R.I.P. Neal

A guy walks into a bar and ends up attending a wake.

Wait, it’s not a joke. That was me on Tuesday night.

What a strange week. R.I.P., Neal, you old barfly, you.

Might As Well Face It…

Johnny’s always running around trying to find certainty. He needs all the world to confirm that he ain’t lonely. Mary counts the walls. Knows he tires easily. Johnny thinks the world would be right if it could buy truth from him. Mary says he changes his mind more than a woman. But she made her bed, even when the chance was slim. Johnny says he’s willing to learn, when he decides he’s a fool. Johnny says he’ll live anywhere, when he earns time to. Mary combs her hair. Says she should be used to it. Mary always hedges her bets. She never knows what to think. She says that he still acts like he is being discovered—scared that he’ll be caught, without a second thought. Running around. Johnny feels he’s wasting his breath trying to talk sense to her. Mary says he’s lacking a real sense of proportion. So, she combs her hair. Knows he tires easily.

Bye-bye, Mr. Smooth

Obligiatory “Death Of Domestic Canine Companion” Post, or “Farm Purchase Eyed By Dog”

Obligiatory “Death Of Domestic Canine Companion” Post, or “Farm Purchase Eyed By Dog”
Many many years ago, my father remarried, built a new house, and settled in for the rest of his life. He and his new wife soon adopted a short-legged, charasmatic little pooch they’d noticed wandering around the neighborhood?er, more specifically, they adopted him when they noticed him wandering around Lee Highway.

They named him “Marion Barry.” Quoth my Dad: …we named him for the Mayor of Washington D.C. whose nocturnal peregrinations were not unlike those of this small black dog who enjoyed visiting the group house behind us in search of smoke. Some might take offense at the name, but with this dog in this city at that time, the name was perfect.

Today is Marion Barry’s last day with us. He is in most everybody’s estimation too sick to keep going. He is approximately 17 years old, damned ancient for a dog, and he’s arthritic and blind and his liver doesn’t work. It is, sadly, time to put him down.

Marion has spent his last years rather happily on a large farm estate in Rochester, N.Y. Though he bore the rather obvious signs of a dog going unhealthy with age, the cloudy eyes, the greasy coat, the little mole growing on his snout. As I recall, however, he never lost his personality and always seemed to refute his advanced age. I will genuinely miss seeing the old boy when I go up to Gonfalon Farm.

Good doggie.

Edinboro

I always forget how beautiful it is, Edinboro, Pa., how the lake is just the right size, how the little narrow Lakeside Drive is but a ribbon wrapping it all up, how good it smells, and how wonderfully life slows down there.

My Grandmother is quite the trendsetter in Edinboro. Always has been. Many years ago, she and her husband Bernard came to this little place that at the time was, I believe, pretty much just a hole with water in it surrounded by some land. They bought a lot and just camped on it for a few years before they started building the Cottage. The little place, built with strictly non-union labor (read: they pretty much built the place themselves), was where I would spend a large part of every summer as a kid. There are few places better to sleep when you’re that age then in the top bunk of a small room that is lined exclusively in knotty pine. I can still smell that house just by thinking about it.

In the mid ’80s, Grandma and Grandpa decided it just wasn’t enough room for them anymore. They swapped a lot they owned across the lake for the one adjacent to the Cottage and built their dream Edinboro home, palacial for Edinboro standards at the time. Here, the first Edinboro settlers became among the first to build a full-fledged residential dwelling. Now, of course, everyone’s doin’ it.

My Grandpa died in ’86. He rests across the lake from the house at Edinboro Cemetery. His plot was among our stops on this visit, a final footnote to an eye-opening weekend. It’s easy in one’s 20s, I think, to forget, ignore, or take for granted one’s roots. How valuable it is that my elders found this little spot, fell in love with it, and dug in. How extraordinary it is that I was offered such an ideal and happy place to play and learn my way to adulthood. How enormous it is that everywhere I go and everything I do, I carry millions of minutes of life experience with me earned at this little lake.

It is mind-boggling, and I thank my Grandparents profusely for giving it to me.

Say Cheese

I spent a year thinking about what I’d say to him.

He had this old bit on SNL called “the Al Franken Decade.” I’d ask him, “When exactly was the Al Franken Decade, and how did that work out for you?” And then he’d think I was really cool for knowing this old obscure bit of his and would invite me out for a beer.

It didn’t work out that way.

“When exactly was the Al Franken Decade, and how did that work out for you?” “The eighties.” “The eighties?” “Yes, the eighties. That’s when my kids were born.” “Oh.” CLICK

Partyup

This is where the world unhinges, isn’t it? Where the “president” leads us into war, not just war like grampa never talked about, but holy-mother-of-god-my-face-is-melting war? Yay.

    In Other News
  • You’ve of course heard by now that all the K-Marts in Iraq are soon to become Targets. (I’m telling this bad joke here and now so that you won’t tell it to me.)
  • The Washington Post points out adroitly that, while Washington says it’s ready for war, all it took was one cuckoo on a tractor to paralyze part of the city for a few days. Sorry, folks. This city ain’t ready. I may see my way clear to work from home for a few days.
  • Are we about to go to war with Canada, too?

Change

When you grow up with a person, you can have a conversation in an instant, without words, one that you’ve never had before and will never have again, one that preludes a moment that changes everything.

I sat on the sofa downstairs watching the Super Bowl with the same bit of interest as usual, and heard my aunt ask my Uncle Jay if it was time to go snap some pictures. The comment did not pass my brain’s triage, so I sat and kept watching the game with the same bit of interest, hoping one of those funny commercials would come on again.

Then, I had to pee. So I went upstairs.

What should have clicked in my little brain when my aunt said that was that Jay was getting ready to document where he is in his transition. By the time I got upstairs, he had removed his sweater, and my aunt had her digital drawn.

This is what he said to me, not in any words, not even in gestures, just in one milisecond of hesitation:

I’m about to take off this T-shirt, and you’ll see for the first time ever what I look like after top surgery plus a few short weeks of healing. For me, there’s no turning back, there hasn’t been since I had this done. For you, that point of no return is right now. After this, you will not know me any other way. I will no longer be your aunt in transition?I will be your uncle. That scares me a little, and it should you too, and so I’ll wait for just one second to give you a chance to leave the room before I take off my shirt and change both of our lives forever.

So, what do you think, nephew. You ready?

I didn’t flinch.