Sunday, September 30, 2007

Again With the Teasing

My friend Gail and I were whispering about the weekend as we stood backstage Friday night waiting to go on for our five minutes of Beethoven. A week or so ago she asked if I wanted to go with her to see a one-man show about the life and music of George Gershwin. I said I'd better not spend the money.

As we were talking about my Saturday afternoon flight to L.A. for dinner (what a jet-setter!), she asked if I had packed. I said no, that I still wasn't sure what clothes I was going to take.

I mentioned that I had ordered a pair of jeans from Nordstrom but they hadn't come in yet. She, who was with me when I tried on my first pair of Not Your Daughter's Jeans at South Coast Plaza, said "you already have three pair of jeans." I retorted, "but these are black." She protested, "you have a pair of black jeans." "But," I replied, "those are cropped and these are long."

Her final thrust? "No wonder you can't afford concert tickets if you keep buying $200 jeans." "But they're only $100," I replied. Our whispered laughter died down as we parted and I went back to my place in line.

I knew she was teasing, and I know Gail cares for me, but it bothered me just a little.

Each of us has our own obligations, and we try to manage them to the best of our abilities. I pick and choose my expenditures. I keep TiVo, but I dropped HBO. I go out to eat too frequently but I'm frugal and healthful in my grocery purchases. I'm dropping my SpaOne membership so I can start really start saving for December, when my tenants will have moved out.

The bottom line? It's my business. It's personal.

What topics should be fair game for teasers? I maintain personal topics such as money, religion and politics may be off-limits. And areas over which one has no control, such as physical characteristics or personal situations, should have limits on teasing. And when the teasing borders on the barbed, the cruel, lines should be drawn.

I guess my primary focus on—and bias against—teasing comes from my brothers who (in my opinion) teased me with a total lack of love and affection.

Maybe I need to relearn how teasing is done with affection.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Attempting New Behaviors

I made meager attempts to practice uncruel teasing today. I had e-mailed the Biker yesterday that I was running out to get some highlights in my hair. When I got back home, there was an e-mail from him telling me not to make any changes. Again this morning I got an e-mail from him saying he hoped I hadn't done anything to my hair, and my response was that I had dyed it bright red.

Then we were e-mailing about what I was going to bring to L.A. He expressed concern that I was going to dreass really well and find some new guy on the plane. I told him I was going to wear the outfit that Hooter's waitress was wearing on Southwest when she was removed from the plane for being dressed inappropriately -- the white miniskirt, white tank top with lots of cleavage and tight sweater.

Do I get any points for trying, however lame the result?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A Little Goes a Long Way

My entire shower time this morning was consumed, of course, with thoughts of teasing. I was remembering the man in Maryland who has offered to pop the question and buy me an enormous diamond, and would do so in a heartbeat, but will never get the chance because he has this overwhelming need to tease incessantly.

A year ago I posted about this man and his llama comments and what I really looked like at the time.

When I see this same issue popping up repeatedly over the course of time, I have to believe that it's a very important issue to me, and maybe not one that can be overcome.

When I was talking to Richard at Rio about it the other night, he said, "Just give it back to him. If he's wearing shorts, ask him what happened to the rest of the stork. Guys are sensitive about their legs." I told him that wasn't my style. Why would I find something someone is sensitive about and poke fun at that? I just don't get it. I don't get that as fun.

Would I rather be in a relationship that's filled with teasing or be alone? I'd rather be alone, thank you very much.

It's just cruel. Teasing = cruelty.

Teasing: Fun or Cruel?

Are there varied types of teasing? Am I the only person on the planet who doesn't like to be teased? Does the nature of the teasing depend upon the esteem in which the teaser holds the teasee?

I told the Biker that I have a hard time with his teasing. His response: I was raised in a family that teased. It was a way showing they cared about you. It wasn't cruel, just fun.

To me, teasing is cruel. Do I occasionally say something of a teasing nature to a friend. Yes, I guess I do. But it's not a constant thing, and maybe I'm sensing that with the Biker it's a constant thing.

My sense of the teasing I received as an adolescent and a teenager is that it was cruel. A little cruel teasing goes a very long way and is emotionally abusive, in my book. It's bullying. Isn't it?

I told my boys at Rio the other night that my trip to Long Beach this weekend will either be the first date of the rest of my life or the very last date of my entire life.


Last night I was sitting at the bar at Rio Café all by myself for a while. I had dropped in after rehearsal and didn't have my standard crossword puzzle with me. So to pass the time while Eduardo was fixing my appetizer of bacon-wrapped dates, I started going through my wallet.

I was actually looking for the phone number of a coworker. She had given me her personal info just before we all moved from building 9022 to building 9032. She is a fellow beader and we wanted to keep in touch. While looking for her number, I explored every nook and cranny of my wallet. As I was examining each card, I discovered a card for Acura Roadside Assistance. I bought my Acura TL in 2004 and had completely forgotten that this feature was part of the purchase.

I also have roadside assistance as part of my Verizon cell phone package, but don't have any idea how to access it and had been thinking recently that I needed to research that and make a note of it. So I was thrilled to see this Acura card.

Guess what? I walked out of rehearsal tonight to my car, parked on Church Street in front of the Tucson Convention Center. And it wouldn't start. Dead battery. I whipped that card out of my wallet and quickly dialed Acura Roadside Assistance. A nice young man was at my side in 15 minutes and fixed all my problems.

The whole time I was waiting for him, I was thinking how grateful I was that somebody or something, God or the Universe or my karma or whatever - something was looking out for me. For me to have discovered that card last night after it's been sitting in my wallet for over three years, and then to have needed it tonight.

Believe what you will. I'll believe what I will.

And to put the icing on that proverbial cake, when I started the car and turned on the radio, the Fauré Requiem was playing. You believe what you will. I believe John was telling me he was watching out for me.

- - -
Oh, I forgot to tell you the funny/annoying part of the story. I had just come out of dress rehearsal with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra Chorus. We're performing the Beethoven Choral Fantasy on Thursday and Friday nights. If you're not familiar with the Choral Fantasy, it's basically the same tune Beethoven used for the chorus in the Ninth Symphony. It goes around and around your brain, pedantically driving you crazy. I picked up my iPod so I could listen to something else and get this Beethoven drivel out of my brain while I was waiting. And my iPod battery had run out of juice right alongside my car!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

On Taking Things Too Seriously

I do. Yes, I do. I know I do. But that doesn't make the trait disappear.

And I do know how to laugh. And I know I don't do it frequently enough.

(Good friends are those with whom you automatically laugh about the nothings of life. I stopped at Rio Café after rehearsal last night and giggled with Eduardo until Richard said, "You two are just alike. Two peas in a pod." And that made me laugh even more.)

So, because I take everything so seriously, I loved today's poem from the Writer's Almanac. I hope it makes you smile on this Wednesday morning.

(And I have to preface your reading of this poem by admitting that one of my greatest pet peeves is when people tell me to breathe. By God, if I'm having a crisis, you can respect my crisis and emit soothing sounds or just shut up. Don't, for crying out loud, superciliously tell me to "breathe.")

Poem: "To the Man in a Loden Coat" by Deborah Garrison, from The Second Child. © Random House, 2007.

To the Man in a Loden Coat

Hey, mister
man in a loden coat
standing in front of me
on the escalator and blocking my
I know
I'm self absorbed,
particularly at this hour,
5:22 to be precise and I need
to make the 5:25 home—
don't you know that in this city,
in this life, we
walk on the left,
stand on the right?

Don't tell me to chill out,
don't tell me to "breathe,"
I hate breathing
I mean unless it is happening
without my knowing it,
which is, thank God, most of the time,

and don't tell me life is long
because it actually isn't
it's all I can do not to
give you a sweet shove
on your rich loden back,
same as all the bottled-up
left-lane travelers
behind me want to do
to my own navy-clad shoulder,
a nice blue to your green,
like water for the earth,
sky for the forest,
green and blue a tea for two,
etc., among the vistas
that call me home now,
at 5:23, about to miss the bus,
so would you please


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Do I? Don't I? Dare I?

With each failed almost-relationship, and with each someone-new, it becomes more difficult to screw up one's courage to . . . . To what? To believe? To dare to believe? To think the Universe will deign to smile on you and bring you some happiness again?

Sometimes I envy those people who are perfectly content to go through the rest of their lives alone. I'm not there. I don't even know if I could ever get there.

Lee took me to breakfast on the beautiful blue Honda Goldwing Sunday morning. He's renovating his house, a long protracted project. He said if he ever meets a woman who has the potential of becoming his life partner for the rest of his life, she'd better love this house and be willing to move into it because he's put so much sweat equity and thought into it.

I suggested they could have separate houses and retold the story about all the [older] couples in Tucson where the man lives in the guest house and the woman lives in the main house.

"Not interested," he immediately replied.

He then quoted me to me, the phrase about wanting to wrap my leg around the warm body of a loving man lying next to me in bed.

Am I willing to relax some of my standards or polish some of my rough edges to be able to have that intimacy day-in and day-out? Dare I believe that's even possible?

Mother of Six Goes Grocery Shopping

This is totally off-topic, but I had to share. A colleague who has two young children shared it with me and I'm passing it along to you.

An eBay posting to love.

Monday, September 24, 2007


I'm coming to grips with being 57. For the three years prior to turning 57, I said I was in my mid-50s, and that was okay. (And may the Unknowable bless all those people who tell me I don't look my age.) Once I turned 57, however, I felt I had to say I was in my late 50s.

Then tonight I renewed my Grammy membership. (That's the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, not an organization of grandmothers, thank you very much.) This year, for the first time, they're requesting self-identification for sex, race and age. But they divide the ages differently than any other organization or business that I've seen. The box I fit in was 55-64. Why does that feel even older than saying I'm in my late 50s?

I don't like that box! Can't I have the 50-60 box back?

Burning Memories

I'm reading One for Sorrow, the premier novel of Youngstown State University professor (and family friend) Christopher Barzak. I'm enjoying it greatly, and recommend it highly.

Some of his words jumped off the page at me on Saturday, relative to Klaire's statement to me the other day about looking to the future, not to the past.

One of the characters in the book is the ghost of a teenager, Jamie, who died. He's present in the bedroom of Adam, the protagonist.

Jamie says to Adam that sometimes he gets so cold he has to burn memories to get warm again.

"Burn memories?" I said, and [Jamie] nodded, looking down into his lap. "What does that mean?"

He lay down on my bed and started tossing and turning, his arms crossed over his chest, his face pinched as if he were in pain. "Yes," he said and, "I love you," and, "Why? Why? Why?" and, "Anything, anything, just let go."

I smelled something like hair burning. I couldn't see any smoke, but the room filled with the scent. His face contorted, the muscles bunched beneath his skin, his hands clenched his shoulders, and then—
bam!—it was over. The smell of burned hair fled the room, gone in an instant, and the gash near his temple began to change. His face smoothed over, his skin flushed pink with heat. It was like he was alive suddenly, which made me think maybe he didn't have to be dead, that maybe we could find a way to make him live again.

"What memory did you burn?" I asked.

He shook his head. "I don't know. It's gone now. I couldn't remember if I wanted."

I fantasized about being able to burn memories, to take the ugliness that happens to us in our lives and turn it to ash and brush it away. Would we then be able to trust as if we'd never been hurt?

If I could burn my memories, where would I start?

I'd take my brothers' teasing and burn it. Then I wouldn't feel so upset and dumb when people who care about me tease me. So many people see teasing as fun and loving. I see it as cruel and hurtful.

I'd take the horrible words my mother said to me and burn them. Then I'd have a security I've never felt, and stop abandoning people before they have the opportunity to abandon me.

I'd take this hurtful incident and that one and burn them and brush them away. But then I wouldn't be who I am today, because all those memories, both good and bad, allowed me or forced me to develop as I have.

We're over 50. We have memories. We have "baggage." We try to keep it all together in one closet and avoid bringing those heavy bags out into the open. And we try to keep it contained in one closet rather than having it take over every available space in the houses that are ourselves.

But it is tempting to think about the possibility of burning the hurt and pain and having those parts of us replaced with new-baby-skin, pink and fresh, untouched and supple.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Bag & Baggage

My friend Klaire (who is a handful of years older than I and has been married forever to an absolutely darling man) said to me last night that she thinks it's important for couples to look to the future, not dwell on the past. Of course, she said this after she said she can't imagine what it's like to be dating in one's 50s or 60s.

My response was that you have to believe there will be a future to be able to look toward it. And the belief in a mutual future depends upon a complicated weighing and balancing process.

A factor that has been complicating my life for the past week was the lack of a photo of the Biker. His image was fading from my mind. And when we spoke on the phone, his voice reminded me of two different men from the past: the El Paso man of two years ago who said he was going to comb his bushy eyebrows up and over to hide his male pattern baldness; and the Maryland man who told the most self-serving, boring, name-dropping stories and of whom Jaci said "Yuck!" when I told her he was calling me again. The Biker, lacking his own identity, was being assigned the identity of so many losers in the past. And implicitly becoming a loser.

Help! Save me from myself! Yesterday I e-mailed Klaire and said, "Oh you who is never without a camera in her hand, don't you have a picture from the Biker's visit?" And, bless her little shutter-clicking finger, she brought me two photos last night. Ah. Sign of relief. That's what he looks like. Now I remember. Now I remember how much I like him, the characteristics that warm my heart, the thoughtfulness he displays and how he rags on me when I pull out my own chair at dinner. Now I remember how much fun I had sitting next to him and feeling his touch on my arm.

Who coined the phrase "a picture is worth a thousand words"? Truer words have never been spoken!

By the way, the Biker has started reading along here. And he questions being assigned that name. He asked me, "why not the Reader, the Camper, the Fisher, the Outdoor Guy, the . . ." and so on. He does much more than ride motorcycles, but he makes his living in that industry, so he's gonna stay "The Biker."

It's my blog. I can say what I want. (she said, smiling)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Bragging on my beautiful daughter-in-law

I've said how Tyler and Jaci are really and truly "home" now that they're back in Youngstown.

As a testament to this, Jaci — who has been fighting her weight since the birth of 10½ pound Ridley — revealed this morning that she's lost 18 pounds. I tip my hat, raise my glass, and click my heels for her.

And I can't wait until my next trip to Youngstown to see how it looks on her!

How'd You Sleep

You know how I feel about being asked how I slept. If I slept well, I don't know how I slept, right? (Yeah, this comes under the heading of taking everything too seriously.)

This morning on my drive in I was listening to the comedy station on XMRadio. Steven Wright was doing his stand-up routine. He said his wife asked him if he "slept good." He said, "no, I made a few mistakes."

Love it. I want his repertoire of come-backs.

I'll Know It When I See It

Thanks to Justice Stewart for that infamous line. It's useful in so many situations.

Mr. Match called and left a message for me last night, saying he was sorry he hadn't gotten back to me after our aborted dinner last week. You know, the one where he waited until 6:00 p.m. to call and tell me he was still in Dallas. He told me not to call him back last night as he was with his ex-fiancée. I swear I am tempted to ask him why they ever broke up. They spend way too much time together for me to ever want to be in a relationship with him.

That made me start thinking about what I want in a man. Or better yet, what I don't want.

I think there is a list of "absolutely not", a list of "would prefer not" and a list of "whatever." (You'd have to hear Jaci say "whatever" to know how it sounds in my ear.)

At the very top of the "absolutely not" list is smoking, of any sort, at any time. Especially cigars. I respect a man's right to like cigars, but he can like them with someone else. The aroma of a cigar is one of the worst migraine triggers on my list, and the migraine that ensues when I'm exposed to that aroma is the worst kind of migraine that I've ever had. It wakes me at 2:00 a.m. and has me kneeling at the wall, banging my head against the wall as hard as I can to try to ease the pain. Nausea, vomiting, sledge hammer pain on one side of my head. Absolutely not.

Another absolutely not is too great a reliance on the juice of the grape. Been there, done that, as we used to say. I've been through that with John. I was able to make that work. But someone who grabs the glass of champagne when he walks through the ballroom door, downs it and immediately grabs another, or someone who regularly gets drunk — well, he's just going to have to do all that drinking by himself and go home by himself, 'cause he ain't gonna do it around me.

Am I harsh? Maybe. Am I too harsh? Nope. I'm 57 years old and I've been married four times. I've started over six or more times in my life, and there's a limit to how many more times I will be able to start over before it will literally kill me. I'm thinking this next relocation will be the last.

To turn a negative into a positive, what do I want? Someone who wants to be with me, but wants his own space and interests. Someone who is confident in himself without needing to hang onto my coattails. Someone who takes pride in his appearance, who is smart, who is interesting, who doesn't spend our conversations talking only about his work or telling boring pointless stories. Someone who can help me not take myself so seriously. Someone who appreciates the style and grace and understated elegance that I bring to the relationship.

Is that too much to ask? If so, then I'll just be alone the rest of my life. There are certain things on which I will not compromise.

I don't know how to define it, but I'll know it when I see it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

;-) to Scott Fahlman

Unless you've been hiding under a cyberrock, you know that today is the 25th anniversary of the emoticon. Scott Fahlman (Jaci, he's from Ohio) proposed those sequences of characters that we now have learned to tip our heads to read.

Where would e-mail be without emoticons? Printed matter without facial expressions or hand gestures is frequently subject to misinterpretation. But if I can indicate I'm smiling as I write something that could be interpreted as critical, I'm less likely to receive a return diatribe from the recipient.

If I'm multitasking and need to communicate something quickly, I can just type LOL when someone's statement strikes me as funny. Or if I am truly laughing out loud and wiping tears from my eyes, it's ROFLMAO. Succinct and clearly communicative.

Yes, in a perfect world we would all be able to communicate perfectly. But until that perfect day arrives, there are emoticons.

The emoticon I invented for speedy communication when IMing with Tyler is _X, which is my way of saying "my fingers are crossed."

<Anecdote on>
A friend of mine owned Waechter's Silk Shop in Asheville for many years. After she sold it, I would visit the website. The new owner had music — loud, annoying, synthesized music — on every page. The music would come on automatically and did not have an on/off button. I wrote the new owner an e-mail suggesting that she either add an on/off button to the website or turn off the music, as people who surfed from the office didn't necessarily want their coworkers knowing they were taking a moment out of work. She sent a note back saying, as I recall, "just turn your speakers down." I wrote back just to sign out of the conversation and congratulating her on purchasing the store. I closed with a smiley face or winking emoticon. She immediately wrote me back, asking if I was cursing at her in my e-mail. This was clearly someone who needed to be more aware of what was going on around her! ;-)
<Anecdote off>

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

State of the [He]art

A quiet reader e-mailed me today and suggested I was:

falling for a guy you just met, and falling hard because he says he's
crazy about you?

I quickly retorted that I was NOT falling. I said I was filled with reticence, hesitancy and skepticism.

I will say that it is flattering and ego-boosting to have someone feel about me, or state that he feels about me, the way the Biker does. We have lovely conversations. And I have moments when I want to run screaming from the room, but my panic is assuaged by my knowledge of how deeply my friends care for this man and of how highly they regard him.

I will admit that the Biker and I will see each other in ten days or so. The first meeting was fraught with anxiety and filled with nerves because of the awkward situation of being with these mutual friends. (Those feelings have nothing to do with the friends, just the situation. It's hard to be over 50 and thrown into high school situations again!)

We agreed that we wanted to spend some time together one-on-one without the angst. So I'm traveling to visit him and have a reservation at a lovely hotel near his apartment in Long Beach. We'll see how it goes. If nothing else, I'll have a short weekend in California and spend time with a handsome man.

I remain unmoved in my resolve to move to Youngstown. The more I watch what's going on up there, the more anxious I feel to be there and be part of the solution, or at least part of the babysitting cadre that enables the solution.

Boston's request that I come at Hallowe'en and stay until Christmas resounds in my ears and breaks my heart. "Grandma, you love to be with us, and you could be with us for two months."

(Relax, Jaci, you know I wouldn't do that. It violates my mother-in-law code of ethics.)

So my heart keeps beating, skipping a beat at the thought of being in love again, and breaking at the situation of being away from my family.

I believe family will always trump.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Favorite New Toy

When I was posting to my blog the other day, I noticed an announcement from Blogger about a new tool.

If you want to read the story of how the developers at Blogger invented this cool tool, you can read about it here.

Basically, you can see recently-uploaded photos that bloggers around the world are adding to their blogs. And if you see a photo that interests you, you can click on it and go straight to the blog on which it is posted. The tool is called Blogger Play.

Saturday afternoon I was watching the photos fly by, and saw one that looked like it might have been shot in Tucson. I clicked and landed on a blog written by an Australian. I was able to see some fabulous photos he had just shot on a journey through the Outback.

Armchair travel at its best!

Define: Togetherness

Dating is not for the faint of heart. Dating over 50 is for the crazed.

I have this man who appears to be nice, fun, intelligent and so on, and he's nutz about me. My mental and emotional state is somewhere on the continuum of awestruck - dazed - humbled - screaming meemies. And it's a sliding marker on the continuum. I vacillate among the various chords on the scale.

But it occurs to me that I'm prematurely crazed. There's no set definition for togetherness. I don't have to fit this relationship or whatever it is into any little box.

I don't think I want to move to L.A. He doesn't want to move where it's cold. So do we have a long-distance relationship and see each other every three weeks or so, all the while knowing that we've got a solid, reliable relationship? But isn't part of having a relationship the ability to hook my long leg around his waist as we lie in bed, falling asleep, talking about our days?

One reads frequently in the Tucson paper about couples who marry or cohabit later in life. For many of them, this involves either houses proximately located to each other, or a house with a guest house. The man lives in the guest house and can have his cigars and be a slob and whatever else floats his boat, and the woman has the main house and keeps it neat. They spend their days together, they just don't spend their nights together.

I don't know what I want. Two years ago, even one year ago, I would have said I wanted to be married or cohabit. Now I don't know. I was getting to the point of accepting my inevitable aloneness for the balance of my days. Interestingly enough, the Biker had also reached that position. Then — Ka-Boom — our mutual friends saw light bulbs and invited me to dinner. The rest is becoming history.

So the lesson I'm learning out of this is that I don't have to figure everything out today or today or today.

There's a house at 2219 5th Avenue in Youngstown that inhabits my dreams right now. It's so me. And there's little boy in Youngstown who asked me today if I couldn't come at Hallowe'en and stay until Christmas.

My heart breaks. My heart quakes. And for once in my adult life I'm not jumping to conclusions or taking rash actions. I'm sitting on my thumbs. My reaction to my panic is to hold the world at arms' length.

Why isn't life ever easy?! (Oh, sorry. I repeat myself. This is absolutely not the first time I've asked that question.)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Choices and Decisions

It's all well and good to think you understand yourself well enough to know what you want in your life—for the next week or month or year. But when you're meeting someone new and trying to sort everything out, trying to sift everything you're learning and say, "this works; this has got to go", it's damned hard. It's scary.

Each time I headed toward marriage I thought I knew the man and thought we would have a good long life together. I certainly didn't go into any of those marriages thinking "I'm in this for five years" or "I think I'll try this for a while." I went into it wholeheartedly and without reserve. (And maybe that's what everyone does. Maybe my point is moot.)

We each have our "hot buttons", our red flags, the characteristics or traits or practices that, for us, are absolute dealbreakers. But we have lots of other — lesser — traits and characteristics that cause us to stop and say, "Hmmm. Can I live with that?" And, simultaneously, what is there about me that is going to cause my potential partner to say, "Unh uh."

The Biker and I had one of those hour-long getting-to-know-you chats last night. Another challenge to getting to know, yet again, someone new is all the life stories that come along with a new person. You want to know what happened in this person's life to make him who and how he is today. You wanna know if he likes his mama. (If he doesn't, run, don't walk, away.) You want to know about his children and their marriages and his past wives/lovers and his past jobs. You want to know what he sees for his future and how that meshes with what you see for you future.

My family is very important to me. My mother and brothers and I are not close and I've always wanted a close family. My sons and their families are that. I didn't have grandparents. I adore my grandchildren and want them to have a grandparent they can run to to say, "make me a new blankie; buy me a new toy; watch me draw; listen to me sing." All children should have a grandparent who thinks they hung the moon.

I'm looking for a job to be able to be nearer my children. In the past week I've applied to jobs in Delaware Water Gap, PA, Washington, DC, and Pittsburgh, PA. Last night the Biker said, "I will never again live anyplace cold." Hmmm. That's a major disconnect.

Another lifestyle that's an enormous red flag for me is alcohol consumption. John was a maintenance alcoholic. He was never falling-down-drunk. But in all the years I knew him, until the last several months when the cancer was so horrible, I never saw him go through a day without drinking. A lot.

When he would walk in the door from the Pentagon at night, he'd put down his briefcase, go to the cupboard for a "rocks" glass, add some ice, and then fill it with vodka. Then his evening would begin. Not until that glass was in his hand could his evening begin. He'd sip on that while cooking dinner. Then he'd have a glass or two of wine with dinner. Then he'd have another vodka or a scotch after dinner, and keep sipping until he fell asleep around 9:00. Any weekend he wasn't on the golf course, he would start his day with a Bloody Mary. Then there would be beers with lunch and through the afternoon, then on to the vodka/wine/scotch routine in the evening. Anytime we went on a trip, he had to have a six pack of beer on the floor in the backseat. Every so often he'd reach back and grab one, deftly wrapping a vinyl sheet around it so it looked like a Coke can to anyone passing us on the highway. He was jovial and loving and enormous fun so long as he was lubricated. When he couldn't have the alcohol he wanted, he was not nearly so fun to be around.

I knew this about him when we split up the first time. When we got back together, I looked at his life and looked at my life and determined it would not be my problem. I wasn't going to monitor his consumption or say anything about it to him, as I knew that was fruitless. I was going to enjoy our time together and just live life.

Candidly, I would use it to my advantage at times. If there was something I needed to tell him but was hesitant about, I would wait until about 8:59 in the evening to tell him. I knew he'd never remember it, but I could truthfully say, "Oh, don't you remember? I told you that last Thursday."

In fact, the first time he asked me to move in with him it must have been about 8:59 at night. When I finally decided to accept his 'proposal', he didn't remember having asked.

So you can understand that alcohol consumption is a big deal with me. I rarely drink more than one glass of wine in an evening, except during board meetings for Tucson Chamber Artists. We seem to have constant-flowing wine for those meetings, and have great fun. But I hate the feeling of not being in control of my senses, and limit my alcoholic intake at all times because of that. The other factor is my headaches. I get enough headaches (daily, thank you) without any assist from a bottle of alcohol. So I just don't.

My lifelong friend Gail, who was also raised Seventh-day Adventist, said to me once that we might have a slightly higher-than-normal sensitivity to alcohol use or abuse, based upon our teetotaler upbringing. However, she made that statement to me before her now-ex-husband began having problems with alcohol and drugs. I wonder if she holds the same position today.

So what's my point? The Biker said to me last night that sometimes he has beer for breakfast. And gongs start clanging in my ears.

If a 57-year-old (just to pick a random number) woman who is lonely and sad and hates her life alone in the desert finds a perfectly nice, or imperfect but still nice, man, how many red flags must she carry around in her quiver before it's too full and she realizes this man ain't gonna be it?


I'm experimenting with a new word in my vocabulary. The word? Boyfriend.

I look my steering wheel square in the face and whisper, "I think I have a boyfriend." I smile at my reflection in the mirror in the ladies room and think to myself, "Maybe I have a boyfriend."

He called my home phone while I was at work today just so he could hear my voice on the answering machine. He closed his message with, "I'm crazy about you, Girl."



Let me go get you a big broom 'cause you're sweepin' me off my feet.

In the past four years, there has never been a man I thought of as my boyfriend. Men were "this guy I'm seeing", "my Friend", "my honey" (spoken with a Southern drawl), and so on. None of them even seemed like a boyfriend.

This one has that air about him: that fun — devil may care — joie de vivre — what the hell — let's go have some fun — boyfriend air.

This could be fun.

(I wrote this last night while waiting for our evening phone call. Then when the call was over, there were too many gongs crashing in my ears and I almost deleted it. But I'm posting it now so you'll know the peaks and valleys in my roller coaster have not flattened out at all.)

Tonight's Dinner

He didn't show. In all fairness, he called. At 6:00. Exactly when he was supposed to be picking me up. What? He couldn't have called at noon or two or whatever point he realized his work was going to hold him in Dallas over the weekend? He couldn't have allowed me to make alternate plans? Now that was rude.

He did mention my e-mail and said, basically, "you can't blame a guy for trying."

I've mentioned in the past that I believe every time he told me he loved me was following the consumption of at least three martinis. When his daughter and I messaged about the situation today, her immediate reaction was that he had been drinking last night. Totally slipped my mind.

I always believe people say what they mean and mean what they say—as I do. Well, most of the time. I guess I make exceptions when people's feelings are involved or the situation is too confrontational.

So the next time he calls I'm going to try to say what I mean. Which will be: "please lose my phone number."

Friday, September 14, 2007

Today's Mood: Annoyed

Facebook offers lots of little applications (applets) a person can add to his or her profile, everything from a map of all the places you've visited to a face that will display your mood-of-the-day.

I haven't added the mood applet, but my mood today is annoyed. At one person: Mr. Match. He called Tuesday night from Dallas, when I was reeling under a triple migraine attack, and asked if I'd like to have dinner on Friday night. I said yes. I like him, he's an enjoyable man. But his dating practices (or lack thereof) are wearing thin.

While I was sitting in Beyond Bread last night, my cell rang with Mr. Match's distinctive ringtone. (When my musical buddy Eric heard Mr. Match's ringtone one evening, he stated he wants his own ringtone. It will have to be something very classy. And choral.) I answered in the noise that is always Beyond Bread, and heard him say "Wanna buck?" Well, silly me, so overwhelmed with money issues at this time in my life, I thought he was offering to buy my dinner. Then he said, "I can't believe I said that" and I realized he didn't say "buck".

Men! All you single men over 50 are just stupid. Stoopid! You think once you've shared a bed with a woman, no matter how far in the past or how well/poorly, you're always welcome to jump right back into that bed again. You're not!

Let me get off my high horse and say it in my best Southern drawl: Darlin', don't ever presume you can take my clothes off without workin' at it.

I e-mailed him last night, after I knew he was sleeping in his hotel in Dallas, and told him we had something wonderful once but that was a long time ago and if he thought he wanted to start seeing me again it would have to involve more than a solitary phone call every two weeks.

Trust me, it won't happen. It's too damned much work for him.
(His daughter is reading this and nodding her head vigorously.)

Wanting Something

The Piano Lady and I are counting the weeks (four, thank you very much) until we take the train ride from Hawthorne into the City. We're not really excited about the shows we're seeing this year—"Grease" and "Drowsy Chaperone". But we're such musical theatre nerds that we'll love them, even if the critics don't.

Two years ago we saw "Light in the Piazza" and hummed the songs for six months until we started boning up on "Wicked" for last year's trip. But after reading about the Biker, she—with crossed fingers—sent me this verse from "Light in the Piazza" this morning.

This is wanting something
This is praying for it
This is holding breath and keeping fingers crossed
This is counting blessings
This is wondering when
I'll see that boy again
I've got a feeling
He's just a someone too

And the beauty is
When you realize
When you realize
Someone could be looking for a someone
Like you.....

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Very Small World

I am falling out of chairs laughing at Tyler and Jaci today. Jaci has joined us in the world of social networking known as Facebook. If you don't know what Facebook, is, Tyler writes about it here.

When first developed, Facebook was only open to high school and college students. One had to have an e-mail address that ended in .edu to be able to gain admittance. After a while the door opened a little wider and I was able to get in with my address, and then T.J. with his address. Then the door kept opening wider and wider and now the whole world is streaming in through Facebook's door.

I use Facebook to communicate with the members of Tucson Chamber Artists and the lovely young ladies of Arizona Alpha of Pi Beta Phi. But my network is growing every day. I'm friends with a woman I knew in Caregivers years ago when our husbands were both dying of cancer. And with a young man who is a remarkable musician and will be appearing in a show I'm playing for next month.

Nine years ago, shortly after John's death and Tyler's graduation from Youngstown State, Ty and Jaci moved in with me in John's and my lovely old three-story home overlooking Rock Creek Park. They lived in the third floor apartment, but we used the sun porch on the second floor as our computer room. Our computers were less than six feet apart but we would e-mail things to each other. I thought it was hilarious that we would IM each other or e-mail something rather than just handing it across the desk.

I guess it's no different than in my office at IBM every day. My officemate and I sit with our backs to each other, earbuds pumping our favorite music into our ears, pinging (IMing) each other when we want to communicate something but don't want to stop what we're doing, pull off the headsets, and turn around. Easier just to ping back and forth and laugh like deaf [wo]men.

So when I accepted Jaci's offer of friendship this morning on Facebook, then checked back throughout the day to watch her settling in, adding facts to her profile, I laughed when I saw her status: "Jaci is 'going to the grocery store'".

Half an hour later I checked again and noticed Tyler had "written" on her "wall":
Ok, so I know we're 21st Century when I can't reach you on the intercom and come to facebook to find out that you're out grocery shopping! LOL

I laughed out loud when I saw that. And again half an hour ago when I looked and saw Jaci had gone to bed: "Jaci is 'sleepy and going to bed. Goodnight.'"

It makes me feel less lonely and a little closer to them. I can picture them sitting in separate rooms on their computers, but keeping each other updated with their status.

I love my geeky little family and the small world the Internet has given us.

(T.J., tell Kathryn to come on in. The Facebook water's fine.)


I stopped at Beyond Bread for supper tonight to quiet my grumbling tummy on the way home. (Yeah, and because I haven't stopped at the grocery store in a week-and-a-half. I will be so glad when I'm finished with all the Pi Phi beginning of year stuff and the second round of TCA press releases. I want some time to grocery shop and clean my house and sew and I can't find it! Oops, got sidetracked.)

I was sitting quietly with my Sudoku book, living vicariously through the three-generation family next to me, melting each time the little girl, around fifteen months, smiled and waved at me. Missing my babies. Then I noticed a large group massed at a table across from me.

They were all nicely dressed, smiling, happy, immersed in conversations among themselves, a laptop or two perched in the center of the table. I watched them surreptitiously for a while, trying to pin a label on them. First I thought, "Realtors." Then I thought, no, there are too many of them and they're too happy. They must be "Christians." They must be from that cockeyed Cool Church or one of the megachurches or something. But there was no praying going on. So I kept watching and after a little while more I noticed an orange box on the table.
It had distinctive letters on the side and I immediately thought, "software." Geek that I am, of course I'd think a cool box on a table was software. I went back to my puzzle, and more people came in to join the group, many bringing others with them, all of whom were introduced around the table.
And the more I sat there not watching them, the more I remembered a thousand years ago when Terry decided he was going to quit his doctoral program and sell Amway full time. And there I was with two little boys, trying to keep the family afloat on my small salary as a ballet accompanist at TCU, trying to be a good little wife and not scream, "Are you out of your freaking mind?"
When I got home from supper, I did some Googling and learned it is, indeed, multilevel marketing of a food supplement.
That's the thing about fanatics. They just need something to be fanatical about. Doesn't matter what it is, so long as it gives them something to believe in.

Daring to Hope, Daring to Believe

Last night, actually very early this morning, I read a very long note from the Biker. He closed by saying:

Just know that I will not go thru the rest of my life without having you in it.

After so many years of so much bullshit spoken by so many scoundrels, can this be true? My friends who introduced us tell me what a good guy he is. I look at my friends and remind myself how highly I respect them. I know they would never put me in any danger and I know they care about me and want the best for me. They've known this man for 50 years or more. There's an old saying that tigers don't change their stripes, so maybe this man is what he appears to be and says what he means and means what he says.

Maybe it's true.

Could it possibly be true?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Hopes and Dreams

I'm on a roller coaster this week. Yes, I've been living on a roller coaster for the past six months or more, but this is a different brand of roller coaster. This one is about the potential of a relationship. By all appearances, it's the potential of a very good relationship.

He shall be known as the Biker.

I mentioned him on Monday and the interest and excitement and hopefulness continues to exist and continues to build.

Today's Real Simple quote plays along with my thoughts today:

Map out your future – but do it in pencil. The road ahead is as long as you make it. Make it worth the trip.
— Jon Bon Jovi

Monday, September 10, 2007

Bug Boy

My Boston is fascinated, even obsessed with bugs.

Doesn't this photo just make you smile?

Good Signs

After months and months of looking, I found my passport this morning. I'm going to take that as a good omen.

However, the photo was taken at my highest weight, while I was with EEFFH and depressed out of my mind.

Given the enthusiasm of Transportation Security Agency and U.S. Customs officials nowadays, I may have to get a new passport just to have a photo that looks like me.


(And if you're a new reader or have forgotten the acronym EEFFH, it's Evil Ex-Fiancé From Hell, the man who brought me to Tucson and then made my life a living hell. Live and learn.)

Online Dating - Pros and Cons

I frequently rail about online dating: the men aren't sincere, the men are only looking to see how many women they can have interested in them at one time, the men say they want relationships but they really don't, and on and on. (Yeah, okay, these are gross generalizations.)

But there is one benefit to online dating. Before you ever lay eyes on a man face-to-face, you know something about him. Okay, you think you know something about him.

You probably know some basics, like educational level, number of kids, whether he's ever been married, occupation. You know an approximation of his height, although my experience is men tend to state the height they were at age 45, before their spines started compressing. (I've been out with plenty of men who said they were 6'0" tall but who stood eye-to-eye with me when I was wearing flats.) And unless his photos show him always in a ball cap, you have some idea of the extent of his male pattern baldness.

But you don't know whether he drools, whether he knows how to chew without his entire meal falling onto his shirt front, whether he says "y'know" or "like" every fifth word. You don't know whether he hates his mother and is going to take it out on you. You don't know if he's all about acquisition and will totally ignore you once he's got you on the line. (Oh, man, I just described EEFFH, didn't I?)

My point is that you go into the first meeting with some knowledge, however flawed, and some sense of possibilities.

Why am I thinking about this today? Because I met someone on Saturday night. Face-to-face, thanks to dear friends, without any foreknowledge, without any expectations. And saw him again on Sunday night, again thanks to dear friends, and this time with the foreknowledge that this is a really nice man who is thoughtful, considerate, funny, fun, intelligent, and caring. Wow! Truly, I wasn't sure such a creature existed — an over-50 single man who possesses those traits. (Again, apologies to the Traveler and others who are reading here and who possess those traits but simply didn't light my fire or I theirs.)

He doesn't live nearby, and maybe that's a good thing. Maybe if something is to develop, it will develop slowly over time, as opposed to the things that start online and seem to go from zero to bed in 60 seconds.

'Tis Better to Give Than Receive

I have been thinking lately about the act of giving. As I watch Tyler commit more and more of himself to the restoration of Youngstown, I am bitten by the bug and want to join him.

I believe I've always been a generous person, and my Daddy was always generous—with me, with his friends, anywhere he saw need.

Is generosity genetic or learned? Obviously it wasn't something I gained genetically from my Daddy as we didn't share any genes. And I'll never know what I'm genetically predisposed to, so I can't find an answer in those facts.

I read recently about someone who claimed she had received a number of blessings as a direct result of paying her tithe to the church. I've heard those stories all my life and always consider them just so much hoo-hah.

But is it a fact and independent of the target of the giving? Is it simply the act of giving that boomerangs to yield receipts, regardless of the form of the receipts?

Here's today's quote that spurred this post:

"We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give."

— Sir Winston Churchill

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Honesty Schmonesty

Yesterday I received an e-mail from a man who had contacted me on about four months ago. After a couple of short e-mails back and forth, he asked if I wanted to meet at Starbucks for "coffee, tea, or a kiss." What?! I've never had a conversation with this man. What on earth made him think any decent woman would want to go straight for the kiss.

He's 44 years old and 5'7". I'm 57 years old and 5'8" in flats, which I never wear. So in public I'm 5'10" or 5'11". I thanked him for his invitation and said I thought I'd pass, mentioning the age issue.

He e-mailed me back that I looked like a MIL*. I will not repeat the acronym here. (If you're that curious, you can figure it out by Googling, or e-mail me and I'll tell you what it is. Although I'll blush as I'm telling you.) This is the second time in my life I'd ever heard that term, and I find it highly offensive.

So if I'm all about honesty, I would have said to him, "I find that offensive." But I didn't. I just blocked further communications from him. I have no investment here to protect.

On the other hand, the Professor stated over and over in the six weeks we were involved that he was honest. "Just Bob from Fargo" is what I heard repeatedly. When he said he couldn't see me anymore, he said he had stuff to work on; that his breakup with the 41yo woman whom he saw for six months and was in love with until she dumped him to move to San Francisco alone was too new and too painful; that he wasn't ready to be in a relationship again.

And yet I look on and he's out there every day and has even changed his profile photo to a "hotter" photo.

Don't tell me you're not ready to be in a relationship and yet go out every day looking for more women. Be honest. Tell me you don't want a relationship with me.

Okay, so maybe I'll feel hurt. But I'll get over it. I certainly don't want a man who's "not that into" me.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The State of [My] Life

I'm in a one-foot-in-front-of the other time of life. I remember being here before. In the final three to six months of John's life, each day was an exercise in getting through that day, keeping tabs on his pain level, trying to find ways to make memories for his children, keeping everything at my job under control, dealing with day-to-day house stuff and work stuff and life stuff. But there was always an end in sight. Yes, the end of that period of time would coincide with the end of his life, and that still makes me sad. But at least there was an objective, of sorts.

Where I am now feels there's no objective, no goal, no end in sight. I spoke to my realtor today about the housing situation, which is very grim. I'm methodically getting the midtown house ready to sell, and inquiring about another tenant for the Continental Ranch house. I believe the midtown house would sell, but would end up costing me, as it's mortgaged to the hilt. And Continental Ranch is just overrun with houses and overflowing with repossessions. (Mr. Pulte! Hello! Stop building!!) The realtor says, "if you can find a tenant, lease it rather than trying to sell it."

I feel I have nothing to look forward to. I don't want to be here. I want to be in Youngstown where I can run over and babysit for a few hours so Ty and Jaci can go to a meeting or activity without worrying about the babies. I want to sew and create and not work 9-5. But so long as I have two houses and four mortgages, I'm trapped in this time and place. And there's not even a loved one to take my mind off the housing situation. There's not a man I can claim "item" status with to just call and talk about my day, about my life or lack thereof.

It could be worse. I know it could be worse. The woman Frank is crazy about is spending every day at the hospital where her 19yo son lies in a coma brought on by alcohol and drug abuse.

But for me it feels bleak and I don't like it. I don't like this umbrella of sadness.

At the funeral a few months ago for my Pi Phi friend Pat Davis, several people quoted her standard phrase, "I'm vertical and facing forward." And that was good enough for her.

I guess I need to lower my expectations.

(And enormous congratulations today to Tyler and Jaci, who now own only one home. There's one less home for sale in Continental Ranch.)

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Going Outside My Comfort Zone

After pondering this action for about a year, I went to breakfast with the Traveler on Saturday by means of his new Honda Gold Wing.

I tried to dress appropriately - hiking boots, jeans, t-shirt (not long enough in the sleeves nor high enough in the neck), and sunglasses. He had bought a new helmet for his female riders to share (I don't know how many of us there are, but I was the first - she said, smiling.)

I was scared to death for the first five minutes, then started settling down, with the help of deep breathing and toeing in on the footrest, which made me feel more secure - for whatever reason.

We've been talking lately about bells and whistles on this blog. Honey, this new Traveling machine has tons o' bells and whistles. XMRadio, navigation, comfortable seats. The helmets have microphones so we could talk to each other and point out things we were passing.

The funniest feeling for me was being able to point at something or use my hands to gesture as I was speaking. I know he couldn't see my hand movement, but it just felt very odd to be behind him on the bike rather than beside him in a car.

Jaci, whose dad has had motorcycles all her life, told me that once I started riding I would be addicted.

I'm not sure I'm addicted, and I'm not sure I'm ready to ride all the way to Patagonia for breakfast (as is Lee's Sunday norm), but it wasn't bad.

And that's high praise for someone who still can hear her daddy saying, "Don't you kids ever ride motorcycles. I've sewn up too many cuts in the emergency room."

Sunday, September 02, 2007

You Don't Know Me

You've heard me rail about Hana Ripp, the woman who was acting as my agent (sort of) for the gig at Raz. Ask anyone who accompanied me to Raz or came to see and hear me perform there. The woman is a total cuckoo bird. (With no disrespect intended to cuckoos!)

When I got to the point that I hated to see Tuesdays dawn because I knew I had to deal with her that evening, and pay her 25% of the money I was paid, I said "enough."

The final night I played there, Hana was sitting at a table with several colleagues from Arizona Theatre Company. I was minding my own business, cranking out lovely tunes. I would look at the keyboard, glance around the room, look out the window. Anytime I caught someone's eye, I would smile and nod. But I am not Jo Ann Castle. Remember how she would play her honky-tonk piano numbers on the Lawrence Welk Show and keep looking up at the camera with an enormous grin plastered on her face? I will smile if I catch someone's eye, but I don't sit there with an artificial smile on my face. I'm too busy pulling together interesting arrangements and trying to keep from getting bored.

So at one point while I was playing, I caught, in my peripheral vision, some movement. I glanced in the direction of the motion, and there was Hana, waving her hand in the air to get my attention. When I looked at her (thinking she was waving to someone in the kitchen and wondering what on earth made her behave in such a cretinesque manner), she poked her fingers into her cheeks in that time-honored (and by me - detested) gesture that means "Smile."

I do not like people telling me what to do. And I especially do not like people telling me to smile. You don't have a clue what's going on in my life. Who do you think you are, really, to tell me to smile. Fly Over!

As I was leaving Raz that evening, giving her my final check (why do I feel I had been pimped out?), she started handing me publicity stuff about her for me to read. Umm, not interested! She said, "Well, I know all about you and I thought you might like to know about me."

Excuse me? You know all about me? You know nothing about me, short of what you've heard people say. You've heard my friend Lindianne say I'm a fabulous fiber artist, but you've never seen any of my work. You know I have a law degree, but you don't know anything about that portion of my life. You don't know the happiness and the trauma that has mixed together to make me who I am today.

You. Know. Nothing.

So I walked out of Raz, burning no bridges but hoping I'd never have to lay eyes on this woman again.

A week or so later, after returning from a trip to Youngstown and feeling very sad about drifting through my life in Tucson, I updated my Facebook status message to say something like "Jan is tired of life as it is in Tucson."

A few hours later I received a message from Hana saying, "sorry to hear that ~ ure opportunity to change it ! YOu have the power to create whatever you wish even in Tucson!" [Her spelling and typos, not mine.]

Rest assured. It took me approximately five minutes after receipt of that message to remove her as a friend in Facebook.

(Hmmm, why does this sound like high school again? I'm 57 years old. I'm done with high school.)

You know nothing about me. Go stalk somebody else.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Stupid Tourist Tricks

This afternoon I'm watching a video of the Stephen Sondheim musical "Sunday in the Park with George", based upon the life of Georges Seurat and depicting his work in creating his large painting, Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. The persons depicted in the painting are brought to life in the musical, starring Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters.

La Grande Jatte is an island in the Seine. There is a hilarious scene with a Southern couple in their 50s, who have decided they don't really like Paris and want to go back to America. They are on the island and trying to figure out how to get off the island so they can get aboard ship and sail back to the States.

The corpulent man, in his Georgia/Alabama/Mississippi accent, tries to communicate with a boatman on the island to ask directions. With enunciation that would make any choral director proud, he speaks slowly and loudly: "Excuz-ay Maah-sir. We are lost." The boatman replies "Anh?" The even-more-corpulent wife, in her ruffled frock and pearls, taps her husband and says, "Let me try, Daddy." She approachs the boatman with a coquettish look and, using grotesque imitation sign language, says slowly and distinctly (and even more loudly), "We are aliens here, unable to fiiiiind passage off island." The boatman looks at them, then points in the direction of the boat that will take them off the island and says, in impeccable accented English, "Why don't you just walk into the water until your lungs fill up and you die?"

It is too funny. It is what you wish you could say to every stupid tourist you encounter on the streets of Tucson or Washington or wherever they are.

Listening to this exchange suddenly took me back to 1993 in Quitzerow, Germany, where Tyler was an exchange student. My then-husband, Bob, and I flew to Berlin, I think, and rented a car to drive up to Quitzerow, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, where Tyler was living with his host family, the Pagels. This was Tyler's second host family and they were a nice family with twin sons a little older than Tyler. They lived in the former East and had a fencing business that had enabled them to come out of the communism successfully. But because of their geographic location, their second language was not English, as we had expected when Tyler went to live there, but, rather, Russian.

As Bob and I were planning the trip, we had assumed that we would be able to get along on my "nur ein bischen Deutsch" from college because we understood that most everyone spoke English. Alas, the Pagels spoke almost no English. Poor Tyler was stuck translating for this entire trip.

Bob, being a country boy, a good ol' boy, had quite a vocabulary of colloquialisms. He was trying to be cordial and say things to Herr Pagel, but when Herr Pagel didn't understand, he would just say it again slower and louder. Or turn to Tyler and ask him to translate something. The two men were shooting pool one evening and Bob asked Tyler, "How do you say 'bells and whistles'?" Umm, you don't. It doesn't translate.

My memories of this trip are chock-full of uncomfortable situations because of Bob's total absorption with himself. (You only need refer back to my stories of doing a sinkful of dishes at 10:00 at night after my four-hour commute and a full day at work and an evening of teaching piano, while he and his son sat in front of the television, to understand the validity of that statement.) Some of the memories were of awkward situations, and some just of typical ignorance.

And some just plain funny: Bob, who lived in Hillsboro, Virginia, was a big civil war buff. And he loved to know the history of places as we drove the back roads from Hillsboro up to his parents' home in Buck Valley, Warfordsburg, Pennsylvania. So when we were driving along a road in Germany, he saw a historic marker beside the road and pulled off to read it, before realizing it was in German.

I think by the time the trip was over, Tyler was hoping this would not be the marriage to last the rest of my life.