back in the good old days, when I was a working and contributing member of society, I was an auction guy. I didn’t start in that industry. I worked at a restaurant for a very long time, until I was 31 to be exact. When I was diagnosed with Cancer I made a change. A haircut, a closet full of new suits and a pay cut of $20,000 later I entered the “real world” in the exciting world of car rental.
As the unofficial world’s oldest trainee, I ran circles around the recent college graduates and moved up the ranks fast. I was a blur known as “who the fuck is that guy?” After 18 educational months, I was forced to take a stand (a story for another blog) and I quite ceremoniously (also a story for another blog) left the company. No skin off of my nose, I had secured a position with a concrete company. I would become a dispatcher of concrete trucks servicing the USA’s second biggest, only second to the Hoover Dam, civil project, the Central Artery Tunnel AKA the “Boston Big Dig”.
It was a bloated, bureaucratic, enormously expensive and corrupt project but it was great for my resume. I acquired fleet, management, union negotiation and project supervision credentials in a short time. The job was killer, 6-6 daily nailed to a desk answering phones, monitoring job sites, and listening to drivers whine like bitches (some, not all) but it was worth it. Seeing the project coming to an end 2 years later and fearing downsizing, I went on the internet and found an opening at a National Salvage Auction. An industry I knew nothing about. Using the internet, not a real familiar medium in 1999 for me, I was interviewed within a week and off to CA within 2 to learn how to be an Assistant General Manager of a Salvage Auction that I had never been to and had not met one employee. 8 weeks later I would return from job training, walk into an unfamiliar building and ask for a Manager that I would grow to hate. I lasted 2 years, despite the fact that she never wanted me there. Gordon Gecko was less of a control freak than this woman. At the end of my 2nd year, an old friend from my Enterprise days reached out to me. He was the new GM of a wholesale auction and he needed me. Wrecked cars to whole cars? I thought to myself, why not? I joined him.
I was immediately hooked. Being on the road, talking to dealers, being around cars new and old (I love cars, have since I was a kid) and then there was auction day. Auction day was about deadlines, a week worth of preparation going off at 10 whether you were ready or not, regardless of weather or any other excuse you could come up with. It was “Go Time”. Hundreds of dealers, lane after lane of bidders frantically waving as auctioneers spoke lightning fast selling cars at the rate of 1 every 30 seconds per lane. There I would be, maintaining my dealers, meeting new customers, shaking hands and making money. I would turn out to be very, very good at the auction business. For the first time in my life, I had found my special purpose. Apologies to Steve Martin.
I had never done sales in my life. As it turns out, being knowledgeable of your product, attentive to your customers, and passionate about what you do is enough. I worked hard for my customers, I earned their loyalty and I never had to be “Slick Willy” once. I simply did what I said I would for my people and I became a well-known guy in the business. With success comes some obstacles and the owner eventually decided that I was making too much money, despite the 38% increase in overall volume during my tenure. I warned him that I wasn’t taking a pay cut and should I leave my customers were coming with me. He called my bluff and he lost…bigly.
For several years after I left this company I expanded my experience in the car business. I dabbled in retail sales for a bit and one day in 2008 I had a serendipitous moment. My mother-in-law worked with a woman in Real Estate whose husband was GM of a sub-prime Automotive Loan company. He was looking for a guy with car biz experience. Once relayed, my mother-in-law, over a glass of Chablis immediately took down the husband’s phone number and called me. I went to meet him the next day. He was looking for someone with experience working with car dealers, sales management, remarketing and strong negotiations skills. In particular, knowledge of auto auctions. It was a perfect match. At first, he didn’t believe that I knew the people that I said I did, but as good fortune would have it several dealers would traipse through the office that day, poke their head in to say hi to the gentleman I was interviewing with, and subsequently say “Bill, what are you doing here?” As the saying goes, SOLD!
I was hired on the spot, given a department to set up, funding to staff it and leeway to run it my way. It would take time, but I became an integral part of the operation. Part of my responsibilities were to attend the auction every week with my GM. For 9 years we went to the same auction, a huge operation in MA where we sold our repos, mingled with our dealers and met as many new dealers as we could. Because most of our dealers were there, it was the ultimate way to conduct business. We would get there early, I would evaluate our vehicles and set prices and hunt down any poor sap that owed us money. When 10 AM rolled around, I was “on the block” selling cars. Wheeling and dealing, as they say, working with the auctioneer as he captured bids as fast as lightning. Once I was done, my GM and I would evaluate how we did, process our titles and then relax. On nice days, we would lean against the outside wall of our lane and enjoy the weather.
Last year to the day, a driver lost control of a vehicle, sped into a crowd of dealers and crashed through the very wall that I would always lean against. 3 innocent people died and 24 were injured. It was a senseless tragedy.
Fortunately, I wasn’t there that day. My career was over by then.
Being in the industry as long as I had been, I had seen accidents before. People are careless and walk in front of cars as they roll up to the line to be sold. People run across entire lanes in order to bid on a vehicle at the end of the building. They forget that these are used cars and the brakes may be old and worn out. In this particular case, old and worn out described the driver. He maintains that the accelerator stuck. Something was clearly defective because the first victim he killed was hit at approximately 35 miles per hour.
I was reminded of this incident by Facebook Memories today. I had posted a tribute to the victims last year and briefly touched on my history at that auction. I re-read my post, had a quick moment of silence for the victims and then I read the comments. I had completely forgotten the response my post generated. The most significant aspect was how many people immediately thought of me when it happened.
It was a pretty well-known fact among my friends that I was in the industry. I would often post pictures of nice cars that I saw at the sale. All of my dealers knew where I was every Wednesday. But the number of people who I thought had no idea what I did for a living was checking in with me on Messenger, calls, and texts to make sure I was unharmed. It really affected me today. Well, that and the actual tragedy itself…you know what I mean.
I didn’t have the heart to tell most of those that checked in that I was out of work for health reasons. I thanked them for their concern and assured them that I was fine. But it is nice, at the end of the day to know that people are there for you when you really, really need them.
38,325 days…a life truly lived
Yesterday, May 2nd is a tough day around this house. My mother was uncharacteristically quiet and I had no interest in pushing her to talk about it. I knew why, and wasn’t going to bring it up.
Over the course of several May 2nds for the last 16 years, my mother had lost her father, her mother, and her 2nd husband. My Grandfather, a wonderful man who I have written more than one tribute to passed in 2002. He lived until 92, I miss him terribly but he didn’t owe anyone anything. My Grandmother died in 2015, 12 years to the day that my Grandfather passed. That was no coincidence, despite her semi-conscious state she knew what she was doing. 1 year ago, on May 2nd, my mother lost her second shot at love when her husband of 3 months passed from lung cancer. He lasted 10 days from diagnosis to departure. May 2nd is, safe to say, her least favorite day of the year.But she doesn’t talk about her problems, she bottles them up and shoves them down deep where they can’t be felt.
I felt guilty being in a good mood yesterday knowing she was in such pain. I couldn’t help it. The sun was out, I was on the deck blogging in view of my beloved duck pond. I washed my truck without sucking wind and I was finally starting to feel better. I was grateful for all of the support I have gotten from friends, family and the WP community. As my buddy Bojana pointed out, I have been fortunate enough to have some wonderful people in my life. Especially those that have passed on. Instead of mourning, on March 2nd of this year, I chose to celebrate the memory of my Grandmother.
It is hard to be sad about losing someone who lived almost 105 years. In my estimation she graced God’s green Earth for 38,325 days give or take.
Born in 1910, Marion Francis Barnes lost her parents in a house fire when she was only ten years old. She was raised by her Grandmother, a tough as nails Yankee woman with ties to the Mayflower and as deft with a wooden spoon as a Ninja warrior and his sword. I barely knew her, but I heard the stories. She did an admirable job of raising Marion and her sister Bertha, both finishing High School as strong, independent women, as the Great Depression in 1929 ravaged the country. She wasn’t entirely unscathed by the atmosphere of the times, pictures of her then suggest a very serious, proper woman who valued etiquette and upbringing. If one didn’t know better, she was a snob. In actuality, the purest example of a New England “Blue-blooded” Yankee.
Marion would become a victim of the wiley charms of my future Grandfather, a hard-working young man who didn’t worry about his future because he could build, paint, repair, rebuild and refurbish anything. Another skill, he was not fazed by her Yankee sensibilities and I suspect that he was the first person to ever make her laugh. The unlikely couple married in 1935 and began their life of 65 years together. Family was the main goal, and once the house was built, by him, my Grandmother conceived 3, and lost, 2 babies. One was a miscarriage and one a stillborn. She became pregnant for the fourth time with my mother just before my grandfather enlisted in the Navy Seabees and went to fight in the Pacific in WW2. He tirelessly wrote her letters. I have them in a box, all of them expressing his love for her, his son Charles and my mother. I’ve read the letters, one thing that stood out was the guilt when he missed penning one letter a day.
Marion was busy doting over my mother. Having lost 2 children already, nothing was going to happen to Charles and my mother. She worried about her husband, feverishly wrote letters to him and friends and patiently waited for him to come home and resume their lives together. They, as one single couple, embodied the Greatest Generation. True to the nature of the said generation, when he came home, he didn’t relax. He didn’t talk or complain about what he saw (he saw a lot as I would later learn) but instead, he started making up for lost time.
My Grandfather returned from active duty in 1947. He spent 2 years working on battleships once the Pacific campaign was over. Charles was 6, my mother was 2. They acted as if they never skipped a beat. They would almost never be seen apart after that. Theirs was s love story for the ages. Life went on and they were a big, happy family again. But it was not without heartbreak, tragedy and incidents that tested the concrete foundation of their marriage.
Tragedy would strike a mere year later.
To be continued…