The curator of my America

Nabokov called his talents “banal” and a waste of brilliant technique. The highbrow art critics called his work “bourgeois” and “kitsch”. He was unjustly called an illustrator instead of an artist. Norman Rockwell didn’t care. He painted what he wanted to and gave the people what they wanted in his idealistic, sentimentalistic portraits. Over the course of 47 years and 323 original works, his perceptive, nostalgic eye for his America graced the cover of the Saturday Evening Post.

Born in New York, he eventually made his way to New England. He first lived in Vermont and eventually landed in the small Western Mass town of Stockbridge, Massachusetts. He did most of his painting there, eventually immortalizing small town life through his ongoing commitment to illustrating the cover or The Saturday Evening Post, consequently showing the world his views on life through his works.

I was 12 when he died. I remember my Grandmother being deeply upset. It was then that I made the connection between the magazine covers that littered her coffee table and the wonderful artist behind them. An aspiring artist myself, I was fascinated by his technique.

As I got older I began to appreciate his work even more. I moved from admiring the technique of Rockwell’s work to the subject matter behind it. His portrayals resonated with me. The magic of Christmas…


Rockwell always brings me back to a time when Christmas was about family and neighbors. The one time of year when everyone was always nice to each other. When people Caroled, drank Eggnog and a gift was appreciated, be it a hand made pasta sculpture from a small child or a simple card. We weren’t valued by the extravagance of our gift.

Rockwell was most famous for his Christmas works but so many other of his recurring themes impacted me. The fun, and difficulties of being a child (and remember that his was a much simpler time…

young love
a boy and his dog
the runaway

He didn’t shy away from controversial subjects either and he took heat about it but remained unfazed…

He was once told that his depictions of racial relations would get him banned. He insisted to the Post that if he was censored he would walk away. He was allowed to continue. He was a man of conviction.

I was raised with his values of post-Depression, post-war frugality and conservatism. Waste not, want not was a daily mantra. My parents and grandparents fixed things when they broke, they didn’t throw them away. They “darned” socks with holes, they didn’t buy new ones. In a time of burgeoning rampant consumerism and pursuit of the next “new” thing, they were firmly planted in the “old times”; a simpler way of life that simply made sense. I truly loved that mentality, to this day I reject the “new is better” mindset.

Rockwell, during those times, stuck faithfully to the old ways, he continued too portray the America that he knew and likely sensed that he was to be a curator of them lest they be forgotten. When a horse drawn wagon rode alongside a new-fangled “car”. When children played in the street without fear of boogeymen. When people knew, respected and loved their neighbors.

I often muse that I was born in the wrong era. I would have loved to have grown up in Rockwell’s ’20’s.
Baseball was played for the love of the game, not massive contracts.
A time when men and women dressed in suits and dresses when going out in public.
A time when families ate dinner together every night.
A time when children played safely outside, in a neighborhood where people knew, cared about and supported each other.
A time when Doctor’s made House calls.
When civility and manners ruled the land.

I long for a return to these days but I know they will never return. That is why I have the Rockwell’s Coffee Table Books at the ready. As far as I’m concerned they have never been more relevant.

Hi…come here often?

If you follow me you may know that I endured a pretty hard kick in the emotional nether-regions on Sunday. The ill-advised “long-distance” relationship that I was involved with crashed and burned like the Hindenburg when I went on FB and saw that she had posted “in a relationship” with some random dude. I was shocked, hurt, confused and quite pissed off. I texted her and asked why I had to learn of this on F’ing FB and her only reply was “Don’t curse at me.” I then asked her if that’s all she had to say to me and I then found myself blocked on the phone, FB and my blog.

I was over it the next day. I don’t dwell. My takeaway is that I was most mad at the way I was treated. Looking back on the relationship I do know that it wasn’t going to end well. The only reason I allowed myself to have feelings for her was that there was a strong possibility of her moving here. Once I allowed myself to feel for her we developed a very powerful connection and in the ensuing months I can honestly say that I fell in love with her. I was actually happy for a while. But circumstances changed and it soon became clear that it wasn’t going to happen. But I continued to correspond and support her as if she was my girl. Hence the feeling of betrayal when I was unceremoniously dropped like a candy wrapper.

Every kick in the nuts should result in a learning experience and I indeed learned something. I need someone in my life. I so enjoyed the feelings I experienced during my fling. I felt desired. I felt wanted. I felt attractive. I felt needed. I want that again and I’m not going to find someone just sitting here on my ass. So I joined Match.com.

It was very intimidating for me. I haven’t been on a date since 1990. I haven’t had sex since Obama’s first term. I worry about being a poor candidate to attract someone. I’m not financially secure, not particularly healthy and don’t have my own place. Creating my profile was going to be a challenge.
Hi, I’m Bill. I’m 54, on dialysis, I’m bald, have one testicle and I live with my mother. I don’t have money but I’ll be happy to take you to McD’s and buy you something off of the dollar menu. By the way, the last time I dated Milli Vanilli was relevant. Can I wear my acid wash jeans? Seeking…well, ANYBODY

That was my first draft. I then decided that the one trait that never fails me is my stark honesty. So I went that avenue and this is what I came up with..
This is the most honest profile you will ever read. 2 years ago health issues cost me my job and marriage, ending with my moving in with my mother 2 years ago. I am rebuilding my health and my life. Yes, I live with my mother. Not in her basement, but in her attic and that’s better, right?I haven’t been on a date since 1990 so this is very new to me.I am a doting father of 4 amazing (grown) children.I enjoy volunteering. I’m charitable and active in several charities through my Masonic lodge. I am an aspiring author and an avid reader. I’m a great cook. I love animals. If the sun is out so am I, probably on my motorcycle. I love a good conversation and I have a great, if not occasionally inappropriate sense of humor. Life is a gift and I am trying to live mine to the fullest.I am looking for a companion to spend time with and have a few laughs and some great conversations. If it leads to something more then that would be great.I’m not financially stable yet but I’m not broke. If you aren’t about money and want to meet an old-fashioned, optimistic, funny, sarcastic, kind, grounded and nice guy then look no further.Life’s a garden. Dig it.

You saw the part about me living with my mother, right?

The first response (match) I got was from a 43 year old woman who lives fairly close to me. I was excited when I got a message from her.
“Hi, not looking for anything romantic, just trying to make friends and I like chill guys. We should hang out.”

Not exactly a swimming start. I replied to her.
How about that ? My first response to my new dating profile is from a woman who just wants to be friends…what guy wouldn’t love that?

She was amused by my response and we chatted a bit. I may meet my new friend who doesn’t find me attractive at all. I can never have enough friends, maybe she has a cute friend.

I’ve received a few likes, nothing too promising but I signed up for 6 expensive months so I’m going to be patient. One thing I know is that dating did, does and will continue to suck. It’s just reality.

There has to be someone out there who values honesty, wisdom and a warped sense of humor in a guy. Kindness, caring and integrity wrapped in a scarred but earthly package should have some appeal. I know I have a lot to offer someone, if they just scroll down.

We’ll see what happens. At least I can say I tried.

I’m fine, move on

Fine. Not the best word to hear, especially from a woman. In fact, I ran for the nearest bomb shelter whenever my ex (that word has a nice ring to it!) said “I’m fine.” See, Fine is actually an acronym for Fucked-up, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional. But when I say it, I mean it. If only people would believe me. In particular, the damn social workers that keep asking me how I’m doing.

Today I met with the Maine Transplant Center. It is a second outlet for me to be listed in hopes of a donor. Despite having done every goddamn test imaginable with the exception of an Algebra question at the NH center, it is required that I go through the same orientation with Maine. Not the tests, but the financial, pharmaceutical, insurance, coordinator interview and of course social work.

This is the third time I’ve had to do this. I did it in 2011 before my first transplant. Nothing has changed since the first evaluation. I gave the Social Worker there nothing even then. If anything I’m more closed off now. Life has continued to deal me one setback after another, the biggest of course was losing my new kidney after only 5 years and putting me back at ground zero: broke, alone and in my mother’s fucking basement and I don’t want to discuss my damn feelings about it.

So when I met the Social Worker today, his questions were met with a resounding “I’m fine.”

It’s not his fault. He gave it a heluva effort. He did a good job and I liked him. He asked the right questions and I was happy to tell him all about my situation. I just didn’t display a satisfactory amount of emotion apparently. He pressed me on it and I gave him nothing. Finally he asked me to describe my coping mechanisms to him. I said “first I punch myself in the head and then I kick myself in the ass. Then I move on.” He laughed and asked me to try again. I put my arms on the table, leaned in and said,

“Sunday I got rejected and rolled over by a woman that I swore I was in love with. I was floored, flattened. I cried. I brooded all day, talked to no one, wrote a blog post about it and woke up Monday a new man. I processed it, sucked it up and shit it out. Done.”

I would best describe his expression as a hybrid of amused and annoyed. But he left it at that.

People don’t understand, I am an island. I am happy to have a support system, I just don’t use it. I am hyper self-aware. I know what’s wrong and right with me. No one can tell me anything about myself I don’t already know. This is what life has done to me and I’m actually fine with it. I will tell anyone my story if they want to hear it and I will be honest and open. But I don’t do it for validation and I don’t need help. I got this, I know how to handle it and if I don’t I will figure it out.

Why do people not understand me and my self-coping?

I’m not nearly as brilliant as Robin Williams but like him, I am a Sad Clown. I wear a smile to conceal iron teeth. I’m not ok but I’m not bad either. I’m not happy but I can be and until then I can fake it with the best of them. I’m unsure and anxious about my future but good luck getting me to say it aloud.

What can I say? I’m fine and it works for me. If you don’t get it then that is a “you” problem.

Do it now…conclusion

After getting a small but desperately needed amount of sleep at the Fleabag motel that charged me the reasonable rate of $202.00 for one night I rejoined my compadres at their motel. I was just in time for breakfast. When I went to the lobby of the restaurant I found my boys talking to a guy I didn’t know. It was Pete, who had driven up that morning to meet the others, apparently he was a regular part of the group. I liked him immediately although I suspected even then that he would be bunking with us that night and add to the cacophony. But I was too hungry to worry about that then.

After a huge breakfast we walked to the event du jour, the Adirondack Car Show. We weren’t the only ones, the sidewalks were mobbed with people heading the same way.

I was tired, full and probably in need of dialysis but I was as giddy as Michael Jackson watching the Little League World Series. As we went through the gate we were greeted by a wall of vendors selling anything car-related. Beyond that area I could see a ocean of glittering cars. I was in my element, although nostalgic over how I wish my Dad was with me. He loved car shows and he would have loved this one.

The fairground was set up with no particular system. I imagine that the first ones there got the best spots. Classics, Rat Rods, both original and modified muscle, trucks ranging from the 30’s to the 70’s all mingled in perfect harmony. I was immediately struck by how the owners stood by their cars or sat in lawn chairs waiting impatiently for someone to talk about their cars. I am friends with a lot of car guys and I know the labor of love these cars can be in the restoration and preservation process. I was their dream, I talked to everyone. I also got to watch Charlie number 2 reveal his knowledge. The man was a guru of automotive knowledge. I learned a lot by just listening.

Charlie 2

After we checked out everything Charlie said let’s go to the top level. I didn’t even know there was a top level. Turns out there were 2. After more walking than I was really capable of we arrived at Carvana. Wow. As it turns out, the top is where the good stuff was. The higher pedigree cars, ones whose lineage could be traced for authenticity and originality and were extremely valuable. Mustangs, GTO’s Malibu’s, Nova’s, Impala’s and a few oddities just called out to me. Eventually Charlie and I reconnected with Charlie 1 and Pete and had a beer in the shade. It was old hat for them, I was blown away. I like cars in case you haven’t noticed. I also like people and there were so many cool ones to talk to. Including this guy…

Image may contain: 2 people, including Bill McIntire, people smiling, car and outdoor

Once we had talked to almost everyone there (or so it seemed) we went to the shore of Lake George which was at the edge of the fairground and had a late lunch. I was tired. Real tired. But the food was great and the view was better. After, we began the long walk back to motel.

I was done at that point and when talk arose about going back to the pier for appetizers and drinks I politely declined and went back to the room. I had 4 hours to myself but sleep eluded me. I was briefly interrupted when Rick came in and packed his stuff. He got a call from the wife and needed to leave. We said our goodbyes and as he roared off it occurred to me that I may have one bed to myself in his absence. I would later find out that Pete would fill that vacancy. When the guys came back, shitfaced, they all inquired if I got any sleep. They were surprised. 8 hours later when they all arose from another fart/snore fest they were again surprised to find that I had been up all night. Again. I myself was not surprised.

We set out after breakfast for the 200 mile ride home. We lost Pete and Charlie 2 halfway down and at the end it was just Charlie 1 and I. Soon it was just me.

I had time to reflect on the way home. I had done something normal. Nobody talked about dialysis even though they all knew. I had made friends. I had experienced life. I had taken risks and reaped rewards. I had created memories.

All because I said YES.

What may have been an annual event for them was a very big deal for me. While no one has any guarantees for a tomorrow, I have less odds than many. I needed to say yes, not “maybe tomorrow”, or “maybe later”. Life is happening all around me. When an opportunity arises…DO IT NOW.

It’s worse at night

It’s worse at night. But lately the days aren’t any easier.

The endless streams of FB posts of friends and family thriving in life. I watch them celebrate milestones, drinks and dinners with giant smiles on their faces. I am happy for them, I really am but it inevitable comes back to me as a reflection of my own situation.

I’ve been to two weddings recently where my only takeaway was “I wish I had that.”

2 years ago I thought I had lost everything. By all accounts I did. The only thing to survive the toppling of my entire former existence was my optimism. I had a resilient and omnipresent ability to look at my situation as a phase that would inevitably get better. After all, it has to doesn’t it?

It hasn’t. With the exception of a fleeting romance, it has all been going downhill emotionally and physically. That romance was a blessing. She was exciting, vibrant, sexually charged and above all it gave me hope. There was hope that we would bridge the distance and be together. I saw it as a new beginning, a chance at happiness. A beam of sunlight piercing the clouds of my every day existence.

For months I found excitement in the constant texts and phone calls. I found solace in our similarities and embraced our differences. I felt excited, giddy, loved, wanted, desired. I felt like I had a purpose again. I came to believe that we would be together one day.

Then it started to fade. She got sick. Plans changed. She was no longer willing to pick up everything and make a change. With me. Still. I remained emotionally invested. I loved her. She was my happily ever after. A shiny and sharp sword to fight my battles with. She gave me hope.

This morning I saw on my FB feed a picture of a guy on her page. The post was titled “This is love.”

A heads up would have been nice.

I suppose it wasn’t enough that I feel sick all the time. That I am lacking purpose. That I am uncontrollably envious at the happy people all around my island of solitude. That I am out of work, broke and dealing with the social stigma of living in my mother’s basement. I’ve now hit for the cycle and I get to add heartbroken to the mix.

It’s an act after all. To portray oneself as a Phoenix rising from the ashes when in reality you feel like just another burning ember that will eventually die out and end in obscurity.

I really need something positive to happen in my life right now. I’m not sure how many more hits I can take before I finally decide it’s not worth fighting anymore. I’m not sure how many more nights I can lie awake writing my own obituary in my head, wondering if the people in my life would understand if one day I just wasn’t around anymore.

Is this really as good as it gets?

the flight of purpose

I sat on the deck this afternoon, enjoying the earthy smells of the woods following a rainstorm. The clouds were moving, chased away by the warming sun. I lit a cigar.

Then, interrupting my distracted gaze it appeared. It was a Monarch Butterfly, magnificent in its carefree romp around my yard. It zigged and it zagged, dipped and climbed but it always looked so easy. Dare I say carefree?

It seems to fly without a care, but I don’t think so. It has already endured so much, survived such a remarkable transition. It is not carefree. It is accomplished, full of purpose.

To live every moment of its short life.

Does its life span feel as long as mine? What if…he knows that he will die soon and is working against the clock to see and do as much as possible?

I can relate. Been there.

I am also looking at a short life. I crave fulfillment and fear lack of accomplishment. I have also been through a difficult transition and emerged a new me. I can’t sit still for very long because I am reminded that moments are few and not guaranteed and I get off the sofa.

The Monarch saw me waving to it, beckoning it to rest on my arm. He chose to keep flying and exploring. He had places to go. Resting on my arm would be a sofa in its own right.

Per usual, inspiration can be found in the smallest of things.

Nothing is an accident

Nothing happens by accident. Everything happens for a reason.

Wait…who said that? Was that me? It sure as hell doesn’t sound like something the old me would ever say. The borderline agnostic, the “I stop at being spiritual” guy who reluctantly opened his heart and mind to the possibility that there is a driving force in the universe just said the unthinkable.

I recently met someone I now know in my heart of hearts that I was supposed to meet. I was in need of awakening, of hope, of inspiration and of expansion of what I know now was my very small world.

This person challenges me in multiple ways. To think bigger, to look deeper, to question the unquestionable and embrace the once unthinkable. As I was called “Mr. Practical” and “Stubborn Yankee” and other gems I was challenged to delve into schools of thought like Mysticism, Numerology, Astrology and Eastern Religions and Philosophy. I pushed back on all of them and then when the person wasn’t looking I studied it and found myself believing.

I’m now a better person for what I’ve opened myself up to. I am open to things I once scoffed at. It’s difficult for me, pragmatism, logic and reason have been my Navigation tool my entire life. I can’t help but look at things and ask “How is this going to work?”. “What’s the end game?”, and “Shouldn’t we do this first?”. I don’t just plunge into the pool, I stick my toe in first to see if the water is cold.

I wish this was good enough for my muse, but I’m afraid it’s not.

It’s amazing how difficult baby steps are for this stuck-in-his-ways-grownass-adult. Maybe the reason you entered my life is for me to learn to take bigger steps with a carefree jaunt.