Sunday, March 22, 2015

Act the Second

(This is the conclusion to a story I began a couple weeks ago.  If you missed part one, you can check it out here.  Unless you're a member of law enforcement, in which case, there's really nothing to see.  I consider this a motivational story.  As in, it motivates me to post something else soon so this won't be the first thing people see when they come here.)

Punishment was swift.

The following Monday, most of the student body was in the gym for the intramural finals.  The principal walked in and pointed at the three of us -- Axl, Neil, and myself --and called us to his office.  We unceremoniously made our way down the bleachers and out of the gym in front of all our peers and every girl I'd ever made out with or wanted to.

Actually, if I hadn't had the worst game of my life in the intramural semifinals the week before, we probably would've been playing and they'd have had to stop the game to pull me out.  So, it could have been worse.

When we got to the office, I saw LJ first.  He had graduated the prior year.  They had contacted him and made him come back to the school!  This had to be bad.

Then we were led into another room -- the actual principal's office -- where sat the middle school principal, Mister Mims.

He was Ferris Bueller's Rooney, The Breakfast Club's Vernon, and every other self-important school administrator starving to wield what little power they'd been afforded rolled into one.  I was certain he had waited for this day his whole life.

The basic gist of the meeting was that we would perform 100 hours of "community service" which would largely be made up of painting the middle school.  In exchange, he wouldn't press charges, nothing would go on our record, and we would all be able to graduate as planned.

It seemed like a power play then, and still does.  Intimidation and scare tactics at their best.  I'm sure they needed someone to paint the school.  Here was a chance to get someone to do it for free.  But what choice did we have?  Felt like none.

They had also contacted our parents.  Axl and I would miss our senior trip, to the beach.

And so that became the summer we learned to paint, and bonded, with each other and with the middle school custodian, Ms. Bullard.

Ms. Bullard was sort of a manly woman.  Not all that fetching.  It wasn't hard to imagine her in younger days plowing ten acres nine months pregnant, stopping to squeeze out triplets with no medicinal assistance, then going right back to plowing.

She was no nonsense, but good as gold.  I got the feeling she didn't agree with the principal's punishment, and she made that summer as bearable as possible while still ensuring we got some painting done.

One thing I remember most about that summer are the days when every single thing she said seemed to be a euphemism for something sexual.  OK, so most days are probably like that when you're seventeen.  But this one day, she was having a problem with the tractor (seriously, like a lawn tractor, she was mowing) and had Axl and I on the ground looking underneath it.

"Do you see anything sticking out?"

"Just feel around under there until you find it."

"Don't make me have to get down on my hands and knees."

On and on it went, for like ten minutes.  I swear she was doing it on purpose.  If ever I was going to pee my pants from laughter, that would've been the day.

Another thing I remember about the summer is that somehow LJ had managed to keep the whole ordeal hidden from his parents.  When we found this out, we began "accidentally" splattering paint on him so they'd figure out something was going on.

To counter this, he started bringing extra clothes every day and changing in the car before he went home.  That's when one of us got the wise idea to call his parents, and when they said he wasn't home, we'd say "Oh, is he not back from painting the school yet?"

It seems like a crappy thing to do now, but guys are like that sometimes.  We rag each other incessantly, make up fun games where we punch each other in the upper arm to the point of bruising, and sometimes... tattle on each other like whiny babies.  Evidently.

Mostly I just remember the hours.  The painting.  The long days.  The camaraderie.  Talking about anything and everything to pass the time.  Listening to the radio.  You haven't lived until you've sung "Daytime Friends" by Kenny Rogers out loud with three of your best male friends while sweating profusely in the June Alabama humidity at what amounts to little more than a glorified work release camp.

When it was finally over, I can remember a feeling of "what do I do with all this free time now?"  I might've even had a touch of Stockholm syndrome.  It's easy to understand how people who are in prison for a long time can no longer function on the outside. 

I suppose the worst part of it all was disappointing my parents.  And Neil's mom.  Neil was two years my junior.  She had always trusted me to look out for him, and I had let her down.  One day when I knew he wasn't home, I went over and apologized to her face to face.  She forgave me absolutely and completely, I know.  Still, few times have I ever felt lower.

And of course, missing my senior trip seemed like the worst thing in the world.  It would be another five years before I saw the ocean for the first time.

Despite all that, most of the negative feelings have simply faded away with time.

Someday when I recount this tale for my great-grandchildren -- running a paint roller up and down LJ's shirt, Ms. Bullard and the tractor, getting to see the inside of an actual teacher's lounge -- one of them (while marveling at how sharp my memory is for a 104-year-old) will ask, "Sir Bone (I get knighted in my swingin' sixties), why are you smiling?"

And I'll reply with a hint of a gleam in my eye...

"Not now, what's-yer-name.  Go play in the yard or something.  It's time for my bi-hourly nap."

Saturday, March 14, 2015


When a man looks into the not-so-distant future and sees himself being with one, and only one, woman for the rest of his life, it can be a staggering realization.

He begins to have thoughts he's never had before.  As he senses his window of opportunity closing, he may be tempted to have one final fling before the day to end all dalliances arrives.

In extreme cases, he may give in, trying various other women.  Some he's had before, some he hasn't.

I speak from experience.

It seems strange that this is me -- a guy whose first time didn't happen until he was fifteen.  It was at a friend's birthday party.  We had gone to Pizza Inn to celebrate.  One thing led to another.  It was new and different, but I had no doubt I wanted to experience it again.

If you're not following -- and really, how could you be -- this has all been a reverse euphemism... for pizza.

My favorite pizza place within a five-galaxy radius, Marco's, is opening a store in my town this summer.  Just the mention of it elicits a Pavlovian response.  I'm as excited as a 10-year-old girl backstage at a One Direction concert.  (Analogies like this, that's what makes me beautiful?)

But Niall, Liam, Harry and those other two guys have nothing on the fresh, juicy toppings, sublime crust, and sinful cheesy bread that I will soon be ingesting on a far-too-frequent basis.  There's also the award-winning (Wikipedia's adjective, not mine) White Cheezy.  Or as I like to call it, the Kate Upton of pizzas.

I think that must be why, within the past week, I've had pizza three times at three different places, including twice in one day!  My subconscious knows that soon I will never be with another woman, er, pizza place, again.

I've become a pizza slut.  Doing whatever it takes to obtain new and different marinara. And they don't even have to be good-lookin' pizzas, either.

Last Sunday afternoon, I had a pizza with potatoes on it.  Potatoes, people!  What in the name of Papa John is going on?

This is what comes from realizing you will soon be spending the remainder of your days loving just one pizza place.

To be honest, I'm most worried about my weight.  I think we've all seen what happens to a lot of guys after they get married.  Amiright?

I'm kinda hoping they'll have a walk-up window.  With a treadmill.  Run while you wait.

Otherwise, I may have to jog to Canada and back, twice a year, just to keep my weight somewhere between slightly stocky and morbidly obese.

Of course if I did that, I could stop on the way and visit the original Marco's location in Oregon, Ohio.

It's a sort of mecca for chubby guys like me.

"When the moon hits your eye / Like a big pizza pie / That's amore / When the world seems to shine / Like you've had too much wine / That's amore..."

Thursday, March 05, 2015

A Tale Not Proudly Told

I suppose I can write about it now.  Enough time has passed.  Although you can never be too careful with stuff like this.  But I think it's safe now, what with the statute of limitations and all.

It was the spring of my senior year of high school.  Must have been well into April, perhaps even early May.  I only say that because it was warm that night.

Six of us -- Archie, Ben, Neil, LJ, Axl, and I -- had gone to town.  Well, the next town over.  I don't remember for sure what we did, maybe went bowling or something.  I would say we went to the mall, we were always doing that, but that wasn't Archie's sort of thing.

On the way over, we were joking Axl that one of the teachers was gonna have the middle school gym open that night for basketball.  He did that sometimes, just not tonight.  But that really got Axl going.  He believed us.  And he wouldn't let it go, even on the way home from bowling.

First I should say, we were in two cars.  Archie had borrowed his brother's Corvette.  Who lets their 17-year-old brother borrow their Corvette?  But he had.  I don't remember who drove the other car, it's not really important, other than to say it wasn't me or Ben.  And it dang sure wasn't a Corvette.

At that time, Neil would've had a black Hyundai hatchback, before anybody even knew they made Hyundais.  We used to con him into letting one of us drive it, because he didn't know where he was going half the time.  We'd have to stop a few blocks before we got home and switch back so his parents wouldn't know.  Axl captained about a 1974 Oldsmobile houseboat-on-wheels, from back in the good old days when they still made cars that seated eight comfortably, and wouldn't fit in one lane.  I would've been in the gold, four-door '85 Cavalier I'd "inherited" from my parents, but like I said I didn't drive that night.

I know I didn't drive because I remember Ben and I fought over who had to ride back with Archie.  I don't even know why, other than it would have been more fun to ride in a car with four than just you and Archie.

Archie wasn't a bad guy.  He wasn't.  He was just... Archie.  He would get all mature on you sometimes.  But just sometimes.  His family was well-to-do.  His dad had started some industrial supply company and they were the first ones to sell those big arctic cooling fans that NFL teams used on the sidelines.  I mean, surely they weren't the first, but that's what Archie told us anyway.  I don't know, maybe they were the first.  But he really wasn't a bad guy.  Not in the least.

So Ben rode with Archie, and the rest of us rode back together, and we went to the drive-in restaurant, the six of us in two cars.  Then, because Axl just wouldn't let it go, even though we told him they weren't shooting basketball at the gym that night, we decided to take him over there so he would drop it.

At some point, we must have gone and gotten our own vehicles -- Axl, LJ, Neil and myself -- because I remember all our cars were parked outside the gym.  Somehow we beat Archie and Ben over there.  And being sophisticated as we were, we decided we'd run down to the old football field and hide on the bleachers so they couldn't find us.

The middle school used to be the high school, and the old football field was just an empty lot they used for a playground at recess.  But on one side, there were these concrete bleachers built into the side of a hill.  So we all laid down where they wouldn't be able to see us.  They looked and looked and hollered for us, then finally gave up and decided to leave.  We all thought it was the most hilarious doggone thing ever.

That's one thing about being seventeen.  The stupidest things are funny.  Maybe that's why seventeen is such a magnificent age.  Actually, I think most of us were eighteen.  But saying we were seventeen sounds better.  It makes it all seem a little more excusable.

In hindsight, Archie and Ben leaving turned out to be... what's the opposite of fortuitous?  Because Archie would have been our moral compass.  There's no doubt in my mind about that.  I think Neil would have objected, too, had he not been two years younger than us.  But as such, he didn't speak up much.  I didn't think his mother would ever forgive me for what we were about to do, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and all.

The recently-departed Ben oft regaled us with stories of guys -- older guys -- who were always sneaking into the gym on Saturdays to shoot ball.  Ben grew up in a house across from the school.  And not even across a road, just a dead-end alley.  I spent the night at his house when my sister was born.  Well, that was after I threw up in the waiting room at the hospital.  God forbid I miss a day of second grade.

Apparently, the back door to the gym used to be broken or something and you could get right in.  But that was Saturday -- "day" being the key syllable there.  I think you see where this is going.

We tried the door.  It was locked.  Had Ben lied?  Surely not.  Probably they had fixed the lock sometime in the past ten years was all.  

This is another thing about being seventeen, at least for me.  We were always looking for a place to play basketball.  It could be an old goal in the dirt in somebody's backyard, an outdoor court with no net at a local church, or, in this case, a locked gymnasium.

So there we were on a warm spring night 'neath the Alabama stars, a few weeks yet until graduation, the real world seemingly still far away.  An entire gymnasium with its two beautiful basketball goals, just sitting there, beckoning to us from the other side of a brick wall, a locked door, and some windows.

Ah yes, the windows.  Those big tilt-out windows that gyms always have.  Did I mention several of them were open?

I'm not sure how long we debated it.  I do remember having qualms.  Not many qualms, but a couple of qualms.  I think poor Neil may have even objected at first.  But peer pressure's idiocy knows no bounds.  So after ten or fifteen or thirty minutes, the four of us, a real crack group of world-class decision-makers mind you, settled upon a plan.

We would hoist Neil up to the ledge by one of the open windows.  He was probably about 5'10" and fairly slight of frame.  He would be able to climb through the window, make his way over to turn on the lights, then let us in the back door.  I don't recall why, but we seemed fairly confident the back door would open from the inside. 

It did.

And there we were -- in basketball xanadu!

We started out playing some "21," then two-on-two, and eventually broke off into two games of one-on-one.  I was taking on Axl, while LJ and Neal went at it on the other end.  I don't remember much about the basketball portion of the evening, which is a bit strange, as it is the whole reason for the story.  I just remember Neal kept killing LJ.

He would yell things like, "Bone, I beat him 21 to 4."  "Bone, I beat him again." "Bone."


I had stopped even listening.  Then both their voices -- LJ and Neal -- were yelling my name.


To this day, I never knew why they yelled at me.  I mean, why not Axl?  We were the same age.  Heck, he was four months older even.  Why did I have to be the ringleader?  But I was.

Axl and I stopped our game.  We turned to see what they wanted.  And there, at the far end of the court, stood two women.

I recognized one as a teacher.  Turns out they both were.

Suddenly the real world had gotten awfully close.

Evidently one of the teachers had been driving by the school and saw every light in the gym was on, you know, because it was night time and all!

Drat!  The only flaw in our plan, and it had come back to bite us in the hindquarters.

They had an intriguing question for us: "What are ya'll doing in here?"

Neal, bless his heart, replied with the innocence of a child (which legally, he still was).

"Playing basketball?"

We would laugh about that part later, but I swear I could not have mustered even a whimper in that moment.  I'd have been less terrified if there had been Soviet paratroopers landing outside the gym.  I'd seen "Red Dawn" so I knew how to handle that.

Then Axl began trying to talk his/our way out of it, saying we thought the other teacher, the one we kidded him about, was going to be up there that night.  That old boy, I swear.  Once in 9th grade English class, he made up this whole book report about a book that didn't even exist.  If that wasn't enough, when Archie told the teacher the book didn't exist, she said pensively, "No.  I think I may have heard of that book." 

Axl could always, and still can, talk his way out of almost anything.  But he wasn't talking his way out of this.

The teachers told us to get out and that this better never happen again.  I'm not sure if they were yelling, but it sure felt like they were.  We scampered to our cars.

I bet it took me about twelve hours to fall asleep that night.  I hoped that would be the end of it.

It wasn't.

"Seventeen, only comes once in a lifetime / Don't it just fly by wild and free / Goin' anyway the wind blew, baby..."

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Snow Fell on Alabama

There's a rare mingling of sensations with a new-fallen snow.  Fresh yet familiar.  Excitement mixed with a remarkable quiet.

And every time feels like the first time.

Only a few things in life are like that, I think.  Christmas is like that.  The day you feel the first hint of fall in the air.  Sunsets are a bit like that. The beginning of college football each year is like that for me.

And here in the South, snow is like that.

After many letdowns and missed predictions the past two weeks, we finally got a beautiful, snowman-able snow on Wednesday.  And it was even more than they had predicted.  (I like to think of our local weather forecasters in terms of a Dos Equis commercial: "We don't always correctly predict when it's going to snow, but when we do, we severely underestimate the amount.")

It began around 2 o'clock in the afternoon and by sunset (when I went out to measure) we had nearly seven inches.  It continued to snow, though a bit lighter, until I went to bed.  My guesstimate would be we got around 9 inches.

So deep it was that I didn't go into work Thursday morning.  Anyone who knows me knows it takes an act of Congress for me to miss work.  (OK, so I actually did go in for about two hours around lunch.  Apparently there was a filibuster.)

Here are a few pics from our veritable winter wonderland...

"In the lane, snow is glistenin'..."

Where there's snow, there must be snow creme.

This looked like a postcard, except with poorer resolution.  Much, much poorer.

Hard to believe in a month, this yard will be covered with grass. And mosquitoes.

With apologies to Arthur Miller, I call this one "Death of a Snowman." (Biff Snowman?)
I'm sure it's comical for those in northern climes to see how we in the South react to snow.  Schools close.  Roads close.  (All roads were deemed impassable sometime Wednesday evening.)  Heck, even the Walmart closed this time.

People scurry to the store to stock up on milk, bread, and eggs like it's 1848 and they're at Independence, Missouri, stocking up the wagon for the arduous, months-long trip to the Willamette Valley.

And then there's the driving.

One guy had gotten stuck attempting to back out of his driveway.  This idiot had foregone shoveling any snow and somehow maneuvered his car to where it was now nearly perpendicular to the driveway.  So he was out there shoveling (It was more of a spade, really.  I mean, let's call a spade a spade, eh?) and had some poor woman out there attempting to help him, except she was using a garden hoe.  I can only assume she felt sorry for the hopeless sap.

It's not difficult to imagine every single person that passed during that twenty-minute ordeal were laughing heartily.

As for me, I didn't laugh.  But I was pret-ty sore the next day from all the shoveling.

"Forty-six, anechoic / Forty-seven, blown from polar fur / Forty-eight, vanishing world / Forty-nine, mistral despair..."

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Music Monday: Horizons

It's twilight.  Chilly, but not awful for February.

The forecast is calling for 4 to 6 inches of snow tomorrow.  Of course, we've had approximately eleven winter weather advisories in the past fourteen days, and it has snowed exactly once.  All of a quarter-inch.

The night is mostly clear.  Here on the outskirts, half a mile from the city limit sign, it's dark enough to enjoy the evening sky.

Venus is the most radiant.  Hanging above the western horizon.  I realize my knowledge of Earth's sister planet is limited.  I know that's where women are from and that's pretty much it.  Then I remember a couple of ex-girlfriends I haven't heard from in years, and assume they must have returned to the mother planet.

Barely visible at Venus's five o'clock is Mars.  The two are so close together!  I enjoy the spectacle.  And wonder how Earth looks from there.

When I think of Mars, I always think of George Bush saying we're going to send a man to Mars, which leads my mind to Will Ferrell as George Bush, and I smile.

Overhead, I find the well-adorned Orion with his belt of three stars.  I see Betelgeuse. Then to the left and a bit lower, there is Sirius.  

Using a star gazer app on my phone, I am able to locate Jupiter in the eastern sky.  This makes me think of the movie "2010: The Year We Make Contact" and the message: "All these worlds are yours except Europa.  Attempt no landing there.  Use them together.  Use them in peace."  I shake my head at how I can remember that line exactly, yet can't ever seem to remember much else.

An airliner in a holding pattern circles overhead.  It looks for all the world like it will knock Jupiter right out of the heavens.  I watch to see if it will eclipse the planet, but its turn takes it barely below.

By now, my neck has begun to hurt from all the craning.  I think about how difficult it must have been for sailors in olden days, what with all the no-stargazing-and-sailing distracted boating laws.  And it strikes me that I may have just inadvertently solved the Titanic mystery.   

As I start to go in, my last view is of the horizon.  It's one of my favorite views.  Giant trees, skeletons of winter, against the evening sky.

Horizons.  It feels as if I'm standing squarely between two right now. 

I am in the midst of quite a lot of changes -- in life, not with my blog template -- and likely more are on the way.  As one who typically loathes and fights change, it seems all the more strange that this is me -- calm, content, and at peace with it all.

On the one side, I see the hope and challenges of tomorrow with its untested waters and brand new adventures.

On the other, the light has begun to fade on the day that was, with its different adventures, misadventures, familiar paths and beautiful indiscretions.  The people and places from these days evermore sewn into my soul.

So as much as I'm looking forward, and I am, there will always be times I will look back.  With a smile in my heart and nostalgia in my eye.

For I have loved these days.

"We're going wrong, we're gaining weight / We're sleeping long and far too late / And so it's time to change our ways / But I've loved these days..."

Thursday, February 19, 2015


The more I think about being born in February, I'm convinced my mother planned it that way, neatly nestled in the vast dead period between football season and the next football season.  I was a month early, but still it was post-Super Bowl.  I'm sure her thinking was, "OK, football's over, The Waltons is a rerun this week, let's go ahead and get this over with."

Sometime last week, the calendar reminded me I had clicked off another year.  Forty-two.  Which doesn't seem all that significant until you learn that is exactly one third of the way to my goal of one hundred twenty-six.

You think Betty White is a riot in her nineties?  Just wait until Bone in his hundred-aughts, and hundred-teens.  Hilarity shall ensue.

This also marked the year I officially turned into my dad with regards to gift requests.  I couldn't think of a single thing I wanted/needed.

Save for t-shirts.

And socks.  (I refuse to ask my mother to buy me underwear.)

No one makes a big deal about your age when you're my age.  I mean, I'm already old enough to run for President.  I can't get my AARP membership for eight more years (though judging by the number of mail-outs I have been receiving for awhile now, their advance recruitment efforts are unequaled).

Turning forty-two, it isn't like anyone says, "Ooo, you're twice the legal drinking age!  Don't do anything I wouldn't do!"

But it's not bad.

My birthday morning started with a call from Nephew Bone, who serenaded me with "Happy Birthday."  Minutes later, I played my highest-scoring word ever in Words With Friends (not against Nephew Bone).  The word ("stripier") wasn't all that impressive, but the 149 points was decent.  I basked in the afterglow of that achievement clean through lunch.  (Some would suggest I'm still basking.)

With grave apologies to the Hemingway estate, I suppose you could say the remainder of my birthday was a moveable feast.

Birthday night was dinner out with my dad and step-mom at a Mexican restaurant.  I had the shrimp burrito.  Then Friday night, we drove up to Nashville to meet friends at Famous Dave's.  Ribs, catfish, collard greens, and slaw.  Things wound down with Sunday dinner at mom's, or as I like to call it, Fat Sunday.  There were pork chops, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, cucumber salad, and more.

Desserts sampled at one point or other during the four-day Carnival de Cholesterol included chocolate cake, apple cobbler, pineapple upside down cake, and a glazed creme-filled doughnut from Krispy Kreme.  (Hey, it's right by the Famous Dave's!  I was raised that when you're that close to a Krispy Kreme, it's impolite and possibly even sinful not to go.)

For Lent, I'm giving up my aversion to angioplasty.  Evidently.

I'm sure everyone says the same thing, but I don't feel forty-two.  I feel twenty-five.  Granted, a twenty-five-year-old who struggles to stay up past 10 p.m. most nights.  But also one who has grown to appreciate the value of life's simpler pleasures, like long naps, sunsets, liquid Maalox.

And new socks.

Here's to the next eighty-four years.

"The truth about a mirror / Is that a damned old mirror / Don't really tell the whole truth / It don't show what's deep inside / Or read between the lines / And it's really no reflection of my youth..."

Friday, February 13, 2015

J-Lo's Loss is Every Man's Gain

I hadn't thought of him in years.

Sure, I had the single for "I Need to Know."  (Tell me, baby girl, who didn't?)  I knew he had been married to Jennifer Lopez and vaguely recalled hearing about their separation and impending divorce.  But until this moment, standing next to the corner display table in the men's section of Kohl's department store, I realized I'd never really known the man at all.

The man I'm speaking of is Marc Anthony.  And this is the story of how he changed my life.  Or at least my early forties.

It all began a couple of years ago, sitting on a couch in Anytown, USA, watching the ABC sitcom "The Middle."  That's when I noticed that I owned (and frequently wore) the exact same shirt as one of the actors.  On the show, he played a 17-year-old named Axl.  In real life, I was evidently playing a 40-year-old "teen" named Bone.

From that point on, everywhere I'd go I began to notice my style was being imitated by guys half my age.  How could this be?  Did I somehow have a cult following of which I wasn't aware?

Perhaps.  I mean, what kid wouldn't look up to a guy who blogs, doesn't really "go out with people," and is a boss at Trivia Crack and Words With Friends?

Or maybe it was me.  Was I dressing like a teenager/college kid?  I did gets lots of clothes from Aeropostale every year for Christmas.  (What?  It's not like a have a pair of shorts with "Juicy" printed on the ass.)

But what else was there?  It was either dress like a teenager or give in and start wearing those old man shirts that should say "instantly turn into your dad for only $19.97."  (And now you have a window into Madonna's thought process prior to every major television appearance.)

No, I couldn't go there.  I wouldn't.  Not yet.  And so, I draped myself in cotton -- continuing to sport a variety of raglan t-shirts, zip-up hoodies, and my Chucks -- and slogged on.

At different times in my life, I had patterned my "style" after the debonair likes of Brandon Walsh, Jason Morgan, and Dillon Quartermaine.  (We'll conveniently gloss over the Wranglers and western boots days.)  Of course, Jason left General Hospital for Genoa City, new Jason mostly wears prison garb, who knows what zip code Brandon landed in, and Dillon is off in California making movies.  If only I could summon him for advice.  What would Dillon do?

Maybe that was the problem: All my TV heroes of suave attire were gone.  Now there is only Matthew McConaughey driving around talking to his car or Jeff Bridges trying to sing me to sleep.

Whatever the reason(s), my sometimes-bumpy fashion evolution had come to a complete standstill. There needed to be a middle ground, something to fill the fashion vacuum for guys of a certain age who are still attempting to be marginally stylish.  I mean, there must be dozens of us out there, right?

Enter Mr. Anthony.

Who knew we had so much in common!  He was born in New York, I've visited New York.  He was raised Roman Catholic, I've shot Roman candles.  He was married to J-Lo, I've.... shot Roman candles.

Standing in Kohl's that day, I realized that after years of wandering in a fashion desert, I had found my promised land.  A retail Canaan stretched out before me as far as housewares to the north and jewelry and accessories to the west.

It was a land flowing with a generous assortment of sweaters, polos, and button-down shirts predominately in blacks, no-nonsense greys, and pleasing blues.  There were even a few hoodies.  But more mature ones, which could be dressed up or dressed down.  And really, isn't that what everyone is looking for in life?

No longer am I a 40-year-old dressing like a 17-year-old.  Today, I stand before you a 42-year-old who dresses more like a... guy in his early thirties.

Forever comfortable in my own skin.  At long last, I'm comfortable wearing another man's clothes.

"Not a lot to lean on / I need Your light to help me / Find my place in this world..."

Sunday, February 08, 2015

One night in December

For almost everyone in attendance, it would have been nothing very remarkable.  One child, just one of thirty or so on the stage, singing, ringing his bell, and making hand motions with all the other kids as they sang along to "O Come All Ye Faithful" during the Christmas program at the county Christian school.

But remarkable, it was.  To those who had seen him the year before stand with his back to the crowd the entire time, not moving or saying a word.  And the year before that had watched him put his hands over his face and cast his head downward, again not uttering a sound.

There I sat, in the audience, more teary-eyed than any parent or grandparent who was there.  Because I knew how far he had come.  I had been through the days of not being able to understand what he was saying even though he was trying so hard.

To watch a child struggle, to speak or to do any other seemingly simple task, melts away whatever hardness might be inside you.  It puts life in perspective in a way only a few things can.

I thought of his mother.  She who repeatedly told doctors something wasn't right until they finally listened.  She who still spends hours on the phone fighting with the insurance company as they try to deny coverage of his therapy.  And she who makes the 90-minute round-trip three times a week so that he can receive what she believes is the best-available help for his apraxia.

I looked over at her, sitting in the next section, her 5-foot-1 frame having to strain to see over the people in front of her.  She had a smile as wide as the building.  It's the smile she always has when she is trying not to cry.

She had struggled with whether to put him in public school, eventually deciding against it.  She started him here in hopes that he would get more attention.  It was a hard decision.  We were public school kids.  But if there were still any doubt, this night was absolute validation she had made the right choice. 

A little later we listened as one of the older kids, a young man who had overcome autism, stood in front of the audience and read the Christmas story.

When the program ended, I high-fived my nephew and told him how proud I was of him.  He seemed rather unimpressed by it all.  I thought of his great aunt, a wonderful and kind southern woman he would never really get a chance to know, lying in rest twenty minutes away.

A couple of days before, she had slipped from this realm of sickness and dying.  Her visitation was the same night of his program.

His uncle and her nephew, I managed to make it to both.

Life was beautiful. And sad.

"Some of it's magic / Some of it's tragic / But I had a good life all the way..."