Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Book Expo America 2011: Perverts Like Books

At BEA today, I'm enjoying myself at the Steidl booth when I see a white-bearded, pear-shaped man in his fifties.  He's wearing an author's badge, which doesn't make him one. 

Apparently, Santa's pervert brother doesn't know how to use the internet to find soft core porn, because he's leafing through the coffee table books, stopping on pages with topless or nude women, and snapping pictures.  Not surreptitiiously, not digitally or on a cell phone, but with a Nikon that has a fucking zoom lense.  He's not in any hurry, either.  He doesn't look a bit self-conscious or guilty.

I can't believe what I'm seeing.  A woman standing next to me stares, jaw dropped, open book forgotten in her hands, contemp and disgust crumpling her face.  With a camera that nice, he clearly can afford internet access.  He could be at home typing "nude women" into a Google image search, but no - he wants to share this behavior with us.

I can't shake a vague feeling of guilt, like both of us having dicks makes me an accomplice.  Before anyone can assume my presence indicates approval of his actions, I take the coward's way out and bail.

A short time later I overhear this conversation between a twenty-something, lovely sales rep and a different guy, also in his fifties, also bearded, also shaped like a pear.

Customer Service Rep: Are you a bookseller?  Or a librarian?

Bearded Pear-Shaped Perv: I'm an author.
(Aaron's Silent Judgment: Yeah, right.)
CSR: What do you write?

BPSP: Whatever I get paid to write. 
[He laughs like he's the funniest thing on two feet; she maintains her customer service smile.]
CSR: Like what?
BPSP: Mostly non-fiction, travel narratives, that kind of thing.  Why do it if you're not getting paid for it, am I right?
CSR: Sure.

BPSP:  I've found that going into a bookstore and seeing your book on the shelf is better than sex.
At this point, he's standing very close to the rep.  His voice is still pitched normally, like he's being jovial.  Really, he's fucking with her.  His eye-contact burns.  He's trying to see how much she'll put up with, and he's enjoying her discomfort.

After a very pregnant pause, she says, "I don't know about that."  And he says, "The first time, the first time."  She walks him around the booth and shows off her publisher's books.  He laughs at his own jokes, stands a little too close, and stares at her a little too intently.  He wears a wolf's grin the whole time.

I probably don't need to tell you this, but after working eleven years in the book business, the last seven as a buyer, I've never heard of this "author."

I would like to slap both of these guys.  Their existence reinforces the stereotype that readers only love books because they are unable to function within normal social parameters.  Their actions also create a hostile environment for the women around them, and the men who give a shit.  Really, they're making it tougher for me to be me.

Maybe I'm being too sensitive; it could have been worse.  I could have seen this guy:

Friday, May 20, 2011

Rowland Coffee Roasters is Dead, Long Live J.M. Smucker Co.

Despite what you may have read in the Miami Herald, I've been drinking Cuban espresso since 1991, not 1997.  It was too complicated to go into.  My ex-wife worked at an office in Miami with a group of viejitas who refused to leave their desks but who insisted she make their cafecito each morning and afternoon.  She brought the stovetop coffee maker to Syracuse with her, along with bricks of Pilon.  I was already hooked on the stuff when I moved to Miami.

Becky told me I had it all wrong.  Bustelo, not Pilon.  Don't leave the grinds loose so the water shoots through it easily, tamp it down tight.  Don't eyeball the sugar and the first black spit-up of espresso for the espumita, measure it.  I was even using the wrong brewer.

Whatever, I had been brewing delicious Cuban coffee for a good eighteen years and I never heard any complaints.

"Listen," Becky said.  "Don't mess with my Cuban cofffee.  I'm Manny Q's daughter."

 Or words to that effect, which, if you knew Papa Q, would be saying something.

Of course she was right (being right is one of her strengths).  Her espresso was darker, richer.  Her espumita the perfect caramel color each time, without adjustments.  She served her shots with a good quarter-inch of creme across the top.  I drink my "American-style" coffee - as they call it in Miami - black and sugarless, but those little shots of sugary espresso goodness are something special.

Miami brewer Rowland Coffee owns the two most recognizable and successful of the local coffees - Pilon and Bustelo.  Really, they're like Coke and Pepsi.  Some people taste the difference, some don't, but those who do are fierce advocates of their choice.

Rowland's patriarch, Jose Angel "Pepe" Souto, died four years ago.  His sons just sold Rowland to Smucker's for $360 million.  In cash, for some reason.  Jose Enrique Souto, who co-ran the company with his brothers Jose Alberto and Angel, called it, "The all-American dream to start a little business, sell it to a big company, and then go enjoy life."  I suppose.  But it sounds like Pepe dreamed of coffee, and Pepe's sons dreamed of money.

Souto claims this deal honors his father's legacy - "The future of our brand is assured with this deal."  Rowlands made $115 million a year, but we all know that won't be enough for a corporation that makes $4.6 billion a year.  People who need "creative ideas" to justify their jobs will get in there and try to make something happen.  They will decide a red and yellow package design is too loud for a mass audience.  They will kill the charm.

But that's just speculation.  The reality is that part of this deal entails closing Miami's facilities and folding those operations into Folgers, putting 150 employees out of business.  This also affects local businesses whose services Rowland purchased - pest control, linen delivery, area eateries, etc.

Hundreds of people are blown out of the water so three dudes can roll around in $120 million each.  

Simon & Schuster wants to brand this chick lit, but I liked the hardcover cover better;
you should see the Norwegian cover.
I sounded off on Fabiola Santiago's Facebook post of the link above, so she asked me to elaborate in a side email.  She writes for the Miami Herald, and coffee and books are my passion, so this happened.

Talk about books for years and no one gives a hoot.  Talk about coffee one time, the world listens.

I guess we know what more folks are addicted to.

**UPDATE 4/7/13**

Did you know there's a TED talk on Cuban coffee as an intellectual property?

My post originally stated that "Miami brewer Rowland Coffee began in Cuba in 1865, and they own the two most recognizable and successful of the local coffees - Pilon and Bustelo."  I got this info from the Rowland Coffee website.  A reader graciously pointed out that this isn't the case (in fact, "Pepe" Souto's obituary mentions that they were primarily ranchers in Cuba before they lost their businesses to Castro).

Manuel Jesus Bascuas started the very popular Pilon in Cuba.  According to his daughter, this was in the early 1900s.

Rowland purchased Pilon in 1967.
(As far as Bustelo, Gregario Bustelo started making coffee in 1920s and Rowland bought them in 2000.)

We have Manuel Jesus Bascuas to thank for the packaging and flavor we know today.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Awkward Moments with Authors Come in Twos

This week Mitchell introduced me to two authors.  Both men, both well-respected, prolific writers whose work I have at home, but neither are authors I've read.

The first conversation went like this:

ME (on the way to clock out): How's it going, Mitchell?
MY BOSS: Good, good.  You want to meet Fred Savage?
ME: Not really, no.  
MY BOSS: Hey, Fred, I'd like you to meet someone.  Fred, this is Aaron.  Aaron, this is Fred.  Aaron is one of our buyers.  He's a big, big fan of your work.
ME (grinning hugely): Good to meet you!  Wow, great stuff this time!
FRED SAVAGE* (not buying it for a minute, not even a little):  . . . 
ME: So. . .
FRED: I like your tattoo, Aaron.

The second encounter went like this:

ME (on the way out): S'up, MK?
MY BOSS: Hey, how's it going?  Do you want to meet Idi Amin?
ME: No, I'm good.
MY BOSS: Idi, this is Aaron.  Aaron, this is Idi.
ME (holding my hand out): Hi, it's good to meet you.
[IDI AMIN** stares past the proffered hand, saying nothing.]
ME (still holding hand out): Uh.... I'm one of Mitchell's buyers.
[IDI AMIN continues to ignore ME's hand, saying nothing.  ME's hand falls, his smile wilts.  A fissure opens up in the ground, and ME steps inside.]
This is why I'll be avoiding my boss in the future.

As further proof of the world of awkward twos, two authors offered to memorialize themselves on my ass.  This is a first for me which managed to happen twice in just a few months.

The first was the mighty Brock Clarke, who I've written about once or twice.  He was in town for the early release of his third novel, Exley.

I'm fucking awesome; buy me.

We drank the night away before I realized he hadn't signed my poster for An Arsonist's Guide to Writers Homes in New England, a brilliant piece of marketing with quotes from the book set up as rules to follow when torching historic homes.  I was thinking it would look lovely with my signed posters for Choke and Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet.  Plus, I was going for an even fifty for things I need to get framed.

Two am was a distant memory.  Brock was understandably reluctant for me to run across the street, open the locked store, grab the poster, and run back.

"I'll be back for Miami Book Fair.  I'll sign anything you want, I promise."

Seeing my lack of enthusiasm for this idea, Brock offered his Ace in the Hole.

"I'll sign your ass," he said.

I worked Miami Book Fair, but my ass and Brock's pen somehow missed each-other.

A few months later, this happened:

PHASE 1: This will be awesome - wheeeee!!!  Thanks so much, Lane!

PHASE 2: She realizes she is the most ticklish person who currently exists.

PHASE 3: Lane discovers how hard it is to erase wavy Sharpie Lines from skin.

(and if you haven't already, buy It's a Book now)

After mortalizing the bibliophile monkey inside Becky's biceps, Lane Smith was on a high.  When he found out Becky and I were a couple, he turned to me and said, "How about one for you?  I could put it right on your ass."

Here's what he suggested:

That, of course, is Stinky Cheese Man.

Oh Lane Smith, my favorite jackass***, you know me so well.

* Not.
** Not, either.
*** His words, not mine!

Monday, May 16, 2011

You Should Read Cardboard Gods

When I fell in love with Garth Stein’s Art of Racing in the Rain, it was in spite of the subject matter, not because of the subject matter.  I have a cat tattoo, which should be sufficient evidence of my feelings about dog books.  Yet despite not caring a whit about car racing, and active hostility toward dog books, Art of Racing in the Rain charmed me so much that I resolved to name my next pet Enzo.
I might need to start a Goodreads shelf because of Josh Wilker’s Cardboard Gods.  I never collected baseball cards.  My cousins Shane, Shawn, and Shannon did, and I looked through their collections a few times growing up.  This passing acquaintance with card collections made the language of Cardboard Gods a little familiar.  I knew there were different teams and colors and statistics on the back, anyway.  
My cousins loved sports, excelled at playing them, captained and co-captained teams with players who went on to start for Division 1 colleges.  No pros, but their hometown holds only 6,000 souls, and even fewer people lived there twenty years ago.  

I followed football and basketball because Syracuse is a college town and those are the two sports you must follow or they send you to Utica (laugh if you’re an upstate New Yorker).  It was also a means to connect with my cousins and the other men in my family.
Then I started college, delivering pizzas for Cosmos on Marshall Street, shipping and receiving for Bonwit Teller at the Carousel Mall, ushering at Syracuse Stage for my work study job, and working the deli counter at Leo & Sons Big M Supermarket in East Syracuse.  I was also in the Honors Program at Syracuse University, which allowed me to take more than the maximum 18 credit hours without paying extra tuition.  I also partied.  Somehow.  
Sports, TV, and any reading which wasn’t for a class got whittled from my life and swept away.  I found reading again after college, but never sports.  
Of course this post isn’t supposed to be about me, this is supposed to be about Cardboard Gods.  But that’s what the best memoirs do - get you thinking about your own life.  
Josh Wilker examines his life honestly, poignantly, and with little regard to how it will make him look.  He uses a different baseball card in each chapter as a metaphor for what he’s going through in that chapter.  It’s a brilliant hook.  It gives a decent memoir an edge, something extra which pushes it into a great book.  Cardboard Gods is about more than Wilker.  It’s about what makes us obsessively collect, it’s about trying to find common ground with family, it’s about why we love the things we love and need the things we need.  
I’m putting Cardboard Gods in a care package to my cousin, along with David Benioff’s 25th Hour and Lane Smith’s It’s a Book for his daughter.  As much as he loved City of Thieves, as much as he loves seeing his daughter’s face light up, I know Wilker’s book will be the best of the lot for Shannon.
If you’re not one for sports, you’ll love Cardboard Gods anyway.  But if you do love sports, or card collecting, be careful; you might become obsessed.   

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Breather

A few things before I move on from the last week of posts.

1 - Blogger has been spotty since Tuesday.  I had no intention of leaving that misery up for an extra week, unbuffered by book reviews, navel gazing, and cooking tips, but I couldn't log on.  Watcha gonna do?

2 - I went out on a weekday this week and it didn't even involve my book club.  I stayed up past eleven, because I'm a rock star.

3 - Becky and I are impressively happy, I promise.  I offer this link to our wedding website as proof, 90% of which was created post-Fester.

Mothers Day, 2011

I see that "Long Time No Post" has creeped up to #2 on my all-time most-read list.  That's almost enough to make me remove the "Popular Posts" feature from my blog, the fact that some meh about why I haven't posted in a while is the second-most read item I've ever written.  It doesn't even have a picture.  Still, I've watched its steady climb from #6 to #2.  Again, watcha gonna do?

On the writing front, our fledgling Writers Group missed a month, but we've set a date in stone.  Going forward, this should be a great opportunity to talk shop.  I've promised myself I'll continue my homework by submitting stories to two publications this week.

On the reading front, TC Boyle's The Inner Circle, Tina Fey's Bossypants, Glen Duncan's The Last Werewolf, and Frederick Exley's A Fan's Notes (still) all have been or currently are treating me very well.  I've got an Advanced Readers Copy of Diana Abu-Jaber's Birds of Paradise that I'm very excited about. I think I'll also start writing about my book club here.  Page Against the Machine is awesome, and it's another excuse to talk about books.

On the biking front, my tires are flat.  Or rather, the tires on the bike I borrowed from Mitchell are flat, a situation I hope to remedy with my next paycheck.

On the home front...

The truth can always be questioned.   Religious beliefs, moral convictions, love, it's all worth examining.  It's important to examine these things because we live our lives by them.  If they can't stand the scrutiny, if defensiveness and hostility meet these questions, than the answers are damn shaky.

I taught a six-year-old to tie his own shoes on Friday.  The first knots he's ever tied, one for each foot.  After a few frustrating evenings of trying to teach him how to tie his bathrobe, I was surprised it finally happened for him.  The satisfaction, love, and fear (yes, fear, because he's listening, and what if he inherits my bad along with my good?) flooding me made it almost impossible to function, but I managed to get our lunches together and get us out the door.

In the days after Uncle Fester, Becky and I have found our love is even stronger.  We were being ourselves before, but now we're relaxing into our relationship, into each-other.  There's a playfulness that can only come from confidence.  More than trust, which is a necessity in a building a relationship, confidence only comes from sharing your days.  The more you share, the stronger it becomes.  The trick is not letting that confidence become cockiness.

We faced dark days and came out better for them.  I didn't think it was possible to love Becky more than I already did, but there you go.  

As always, thanks for reading.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Blog It Out - All Blogged Out

I haven't read this but it felt appropriate; I'm sure reading it would help, but then how would you see into my head?

I thought writing those posts would help my emotional state and I wasn't wrong.  My emotions feel life-sized again.  Hurtful, but manageable.  Now comes the fun part: waiting to see whether I have more pain and anger to to express.  If so, how will it present itself?  Finally, can I resist taking it out on those closest to me?

I probably have more pain, tears, and anger.  In fact, I'm sure of it.  As Glen Duncan writes in The Last Werewolf, "Once you've stopped loving someone, breaking his or her heart's just an unpleasant chore you have to get behind you."  Being on the receiving end of that treatment - especially over the course of months, to see this person you've loved so well for so long become completely indifferent to you - is uniquely unmanning.

I'm not worried about how these emotions bubble up because I've learned to see the symptoms.  I'm also not worried about taking it out on my family, because Uncle Fester no longer waltzes into my mind, kicks his feet up, and makes himself comfortable.  We verbally spar instead.  Well, once we sparred for about half a day.  The other times, I heard him open his mouth and was like, "Shut the fuck up, Fester."

And he did.

On a related note, I'm really looking forward to the new Mel Gibson movie where he talks to a beaver puppet to deal with his negative emotions.

Pictured: Me and Uncle Fester having a rational discussion

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Blog it Out Four - Anger

Anger has always been the most difficult emotion for me to express. 
Don’t blame me; it’s filial.  Grandpa used to beat grandma.  My father grew up watching that and swore to himself that he would never.  He kept his promise and became passive-aggressive.  He spent my childhood brooding silently, a lump in a lounge chair, the angry God who slept beneath the volcano.  He didn’t use fists, but he did use his voice.  He has a tone that can wither flowers, destroy sunshine, and make you feel like you’ve never been worthy of love and never will be.  
I have that tone.  It’s taken me decades to understand where it comes from, and get rid of it.  I also have the same problem my dad has expressing anger.  I feel like the world will come apart if I do.
As we all know, depression is anger turned inward.  I might have some residual depression to work out from my divorce, but what I really am is angry.  
I have every right to be angry.  She pulled away, she did the cheating, she looked around at our life and decided to destroy it.  I had a peaceful heart once, but now I don’t.  She destroyed that, too.
I hate her for that.  I hate her for it, and I’m allowed to, dammit.  I am allowed to hate my ex-wife for breaking my heart.  
When I told my uncle Dom about the upcoming nuptials, he asked if I was going to tell Andi.  He might as well have asked if I was planning on running a marathon.  I can’t say running one is an awful idea, but it’s just never occurred to me that it’s something I might do. 
“Do you think I should?” I asked.
“Oh, I can’t answer that,” he said.
I thought about it.  I saw the logic (and we’ve all seen that movie); I’d rather you hear it from me than someone else.  But the truth is, I don’t care where or if she hears about my marriage.  Like my life, it has nothing to do with her.  That’s the beauty of divorce.  If I don’t want to consider her feelings, I don’t have to.  At all.  
If I ruin my relationship with Becky because of my ex, because of my broken heart, because of my anger and hatred... well, I can try hating my ex for destroying two marriages, but I doubt the lie would last.  
If I don’t work these feelings out, they will poison what Becky and I have.   

But I’ll have no one to blame except myself.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Blog it Out Three - Festival of Festering

Uncle Fester squatted in my head like bloated, ornery toad, culminating in a bad evening of snapping at Dylan and Becky for no reason.  Alone in the kitchen while I was lighting a gas burner, those physical symptoms which accompany Uncle Fester at his worst - the choke collar, the weight on my chest, the pounding in my skull - all clamped down like a vise.  I’ve suffered panic attacks before but this was different.  Instead of thinking I was dying, I was afraid I wouldn’t die, but my life would be miserable.  

I felt that way as long as I could stand it.  

Then I took the wooden match I’d used to light the stove and held the head to the flesh inside my arm.
The closest I’ve come to something like that was dragging the scooped edge on top of a safety pin over my forearm in middle school.  I wanted it to scar, so I picked at the scab every time it formed.  If I was going to practice self-mutilation as a coping mechanism, you’d think I would have discovered it earlier in life. 
The burning match head brought Fester up short.  A second match, allowed to burn longer to get good and hot and used more quickly once the the flame was blown out - not the desperate use of anything at hand to stop the flood of emotions but an intentional match - well, that second match sent Fester away.
The following morning was even worse.  I’ve blocked it out, but I know it wasn’t pretty.  Becky left to drop Dylan off at school.  I fully expected her to come back and tell me she hadn’t signed on for this, to get my shit together or get lost.  

Alone in a house which Fester had robbed of all cheer and warmth, the physical symptoms threatened to overwhelm me again.  I heard a voice, my old friend Maria Clara Ferri.  During that first week of my separation, Maria told there’d be times I’d be miserable, and I had to allow myself to be miserable.
So I did.  I stopped wondering why I was feeling so desolate and let the tears come.  At the height of this sobbing jag, I surprised myself by barking, “She left me” at the empty house.  
I didn’t mean Becky to drop off Dylan, either. 
Uncle Fester has visited twice since then.  Both times, his stay has been shorter.  I think the third time he might have even been easier to ignore, but I could be fooling myself.  Maybe he’s just saving up for one big push to make me ruin my new life, but there’s no way of knowing.  

When Becky returned that awful, awful morning, I apologized.  I told her I was scared.  Scared of us not working out, of losing her, of being heartbroken again.
She offered assurances, but in the end it’s me.  When Fester has me, I can’t feel her love.  That’s his worst power.  I can’t feel Becky’s love, at all.    

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Blog it Out Two - Uncle Fester

My last post I mentioned my world spiraling into a blue-black swirl of pain, my thoughts co-opted by someone who only sees the negative everywhere he looks.  I’m going to call this mindframe Uncle Fester (mindset + frame of mind = mindframe).  
Not this lovable.

The first visit I got from Uncle Fester was over something so embarrassingly trivial I can’t even name it here, so I’ll make up something equally trivial to give you an idea of how ridiculous the cause was.  I asked Becky to do the dishes after I cooked dinner, and she didn’t.
Maybe she was going to do dishes in the morning.  Maybe she was going to wash them after work, before she made dinner.  Maybe she expected me to do them.  Whatever the reason, each dirty dish was a weight on a scale, measuring our relationship.
Look at those dishes, Aaron, Uncle Fester said.  If it’s like this after two years, what do you think it will be like after twenty?  If she cares this little for you now, it’s just going to get worse down the line.  Problem is, you’re in love.  You can’t leave.  You’ll just have to wait it out until she gets sick of your old, tired, saggy ass, you’ll just have to let her drag you through shit until she’s bored to tears just looking at you, until she wises up and leaves.
Uncle Fester stayed a sold week, maybe longer.  Knowing the cause was trivial didn’t help in the slightest.  In fact, it made it worse.  The more I told Uncle Fester to let it go, to get over it, to stop being so silly, the harder he clawed his way through my thoughts, tearing everything to bleary ruin.  
I tried keeping it to myself.  Or maybe it was too overwhelming to talk about, this feeling that the dream I’d been living for months had become a nightmare.  Trying to keep it inside proved less than effective.
“Do you want a ride now, or should I pick Dylan up first and come back for you so you have more time to work?”  Becky’s questions were all innocence.  She thought she was talking to the man she loved, not Uncle Fester.
If I catch a ride now, will the dishes be done? Fester hissed.
“Whatever,” I’d snap, “Who cares?  Do want you want, what difference does it make.”
Yeah, more like that.

Fester pissed on everything.  

That’s a great story, does it wash dishes?  Because I’m going to Book Club tonight, it means the dishes don’t get cleaned?  I’m trying to listen but I can’t hear you over the SOUND OF THE DIRTY DISHES.
Again I find myself saying that wanting to be over something doesn’t mean I am.  

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Blog it Out

In a post from October 2009, right before Becky and I started dating, I said that I’d never again make the mistake of censoring my blog based on who reads it.  This is tough when what you want to write about is doubting your relationship, and the person you live with is who you’re marrying in five months.
My Gaba moved to Seattle (damn his evil heart for leaving) after ending a seven-year relationship.  He got together with TheOneTheyCallB after seven months.  He’s happier than I’ve ever seen him, and they’re getting married next month.  In fact, seeing pictures of the beautiful engagement ring is one of the things which kept me from proposing (damn his decent-wage-paying job for delaying my happiness).  
Getting together fairly quickly has led to its share of problems for Gaba and TOTCB.  What those problems are, I have no idea.  Early in my relationship with Becky, TOTCB and I shared some correspondence.  I wondered how things would work for me.  I worried I was suppressing pain under the glow of new love, I worried because of warnings against rebound relationships.  
TOTCB made a comment like, “Gaba and I went through a lot of that at first, believe me.  It wasn’t easy but we got through it.”  I wondered, what’s that about?
Well, now I know.  
The saying goes, Sing like no one’s listening, dance like no one’s watching, and love like you’ve never been hurt.  Now that I can think straight (and by that I mean it feels like I’ve stopped drifting through a storm and picked up my oars once again), that last part is proving more difficult than I ever thought it would be.
Every misunderstanding feels like the end of the world.  Complicating matters, I also can’t talk about them for some reason.  Something as simple as, “When you joked about_____ it made me feel _____” is like trying to lift a building.  I don’t even know how to begin a task so impossible, let alone have the tools or strength to accomplish it.  So the tiny (usually imagined) slight festers like a splinter.  It festers and it poisons my thoughts.  
My head belongs to someone else, someone I dislike intensely, someone who only sees faults everywhere he looks, be it the mirror, his life, or the woman he loves.  I develop a lump in my throat, pounding around the base of my skull, and pressure in my chest.  I doubt everything.  I doubt her love.  I doubt mine.  The world feels like a bluish-black swirl of pain, sucking me down into it’s pit.  I want nothing more than to curl into a ball under my desk, or inside a closet, anywhere dark, enclosed, and hidden.  
I can’t get over my divorce, for some reason.  On my divorce post, I said there must be a finite number of tears you can shed over someone.  Either I was wrong, or I had more tears to shed.
Well, I can’t afford a shrink.  All I have is Sweet.
Bear with me. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Rare Sports Reference*

         I was never any good at sports, but I once saw how people can be.  During a neighborhood football game, the QB singled me out in the huddle.  Normally my reaction is panic, wondering whether I’ll catch the ball, and what will happen next if I do.  This one time, just this once in all the downs I’ve played in my life, I saw it all.  I’d line up, I’d hook right, I’d catch the ball, I’d pivot upfield and score.  It was done before we clapped our hands and broke the huddle.  
I lined up and waited for the snap.  I wasn’t even nervous, because it had already happened in my mind.  I ran a short hook right, caught the pass like it was the most natural thing in the world, pivoted left, and scored a touchdown.
I must have felt that way a time or two in my life, but only once comes to mind.  Standing on a corner in Coral Gables, waiting for the light to change, carrying Dylan in my left arm, holding Becky in my right, both of them holding me tight. 
I saw our family; I saw home.

I'm offering this post now because the next few posts are rough.  

Monday, May 2, 2011

I Dreamed of Big House

In the dream we always live together, every family member I’ve ever had, Becky and her friends and family.  Tota is there, but she can hear, and she can still dance, drive, and throw a punch to anyone who disrespects the family.  The uncle I lost at nine to alcoholism is there.  I don’t remember him but there’s an uncle-shaped man of smiles and living room rug-wrestling who I call Fran.  Friends live here too, friends who’ve wandered from me over the years, or who I’ve let slip away.  There are endless rooms for all in this house, solitude when it’s needed, and adventure in undiscovered rooms.  Everyone is happy.  
I’ve yet to decide if this is my vision of heaven.  If hell is other people it can’t be heaven, right?  But that’s a question for another post.
In last night’s dream, Becky and I buy a home and everyone we’ve ever known moves in (I use “buy” loosely; these dream homes just kind of happen).  Everyone loves it immediately.  The vibe is perfect and the foundation is solid, even if there are spots which need work.  
Everyone runs out front onto the rolling hills of lawn for a huge night barbecue lit by paper lawn lanterns (thanks, Blood, Bones, and Butter).  I look back at the house, the windows blazing light, the balconies on each floor which run the entire length of the front of the house.
While I’m looking, feeling great because we’ve found such amazing accommodations, the front balcony falls off and lands on me.  Laying there stunned, pinned beneath the rubble (thanks, re-watching the first season of Lost), I open my mouth to call out to the friends and family who are already down the hill at the feast.  Losing the first balcony has caused others to loosen.  I close my eyes as two more fall toward me, thinking, this is going to be bad
When I wake up (I use “wake” loosely, since I’m still dreaming), we’re all inside the house again.  The mood is subdued.  My head is wrapped in so many bandages I can barely see.  Becky is nowhere.  My hand hurts.  Lifting it from my lap, I see the fingers are splayed in all directions.  The skin of my forearm is misshapen with broken bone trying to poke through.  My biceps and triceps are severed slabs of meat, the gleaming white humerus the only thing keeping my arm from falling off.  Didn’t anyone look past my head for injuries?  What kind of hospital did they take me to?   
  Turns out no one wants to take me back.  They’ve been through the interminable waiting room once for my head, they’re not going back for my arm.  They’d rather busy themselves prepping food, or lay around playing video games, they’d rather not make eye contact so I won’t see their guilt.
Not much interpretation needed.  
My first marriage crumbled and my friends and family put me back together again.  Now that I’m starting a new family, part of me worries it won’t work out.  If it doesn’t, another part of me worries no one will be interested in helping me back on my feet a second time.  
Well, I’ve dreamed that house a dozen times and it always holds.  
Also, it’s clear that I’ve not fully healed from the destruction of my marriage.  The most obvious hurt is gone, but there are still glaring wounds when you know where to look.  
Bones, poking at the skin.