Catchin’ Fireflies

How crazy to think it’s been a while since sitting here at my desk, typing in words, instead of running around making life happen. Hours buzz by. If it wasn’t for a message coming over the Meta-network on my phone, an event would be less meat and cheese tomorrow. I, quite simply, forgot – and it never was entered into my digital calendar. Why? Who knows? This is how May and the first part of June has been.

Except for an occasional meal or entertainment carve out, the huge kraken of lore has come alive to unsettle the calm seas I found myself on at the beginning of 2022. I’ve been losing planks multiples at a time and a once firm grip as the helmsman of my life could be in peril.

Not to be an alarmist, I’ve been here and seen raging seas. Outside challenges have tugged at my personal goals. The needs of others have trumped mine before and surprising tidal waves rocked more than one vessel upon which I’ve found myself. Survival finds a way.

Most of us, I believe, have experienced rough waters. These past weeks aren’t anything new to me, or you. We make our way to calmer shores, right?

I’m not there at present. If the psycho-sextant I currently hold in my clenched hands is accurate, the angle between the horizon and my guiding star shows a position I didn’t intend to be at the moment. Now, either the star is really messed up in its celestial dark matter blanket, the horizon isn’t level, …, or, I truly am taking on too much water.

Damn the kraken of the seas known as “What the hell am I doing?”

Actually, I know. I knew it weeks ago. The different colors on my digital calendar – where “most” of the commitments I’ve made appeared – created a rainbow off in the distance. It appeared as I started a journey. A trek into weeks of scheduling personal, medical, social, musical, and business slaps into my calendar.

As the bow lifted high into the white crests of every 20-foot wave these past few days, that rainbow of over-commitments washed over my memory. This-and-thats for todays and tomorrows. Necessaries and optionals.

This evening, after I realized tomorrow’s event was almost missed … I stopped. It was time. To. Just. Stop.

This is what eventually kills the kraken. Every. Time.

After catching up with a few friends on messenger and texts, I stopped, sat on the edge of the bed and took a deep breath. Nothing was going to interfere with the calm seas I imagined at the moment. It was time to rebuild the ship and get a good grip at the helm. One more thing to do, however – check the status of a Facebook post from a few hours earlier. This proved to be magical.

On my feed was a picture with two words, “Catchin’ Fireflies”. If there was an image I needed to see, it was this:

Courtesy of K. C.

Two joyous lives through a jar held by two smiles. A dear friend and precious daughter who, by all accounts, were brightening up their evening … together. No over-commitments, no busy-ness, no calendar rainbow. Just. Life. Now.

A relation-ship as intended.

I sat for a few more minutes than planned – looking into the calm waters reflecting back images of all the kind, considerate, loving, sincere, genuine, and spectacular close friends who survive the journey with me. The smiles and laughter, especially.

It isn’t all fun, to be sure. You know this. I know it, too. With that said, how difficult would the voyage be without shipmates who care … who are willing to take a plank, or two, on our behalf?

At the beginning of the day, I didn’t know tomorrow was coming as it appears to be. I’ll be unexpectedly busy. This coming week will be challenging on the home front as well.

I’m so glad I stopped today. The kraken is dormant for now.

Rest easy, kraken. I am sure we will battle again. For now, I turn the wheel over to a few small lightening bugs.

In their light, I find the smiles and laughter of my friends who, together with me, guide all our ships forward one day at a time on, hopefully, calm seas.

The Key to Mother’s Day

If this was the way: I’d play one note. One magical press of a key – either black or white of the 88 – that would bring mom back to us.
Not just my musical, happy, funny mom … but your mom as well if you are holding dear memories today.
This I would do. For me. For you.
We need those assurances only moms can give. Tight, affirming hugs are missing now. Duets are silent behind magnificent pianos.
Memories aren’t quite enough on a Mother’s Day when everything is, well, a lot different than a mom would have expected.
There wasn’t one magical key to change cancer and mom’s destination with it. There isn’t one key to bring her back.
Fortunately, there are many at my disposal to honor her the best way I know how.
For my prelude at Zion Lutheran this weekend, I’ve chosen, “How Beautiful” by Twila Paris. It is a piano arrangement I had to tweak a little for the organ “keys”…
She will know. Somehow, she will know.
This I do. For me. For you … because moms are beautiful and they deserve our very best.

A Vase and a Friend

The only words I could find? “She was blessed to have you”. The news came as a shock, but wasn’t unexpected because I knew the person who sent the text kept me, somewhat, in the loop over the last few months.

Loss is hard. When a wonderful friend dies, our many great memories don’t soften the blow. That sudden void is huge. Their calming words and silent assurances will not longer be here for us. We can no longer cook for them, hug them during a thunderstorm, or laugh together at a silly joke. They are not here anymore.

She is not here anymore.

This particular lady was special. I didn’t know her nearly as well as her dear friend. They were, however, two flowers in the same vase when I saw them. Inseparable, one would say. Years apart in age, but so close in personality, outlook, and smiley humor. They laughed inseparably and shared a common, liturgical seat most Saturdays.

These past few years saw loss in all our lives. We laughed with so many who are not with us anymore. We shared a last hug … and then they were whisked away to mysterious spaces beyond our understanding.

I don’t have any pure, perfect answer to that place past the here and now. What I do have is my reply back to my friend who is experiencing the grief: “I don’t know what else there is … except to accept what is. Loss is sad.
I am thankful every day – this is what gets me past (the recent events in my life).
We can be so grateful for best friends (and loved ones) who walked with us …
…and will continue to inspire our grasp of this world and the hopes we have of what is to come”.

She was kind to point out two words – Thankful and Grateful – with the added phrase, “two wonderful takes in life”.

She is right to pull those two from my reply. If we can, simply, be thankful and grateful for who we are and what we have THROUGH knowing the life of the friend who died, …

… this is gain, not loss.

It was joy to know her. She was special. I can imagine how wonderful and magical it must have been to be her best friend. To, now, experience the loss is certainly heartbreaking. It should be. To care deeply means to grieve profoundly as well.

I closed my phone thinking about that text. It urged me forward toward this entry. After a chicken/bacon/ranch salad at Eat N’Park an hour after the news, tossed words formed into some clarity. I think, anyway.

Over the past six months, loss has been winning over gain here; however, I’ve never given up on being grateful or thankful.

No matter the circumstance, we can find a reason to be both.

Today, the loss weighs heavy and a bare, solitary stem rests in the vase. I am sure my friend will water each memory as the hours and days pass. In time, however, the seeds of reflection will sprout and a now empty vase will once again be filled with flowers, … surrounding her with forever scents of her best friend.

There will be no more loss and, at that time, both will be blessed to have each other. Again.

Pickles and Beef

A March 26th snow squall unexpectedly graced my windshield. It was a mere hour ago at a signal light where the red Toyota next to me was barely visible. Glancing between the sideways snowflakes, I made a squintiant, valiant effort to connect with the driver who, perhaps, may have been as surprised as I was at the less-than accomodating weather. No go.

Actually, my left turn arrow was a go before making any contact. That driver plowed forward, presumably, minutes after I pulled into a local grocery store to basket up some pickles and beef. Head down to avoid the high, white wind, I passed through double doors only to face faces in line at Starbucks. A long line of kiosk anticipators who, by all accounts, weren’t having their “best life now” …

I am not a coffee drinker, but there’s a rumor going around that some folks need their “fix” in the morning. This was a small convention of them. I may be a little grumpy paying around $48 per gallon, too, but can’t say I blame them. I pay the same for my green tea and when it’s not available? Look out!

There’s no need for displeasure in our lives, but all of us have to accept it. There’s no escaping the pull toward, “Really, why?”, or “I’ll just hang with this situation now until things get better …”. Life has a way of being more than we can handle at times.

…Thus coffee and green tea. The little cups of liquid that help the bitter stuff go down a bit easier.

I pondered this while deciding between 80/20 and 90/10 beef. Knowing Starbucks would probably sell more in fifteen minutes than I – during three hours at my stand in 40-degree weather – … the beefy decision came down to price vs fat content during grilling. Being an average guy, I split the difference and carried away one pack of each. With those, and a jar of bread & butter pickles, checking out was easy at one of nine self-service kiosks. Past the Starbucks, again, as those last were edging their way to first, I exited out into the wintry stew.

Walking through the lot, I noticed a middle-aged man in his car, head back against the rest, eyes closed. Almost positive he was waiting for someone as the blue Mazda was idling (presumably for heat). With nothing to offer but raw meat and pickles, or possibly nice conversation, I felt it best to be on my way. No medical emergency was apparent and this is very much and ordinary sight among us, right?

I wondered, however, was he thinking the same thoughts as us needing our green tea, and coffee fixes? Was he simply hanging out in the windy late-March flurry of laughable, languishing snow? “My companion went in for bread 45 minutes ago and hasn’t come out yet … ” like-sentences may have been parked in his third-to-last nerve space. Could someone inside be a partner whose face was contemplating a sugar-free latte and WAS, by extension, holding his hand? Without being extremely rude, potentially arrested, and late opening my trailer (definitely in that order), there really is no way to know.

I am truly happy not knowing.

… and was glad to be back at the same signal light to re-enter a busy highway.

Forward is a great direction. Whether it is toward a place we expected or not, we are still headed from somewhere to somewhere – with others beside us. This is my takeaway from the past few hours as I sit here watching traffic go by … While serving a few customers now and then.

The driver next to me in the snow, customers in line at Starbucks, and Mr. Mazda rester all have somewhere to be and a story in their March 26th day. They are doing their day now … as I am. We’re participating in life together, yet apart.

They made a small impact in my life, during a variation of March madness, without knowing it. By extension, I am sharing part of my day with you.

We all share the highs and lows. Our heads lean back on so many headrests. We lean back on friends, family, and yes … coffee & tea. Communities support us. Strangers reflect our thoughts and feelings even during unexpected snow squalls.

My left into grocery lot enlightenment was the right turn after all. I’m glad to be reminded it’s ok to stop, close my eyes, and rest.

Sure hope nobody walks by with beef and pickles, however.

It’s Crystal Clear

Crystal Clear Wellness, 517 Allegheny Street, Hollidaysburg Pa.

Someone very special in my life walked a few steps ahead of me the first time I stepped into this store. On that day, leaves didn’t sweep across a cold concrete sidewalk and a fall nip wasn’t in the air. It was a truly beautiful day. It was a day when excitement swirling about her matched the sun shining through a few mid-afternoon trees outside – welcoming our visit.

She was so glad to be there. A store so close to her heart.

“Oh, look at that … I need to have it!”, proclaimed the one to whom the crystals, wiccan wares, books, and various fascinations spoke. I saw a light shine from her soul that filled every little nook; without exception, all darkness hidden became available for all to see. She filled the small, quaint store with her sincerity and love for all things energetic and mysterious.

This was crystal clear. This was Greta.

I couldn’t help but think of her when walking by on a seasonally cold day. Honestly, I can’t recall a day since her passing when I don’t think of her. This Sunday past was no exception. Maybe it was the crunching of the leaves? Possibly a small puff of breeze at my feet that snagged my interest? I don’t know. Whatever the reason, stopping to take a picture and remember that wonderful day – while standing in the energy that was Greta – held another grateful memory moment in my heart.

This is Crystal Clear Wellness, too. Energetic and mysteriously wonderful. It is a place where I’ve been since … to check in – to see my friend Tony and all the other wonderful personnel so graciously willing to help out where – and when – they can. I have my special items from the store that mean so much now … more than ever. Understanding, in a very limited scope, the different edges of life previously undiscovered, I can start to appreciate the crystal that is my life. I am starting to appreciate the connection Greta had with vibrancy and vitality in the universe.

Was it perfect? Certainly not. Her body failed her at the end. We lost a beautiful person to a disease that ravaged and taunted her. All the healing vibes and energy didn’t save her. That same vibrancy and vitality wasn’t enough. The universe had other plans.

Those other plans are unfolding and I have a suspicion she set them in motion.

She was a friend of Tony’s and, by extension, the Crystal Clear Wellness family. Because of this, it’s a challenge for me to be in there and not think of her attachment to all of our collective lives. After thinking it over a bit, this is how it should be after all.

Places exist as memorials to those we loved. Everywhere we go – where they were – is a reminder, in some small or large way, of their passions and energies. We need to hug those places and embrace the folks who connect with us while we’re there. A small emporium universe or marketplace in which they visited is still part of ours. Experiencing them, without being able to hold a warm hand or touch a soft face, is still o.k.. We can be there alone. We can stand outside on a seasonally cold Sunday and still feel them beside us.

This is a special place. I will always know Greta is there. The last time in, I bought a small, decorative purple cloth with a pentagram design. It sits on my dresser underneath a few items. Representing the elements of Spirit, Air, Earth, Water and Fire, it is there as a reminder for me to ground myself in what will last beyond my years.

My life does goes on, of course. All of us have this path forward and we do what we can to heal after losing someone special.

It may seems like the energy goes away, but it doesn’t. A few moments outside a special store – remembering a time when I was inside with someone I saw “Oh, looking…” at everything – helped me realize this place is special. It was crystal clear to me when we were there together … and it’s very apparent, now, special wonderful widget stores can hold our broken hearts together as well.

If you’ve lost someone, find a place. They will be glad you came by. Even if it’s a bit cooler than the last time you were there with them, remembering your time together will warm up the rest of your journey forward.

Waiting Windows

With frost on my windshield for the second time this season, I headed out. It was a few minutes after 7 a.m. – a bit earlier than normal for this guy, but not for the early, double-caramel person I was meeting. We agreed upon the “Black Dog” for a pre-dawn sip and possible bagel consuming chit-chat. This eatery has been a local favorite for friendly, delicious smooshes … so, my beat-up Honda crunched its way from a wet driveway, over a mile of cold leafy sideroads, to a parking spot three spaces away from this latte-lighthouse.

I’m not one for the fancy drinks. To that end, not even a basic cup of hot coffee warms my soul. Chill it, or steam it … no latte or frappe will ever drape over the sill known as my lower lip. A simple mug of hot chocolate topped with a small dollop of whipped cream (or, perhaps a few small marshmallows) always, and forever, is my huggable winter-season drink of choice.

I’ve known Andy, the owner of the “Black Dog”, a long time. He works hard. Along the path of our friendship however, his hard work would never recognize my finicky taste in hot beverages. It’s not his job to pay attention to my weird ways. After all, a high percentage of his pre-dawn sippage sales IS most likely all the fancy, dancy grande cups and mugs ordered every day – not the marginal hot chocolate orders.

So, when I walked through the doors yesterday morning, a hot chocolate order was out of his norm, but graciously prepared. I sat alone for a few minutes at a table for four … recognizing how wonderful it was to wait for Andy to steam up a warm cup of hot chocolate. Wait for my company to arrive. Wait for the sun to come up through the windows of a very familiar cafe. Just sit, and wait.

After only a few ticks on the clock, two ladies arrived to order breakfast and then Andy’s “front of the house” day began. Although from what I gather, the soups for lunch were already started hours before and happily stewing away on the stove in the back. My company arrived shortly thereafter and we had a charmingly small visit.

During any normal day, I wouldn’t arrive until after 8:00, possibly 9:15, to meet friends for breakfast depending upon the day’s schedule. This was rare. The “Black Dog” is a common stop for lunches and late breakfasts in daily drive-abouts if I am floating around. Andy and his staff are wonderfully packed full of energy and engaged in everyone’s life which is why I try to get there when I can.

Yes, my friends are there, too. This is important. There’s a round table – not as significant as King Arthur’s – but one where compression of souls happens on a regular basis. Short folks, tall frames, skinny sorts, and sometimes well-suited suitors sit comfortably at this table enjoying the day’s news and, of course, one of five selected lunch choices. Andy prepares five diverse lunch choices, a variety of soups, and dessert items. Each day is different, … but only five per day. Simple. Most patrons, if not all over the years, prefer it this way. No surprises. Always delicious. Always fun and affordable, too.

It’s just a local cafe if you look at the “Black Dog” as a building. As a place to wait for a few minutes and think about what life is … it’s more than half-fogged up windows resting above a leaf-blown sidewalk. It’s about those very windows waiting for the sun to rise.

I walked through the doors thinking about those windows. The time was too early for me. I knew there was hot chocolate waiting inside, however. The few minutes once inside – waiting for Andy to brew up the mug’s warm interior liquidy goodness – gave me pause to consider the hour ahead. A sun would rise to evaporate the moisture off those windows. Pretty basic stuff. A day would start for so many, including me.

With all that’s been going on with my life, I forgot that days do have a beginning. The sun comes up. Good, predictable things happen every day. Waiting for them to happen – being patient – was a nice reminder yesterday.

If it’s good enough for the windows at the “Black Dog”, I can be patient, too.

Piecing Life Together

Thirty-two pasted up on seven walls. Vertical paneled partitions holding up thousands of glued pieces – each a part of individual displays. Pictures attached not only to wood paneling, but also to memories a mother left for her family.

She enjoyed this hobby. “Puzzle assembly”, simply stated. Somewhat simply understood from my viewpoint; however, I couldn’t put together hours with the shifting around of little pieces of cardboard – while figuring out which nub goes into which notch. If involved, once the straight-edge borders and four corners were set, I could very easy call the puzzle, “done”, and walk away.

Anyone who is an enigmatologist – as you may be – is certainly welcome to engage in puzzling. My mom did. Crosswords, word games, Trivial Pursuit, Pinochle, Games Magazines, etc … all of those (+) were, … err, fair game in her world. I could join in with her – except these oodles of pieces, boxed-up picture puzzle games aren’t my thing at all. And, yes, picture puzzles are games. Dump, sort, and sit for hours games.

I didn’t care for the huge, hand-sized, biggie, six-piece alphabet puzzles in first grade. The plastic, round, straight, or oblong “learn your shapes” jam into holes matching games didn’t impress me, either. Anything early in my life that suggested, “fit this into that”, I kinda told to hit the road.

So, Thirty-two puzzles. There were more, but they fell off. Mom’s interest never fell off, however. I can see her sitting in her dining room chair, hours at a time, during times when her mind needed to focus on a thousand little things other than one, or two, bigger problems. Diversionary, of sorts. Those thousand little pieces – working toward one large picture – was better than starting with the one large problem then breaking it down into smaller pieces. Her process, I guess.

It worked for her. During a five year cancer journey, this worked. She never complained that I saw. Privately, probably. Tears never flowed that I saw. Privately? Again, probably. These puzzles represent her life before, and during, cancer. Of all, the Mozart one is my favorite. Most are Charles Wysocki prints, as she was enamored by his style and class.

I don’t spend a lot of my time wandering through this room looking around this familial gallery. I should, though. One per day would give me a month of reflection upon a mom who would still be here if cancer wouldn’t have ended her life too early. It did, and that’s the way all her pieces finally came together.

At some point, these puzzles will need to be removed. Just when, is anyone’s guess. Mom used industrial strength glue on the backing and the double-stick tape to the wall is ridiculously tight. It’s gonna take some mighty panel-bending and puzzle fandangery to get these unfastened.

Seems like mom left us the biggest puzzler of all. For now, there’s no need to rush.

I never liked to do puzzles in the first place. I did, and do, love my mom. So, I’ll enjoy these while I still can. They’re pieced together and just as beautiful as she was. Memories and all.

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.

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.

I Cuddled a Kitten

I cuddled a kitten today. “Dean”, named after my grandfather, is the new fuzzy feline child of my cousin. I didn’t expect this to happen soon after squelching my way into a tight parking space. Fourth avenue can be difficult, however, I was determined to return a vintage family pie basket to my cousin and visit for a spell – in the middle of a ridiculous heat wave.

My car tires melted their way into that space – an area just a few feet longer than my car. An area, mind you, I missed by one block for a good ten minutes thinking I needed to be on fifth avenue. My cousin’s new house is next door to my aunt’s house in which I’ve entertained thoughts and actions for years. Yes, years. Why the sudden lapse in memory? I don’t know. I do have a higher awareness of all the alleys and streets around that neighborhood than ever before … so, all isn’t lost here. Mental note: fourth ave., not fifth.

… And I’ve always been about dogs, not cats. Maybe it was the ninety-plus degree heat I’ve had to grill behind, or life stuffs being jammed into my already over-filled cranium can that exhausted my defenses? Perhaps shuffling into a welcoming kitchen after 600 seconds of alley Twister and re-routing replays, while sweat-swearing, changed my mind about small, cute cats. Whatever the cause, the end effect was my cuddling a kitten. Oh, and I liked it. A lot.

Dean purred quietly against my chest and closed his eyes for a minute or two. Resting, sleeping, relaxing … whatever his state of being for those few moments, it mattered not to me. There was trust in my stranger-ness and that’s what panged my soul. Total trust. Complete engagement in the time together. I never believed this to be a connection available between a humanoid and pesky feline. Dogs? All day long. Cats? Whelp…

Granted, Dean is very young. A kitten, by the very definition a sometimes sleeper, right? This could have been one of those times. I may be looking too deep into this from a kitten’s perspective here. That written, from my view, I know what my take-away was as he gently asked to move forward into another new, fresh experience. I obliged by handing him over to his mama.

During my decades of life, I haven’t held many kittens. Plenty of puppies along the way, but a scant number of young, fluffy soft young-uns. Yes, a barely adequate amount of cat-cuddling has embraced my petable world. I believe I need to Tom-tilt my thinking and consider sharing dog spaces in my life with cats. Not completely, of course, but a nudge here and there is certainly warranted.

I mean, look at that face! Really. What contentment and peace?

Oh, and then check out Dean’s!

One has been passively enjoying life – getting all the attention from two loving individuals while experiencing “new” things every day.

The other? Just thankful to finally remember the freakin’ address and be inside – away from the oppressive, heavy, blasting heat pounding down as if the sun god himself was hammering away on my every last fifth avenue nerve. Ok, so a bit dramatic, but you would’ve used the same language I used – now and at the time – being ever so close to a goal you could not achieve: a house and a pie basket in danger of never intersecting due to my brain’s unwillingness to connect with reality.

Unknown to me ahead was a cute kitten and cuddle time. Had I known, that space I eventually found after ten minutes of spin-and-say would have been less a disgruntled acceptor in my eyes and more a pleasurable place to park my worries.

Ahead may be a kitten for you. I sure hope so. I’m not jumping off the chair here to adopt one anytime soon, though. Within the space of my crowded life, I don’t have time, energy, or the lifestyle for one now. Knowing Dean is only a few minutes drive away, I can visit whenever convenient for my cousin … and this is perfect for what I need to bring the love of cats into my life.

That is, if I can still remember how to get there. Geesh