Thursday, June 30, 2016

Another Life

Did you ever envision yourself as someone else?  Not a specific person like a celebrity but just an alter ego?

Every time I visit New York City I imagine a whole different life for myself. I picture myself living here. If I was 15 years younger I would probably love it. For a year, maybe two.

Normally I prefer quiet places and my personality is usually quiet, gracious, considerate and thankful. My personal pace is fairly relaxed and I'm more of an observer that a participant and I am rarely, by choice, the center of attention.

My impression of a typical New Yorker: brash, loud, rude and not especially considerate. The locals walk fast, talk fast and are fairly impatient. Normally I am none of that, except maybe impatient, at least when it comes to unnecessary or inconsiderate delays.

During several of my visits here, I imagined myself to be a New Yorker. Before my multiple sclerosis kicked in, I was a fast walker so when in New York, I would walk at the pace of a local and would be frustrated when slowed down by hoards of tourists.  Sometimes I would adapt my exterior persona to be cool, quick, indifferent and a little brash, to match a local.

My fantasy was to live here as someone else, adapting the behavioral perception I have of the locals. This city could, in my imagination, give me the space to be a completely different person for a while; basically test-driving my alter ego.

I took on a bit of my alter ego attitude at dinner tonight, as I ate alone at the bar in an Italian restaurant. My mannerisms were somewhat aloof and indifferent, although I was totally paying attention to the conversations around me. The vision in my head, the fantasy me: I would probably chime in on the conversation to my right, two guys talking about the soccer game on the big screen, by adding my pro USA mentality to whatever team their family heritage led them to cheer for. I would have bought a round of drinks for the three attractive young ladies to my left, with an appropriate or inappropriate amount of flirting.

Of course I did none of that. I kept to myself, texted my gf to tell her I missed her, told bartender I enjoyed the meal, paid my tab, over tipped and quietly hobbled back to my hotel.

My imagined 'other life', like New York City, is a great place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Scene Seen

Sunday, 8am, corner of Broadway and 54th in Manhattan. I'm sitting on a bench outside Starbucks, across the street from the famous Ed Sullivan Theatre, home of the Late Show with Steven Colbert.
It fairly quiet now, compared with the weekday craziness of midtown Manhattan. Sunny, cool. I'm people watching, trying to distinguish tourists from locals.

A very tall woman wearing a purple kimono, sandals and an Asian-inspired umbrella hat walks by. She stopped to check out a couple of items in a pile of trash at the corner, then continued walking. Oh wait, that was a guy.

Heard conversations in at least five languages in addition to English. Heard English with Irish and Jamaican accents.

All ages walk or run by. A 70-ish couple face timing with their children. Five 40-something guys taking a Starbucks break from their fitness walk. A 40-something jogger stopping to take a selfie in front of the Ed Sullivan Theatre. A disheveled man pushing two carts of what might be everything he owns. More runners: a tall thin 60-ish man, a perky 20-ish woman in perfectly coordinated pink and gray. A guy on crutches walking a pug. A couple: tourists or residents? Can't tell. I'm wearing khakis and tapping my iPhone, so I probably look like a tourist.

Two guys in black suits looking all important with their briefcases on wheels. College students - or maybe they study at Lincoln Center a few blocks from here.

Ok, coffee cup is empty. Time for me to pack and go to the train station.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Do Guys Have Guy Friends?

Friendship is very important to me and I have many friends.  Sort of.  Most of my friends are women; some are former lovers but most were and are truly ‘just friends’.  My closest friends are scattered across the globe, from Wisconsin to Louisiana to Colorado to Hawaii to England. 

When I say ‘sort of’, I mean that I do have friends but few are the kind of friends that are close like family.  That’s my take on it.  My GF says I have a lot close friends, the kind you could call at 2 in the morning if you needed help with something.  I’m not so sure.  Fortunately, I haven’t had that kind of emergency or crisis.

But what about guy friends?  I don’t engage in the usual male bonding activities like football, basketball, hunting, fishing, bar hopping to pick up girls … you know, stuff like that.  I do like to watch sports and have been to baseball and basketball games with guys.  I love music and occasionally go to a concert with a guy or two.  I’ve developed a few male friends at my neighborhood wine bar hangout but I am usually there with the afore-mentioned GF, so my friend connections there are more couples friends.

Friendships between straight male friends do typically run along a different path that female friendships.  I think it’s a cultural thing.  Male friends can be close like brothers but I see less of that than sister-like friendships.  Parents are significant role models and I recall my Dad being somewhat of a loner.  He was close to family but I only remember him having two male friends and he outlived both of them.  Their friendships were centered around hobbies like carpentry.  I had three male high school friends and we went fishing and bicycling together, but I’m only regularly in touch with one of them now and our lives have taken significantly different paths over the decades and we live 1200 miles apart.

I seem to be whining about this, but I’m not.  My own self-analysis tells me I haven’t done much to develop close friendships locally, even though I’ve lived in Maryland for a couple of decades.  I thought I had several friends when I lived in Baltimore, only 40 miles from where I currently live, but those relationships are more about the past than the present.  I am in touch with three or four but have spent very little in-person time with them.  It’s not all on me; they didn’t do all that much to stay in touch either.  Part of it might have been the result of me being married to a fairly unsociable woman for a long time. 

So what is my current friendship building status? I’m writing this in the beach house I mentioned in an earlier post.  There are three couples here.  The other two couples are friends of my GF and so they are now in my circle of friends too.  But close friends?  Hard to tell.  Our biggest bonding is spontaneous music trivia, which I guess is a good place to start.

All of this gets me thinking about my high school friend Jim, the one I am still in touch with.  He and I met as a result of alphabetical seating in high school; our last names start with L.  We became close as we navigated the typically turbulent teen years; we discovered girls together and frequently compared notes and discussed the mysteries of the opposite sex.  We went fishing together, watched TV shows, discovered bourbon and beer, double dated, solved all the world’s problems through hours-long conversations.  As I mentioned, our lives took significantly different paths after college and even more so after I left Louisiana.  I have never had another male friend like that.  Maybe it is because I moved to new cities every few years, maybe because most of my friends were work friends who also moved around a lot.  We just didn’t spend the time or effort to get close.  I don’t know.

I realize this post is going nowhere.  I’m mostly just thinking out loud.  Thanks for reading my rambling.  I think it’s time for another cup of coffee.  One more day at the beach!  Yay!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Happy Father's Day

My Dad died fifteen years ago but I think about him a lot.  I think he visits me when I look in the mirror, when I pick up a tool box, when I get pissed off in traffic.  He is floating around my head when I try to solve a problem using logic.  I hear his voice when I speak, especially if the first words out of my mouth are a little soft or mumbled and I’m asked to repeat what I just said.

Dad in his 30s
I see Dad when I open the door for a woman.  I laugh at myself when I lace up my brown round toe dress shoes that look just like his did.  I kind of see his face when I hear a Glenn Miller song (he liked him) or a Frank Sinatra song (he hated him).  Dad’s face comes into view if I make a judgmental comment, although unlike him, I try to refrain from that attitude.  I sense his presence when I think to myself or out loud that I can solve any problem if I try hard enough or long enough. 

For the most part my Dad was a ‘by the book’ and ‘do the right thing’ man and he was very predictable.  Mostly.  Sometimes he would totally surprise me with some off-the-wall comment or action, although I can’t think of an example at this moment.  He often seemed totally indifferent to what was going on in my life but then he’d say something that indicated he was paying a lot of attention.  One example: I wanted to move to a friend’s house in another part of town.  Dad didn’t like the idea but then right before I moved, he told me that he had walked past the house in question (quite a bit out of his way) and determined it was a decent place.  Another example: he didn’t like my taste in music but in the middle of a conversation about something else he asked me I had heard the news that Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham died that week.  What?!  I had no clue he even knew Led Zeppelin was a band.
Me (in my 30s) and Dad (in his 70s)

I don’t have children so I’ll never know what being a Dad really feels like but I have a strong appreciation for the responsibility involved.  My Dad and I had a troubled relationship during my teens and twenties and lived 1200 miles apart after that, so we never had the time or proximity to become adult friends.  I regret that.  But I did and do love him and miss him.  I think he’d like at least some of how my life turned out.

If you’re still in touch with your Dad, see him or call him today.  Don’t wait, do it now!!  Happy Father’s Day.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

In and Out and In and Out

The sensation is exhilarating yet relaxing: steady, repetitive in and out and in and out.  Wet, rhythmic pounding that never stops. It embraces all the senses. The sight of glistening, tan skin, the fragrance unique to this setting, the satisfying sound of the surf on the beach.  Beaches are kinda sexy.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Would I Live There?

Nearly every time I visit a place I picture myself living there. I've been visiting the Outer Banks North Carolina area for thirty years and I engage in that exercise often. I even began an informal job and real estate search at one time, twenty years ago.

I'm writing this post from the second floor ocean-facing deck of a beach rental, while taking a break from reading a book written by the CEO of AARP. Can you guess what is going through my head right now?

One of my travel partners is retired and the rest of us are visualizing retirement. This is the fifth consecutive day of no alarm clock, the fifth day of flexible or non-existent schedules, the fifth day of relaxation, laughter, reading, beach time and engaging conversation with people in my own boomer age range. And it's the fifth day of imagining this as a full time lifestyle.

Would I live here?  Would I retire here?  Would I work here if I could, as a phased retirement?  I don't know.

I love my neighborhood and my life in the DC suburbs. I'm nine miles from a challenging job I love, three miles from some of the best medical facilities in Maryland, walking distance from an active social life that includes friends, music, wine, exercise, healthy food and a relative amount of safety.  Out here in Corolla NC I'm walking distance to the ocean, a longer walk to a grocery store and some recreational opportunities. But most everything involves driving somewhere and the nearest medical facility is 30 minutes away (longer during tourist season when the only through road is clogged with visitors).

Maybe I just answered my own question. Again. No, I would probably not live here. At least not full time. If I had the financial resources I would probably visit here a lot or live here part time. That is not an option right now, however.

But I still enjoy the mental picture. And I predict that my positive beach mood will stay with me for several weeks after I return home.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Nowhere To Go and All Day To Get There

The title of this post is borrowed from a Kenny Chesney song but the sentiment perfectly describes my attitude this week.  I’m writing this in the family room of a beach house in Corolla, NC, with a view of the Atlantic Ocean in one direction and Currituck sound and a golf course in the other.  One of my travel partners is taking a late morning siesta at this moment, the other four are riding bikes in the neighborhood and I’m enjoying the solitude.

Sometimes I don’t realize how busy and stressful work is till I disconnect from it for a week.  Today is Thursday and I have given almost no thought to work since Sunday.  I love my job but I have to admit, which I rarely do, that it is stressful.  Fun, but stressful.  Part of why I am so relaxed right now is that I haven’t heard my alarm clock for four days; sunrise peeking through my bedroom curtain has been my wake up call, which I chose to ignore each morning after a brief acknowledgement of it.  The alarm, a ringing phone and the ding from office email has been replaced by the ebb and flow of the ocean and the fairly constant breeze that Wright brothers experienced in 1903 just thirty miles from where I am sitting.  The sight of a computer monitor has mostly been replaced by blue skies, green trees, tan sand and blue-gray ocean water.  Conversation about promotional strategies and creative commercial scripts have been replaced by topics like seafood, 10k runs, growing up, this year’s beach house versus last year’s.  Scheduling conference calls and meetings have given way to scheduling meals, beach time and shopping.

I wish I had my home blood pressure thing with me because I bet the numbers are lower than they are at home.  I am so relaxed right now that I don’t even care that I had donuts for breakfast this morning, which I never do at home. Leftover lasagna is on our lunch menu today, Mexican food and margaritas are planned for dinner.  Wine and live music is our tentatively-scheduled desert, should we choose to pay any attention to a schedule at all.

Americans do not take enough vacation; many don’t use all that is available.  I am eligible for more with my current job than with any previous job and I do take every vacation day coming to me.  I don’t always get to enjoy a beach week, but I do try to make the most of time off.  Vacation is a psychological recharge and time off makes us stronger when we return to work.  I think my bosses realize that and fortunately for me, they respect my time off and refrain from contacting me except for emergencies.  Luckily, there have been none this week.

Another topic of conversation the other night was the dream of living here full time.  One of our group of six is retired and could actually do that, but the rest of us cannot, at least not yet.  Would I really want this leisurely beach life full time?  Probably not.  Thanks to technology, however, I could do most of my job right here.  Hmmmmm.


Monday, June 13, 2016

People Are Stupid

 So I'm doing what I said I wouldn't do ... reading my Facebook while on vacation.

That mass shooting in Orlando happened yesterday. At this point it appears the shooter is a self-radicalized Islamist terrorist. The shooting happened at a gay nightclub and at least 50 people were killed and that many more were injured.  The 'Islamic state' has claimed responsibility but it is not clear if the shooter was directly connected to ISIS or had been trained by them in any way.

Predictably, some people on Facebook are blaming all Muslims, which is fucking bullshit, others are blaming Obama, which is even more fucking bullshit.  While many terrorists are Muslim, most Muslims are NOT terrorists. If you want to blame a president, blame Bush. His administration is much more responsible for the global 'hate America' movement. But blaming Bush isn't fair either.

I've also seen gun control fans chiming in, blaming this shooting on the guns. On one hand, there is no fucking reason for assault rifles like the one uses on the Orlando shootings to be legal. On the other hand, the guns were the instrument but the shooter did the killing.

There is no simple answer to the complex questions and circumstances related to this and other mass shootings. Could the FBI have done more to watch this shooter when they first became aware of him in 2013?  Yes. Is that Obama's fault?  Fuck no. There are a lot of people on FBI watch lists. Can they watch them all, follow them around, do some 'George Orwell 1984' surveillance on them? Sure. Should they?  No simple answer. They could be watching a lot of us for who-knows-what reason. Scary.
Ok, so the previous part of this post was written yesterday. This morning, there is new evidence that the shooter was mentally unstable and the shooting was more likely the result of his outrage over seeing two men kissing; so he took an assault rifle into a gay bar and killed people. Not an Islam thing, not Obama's fault, just a mentally fucked up man killing people. And the assault rifle was purchased legally. Why does anyone need an assault rifle? Feel free to debate all of this but keep in mind there is no easy answer. This particular shooting was mental health issue more than anything.

Except for posting a few beach vacation pictures, I think I'm going to stay off of Facebook the rest of this week so I don't have to read any more moronic commentary.  And I am about to block at least ten more FB friends because I don’t want to read some of their misguided crap about these shootings, the presidential campaigns or the President.  Even some of my most intelligent friends are expressing unintelligent opinions.  Generations of military men and women have died to give them the right to have and express those opinions; and for me to have mine.  Maybe the thing that pisses me off the most about all of this is that people confuse opinion and fact.

All for now, and hopefully all on this topic forever. Sorry for the negative post.  I’m at a beach house on a cool, sunny summer day trying to relax and it’s time for me to continue that pursuit of happiness.