Somehow, I Made It

Nothing to write about with everything to say.

Finding time to sit down and type in a few words has been difficult since my last post. What I am not is an internationally well-established author with impeccable writing skills and multiple book tours in my past. With that in mind, missing six days wasn’t going to set off a major crisis in the literary, online, blogging world.

Taking time aside to care for loved ones, run a business, nap, and munch on a few snacks in between time crunch duties was important enough to step back from the interweb typing thing. Glad I, necessarily, did. Loving life, while extremely busy, is rewarding apart from online duties when serious concerns feel heavy on my heart.

There’s no picture. A tag-along above to assist is not here. Any photo or image to accompany today’s thought wouldn’t work.

Today is Friday. Finally, a day off from meats in buns smothered with gooey sauces and chosen veggies. No “famous” chili-mac-n-cheese servings or shouts of “everything” burgers with Doug’s Dawgs stickers being delicately handed out. No customers today … I’m ok with this.

Seven events. Four in 48 then three in 36 these past six days. Just enough hours to do all the normal prep and clean up required taking into consideration all the business shopping and bill paying necessary to keep that part of life up-to-date.

The other part? Personal concerns. There didn’t seem to be hours, let alone minutes, to use … However, I made it. Somehow, I’m here. It’s Friday.

Didn’t plan on the pieces of the other part separating at 5 a.m. Tuesday morning – a reverse puzzler, as it turned out. A nice picture minutes before fell apart before my eyes lasting into the late evening Thursday. Days and nights with little sleep – while maintaining a busy schedule – weren’t helpful.

I wasn’t in crisis, but someone else was. Nurses, an occasional doctor, emergency and hospital rooms, medicine, pain, tears, texts, calls, needles, beeps, beds, consults, fears, and anxieties … a not-so inclusive list of every hour mindful minefields of groping gadgets I wanted to share with the soul in crisis. With those came an exhaustive search for extra time and energy that never came. Somehow, I’m here. It’s Friday.

Yea, looking back I feel something was accomplished. In the middle of it all? Not so much. Getting the necessary things done didn’t allow for the successes I wasn’t sure to look for, anyway. It was, and is, a complicated thing … this cancer issue. “Helping” is not just a physical do-this I’ve come to understand … it’s a much bigger crisis to manage.

I feel rewarded by a simple, “thank-you”, graced upon me, but not by those two words. It was an eight-word phrase she may, or may not, remember saying. The words don’t matter to anyone else except me. I’m glad to have them in my memory as a reminder of why it was so important to act upon a 5 a.m. reverse puzzler expecting nothing in return.

The reason I didn’t include a picture is because there’s no image of pain close to what I saw. That’s just me, of course.

Until life decides to spread out the crisis/business/personal jam ups in a more tolerable manner, I suspect there will be indigestible, short, three day stretches again. Every time will be epic battles of wit vs. will and willingness vs. availability. Somehow, I’ll be there, too.

… And I’m glad I had some time to type today. With nothing epic to write about and everything to say, this much-less-than famous author is glad to simply have a day off to enjoy himself.

Somehow, I made it. TGIF.

Snuggling Buicks

Mark-56 was first. Slowly, Ms. Red snuggled in beside to Mark’s left. I saw this romantic gesture through a late dinner’s window pane at Denny’s tonight around 9:45 p.m. and had to investigate.

Starting with a, “What are these cars?”, text to a good friend, I waited for a reply. An answer didn’t come back quick enough, so I flexed my inquisitive muscles by accelerating out of a yet-to-be-tabled salmon order booth. I walked through a sparsely occupied Friday night eatery on my way out to introduce myself.

These two didn’t need an escort – especially one who thought moments ago only Sir Ford and Miss Chrysler were out for an evening stroll. Apparently, Mr. Piano Guy here has limited knowledge of classic cars manufactured in ’56. Peering through glass – while waiting for what turned out to be a less-than-stellar trio of fish, potatoes, and broccoli – isn’t an exact science. That said, I bet most late night beholders of parking space beauty would have guessed, “Buick”.

“Nice wheels”, finally. Yes, I agree. Feedback from my friend was certainly appreciated after a few minutes. Sure, they are nice. Old, possibly restored autos were really cool to look at under the lights of a lit, clear evening parking lot; However, at that moment, I was less interested in bling-bling appearances than the actual make & model of these two late evening embracers.

“Nice to see you…”, I mumbled under my exhausted breath while asking permission to take the picture above. It was ten minutes prior I slunk into a booth after working a concert event: four-and-a half hours of busy, hot, sometimes confusing “sammie” making where the customer decision process can challenge even the most patient of souls. A once friendly, but suddenly cantankerous, canopy caused fifteen minutes of delay due to its inability to snap open one of four legs. In the midst of this colorful language episode – and no indication of a condiment, napkin, or steam droplet from any pan – an hombe with no wits about him walked up and asked, “Hey, you open yet?”…

Ok, so I was asking two beautiful cars a question they couldn’t answer. In retrospect, the guy, hours before, asked me that question I’m convinced he really didn’t want me to reply with words I desperately wanted to say. Who looks at a frustrated vendor – clearly wrestling with a large white vinyl piece of crap while a van sits full of supplies and a cart as cold as ice – and thinks, “I should ask, 45 minutes before the concert is scheduled to start, if I can get a hot sandwich. Looks like this guy is up and running … even though half his body is up in that canopy’s face.”??

“Why, yes, Sir … May I help you? …”, were seven words not coming clearly into my mind. I struggled as much with staying silent as trying to get the little clip-nib to come out on the leg that wasn’t working on the canopy. By the time an appropriate reply, “I open at six!!!”, was about to free-flow from my overly heated body, he moved on. A moment of relief. Fortunately … because I don’t like to get upset with potential customers, but … really? C’mon, my friend.

I had a few seconds to take a deep breath and truly say, “Hello.”… Mark and his lady friend had no idea of my troubles earlier. How could they? During my time of duress, they were out cruising about town, perhaps together … possibly apart … although considering the graceful manner in which they arrived suggested to me a familiarity in their travels.

It’s what fascinated my attention from the start.

I looked out over a weakly-iced tea to see Mark slowly enter his space. Gently he arrived. Careful in his approach, yet eager to arrive. I don’t know why I was so happy when, a minute later, Ms. Red snuggled in beside and took her place. It was almost like the two of them were meant to be together … at that time, in those two spaces – beside one another. One, then two, but still one.

They were a couple out on the town content to just be together. No frills, no extra fluff. Being in their space was perfectly fine for their life. I swear her back right tire was nudging over against his back left as if to say, “We can be here now … just us. No worries.”. My hectic, frustrating moments passed as I watched her tenderly pull in beside her man. This paused my soul.

Yeah, I know … just cars. Just – as it turned out – Buicks, not Fords or Chryslers. To a guy sipping a three-cube iced tea waiting on what eventually was a disappointing salmon dinner, two beautiful cars in his line of sight, and a bit of imagination, finished off an aggravating day in a lovely way.

I don’t know. Could have been the heat or the hunger that caused this reflection through the pane of glass? Sorry, Denny’s, but your salmon dinner didn’t make the hunger go away … and the heat? Well, that has since cooled off under my skin since Brian – a wonderful foodie friend – fixed the canopy (for now) and I’m off for a double-event day.

I sure hope Mark-56 and his Lady of Red had a wonderful rest of the evening together. I can’t thank them enough for giving me a few moments of happiness last night. They were snuggly beautiful together and I’m so fortunate they understood my exhaustion when I asked, “May I interrupt and take your picture?”

“Why, yes. Yes you can. We’re just here enjoying the evening together. It’s such a nice night. Don’t worry about anything. There’s a safe space for you anytime you need one. Just look out any window and remember: take life as it comes – gently drive your soul and, most of all … remember someone special will always love you and be by your side no matter what.”.

Yeah.

Uptown and All That Jazz

Kander & Ebb. Roxie & Velma. CHICAGO, June 3rd, 1975.

“Come on babe, why don’t we paint the town?
And all that jazz
I’m gonna rouge my knees and roll my stockings down
And all that jazz
Start the car, I know a whoopee spot
Where the gin is cold but the piano’s hot
It’s just a noisy hall, where there’s a nightly brawl
And all that jazz”

I remember the stage. No, it wasn’t Broadway or 1975. In 2011, a piano and I wonderfully joined a talented cast and pit orchestra on June 22nd in front of a packed house for the first of four shows. The Mishler Theater stage in Altoona, Pa, was underfoot at precisely 7:30 … and magic began when the ages old red and gold curtain rose. We were together. An entire cast – with a supporting pit on stage right and an excited pianist behind a concert grand stage left – ready to paint the town.

All that jazz – witnessing the rehearsal stresses, music changes, conflicts between people who do show-things differently in their brains – didn’t matter to me once I looked over to my pit director. Downbeats of an Overture on opening night melted away misfit memories from two previous months of stops and starts.

Left-right-left-right/Bass-treble-tonic-dominant alternating action between two very experienced hands ushered in “All that Jazz” as the Overture danced marvelously into an opening act. I loved every note of every song and the hotness of the piano under sensational spots. Four nights. Hours of absolute treasureness behind the keys.

There’s never been a final curtain from that show for me. After the Sunday matinee, my mom approached the stage as I stepped off the front riser. She, surprisingly, bought a ticket to attend the show a second time after seeing it on opening night. Exhausively and four-show drained, I gave her a big hug to accept a congratulations realizing this was to be the last time a son’s show performance would be in front of a mom’s tired eyes. A final curtain came the following March. Cancer, at that point, had been her noisy hall and brawl. Her first and second acts were produced & directed the best they could. It was time to enjoy what time could offer … and enjoy she did – watching the Cell Block tango girls, Roxie, Velma, and the entire cast of “Chicago” jazz up the stage. I won’t forget. No final curtain on the memories a decade ago.

All that Jazz then, and “Uptown Jazz” last night. A connection, of sorts, to the past. Kinda.

Below is a musically talented friend and all-around good guy, Dave, at the keyboard, on a smaller stage in a cast of four. He’s sitting on a stage where there were no big production dances, stockings down, sexy outfits, murder, or plot twists. Just a pianist, vocalist, set player, and bassist/guitar player. Oh, a dinner buffet, alcohol, and a relaxed piano player in the audience not concerned about vocal cues or four-show happy stresses.

He’s 25% of “Uptown Jazz” and a very versitile keyboard player. To type his contribution as “one-quarter” is understating his talent. Singer, songwriter, “jazzer”, educater, recording engineer, sound technician, … our community is blessed to have a musician of his skill perform within many combinations of pluckers, strummers, paradiddlers, and vocaleers.

I sat in a dimly lit room, back from some semi-alcohol saturated beings, as one of three sitting close together at a round table normally set for ten. The people situation was more crowded up front. To be expected, since acoustically, “microphone speak” was less like Charlie Brown’s teacher closer to the stage than where we where. “Mmpf … Err , ddrph la ruch” is pretty close to all we could understand between set songs – which makes the notes Dave was stroking on the keys extra special.

Notes from his piano floated uninterrupted as he played a few instrumental pieces in a trio/combo. Jazz. Granted, “Uptown Jazz” performed most numbers as an impressive four, but I enjoyed the deep jazz trio work the best. New York, small, smokey, underground jazz club tug-and-pull, complex chord structure … All that Jazz work impressed my classical piano soul a lot.

It was a nice evening. Even though driving, from my direction, was kinda downtown to the UVA Club … heading “uptown” to hear Dave play again was worth the small cover charge and four-times that for the land-and-sea buffet. Now, to be honest, there was no Roxie to crawl across the table in sexy lingerie last night like she did on my piano ten years ago. Dave’s best playing wouldn’t erase that moment in my memory, but his musical dexterity and kindness certainly made the evening more enjoyable than most.

Hours earlier, I started the car to head into a spot – not a whoopee spot, though. I drove into an Altoona location where jazz would, once again – at least in part – be heard … a few blocks away from where my mom last sat listening to hear a son perform, “Nowadays”, the closing number from “Chicago”.

Nowadays, we can relive some memories. Some magical remembrances while sitting in large, dimly lit halls listening to good friends do what we do … in part, of course. I’m a classical guy, Dave’s a jazz player. A piano is a piano, I guess, and music in all its forms is a transporter back to mom and son special moments.

Thanks to Dave, “Uptown Jazz”, and all the local musicians who build the bridges back to kind, wholesome times. Mom can’t thank you enough.

She’s waiting at the edge of the stage to give all of you a great big hug.

Morning Sun’s Facetime

In between the occasional seasonal sneezes, drilling sounds from a necessary garage door repair to my left, and anxious, happy doggie barks inside, this sun provides me much needed calm. Warm facetime across a right cheek as I sit comfortably on a rocking wicker chair – morning feel good massaging a pre-Friday, 7:45 a.m. sore body. Ninety-four million miles away, yet immediate relief after two days of uphill crazy-town, mental drive-throughs with peoplefolk.

It wasn’t their fault, I guess. Better to dismiss it away than to get in the weeds trying to figure out why conversations and activities go the way of ridiculous. Especially in business dealings, I find myself in the land of the lost when folks don’t consider time or effort valuable … especially when spent on their behalf. Nobody needs a bucket of praise here. Just a simple dribble from the faucet of respect would have been nice the past 48 hours.

And so I sit, quite peacefully, on a well-accepting agreeable chair while the sun’s 8 minutes of aged warmth reaches my face. It feels 100% amenable to what I need right now: Quiet in the midst of drilling, barking, and sneezing.

Connecting to what has been around for 4.6 billion years is better … for now. Sitting on a back patio wicker chair for a few precious moments, away from everyone except two guys repairing a garage door, is what repairs a soul. Breathing in the history and snugness this sun provides, while allowing the denim cushion on which I sit to ease in the day, fades away all the discoloration from days past.

These are the nice carve-outs we need.

I don’t expect life to be a perfect, tasty pie of sweetness all the time. It’s rough. Days are challenging – we know this. Gosh, the past year-and-a-half, right?. Life is difficult. My family will soon experience how so.

Monday, I expect life to change drastically for a loved one. That day’s decision will affect a lot in his life, although the sunshine rising early on the days remaining in his life will remain steady. Schedules, friends, hobbies, and other constants he has known are going to adjust because the independence he has known is being driven away. His license, most likely, will be, sadly, taken away. I hope this won’t be the case, but the glaring exit ramp ahead is too obvious to avoid. Mental traffic has been congested and we need to clear the roads ahead for him.

… And it’s up to the son, his loving siblings, and the sun, to find a way forward for a dad who has been challenging at times, a loving father as only he knew how to be, and companion to me across many a lunch and dinner tables.

This will be a few days from now. As it stands, Father’s Day is Sunday – the day before a doctor’s appointment happens soon after sunrise. I have a small gift wrapped for him. I wish I could wrap the sun for him and reverse time instead of the gift.

My past few day’s inconveniences are minimal compared to his potential life-changing few minutes. This carve-out helps me look at big picture things. It’s time to think. Ninety-four million miles away, yet so close is the sun and a son who is thinking about his father.

My hope is he will find his morning sun’s facetime soon after we leave the office.

Find your morning sun to set aside crazy-town peoplefolk and focus on others who have life struggles ahead. They’re under the same sun. Eight minutes of aged warmth will reach you … and touch the faces of those who reach an age when life just isn’t the same anymore – like dads who did the best they could.

Beneath an Orange Sky

Photo Courtesy of Kim C.

It wasn’t mine, although I’d like to stand on a wooden fence and dream that dream beneath an orange sky. Opportunities to do this are not in my life as they are for Abby, the reflective little bit of dressed evening sunshine standing on the bottom rail. Her mom, a piano student of mine, started gracing the keys at an age not much older than Abby. I do remember those early lessons … years ago. Dreams were probably different back then – for both teacher and student.

I suspect 88 black and white keys, Mozart, or major scales were not in Abby’s mind as she looked past the nearest post to her right. Appropriately, everything was impeccably right in her childlike world at that moment. I do believe children see good in all things down the road, undoubtedly similar to this inquisitive fence rail-stander who saw imagination driving by.

Adult hopes don’t rest on curvey, worn wooden thick planks stretching between posts solidly pounded into the ground. Our dreams wiz quickly past the opportunities to stop and admire the sunsets and sunrises. We swiftly move from task to completion, from goal to success. The Abbys beside the road on which we travel see us, but fade away as blurs in our accelerating rear view mirrors. It is the way we adult under an unrecognized, unseen orange sky.

Adult hopes always appear to be around the next corner. The next chapter. The next person. The next job. The now is never enough. The sunset right before our eyes – the fence upon which to stand – we never see as a child sees: an opportunity to dream. As Kim so aptly bookended her words, a chance to live the music in our lives as well.

Granted, kiddos don’t have the stress of bills, home repairs, and pet problems (to list three out of a possible thousand or more). Arm resting off the top rail during an amazing sunset is easier if all you need to think about is your next play date with other happy-go-lucky-ers. In Abby’s miniature state of affairs, she has, now, two younger siblings to love and care for, many dear friends, … and this family follower who, virtually, still has fantastic memories of her mom, uncle, aunt, grandma, and “Pop-pop”. Wonderful people all. Those nows in my life at that time will never be lost.

As for Abby above, that was a now moment. Everything must have been right for her. We will never know her thoughts or dreams as she barely balanced her little feet on the splintered rail. Snapshots in time like that are for her dreams, but we are able to find small, colorful hopes inside a child who took a few minutes to watch imagination drive by.

Maybe all we need to do is stop and exit our busy lives for a short while, join the Abbys of the innocent world who stand on fences, and look for amazing, orange sunsets. If enough of us do this, fences may not be adequate as dreams become too big to hold back. Those we will recognize. Unrestrained, creative ideas – free to expand without “never enough”, around the corner, expectations – are real adult dreams born from child-like imaginations.

As these words fall, Abby is on her way elsewhere. I believe mom and daughter are making costumes if FB is up-to-date. I’m so glad these still moments are available to me. If I am allowed to be my slightly sarcastic self for a second? Too bad Abby isn’t very photogenic, right? Oh, and mom is pretty shy about posting “a few” pics here and there …😉 Wonderful. So delightful it is for me to write about this young lady.

With that, find an Abby moment in your life somewhere … a fence, a now moment. Slow down. We’re all so freakin’ busy anymore. Down the road, around the corner, may not be so far away and time gets shorter with every second that’s wasted. Lean on a rail and watch for splinters.

I’m sure Abby would love the company.

Rick, Michelle, and Table 10

I hope my point of view will ease your daily grind. At the very least, if Chet Baker has any influence on what I write, you’ll remember somewhere the sun is shining whenever the skies are blue. I know, just know, as Chet so aptly sings, “A heart, full of joy and gladness,
will always banish sadness and strife” in your life. If not forever, maybe for a few minutes.

It did last Friday night for me. “Silver Linings” painted my heavens a spectacular shade of musical wonderment. This comfortable musical couplet sang their cover songs, shoes off, voices on key and guitars well above average. To be expected. I’ve known and heard Rick and Michelle before last Friday night. They’re spectacular.

Skies were overcast when the text came thundering across my phone hours earlier. It was to be another musical experience – another event to set up around a stage to sell food-stuffs to attendees coming to hear a cover band play … outside. Aaand … another rain-out to cap off a few weeks of miserableness in what’s known as concession craziness – i.e., planning and preparing – over and over – only to get the notice of a cancellation of postponement due to wetness dropping down from the unforgiving dark skies.

Should be comfortable with the news, but I never am. There’s always hope the traffic signal colors I see creeping across my weather radar screens will stop short and disappear before the first downbeat. Unfortunately, most organizers have to make the call hours earlier – before sound checks and food trucks fill the airwaves and concrete. So, this was my Friday, day. The text arrived around 2:00 pm. Concert at 6:00, postponed until September.

The silver lining? I finally got to enjoy my musical self!

Table 10 was a surprisingly comfortable round corner conversational buffet. The banquet room at the U.S. Hotel in Hollidaysburg is a large, acoustically challenging room where – on any other occasion – steady, mature adults would sit sipping wine, eating hor d’oeuvres, and flapping about the day’s news. With cans of craft beer of which I didn’t indulge, great food, and conversations concerning matters of an adult nature, our table was unsteadily hilarious, immaturedly necessary,… and just what was needed.

Words among friends. Ah, yes. Even those I met for the first time. Connections were different. I knew this person … Who knew this one … Who didn’t know him, but knew of that one because of her … kinda thing going on. It didn’t take long for us to become comfortable with one another. Music and theater have that adhesiveness. Once folks realize the connection, it’s magic.

Hours of chair-scooting between the table next to us, in order to chat with friends I don’t see regularly, was a necessary pleasant surprise. On occasion, an acquaintance would stop over to gain a quick, “Hey, what’s up?”, or “Nice to see you …”. A former piano student approached to say, “Hi!”, and get caught up with life as I sipped my innocent Pepsi. All the while, a great friend and I were getting caught up as she sat to my left upon arriving late. Losing a husband recently is tough, so I assume a night away – among her very busy social schedule – was a pleasant exhale for her. Her gray skies are gonna clear up.

As all the chit-chat and frivolity was happening, Rick and Michelle continued onward. Lyrics floated above all the tables … Folks went about their own week-ending, calming conversations. I suspect our table 10 subject matter uniquely surpassed any limitations unconsciously plated on any other table that evening. With two confirmed witches and a crystal/wellness store proprietor in tow, our table was a-rockin’ with distinctive dialogue. Throw in a few discussions about bisexuality, shoe and fashion choices, blueberries, and weed, … I would’ve challenged you to find another table that night with greater color and flavor in their words.

Yep, it was a silver lining for me. I did Kristopherson my way into the hearts of those around me as I Shallow-ly dueted the chorus over top of clanging dishes removed every now and then. S’ok. I don’t fancy myself a singer, so having forks and glasses as an accompaniment was a nice go-along considering most weren’t listening, anyway. Maybe if I had the Bradley Cooper looks, Star is Born thing going on and Lady Gaga talent? …

It’s enough to say I had a really good time. A “Silver Linings” good time. It would not have happened if Rick and Michelle weren’t scheduled to play that evening, so here’s to them … and all the local musicians everywhere who go out and perform. You bring joy and happiness into our worlds – and our table 10’s. Even if we’re not paying full attention, our hearts are in the music passing through our ears. We are with your every pulse, every lyric, every smile.

I don’t want a lot of cancellations. My bills don’t need them. Chet can sing of silver linings all he wants, but the bank wants loans paid, regardless. Too many rainy days and Mondays will always get me down, Ms Karen Carpenter. These are the facts and figures in what I do for a living. However, for a Friday evening in the middle of a rainy stretch, I’ll take table 10 for a few hours. The friends, music, and conversation were my silver lining in an otherwise cloudy day.

Let’s take our calming cue from my happy human friends, Rick and Michelle. Ease your daily grind by tossing off your shoes once in a while and singing the chorus from your favorite rainy day song. Remember, when music floats above, skies are always blue.

Table 31 to Tea

A very pleasant Sunday morning. A day shy in the “thirty-days hath September ….” monthly memory click so solidly emblazoned in my mind. This sixth month has thirty days, so that silver “31” handed to me after ordering a crepe must have meant something else. Was I simply the 31st patron/group of the morn to enter? Possibly. Close to 11 a.m. during a rather congenial weather day, thirty other like-minded Blair Countians could have considered the same culinary treat.

I was left alone to contemplate the possibilities. It’s what I do. A mere few solitary feet removed from under the shingle, I sat. Alone.

I sat alone, but wasn’t a solitary soul. Every few minutes, passers-by waved a gracious, “Hello”, with words or a pleasant smile. One was careful to comment, “We used to read newspapers instead of those things.”, as I casually checked my email or strained my already wonky nape to read Facebook posts. Recent high school grads streamed in and out … celebrating their new found freedom from adolescence into adulthood responsibilities and summer transitions into college, military service, or the work-a-day world.

This Creamery is a busy whereabouts most nice days. They have a back outside seating area full of lush, shaded areas in which to sit comfortably among the cool breezes and an inside, upstairs lofty room above the main first floor. Organized, well-oiled, patterned ordering presents itself as one walks through the once old, converted shoe repair store doors. Charming, elite among most buildings in my hometown is this recessed, chandeliered entrance. Kirk and Heather, the owners, have done a corkingly great job over the years maintaining and upgrading this business to include alcohol and a niche menu that draws in clientele year after year.

My “Allegheny Crepe” arrived just in time. The tea – resplendent with one artificial sweetener and one regular sugar – absorbed the sun’s reflection perfectly for the picture moments before. My only regret wasn’t the disappearing kindness of the server who gently asked if there was anything else I needed. It was his necessary removal of the silver “31” I had come to reflect upon during the moments of peaceful semi-privacy. He said, “You won’t regret it.”, when placing my menu choice in front of me. Perhaps it meant nothing? With no one within my emotional purview who would understand my task at hand, I was left with an expectedly delicious crepe in front of me, a perfectly mixed iced tea, one perfectly sunny day … and my thoughts.

January, March, May, July, August, October, and December all have 31 days. This repeated over and over in my brain because of the “Thirty-days …” traditional verse mnemonic. Too pedantic to hold great appeal for the purposes of my imagination. What, possibly, could the universe be telling me through seven months of thirty-one days? I pondered an extension of this as 7×31 = 217. Could 217 be significant in any way? Nah. Again, too blah … even for a numbers goober like me.

Why “31” … if anything at all? For all I knew, this was eventually going to be an exercise in futility. Part way through what WAS a succulent crepe, I looked around for other subjects about which to write. There happened to be a quite fascinating crack in the sidewalk below catching my fancy. Additionally, down the street a few blocks, my friend, Joel, is in the final stages of a fantastic large sculpture I could have considered. People walking by were interesting in their comments as well. Many other fascinations were available, but none as intriguing as darn “31”…

Then, as I placed my fork’s final rest on the edge of the plate, my satisfied appetite leaned back into the iron back of the chair. I closed my eyes facing toward the sunlight flickering through the twittering leaves dangling on two trees partnering with me across the sidewalk. Shaking my head slightly in agreement with my thought, it dawned on me.

I was married in 1990. Thirty-one years ago almost to the day of this post. June 9th, 1990. I am to realize the marriage part of my relationship with my wife will soon be over. We are amicably parting ways. Great friends to the end, we are.

The significance of “31” cannot – and will not – be understated. Sometimes, things such as marriages, run their course and two adults must make that very difficult decision to move on. There is no room for bitterness, strife, anger, disappointment, frustration, or indignation. Yes, there is sadness … of course there is unhappiness. Over half of our years on this earth have been together – experiences together we cannot undo or want to forget. Both of us, if normal life expectancies are in our futures, have the remaining third of our span to live out as we want to … apart from each other. It will wonderfully accommodate new experiences for our individual selves.

My future is bright, to use an overly-used phrase. Your future is, too. Whatever is going on at your table outside one of your favorite restaurants during a beautiful everyday sitting, use it to see whatever you need to see. Find that number to learn more about yourself, a person to talk with over tea, or simply a tree to look through. There are answers somewhere. It may take years – maybe three decades or so – to find what you really need, but hang in there.

I finished a crepe, a tea, and a conversation inside my head. Walking away, I knew that silver “31” served me well just as the fine young man promised when he removed it from my presence. He was right. However, it wasn’t my sadness of its removal. Nor was it his insistence that I wouldn’t regret my lunch option. Sure, the fold-over prosciutto ham and cheese choice was flavorful, but moments after it was finished, sitting alone, … a tired, yet satisfied man in his 50’s – remembering 31 years – doesn’t regret any of it. Choices were made based upon information at the time and I have no time left to be resentful of anything.

Life is certainly a process. A never-ending procedure of mistakes and fixer-uppers. I am forever grateful to live day-to-day … experiencing all it has to offer.

Table 31 to a Tea. Here’s to silver “31”s in your life that may pop up … and may you walk away with no regrets.

Chloe Chronicles

She was anxious to see me; However, it was almost like she knew I settled a few words about her on blog pages. The look of, “C’mon, Doug … really? Again?” gleaming across this face shouldn’t be confused with her knowing I wrote two short, doggone wonderful DougHug entries within the past year. She is, after all, a neighborhood friend. Chloe. A frequent interchange in my human-puppy road experience.

She’s a decorative stone chewer and lover of the barking craft. As well, a clever end-of-the-leash u-turner once I decide to walk across our less-traveled, two lane avenue to extend my hand in affection. A tease of the highest order she is, I must say. Pleas to pet from from afar are met with taut leash rejection once I enter her space … defined as that 1/4″ edge of concrete just off the public avenue blacktop. It is the clear, non-furry fringe of her Doug/dog comfort zone I’ve come to accept. At that step, her immediate turn toward porch happens. The leash slacks and I begin the invisible dance with her.

Darts and dashes. In between two porch chairs, around poles, parked cars perhaps, … maybe a bush or two – she weaves a tapestry of one-leash wonderment as I usually stand waiting for her approval. Never do I understand this dance. All I can do is, ah,Staire at her amazing energy and enthusiasm hoping to reclaim the original intent of her yippy query moments before.

Step by step I make my way to the small porch knowing soon – within five minutes – she will approach me. That is, as long as certain terms are met. 1) I am sitting on the one step, 2) I am not wearing part, or all, of my concession business uniform, 3) I don’t make any sudden movements, 4) She can sit on my lap when it is convenient for her, and, for my protection 5) I must be absolutely prepared for sudden tongue licks on my face. Other than those “must haves”, we’re good.

I don’t mind the essentials. Chloe time is worth it. “I mean, look at that face!”, is the loving phrase her human momma says all the time. Human dad, who is seen periodically doing the fatherly duties, doesn’t utter flowerly phrases while sitting idly by, but does reflect the same sentiments. Chloe is well kept … and loved, of course. She’s worth the effort.

There are few, if any, kiddos in the neighborhood. Dogs out number them. An adults and canines support group here in a one-way in, one-way out, three avenue, one street tuck-away. So close to activity we are, yet comfortably distant from a lot of the highway noise only blocks away. Such a small number of cars pass by I wonder if puppies – such a Chloe – are developing properly not having the opportunity to chase an adequate amount. Perhaps what she’s been lacking in auto-pursuing is being projected as Doug-poking?🤔…

Regardless, puppies around here are special. They give us adults some relief from all the “stuff” we have to deal with all the time. Frequently, Chloe time gets me away from my immediate self – the daily Doug. I can talk to the neighbors while patting down fur across her back a few seconds at a time. Satisfying, easy, rhythmic joy for me … to pet Chloe and talk away some humor or seriousness at the same time is valuable real estate in my emotional neighborhood.

… And I do believe Chloe may understand this – without giving her too much credit. Perhaps it just dumb luck? Maybe a bit of wonky star dust falling onto my path during certain walk-throughs? A specific, “trouble-in-the-air, Timmy?” that the little nose between those two sad eyes can detect? I don’t know the reason behind her insistence. The barking. The end of the leash, “Please come over and pet me!” pleas darting across the summer breezes once in a while I must entertain. The dance. All of it … I don’t know IF she knows, specifically. I do know, though, I must obey.

Not to wouldn’t be healthy.

Pushing through what we may not understand, watching the dance play out … to experience something so much better is life at its best.

If there’s one guarantee in my life with Chloe as a neighbor, it is this: walking back across that same avenue after fifteen minutes, my steps are lighter. Heavy are the burdens we unconsciously place on our shoulders. Puppies and/or pets aren’t the whole solution, obviously, but when one decides it’s time for some attention, … You should consider it if you need a “healthy”, emotional neighborhood in your life.

One may not be as ridiculously cute as Chloe – or KNOW it as she probably does. This one can bark all she wants and I will continue to dance the dance. Once a week or so, this warm weather exchange is bound to continue. It must. We need it. Intersecting lives unleash the happy in one human and one puppy one pet at a time.

As long as I follow the rules, of course.

Toby Full of Heart

I like my personal, peaceful sits. Ya know, those times when breezes and people pass by without relinquishing their troubles … asking me to understand something I care not to appreciate at the moment. My sedentary self on a comfortable chair, outside any coffee shop or bistro, furnishes me breaths I cannot get inhaling busy air while going about daily congestions. Yesterday. Business passing by in which I didn’t need to be involved. Human interactions less interested in the iced green tea placed just within my reach than what was waiting inside. Nearly perfect as the early afternoon sun’s shade crept across a marginally wobbly iron table. A nice breathing space shared by all – a table, a deserving man, the slight early summer breeze, and Toby … a little guy who teaches all of us ToBe full of heart.

He was a little fretful an hour before this picture was taken. Can’t say I blame him. The “experienced” ladies in charge of his care appeared to be concerned about everything swirling around the outdoor patio. They were sweet … don’t misunderstand my words. Toby did the best he could to slowly find his way around the unfamiliar maze of sixteen metal legs and four familiar human legs. The older countesses of this blog did come across their happy breezes as well on the upper side of their table as Toby twirled beneath. I suspect this was the situation even before I walked by to enter Panera Bread. Loved for sure, he is. I’m sure.

Loved for years. Toby isn’t young. Cataracts kept him from moving too fast. Casual glances in his direction between my sips of tea didn’t appear to make him move much. Either his interest in my interaction was “meh”, or he couldn’t see me. I’m so inclined to believe the latter is true. I need to wonder this … Yes, unconnected “peaceful sit” time is valuable, but being tossed off by an aging canine can sting a bit.

In between Toby times, there were times ToBe absorbed in heartfelt thoughts. Just passing by, they were. Not completely soaking in all of my time, but here and there. Too many deep, pensive notions in a row – in combination with the near perfect weather – would have slunk my body into a three-hour Sunday trance the likes from which no “Flavorful & Craveable” smelling salt could bring me back. Maybe a flaky, chocolate croissant? … mmm, possible.

I considered how busy we can be. This isn’t new to any of us, is it? The cars pulled in and out … customers came and went carrying their orders. Smiles – I think were genuine, but I am not one to judge. Most, if not all, who sat as my concrete companions under the strip mall roof entertained their afternoons with phones in one hand. Expected busyness in 2021. Even I checked my friendly messages once in a while. It is what we do. We want to stay engaged in something – connected to busyness – even when really easy early summer breezes offer us time to get away from all of it.

I considered how difficult big changes can be. When casually over-the-shoulder spying on the gentlewomen of the Panera patio, I had to wonder how many changes have taken place during their, assumed, nine-ish decades of life. Clearly in their late 70’s, possibly 80’s, they laughed through conversations I couldn’t clearly make out (and, for the record, wasn’t trying). Were these the same friendly laughs carrying them through the deaths of spouses? Sisters loving each other once again as they did when loving parents passed into energy eternal? Are salads and sandwiches the daily connections they need to small-bite the large change pains that are still sitting in their lives?

I considered how wonderful friends can be. I’ve said this before and will continue to say it. Quite straightforward is this safety net of comfort, support, and advice. When we are too busy and going through a major change in our life, friends support us. They tell us what we need to hear – even if the advice is not exactly framed with words pleasing to our ears.

While all of this circled around the table and the inside of my cup became more melted ice than tea, Toby appeared from under his lunchtime abode. What emerged in plain view was the heart on his coat. I couldn’t resist the notion to believe his heart was more than black on white in front of my eyes.

Only after considering what’s truly important in life, does one’s heart appear. I didn’t see it as he slowly scurried about earlier. It was seen only when I was ready to see it. Toby’s heart is inside his aged little body, too. He can’t see very well. He can’t move fast. Chances are good – if I ask the nice ladies – there would be other ailments he has. In his frailty, however, he reminds us there’s goodness all of us can see in our change and busyness.

Life isn’t easy. I guess that’s the point here. It’s a lot nicer for me when I can have my personal, peaceful “sits”. When hearts are wonderfully placed in my life – unexpectedly – I must ask, “Toby, or not to be?”, …then take that comfortable path to a small hamlet where coffee shops and bistros exist as breezy escapes. To be full of heart is the only way forward – inside and out. It’s tough, but as long as friends have our back, we don’t have to see everything clearly.

If this is good enough for Toby, it’s good enough for me. Glad to have a new friend.

Courting Beautiful

It took a week to get back to my dusty ole’ Dell keyboard. I own one thumb and three fingers on a slightly sad left hand, but a fully functional and quite capable opposite partner. “Trigger finger” is a thing … a painful, crampy thing. As I wrote on my FB page:

Good news? I took only a few seconds to recognize the absolutely beautiful day Thursday. A day needed to get me out of the blues sung by 80% of my functioning fingers, to be sure. I have a small Vive brand splint preventing the main joint from bending forward. The internet doctors and one very kind local pharmacist suggested this remedy for now. I can live with it. Again, for now.

That written, I was quite capable to live with the sun beating down on my sore shoulders as I walked from the Black Dog Cafe southward toward the bank to pay yet another monetary squeeze from my work-a-day efforts … for then and for as long as the sky permits. I will allow beauty to court me as long as she wants. It’s been some time since a casual walk in the warmth – along a familiar path – has given me a calming sense of hometown, family, and friendships.

There have been detours off this path along Allegheny Street … the very street where I marched in hot wool band uniforms many decades ago, watched my grandmother live and thrive inside her sparkly successful gift shop, and began my mobile hot dawg business that, to this day, continues to grow from that modest dawn. A church involved in my youthful, reverent molding sits catty-corner from the very courthouse I found so wonderfully appealing in its reflective, majestic stone. I spent a decade-plus admiring the façade of this county fortress as local folks stood on uneven concrete panels waiting their turn to order. On this particular day, no customers. No hustle or bustle. Just the sun, the warmth.

Courting Beautiful. If only for a few minutes.

It was a Thursday after a Wednesday. This is how weeks work, supposedly. Two large food truck events back to back the day before had my mind and body grinding from dawn to dusk. Loving the business I have – inside and out – is the gas in my engine. Absolutely it is the fuel that keeps me going. Less fortunate for me is the age attained each morning I arise from my slumber. If you’re in any kind of motion-activated life and over, say, age 26 … yeah, you know what I mean. Wednesday was brutal. A set-up and tear-down 2X day with six hours of serving work in-between. Yes, a very long day. Oh, and an unexpected “trigger finger” lockdown in the midst of it all. Quite the surprise package I’ve never before opened. Sore shoulders, back, arms? Expected. A quacked up digit? Ahhh, not so much.

I will court the beautiful moments when I can. A majority of my life has been lived to this point. Any multiple of my age equals dead unless that multiple is a one followed by a decimal and a number less than 5 (if actuarial tables hold true for me). Although, my grandfather lived to three months shy of his 100th birthday, so 1.7857 would be a really nice multiple if any certain infinite being out there is listening.

With the time I have, I want to look for these moments. Work needs to be done, of course. Life has to be lived, too.

You should consider the same. Court beauty where and when you can. Life changes quickly. It isn’t the pianist in you who has to deal with a trigger finger or the busy food truck days in your life. I don’t imagine this life of mine is one too many of you share. I do know you have business that occupies your time, however. Run arounds up and down very familiar streets in your hometowns – while friends and family pass you by – wind up your energies into unappreciated time suckers. It happens … we go about our lives expecting it. Tired and sore at the end of the day. Happy to be productive, of course, but drained.

Love those moments you can find to court the beauty. I am finding more and more of them lately. I will still work my ever-lovin’ butt off because I’m Doug and this is what I do. There will be times, nonetheless, when I will stop on a street corner to gaze upon something – or someone – beautiful. I am finding the allure is needed and desired by my soul more and more … if only for a moment here and there.

The magic in all of this is recognizing beauty in you – and it is there all the time. What you have inside YOU is there all the time. Develop that courtship and you’ll never walk the streets alone.

Ok, so it did take a week to get back here. I managed to type with one less digit. A bit wonky, but I managed. Life is like that. Get by to get through … whatever that means. Off to enjoy another gorgeous day – and I believe the weekend looks to be sunny, pleasant, and warm. I hope the same for you. Appreciate life.