Thursday, August 27, 2009

StoryTime: The What If Girl

Just like millions and millions of other people in the world, I've been swept up by the Facebook mania that has old friends and acquaintances reuniting even if for only an hour or two to reminisce about high school memories or college stories of debauchery.

But every once and a while if you're active enough you might get a pleasant surprise when you bump into someone you had completely forgotten about or finally catch up to that long lost friend that you lost touch with right after graduation.

That's what happened to me about two weeks ago. As I sat there losing my shirt in a cyber game of Texas Hold 'Em, a small bubble popped up at the bottom of the screen alerting me to someone sending me a friendship request. The person's name didn't ring any bells so as I do in most cases, I went to her page to see a picture and even then I was only vaguely familiar with the person I was looking at but the alert said that we went to high school together so it was possible that I knew her once and just couldn't place her name or face. So I accepted her friendship request and almost instantly I received a message from her.

"Hey Chris, how are you? I didn't think you would remember me."

I didn't have the heart to confirm her doubts so I played along.

"Of course I do girl give me a little credit. lol."

I hoped she'd buy it after all it was a computer, not like she could hear the uncertainty in my voice. We chatted for a few more minutes before she ended the conversation with,

"Well, I need to feed my little boy. It was really cool talking to you again. Take care and by the way, have you learned how to change a flat tire yet? lol."

And with that, she was gone. Back to her life pre-reunion. But that's when it all came rushing back, hitting me like one of those brain freezes when you eat ice cream or drink milkshake too fast. But this time it was the mention of the flat tire that gave me the jolt.

I had just graduated from high school and it was the end of June and I was on my way home from somewhere late at night and it was storming outside. Back then I drove like the typical teenager... carelessly, so of course I hit something and blew out a tire.

So there I stood in the middle of a monsoon beside my mom's Mazda without an umbrella, trying to get someone to stop. And finally someone did. When the car pulled up to me, my first thought was that I must be crazy to even consider it.

And then the window came down. It was a girl and back then that was all the background I needed to check. So I hopped in.


"No problem Chris" she said.

I looked at her and was caught way off guard. But before I could say anything she added, "yes I know you. I should, we've gone to school together for the last seven years. Ever since sixth grade."

"I knew that." I lied.

"Oh you did? Well what's my name?"


"I said what's my name?" She pulled the car over to the side of the road again.

"If you can tell me my name, I'll take you home. But if you can't, you gotta get out here."

Oh boy.

She must have seen the terrified look on my face because she pulled off again. "I'm kidding. I'll take you home. You never said a word to me in four years of high school so I wouldn't expect you to know my name."

"You make me sound like such a dick." I waited for her to correct me or reassure me that that wasn't her intention, but she never did.



"My name is Dana."

"Oh, I knew that."


I gave her the directions to my house and we rode quietly for a while. I stole peeks of her out the corner of my eye. She wasn't a beauty queen so I could understand how I had completely missed her for four years straight. But even behind the glasses she wore, she had that shy, quiet, sex appeal about her. The kind of girl that was pretty but didn't know it. To ease my own guilt, I thought I should try to make small talk.

"So, how's your summer going?"

"Not too bad. You?"

"Havin' a ball."

"I guess you're going to some big college to play football next year huh?"

"Actually no. Didn't get any scholarship offers."

"What? But you're so good!"

This girl was growing on me every second. The more we talked the more I realized why our paths never crossed. She was going to Princeton on a full scholarship which meant she was smart, which in teenage terms meant she was a nerd. But a cute one. She reminded me that the last time I spoke to her was during gym class Sophomore year when we were on the same softball team and I told her to keep her head up after she struck out. She said that was the first time she allowed herself to even consider the fact that I might not be a total jerk.

We kept talking until we pulled up to the front of my house. By the time we got there I was wishing the ride had been a lot longer. She was so different than the girls I had hung out with but something about her made me nervous and that didn't happen often.

"Hey Dana, look, if I was a shitty person to you in school..."

"Don't worry about it. It's the nature of the beast. Jocks, geeks, populars, misfits, yadda yadda. That's high school."

"Yeah but..." but before I could finish my statement she reached over and kissed me right on the lips. Nothing long or passionate, just a quick and gentle peck on my lips. It was over before I could really enjoy it. And we just sat there for a few seconds looking at each other.

"Thanks for the ride."

"No problem. Good luck in Atlanta."

"Yeah, thanks. Good luck at Yale."


"Yeah, that's what I meant, Princeton."

I got out of the car and turned back towards her when she rolled down the passenger side window.

"You better learn how to change a flat tire before you get to Atlanta. There might be a lot of young ladies that'll need a gentleman's help." And she smiled before rolling up the window and driving off.

And there I stood outside my house getting soaked watching her car disappear into the night and the storm. Something inside of me was yelling for her to come back but the words never made it out of my mouth. For the first few years of college, every summer that I came back home, I looked for her and even asked old classmates about her but I could never find her. That night in front of my house was the last time I ever saw her.

Until 15 years later when I got a friendship request while I played Texas Hold 'Em on Facebook.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Story Time #1

I met this old man the other day in the waiting room of the jiffy lube while our cars were being serviced and this old man had stories on top of stories to tell everyone that was willing to listen.

He started with a story about how his third ex wife had just passed away. She had a heart attack while having sex with her new husband who was about twenty years younger than she was. My initial response was to laugh, but only because I didn't know crap like that really happened in real life. But anyway, he talked and talked and finally took a break so he could go outside in the rain and light up his stinky cigar.

Me being the nosey person that I am was intrigued by the way he stood in the rain, oblivious to getting wet with a look on his face that was a clear indication that he had plenty more to say, but at the same time could care less if we heard his stories or not. So of course I went outside too, and stood beside him on the other side of the parking lot, not too close that he'd be suspicious, but not too far that he'd think I was afraid.

I never said a word but he knew why I was there. He knew I was eager to hear more.

"You don't care about getting wet?" he asked me.

"It's just water" I answered. Oh but I cared, I was soaked already but if this old man was cool enough to stand there unflinched, then so was I.

"You got any brothers or sisters?" he asked me.

"Yeah, a couple."


"I had a brother. He was born August 3rd 1951."

"Had?" Yeah that's right I ask the tough questions, they taught us that in journalism 101.

He held out his hand, palm up toward the sky and after it had been sufficiently drenched by the downpour, he took his cigar and stamped it out right there in his hand. I looked back towards the waiting room and the garage to see if anybody else had seen what I just saw. This crazy old man was.....


So he went on to tell me how he had an older brother who was killed back when they were teenagers. And no, I didn't ask him how he was killed, but he told me anyway.

"I ran with this bunch of guys who stole cars for fun. We'd steal 'em, drive 'em around for a couple days and then ditch 'em. I was about 16 then and and my brother was 17. We were so much alike in some ways but mostly we were different. He went to school everyday, got good grades, went to church with momma every Sunday, even helped her cook dinner and had a part time job. Me on the other hand, I did everything a teenager ain't supposed to do, everything my mother told me not to. By the time I was 16 I had been in and out of juvenile detention centers three times.

So, one night I was in a big argument with my mother about the friends I kept. You know how that goes, so after about thirty minutes of it, I told her I didn't need a mother and if she didn't want me there then I'd leave. She didn't, so I did.

I went down to Cohega park where we all hung out and took out my anger on a couple joints and a big ass bottle of malt liquor. Then out of nowhere somebody was grabbing me by the back of my shirt and dragging me away from my friends. I pulled away and turned around to see that it was my brother and he was pissed. He said 'you're coming home, now'.

I told him that I was home and that he should go back to his mother since he was the one she loved anyway. And the next thing I knew he hit me, punched me right in the face. He had never done that before. I didn't even know he was that strong. He knocked me to the ground, completely killed my buzz.

All of my boys had gathered around and started looking so I had to save face. So I jumped up and swung back but I missed. He was quick too! I swung and missed again and then he hit me a second time, knocked me right back on my ass. But before I could do anything else, I heard this loud noise, sounded like thunder right in my ear and my brother fell to the ground right on top of me. By the time I rolled him over on his back, all of my boys had scattered and ran away. That's when I realized what had happened."

He stood there in the rain, still oblivious and silent. I couldn't tell if he was crying or if the rain had totally consumed his face, but I wasn't going to look too hard, this guy had just put out a cigar in the palm of his hand.

That's when the lady called my name from the waiting room doorway. I gave her the "give me a minute" finger before I turned to him and asked, "you okay man?"

He didn't answer, he just nodded. "Your car is ready" he said. So I took the hint and ran through the rain, back into the waiting room. I stood at the counter waiting for my receipt when I turned around and saw the old dude walking away down the street.

"He's leaving without his car?" I asked the jiffy lube lady.

"Oh, he doesn't have a car. He sits in here every once and a while and we let him as long as he isn't bothering the paying customers. Was he bothering you?"

I didn't know what to say. I wasn't expecting that. I said no while I watched him disappear down the street deeper into the rain. She handed me the receipt and a pen and as I went to sign it, the date at the top of the slip caught my eye.

August 3rd, 2009.

Friday, July 31, 2009

A New Way of Looking At Things

In my last post I mentioned opera and the beauty that my Aunt Alice saw in it. Well I don't know if it's the new daddy in me or maybe just a part of getting older, being more mature or just a little more boring (okay a lot more boring), but whatever the reason might be, I'm starting to see and hear beauty in things that I just didn't see or pay attention to in the past. Granted many of them have to do with my daughter but not all.

Beauty in Civility

Coming out of a gas station the other day, I watched as an older woman backed her car into a younger woman's car. To minor to call an accident but a little too harsh to call a fender bender but just enough to shake the old lady up and even though she was clearly the victim the younger woman got out and consoled the older woman trying to comfort her and keep her calm. These days in this finger pointing society we live in, it was beauiful to see someone put "the blame" on the backburner for the sake of someone elses well-being.

Beauty in Dependancy

Every once and a while when they're not looking, I look over at my girls (fiance and daughter) and I watch as they look at each other adoringly, neither one blinking and it hits me that mother has become just as dependant on her child's touch as the child is to hers. It's a beautiful thing.

Beauty in Incoherence

Zari is starting to make all kinds of noises and sounds, a bunch of sighs and coos that just melt her Daddy's heart every time he hears them. With no rhyme or reason, no logical explanation for why she makes one noise when she's sleepy and another when she's happy and then the next day it's reversed, none of it matters because every sweet little sound is music to my ears.

Beauty in 96

The 96th mile of my daily commute ends back in my driveway facing my home that I've missed all day. My sanctuary that I've longed for since the moment I left. After 96 miles of driving, the moment I turn that key and walk through the door I get to leave the stress and the drama of the day sitting on the front porch to wait for me until the morning when I'll recover them for another round. I've never been so happy to see the number 96 as I am when I see it on my way home everyday.

Beauty in Blessings

I've always enjoyed looking at old pictures from the past, they always put a smaile on my face. But now when I look at them and draw on old memories I also realize what a blessing it was to be able to have the good times I've had with friends, family, the places I've been, things I've seen, etc. When it's happening, it's all about that moment, but later down the road I guess that's when you start to really appreciate how lucky or blessed you were to have those experiences.

Beauty in Dirty Diapers

Hey, when you have a birthing experience like we did, you want everything to be exactly as it should be. If it involves tthe baby, then it should look right, sound right, smell right, be on time, be the right temperature, beep when it should, not beep when it shouldn't, etc. So if it's been a couple days since her last soiled diaper, then when it finally comes, we call it beautiful in this house.

Beauty in Escape

When I'm in the heart of the aforementioned 48 mile commute home I also have the pleasure of sitting in 2 mph traffic for the most part of the journey and after an 8 hour day at work, isn't that what we all look forward to? Not quite. But thanks to a playlist on my iPod titled "Making it Home" filled with soft piano tuns and nature sounds (rain, birds, beaches, etc.) I can roll up my windows and turn the volume up and almost enjoy my time in the car. To be able to separate myself from the madness while I'm right in the middle of it is my salvation.

So like I said, these days I'm finding beauty all over the place and these were just a few examples. I wonder if it's just me or if you took the time to really look for it if you'd find beauty in some crazy places too.

You might be surprised.


Friday, July 24, 2009

But Now I'm Found

Have you ever heard someone say, "it's like I've lost a piece of myself" or "a part of me has died" after they've lost someone close to them? I've heard it here and there in real life and seen it plenty times in the movies but I've never been able to really relate to it.

Until July 21st 2009.

Someone very close to me passed away a few months ago and as expected it hit me and most of my family pretty hard, dealing with the loss of this special person, facing the reality of never being able to hug her again or feel the warmth from one of her smiles was and still remains a struggle. But just like at the end of any relationship, each day that goes by hurts just a little bit less, even if just by a fraction.

But coping with the loss and living through the stages of grief in my own private ways I never once felt like, "part of me is dead" or "I'm not the same person I once was when this person was still here."

Until July 21st 2009.

I remember walking into my aunt's bedroom as a little boy and being baffled by what she was watching on television. It was an opera on the local Public Broadcast Station. I stared as she sat completely entranced and attentive to what was going on in the production. So finally I mustered up the nerve to ask her, "why are you watching this?" and she replied, "it's beautiful honey." And that was all she needed to say. I don't know if it was because of how much I loved this woman or because of how highly I regarded her, but that was all it took for me to sit down beside her and make a feeble attempt at appreciating what I thought was something weird and far from beautiful.

So we sat there and she tried to explain everything and translate the strange language and eventually, I did indeed.....fall asleep. And although I was unable to ever really appreciate opera of any sort, I continued to at least try to see the same beauty in it that she saw. For the next 20+ years, I can't say that I went out of my way to find opera but in the event that I came across it accidentally, I would pause and take a moment to try and catch a glimpse of the beauty before I moved on to something more enjoyable. But sadly, my aunt and I grew apart geographically and as usual, time and distance damaged the relationship that I cherished so much which made it easier for me to forget why I even bothered looking for the hidden beauty in "The ThreePenny Opera" or "A Night at the Chinese Opera".

Until July 21st 2009.

As I drove to work that morning, (July 21st) I searched the radio airwaves for anybody playing anything other than commercials or Michael Jackson tributes. Normally I don't have this issue but on this day my iPod battery was dead because I had forgotten to charge it the night before. So as I scanned the airwaves, as the auto search stopped on one of those radio stations in the 800's and right away I recognized a familiar "weirdness". It was an opera. Almost instinctively my finger reached out to set the station and stop the auto search from moving on. And after only seconds it dawned on me that driving had become more difficult because of the tears filling up in my eyes. It was like 30 years of fond memories and love had smacked me in the face and reminded me of something that connected me to this person in a way that no one else was a part of.

I was foolish enough to think that turning my back on opera, or my quest to understand it was a way to avoid dealing with me not being with my aunt even before she passed but I was wrong. I see now that struggling through a few minutes of "The Mask of Orpheus" was how I could always feel close to her. It was my way of keeping her alive in my own way and one day if I'm lucky enough to actually see that elusive beauty then I can pass that appreciation on to my daughter, ensuring my aunt's legacy even further.

So yes, I can relate now to people, both real and cinematic when they say, "I loved her so much, that I lost part of myself when I lost her", because even though I didn't realize it, that's exactly what happened to me.

Until July 21st 2009.


Sunday, May 31, 2009

10 Things

Here's a short little post just so those of you that care, know I'm still alive.

"10 Things I thought I Knew"

1. I thought "staying in shape" meant the same thing at age 23 and age 33. WRONG!

2. I thought "out of sight" meant "out of mind" but then something crazy happens in your life and people come out of nowhere to lend their support.

3. I used to think I knew what exhaustion felt like and then my daughter was born.

4. I used to think I knew what love felt like and then my daughter was born.

5. I thought 10 years was the beginning of a career....and then I got laid off.

6. There was a time when I thought I had all the time in the world...and now not a day goes by that I don't wish I had more.

7. I thought I knew the difference between "wants" and "needs"...but now there's no mistaking the two.

8. I thought I knew the importance of family...and then I started losing some.

9. I thought I knew everything about girls... (please see no.'s 3 & 4)

10.I thought I had more to say...but then it took me 2 hours to finish this. :-)


Friday, March 20, 2009

Get Out Of My Head

One of the things that I'll probably never get used to about being in a relationship with the same person for years and years and years...... ;-) is how well you begin to know each other. Seeing as how I don't think we ever really fully know ourselves, its crazy sometimes how well other people learn our ways, our little glitches and our behaviors.

I bring this up because something funny happened the other day while me and the Mrs. sat in a fast food drive thru. Now, you may not find it as entertaining as we did but I'll tell you the story anyway.

As we moved from one point to the next in the line, we carried on normal conversation about one thing or another (mostly our daughter), not paying much attention at all to our surroundings, ie the cars ahead of us, the funny smell by the menu thingy, or the songs on the radio. Eventually I ordered our food, moved to the next window and paid for our food, and finally moved to the next window to collect our food.

As I pulled up to the final stage of the drive thru process we continued our conversation as I turned towards the window in anticipation of receiving our goods. When I turned my head I was greeted by a young, very attractive woman holding my food with a large, warm, friendly smile on her face.

"Hey, how are you?" she asked. And as I fixed my lips to reply, a sly whisper filled my ear from the passenger seat. It said...

"Don't get cut honey."

Now for any of you that may not recognize it, "don't get cut" is a phrase often used in African American domestic environments with many translations such as, "don't say anything stupid" or "do the right thing" or "don't do the WRONG thing" and so on.

Right away I couldn't help but laugh because in the back of my mind, deep down in the furthest corner of my mind, I was provoked by the attractive young woman's smile into, let's say, being a little too receptive to her warmth. The crazy part is that the Mrs. seemingly knew before I did, that the potential for something stupid was present, hence, the warning... "don't get cut honey".

As I pulled out of the parking lot we laughed for a few minutes because it was so funny to me that she practically read my mind and I think the fact that I was so amused, made it funny for her as well.

I guess it's one of those "cup half full, half empty" scenarios where you want to be with someone who knows you like the back of their hand but at the same time, if they know what you're thinking before you do, then where's the excitement in that? I'm not complaining and I wouldn't have it any other way, I guess it's just another one of those things that comes with the territory in The Twilight Zone.... I mean domestication.

Friday, March 6, 2009


Well it's official. I am a Dad. My daughter was born February 28, 2008 at 2:11 a.m. But before you congratulate me, let me finish the story. Baby girl arrived 10 weeks earlier than her due date and the whole "premature/preterm" birth thing has my mind all cloudy and jumbled with crazy thoughts, expectations and worries.

One thing that I've struggled with a little bit is all of the "congrats" we've received. I guess in my mind I would rather everyone save their congrats for when we get to bring our baby home which could be months from now. Unlike my significant other, I try to stay away from the stories or the statitics about premature babies because I don't need the external info that might make me get my hopes up or put me in a worse mood than I'm in already.

I like to think of my baby girl as an original. The standard operating procedures don't apply to her because she may progress or recuperate differently than the babies you've read about before. It's all about optimism and outside influences have a way of dampening that sometimes.

So far the Docs say she's doing well, breathing very well on her own, digesting mom's milk and just really moving along at the top of her class (other babies born at 27 weeks) and as long as I continue to get reports like that, I'm right as rain.

But it's scary. Scary to fall in love so quickly just to...well, you know.

But the bright spot in all of this (other than my teeny tiny baby girl) is that in times like this you really know who holds you in their hearts. Friends and family that call everyday to check on baby and mom, parents and grandparents that make sure you're eating and that your home is comfortable, and everyone else who gives you strength and motivation just by letting you know they care. Not to sound too sappy, but it's an amazing thing to really REALLY know that you're loved. If I think about it too long it might even make me shed a tear or two so I try not to. But I recognize that love truly is a blessing.

Just like my daughter... ;-)