the bottle story

In 1981 my Great Uncle Cyrus died. He had a big house on Cape Cod, about 300 yards from the water. My family was tasked with cleaning it out.
My Great Uncle was a kind and giving man. On my 16th birthday he gave me his late wife’s 1964 Ford Falcon as a present. I was grateful yet conflicted, I barely knew the man. Amazingly, the distance between us and the Cape was enough to keep me from seeing him more than 5 times in my life. And there I was cleaning out his house, charged alongside my mother, father and Grandparents with deciding what was “junk” and what wasn’t.

There I was, a 16 year old exploring a old house. I meandered to the basement where I found a dusty tool bench with some really cool but unfinished wood working projects and a lot of unorganized stuff scattered around. I stooped to check out the bottom shelf and I saw a bottle. I blew an inch of dust off it and I studied it. It was a bottle of J&B Scotch, a fairly middle of the road blend and a very popular drink in its time. I was intrigued by the label “half gallon” and realized that this bottle was old. The stamp revealed that it was bottled in 1949.
“Hey Dad, check this out!”.
Dad came over and agreed that it was a find. We brought it home with us and stored it in my grandparents basement.

Saturday I had my installation ceremony as Master of my Masonic Lodge. Due to Covid restrictions we were only allowed to have 50 guests and we reached that number. My children and my mother, several brothers from other lodges that I became friendly with over the years graced me with their presence. One of them had told me 5 years ago that should I become master he wanted to be there. So I invited him. The remainder of the crowd consisted of lodge members and their guests who all came out to support the new line of officers.

It was an AMAZING ceremony, the same one that was conferred on George Washington in the 1700’s. Once complete it was my turn to say some words. I had it all planned out. In fact, I have had it planned out since the day I decided that I would move through the chairs to Master.
“Brother Marshall, would you retrieve my conversation piece?”
The crowd was intrigued.
Brother Marshall is my good friend and past master Basil who promised to help me in any way should I take the big chair. He winked at me and walked to the back of the building and came back with the bottle of J&B. He handed it to me with a wink and sat back in his seat.
I hoisted the J&B in the air and told the story.
“I am a lover of objects, for their significance and place in history. Objects do not contain memories but they have important associations. For example, I wear my grandfathers watch and cufflinks. I wear my fathers motorcycle helmet. They hold memories for me and mean something. This bottle is not just a bottle, it is a reminder of a different time”.
I told the story of cleaning out Uncle Cyrus’s house, who I later found out was an esteemed and beloved Freemason (it explained why he gave me a car) and how the bottle in my hand has fascinated me all along.
“This bottle has never been opened, it was bottled in 1949”. The crowd was hanging on every word now.
“This bottle was owned by a wonderful man. It was also bottled during the era of Harry Truman, my favorite President. Harry Truman, you may not know, was a Freemason. He served as Grand Master of the state of Missouri as Vice President yet he never discussed it”.
I asked the crowd if they knew that in a Masonic lodge everyone is treated the same regardless of social stature. I told of how Harry Truman went to a regular lodge as Vice President and later President and wasn’t greeted with fanfare and adulation…he was simply “brother Harry”.
“This bottle represents a simpler time and I hope to run this lodge as Harry did his own, with humility and honesty”.
It was a hit, everyone applauded. After, I rounded up all of the shot glasses I could find and I opened it. We toasted and took a drink. After 70 years in several basements, I finally shared my find with those people closest to me.
A week and a half later, people are still talking about it. They agreed with me that it wasn’t just a bottle.

It meant something.

the green eyed monster

It’s funny when you figure something about someone and all of a sudden it just makes sense.

My cousin Mike, who I have written about before, is a Facebook junkie. It is not enough for him to be a know-it-all, he also has to be that guy that comments on every post. I love him to death, I really do, but even my kids have remarked to me that his constant comments are over the top because they really don’t know him that well (that is not his fault). I tell them to deal with it, he does it to everyone.

Everyone but me. He never comments on my posts.

Saturday I was installed as Worshipful Master of my Masonic Lodge (in Olde English ‘Worshipful’ means worthy of respect). With the exception of my children’s births and my wedding day, it was one of the biggest days of my life. I posted about 10 pics of the day, me with my kids individually and together, several of me and my Masonic brothers and made a post about it. Well over 125 people “liked” or commented on it. Not Mike.

I hadn’t noticed it before, this time it stood out. So I went back over my page and looked to see if he commented on previous posts. Nope. Nothing. NADA. It’s not an anomaly, it’s a pattern. Apparently he’s still jealous of me.

Still? You ask? Yes, still. I’m not sure what I have to be jealous of, I’m pretty sure I’m as broke and behind the 8 ball in life as he is. All I know is whenever something good happens to me he’s nowhere to be found if being happy for (or with) me is in order. It’s an unfortunate set of circumstances because what I do know is that I MAKE the good things in my life happen, it’s not circumstance, luck, or serendipity.

Flashback to 4 months ago sitting on the common of our old home town under the mighty oak:

“Can I tell you something?”, he said.
“By all means”, I said and took a bite of the Steak and Cheese sub we had just gone for.
“I didn’t go to your graduation party because I was pissed at you.”
“The Graduation party that I had in ’92 when I graduated College?” I asked. Perplexed.
“Yes”, he said. “I was annoyed that your parents paid for your college and I didn’t have such an opportunity.
Annoyed, I turned to him. “Well, you missed a fun party. And you’re wrong, idiot. I worked 55-60 hours a week and carried a full course load to graduate college. No help from Mom and Dad. How dare you assume that?”

He tried to make a case, but I told him that it was jealousy and it was petty. I was pissed.

So again, something good happens to me and he is nowhere to be found.

I think I see a pattern here.

random nuggets

If one were to notice someone’s absence it would be safe to assume that they haven’t been up to much. Much worth writing about, anyway. The opposite is true for me. It’s not that I have nothing to write about, it would be safe to say that I have too much. Where do I begin?

For a guy with nothing to do I’m pretty dang busy.

My detailing gig is taking off. Lots of word of mouth referrals from happy customers. I do a very meticulous job for a reasonable price and people appreciate it. It has supplemented my income a bit and I expect it to grow further. I actually say no to work now.

Dialysis is a drag and I have been feeling pretty crappy lately. I’m not worried about it, it happens every few months. I am really anemic right now and they don’t know why. I suppose I should be worried about that but I’m sure it will work out. It always does. My teflon coating is still intact. For now I just have to push through the moments of pain and weakness.

I was elected Master of my Masonic Lodge this past month. My term begins this month and I’m terrified. The amount of work involved in running a lodge is surprising but the motivating factor is that my brothers have entrusted me with leading them for the next year and I can’t let them down.

The family is great. The kids are thriving, the ex got a new job (for a person with Borderline Personality Disorder change is devastating so this is good news) and is doing better financially. Everyone is happy and crushing this thing we call life. Being a proud Dad has never been easier.

Well, I think I’m caught up now. Now that I’ve touched on the broad strokes, I’ll start to dig down on the small but beautiful details.

Namaste, y’all

Over the miles

I sat down yesterday morning to begin a post in continuation of the one I had previously published and I just couldn’t find my groove so I saved it as a draft and turned the computer off.
I’m glad I did because today I got a phone call from a dear friend and in the course of it not only did I figure out what I wanted to say but I found myself with a renewed interest in my blog.

I suppose it would be beneficial to first state that she is a fellow blogger. In every sense, she is the perfect person to having spoken to today. On so many levels. To begin with, I love the sound of her voice. In addition, she always makes me laugh. When I’m done laughing I then find myself with something to think about. Lastly, she always revives my faith in people.

You see, when I first started my blog I had very few readers and I really didn’t care. I was in a real bad place, I felt alone and at the very bottom. The blog was akin to the cliched Shrink’s Couch where I unburdened myself in relative obscurity and anonymity with the end result feeling as I’ve talked to someone. Then people started reading. They were drawn to my story. Not that I told it particularly well but because I was so unflinching and honest. In a world of fluff and bullshit I bared my ass to the internet and it resonated with some people. Soon enough I became actual friends with 3 of them and we got together for a day of conversation and dinner. I am proud to say that I am still communicating with all of them.

Today’s conversation was with a woman that I like to joke with about being the female version of me. Or I’m the male version of her. Whatever. Point is, she gets me. She knows me well and has a history of knowing when I am in need of a pick me up and she always reaches out. On this day, it wasn’t that I was not doing well but yea, something was bugging me and we got to the bottom of it. That is what a real friend does. Over the miles or right next door, a friend knows when you need them.
Thank you.

How did she inspire me to get back up and blogging again, you ask? She reminded me that in the beginning, before followers and stats were even a concern, I told my story. It was a story that enough people enjoyed or at least felt compelled to hear the rest of it. I thought I had told my story and I have been struggling for things to write about. Until today. This is my journal, my outlet, my place to tell my story that is still evolving, twisting and turning, and changing before my eyes. It is a journal.

As long as there are days in my life, my story still needs to be told. Hold on, shit’s gonna get bumpy around here.

the good stuff

Friends. A dumb show from the 90’s about a bunch of New Yorker’s whose lives I couldn’t give a shit about? No.
The often meaningless connections you make on social media so that you can have the opportunity to view every stupid meal they post for your viewing displeasure? No.
Those few people in your life that are always there for you and remind you in your darkest hour that you’re not alone? YES. A triumphant and resounding YES.

If valued and meaningful connections were currency I would be up there on Forbes’s list of wealthiest people. I am so fortunate to be at the age, or level of maturity if you will, that I recognize the value of quality over quantity in life.

I have an amazing circle, I call it my support network. Between my Masonic brothers, many of whom are as close to me as actual brothers, to my many friends dating back to High School, some amazing connections from jobs past and social groups like mountain bikers that despite my inability to ride remain my friends, to others that have just fortunately come into my life, I always have the luxury of being supported and propped up when too tired to stand. It’s not a huge circle, but it’s a good one.

It is not a one way street, I am a loyal and dedicated friend in return.

If you find yourself devoid of joy, wallowing in the negativity of today’s climate and feeling overwhelmed with the increasing darkness, there is a cure. Grab your phone and scroll through your contacts. Find a name that brings a smile to your face and call them. In the process of making their day brighter I can almost guarantee that they will make yours as well.

But don’t just use the phone, be available in person to those around you. Cell phones make us closer to those far away, but more distant to those next to us.

Just a thought, enjoy your Sunday and may you make a new friend or reconnect with a old one today. It just may make your day.

Be the change

People say things. Stupid things. All the time. If I wasn’t careful my eye rolling would cause a permanent medical condition. Fortunately I’m getting better at tuning them out.
With the exception of one phrase…I hate it.
“People suck.”
No. They. Don’t. Please stop.

I’ve posted about this before. But I need to again.

99% of people are good. It’s the 1% that make the news and if all we watch is the news, and not Main St. America then we are not going to know the truth. The truth is found in the local tavern, told over the back fence with neighbors, the local coffee shop, at the water cooler at work. People are for the most part good at heart, they are just easily manipulated because they are, at their very heart, Human. Humans make mistakes, we’re not perfect.

I have had a person donate a vital organ to me. I have seen people with only ten dollars in their pocket donate 5 of it to a charity dear to them. I’ve known people who have toiled in a soup kitchen or food pantry every single weekend of the year without looking for so much as a thank you. I could go on. But I won’t. You get the point.

If you can’t find a good person, then be one.

People do not suck. We need to stop saying it.

A ripple in the water

One of the most amazing thing about the internet is the connections that we make. I have made actual friendships, with the exception of the blessed few that I have met in person, that are real and meaningful. I am occasionally surprised and honored when a virtual friend or blogger notices my absence, which of late has been the rule, not the exception.
It is an honor none the less when someone notices when you are not around. I have to come clean as to why my posting on social media and the blogosphere has been so infrequent.

As Bruce Banner, AKA the Incredible Hulk, famously said…”You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”

I’ve been in a bad place.

I have friends that share very different politics. One in particular is a polar opposite of me politically but I read him just the same.(You know who you are). He is a beacon of reason and open-mindedness despite his world view being maddening to me. He doesn’t judge me for mine, he allows me to be me.

The problem is, being me has been difficult lately. The social and political climate is infuriating to me and I hate how people are turning on one another. The anger and resentment at watching my friends, family and country embroiled in partisan and identity politics has been consuming me. I, like my beloved community, was drifting in the wrong direction. It made me angry and hostile and I found myself caught up in it.
I didn’t like the way I felt. I was tired.

Tired of politics.
Tired of the arguing.
Tired of people digging in.
Tired of open mouths and closed minds
Tired of blind hatred and senseless bigotry.
Tired of senseless destruction.
Tired of disinformation and agendas.
Tired of all of it.
Tired of being angry.

Then one day I caught myself.

I knelt down at the water’s edge and I prayed for tolerance and an abundance of reason to guide me. I further asked for the strength to be a beacon of light that others may follow before it all, everything that I love vanished before my eyes. Please God, take this anger from me. The weight is more than I can handle. Let me be the small stone that makes a ripple that slowly but persistently spreads over the turbulent waters.

I am but one person. But sometimes that is all that is required to start a revolution. Please people, let’s start a movement of restoring the basic values of dialogue, courtesy, tolerance and respect.

Believe what you believe but don’t cram it down another’s throat.
When someone is speaking, listen to learn not wait your turn to speak.
Converse with facts and educated opinion, not sound bites and increased volume.
React with a deep breath and carefully considered words.
Apply Respect as a value and a virtue, not as an option.
Talk over the backyard fence instead of making the fence taller.
Love each other.

If we don’t, everything we love is going to vanish before our eyes.

Clouds

As I am prone to do, I triggered myself with yesterday’s post in which I spoke of my longing for the past and embracing my silly, if not immature side as a defense mechanism against the corrosive environment of today. I found that this is a subject that cannot be handled in one post.

In a famous intro to Pink Floyd’s haunting Goodbye blue sky, off their magnificent album, 1979’s The Wall, we hear the voice of a child, in all its innocence and wonder exclaim,
“Look mommy, there’s an airplane up in the sky”.

The voice inevitably and necessarily throws me back to the day when the world was a place of beauty and every day was a chance to experience new things. If you were lucky enough to have your mother at your side, she would join you in marveling at the sight of the airplane, as a bonus she would help you identify clouds shaped as animals and before you knew it the sky was cluttered with joyous shapes and future memories.
Ah, precious childhood.
Today, the mother probably would be glued to her phone and mutter,’Ummhmmm, that’s nice honey” without even looking up.

The release of Pink Floyd’s album in 1979 is a powerful memory to me and may explain why that song, and that clip of the child, is so significant to me. It is around the time that I lost my youthful outlook and began to look at each day with dread and fear, not optimism and delight.

I was a notoriously happy child. I was an only child with a mother that worked part time with plenty of time to be home with me and a father that worked his ass off but denied himself sleep to make sure that he did all that he could for me. I played sports. I rode bikes with the neighborhood kids. We went camping in the summer, I went to ball games and went to the park. I loved hanging with my grandparents at their house. We had a big yard. When my parents were unable to occupy and amuse me (something parents feel obligated to do these days) I was able to amuse myself by playing with Matchbox cars in the dirt or voraciously reading books under my favorite tree. Sometimes I would just lie on my back looking at the clouds. I could do it for hours.
As the years of my childhood passed, the toys changed but my attitude didn’t. I remained a happy kid,

The cheerful child in me went away around the time that I entered 7th grade. In my town grades K-6 were in Elementary and 7-9 were called Junior high (now known as middle school). I left 6th grade and the low-ceilinged and safe feeling Elementary school as a small statured but eager student and entered the high ceilings and almost anarchist hallways of the Junior High School as a terrified newbie. My fears were soon justified as the most formidable period of my life began, the age of being bullied.

It was horrifying. I was immediately attacked by the bigger and meaner kids. I didn’t fight back as I was slammed into lockers and sheepishly retrieved the books that were knocked out of my hands as I was walking down the halls. I became an easy target and other kids took a shot at me. I didn’t tell anyone, instead I retreated into myself. The gregarious kid eager for friends, the student eager for knowledge soon became a quiet, nonparticipating C student who sat in the back of the class doodling in his notebook. It was a horrible time of my life and I never recovered academically, socially or emotionally. I hated school, I constantly tried to call in sick and I became a sullen and mostly joyless teenager.

At the age of 55 I look back and know without dwelling on specifics how different my life would have been if I had not retreated into a turtle shell. But many years ago I learned to stop placing blame and acknowledged that there are no do-overs in life and time travel in Delorean’s is not a real option yet. I have shed the resentment for those characters that caused such heartache. I had to. It was weighing me down. I have largely forgiven them and myself. Happily, I have found and embraced the much younger version of me as a way of dealing with the current realities of my life.

The other day I was detailing a car and I was overcome by the heat. I stopped to take a break and sat on my steps with a cold glass of water, catching my breath. Exhausted, I laid on my back. I took a moment to look at the beautiful sky above me. The wispy clouds gently danced before me as they slowly made a pass over me. I reveled in their beauty. I embraced how small and ordinary the world must look from up there. I felt like a kid again, a kid without a care in the world. A kid who saw bunnies and teddy bears in the beautiful blue oasis above.

Look Mommy, I see a airplane up in the sky…

the biggest kid in the room

One of the benefits of living in your childhood home is the memories, the connections, the triggers that bring back the memories of your youth. Both good and bad I suppose, but since I have grabbed my psyche by the metaphorical balls of late, so to speak, I have been able to focus more on the good things.

A tough realization of late is that I am a big kid at heart. I love playing with small children. I enjoy dumb comedies. I say goofy things and I like to be silly and I still think nothing is more satisfying and fun than lying on the floor playing with my dog. Charlie Brown nailed it when he said, “happiness is a warm puppy.” It sure is, not much makes me happier. Charlie Brown is my hero.

I think it has affected my social life. A funny instance occurred a few weeks ago when I was out on the boat with a female companion. We were moored in a popular spot where the water is shallow for a hundred yards or so from shore. People moor there and hang out, drink or eat and swim in the shallow water. Ducks in that locale are famously used to people and are not shy about swimming up to boats. A family of ducks approached my boat and I instantly exclaimed “look, duckies!” My companion looked at me like I had three heads.
“Duckies?”
I realized that she thought I was out of my mind or grossly immature. Oh well.
“Yes, Duckies.” I said. “Sorry if it seems weird but I’m just a big kid at heart.” I leaned over the bow and made quacking noises at my visitors.
I still don’t know if that’s why I haven’t heard from her since.

I’m tired of fighting it. With all the battles I have fought with my health and other matters, my youthful, a nice way of saying emotionally stunted I suppose, outlook has kept me going and I won’t apologize for it. It’s my way of not letting my disgust with the world I currently live in from tainting my desire to move forward.

I actually think it is what my small but loyal circle likes about me and what the core of people who look to me for inspiration (not being cocky, I actually do have some patients and readers who look to me for a lift) see in me.

It’s really quite simple. Before life kicked the everloving shit out of me I was a happy, eager and optimistic kid. Without his spirit, his happy memories and almost Pollyanna’ish approach to life, older current me would be lost.

I don’t just like to be silly and goofy. I need to be. I do not,will not and cannot allow others to bring me down if I allow that inner child to exist within me. I’m the biggest kid in the room.

Deal with it.