Just a short post to say I recently lost a long-time friend–she was my age and left us much too soon. She passed a few days after losing her teenage son to suicide. Why do these things happen? I haven’t a clue. We all struggle with things, physical and emotional, and sometimes it’s all too much. But she had a big heart that connected to everyone she met. And many, many people will never forget her easy, squeaky laugh. A busy life has a way of making us forget what’s truly important, so I want to honor her and remember as best I can to love, live, and be grateful. Goodbye, my friend, we will miss you. We wish you all the peace and love you deserve.
The kid and I were in Columbia, South Carolina to see the total Solar eclipse. We’re still trying to get back to Boston, but that’s another blog, or maybe not — 3-4 hour delays seem to be too common to even make fun of these days, at least on Delta.
I could make fun of the total eclipse-related “traffic” we were warned about in South Carolina’s capital city, but I’d have to use Boston as a comparison, and it’s weird even for me to brag about how much more traffic we have: The bumper to bumper crawl around the city or coming to a dead stop on the Pike on any random day just before Boston or between the 3 Worcester exits (that’s Woostah to you) — where you can be stopped in traffic long enough for a drink and a cigarette. Heck, it can take 2 hours to get home on the train after the Fourth of July fireworks. So when they said plan ahead, I was thinking along those lines. Thank you, Columbia for not even coming close.
But none of that matters, because for almost 2 hours, we watched the greatest show on earth. The eclipse forecast, which had been updated daily like Vegas odds, this morning finally settled on 90-plus degrees and 50% chance of cloud cover — even money. The lucky bit was that the clouds were those great, big puffy ones that play cat and mouse with the sun, so I figured at some point we’d see something. But even if we didn’t, we were with a group of other eclipse enthusiasts, at the SC State Fair grounds, surrounded by happy tailgaters from all states, setting up their canopies and chairs, grilling, laughing, playing catch, playing music.
And then it started. Wearing our glasses that looked like we were from a 50s 3D movie, we watched as the first dark sliver appeared. The glasses block out everything else, so all you can see is a sharp gold ball, with an ever growing black bite getting taken out of it. It was great just to focus on that, and try to forget about lying on the ground in the sun’s heat. The clouds came and went. When a cloud blocked the sun, we cooled off in the car. But then I started enjoying watching the way the glasses made everything blank, and then the gold ball would peek through the darkness as the cloud passed by. While the eclipse was already an immense gift, this slow uncovering of the partially eaten gold ball made the experience even more dear. This might be all I was going to get, so I sweated, watched, and decided whatever sunscreen was left on me would have to do.
The cars next to us were playing music, and I had to chuckle at the appropriateness of “Black Hole Sun” and “Sky Full of Stars.”
Half way. It was taking forever and not long enough. Texts from various friends rolled in, the first from my friend who was watching the total eclipse from Oregon. He was already finished seeing the eclipse before we even started, and he said it was amazing. Sending happy updates to friends, I watched the sun get darker. The clouds began to thin out, with bigger blue sky gaps.
At the 3/4 mark, the dark curve seemed to move faster. It wasn’t quite so hot and a slight breeze kicked up. People who had been only sporadically paying attention were alert and calling to their eclipse mates to come out, to come see. The sky light became more subdued, like before a thunderstorm, but more dull yellow.
The full eclipse would occur at 2:43 and at 2:40, someone started playing “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” and a bunch of us laughed.
The light arc was now a thin strip, disappearing at the edges…”Turn around bright eyes…”
The last bit of light flared in what’s called the diamond ring, and we all cheered and clapped. The sun was a black circle with just light wisps of the corona showing. It was magnificent. Tears leaked down my face, and the kid came up behind me and gave me a hug. It was that kind of thing, like you wanted to hug the person next to you because of the magic and the beauty. All around the horizon, in every direction, the sky looked like sunset. With the heat blocked, the air cooled.
“It’s going to come back soon,” said the kid, and my human instinct kicked in — No! I wanted it to go on a little longer, watch it longer, have a chance to let it sink in. But I am just a speck in the face of these enormous celestial bodies that carry on in their own mysterious ways.
And then the diamond ring flashed again, and the sliver of light returned. The crowd clapped and cheered again — harder this time — for the flawless performance, and exclaiming delight in their own way. The kid thanked me for arranging the trip, and I gave him a hug.
People started to pack up, but I lingered a bit, watching the inverse of the event while the light reclaimed its usual state. But nature had given us enough, more than enough, and a sun shower turned into a sun-blocking cloud, and a bit more rain. It was time to go.
So it doesn’t matter that we’re still sitting in the airport 8 hours later, still waiting to get on the plane to Boston. Today we witnessed an amazing miracle, something much bigger than ourselves, and it eclipsed everything else.
So it’s Tuesday, the day after I usually post, and I will tell you that this is the first time I forgot to post. I thought of it over the weekend, perused my usual half-baked ideas, and then it all fell out of my head as Monday came and went. But I will cut myself some slack; I’ve been experiencing a lot of “lasts,” what with the kid heading out to college in 9 days. I’m determined not to get all hand-wringing and empty-nest mopey on you — that’s not my style, but I have been surprised by the little things that have hit me. Grocery shopping and realizing I don’t have to buy those specific apple/grape juice 6 packs anymore. Or at least not for a few months. Which is great, because half the time the store is out of them anyway.
All that is cluttering up my noggin, which, let’s face it, has never been a bastion of reliable memory preservation. Add in North Korea and Cheeto flea having a toddler screaming match, where the toddlers have access to nuclear weapons, and hate groups assembling under the guise of free speech, and I’m pretty much toast over here. I actually had the thought last week that this might be it, but North Korea is standing down for now, so I live to forget another day.
But I refuse to give in to despair. For one thing, my grandparents and dad had a pretty frightening, shitty time of it in Holland during WWII, and my other grandfather, when he had food at all in his childhood, ate primarily salt pork and beans and lived well into his 80s; it’s in my genes to keep going. For another, there’s plenty of positive things going on. People are working to make things better and there are countless acts of kindness going on all around us all the time. Yesterday, I was canoeing on a quiet river, and the beavers and birds I saw going about their bird and beaver business reminded me there is a balance. That, and life on a quiet sleepy, river might be a good plan B.
So, once the kid is launched, I will take a deep breath and continue to contribute the best I can. In the meantime, I’ll keep forgetting things, but I promise to do it with peace and hope.
First, happy Fourth of July to anyone who feels like celebrating it. Here in Boston, we’ve had absolutely perfect summer weather all weekend, so I feel like I’ve won the weather lottery. Perhaps it’s because we spent most of the spring in cold rain. The rain we needed; the cold, not so much — I really didn’t need to see that my heating bill for May and June looked a lot like March and April. I don’t live in the far north; heating bills in June are simply wrong. But the weather has been so lovely and uplifting lately, I may actually throw myself into the Boston fireworks fray tomorrow. Or I’ll just watch them from my driveway. We’ll see…
Second, I’ve been collecting photos from my commuting travels that have made me giggle. Maybe you will, too.
I learned to drive with what we lovingly called The Merc or The Tank, our 1968 Mercury station wagon with fake wood side paneling. It was the perfect car for a new driver because you could back into anything without getting a scratch. Except a fire hydrant, but I swear, dad, that wasn’t me. Someone must have hit me in the parking lot. Rude bastards. The Merc’s other claims to fame were the gas tank falling out while my sister and brother were waiting at a stop light, and the frame rusting clean through during one of my drives. Other than that, it could hold all my friends and was totally awesome. Those are just fond memories though, right? I mean none of those italicized words above even exist anymore. Or do they…?
I saw this in Boston, near North Station a few months ago. As far as I could tell, it had its gas tank intact. The ghost just adds to the “car of teen years past” moment.
Follow the Guy with the Black Briefcases
There must have been a 70’s vibe in the air, because not long after spotting the Merc, I saw this guy on the train. Who has two of the exact same cases, the perfect size to carry money or diamonds? What else could they be? Seriously, these are the “mistaken identity” suitcases of any 70s detective show or heist movie. You know, one has the diamonds that were stolen in a meticulously planned jewelry store heist, or, alternately, the priceless Queen of Sheba Black Diamond stolen from the Museum of Easily Lifted Artifacts. The other suitcase is usually owned by a hapless woman with lots of granny underwear and nighties. Hilarity ensues when the robbers grab her suitcase instead of the diamond-laden one. And she wonders how she’s going to sleep in diamonds. What I couldn’t decide was if this guy was one the of the original thieves who locked the lady in the closet and grabbed both suitcases to open at a secret location. Or was he the surprise third character who is also after the diamonds and locks up the thieves and the woman in the closet together. I decided it wasn’t worth risking getting thrown off the train or stuffed in a closet to get a closer look at him, so we’ll never know.
The Dancing Shoes
So this one was on my walk to the train, actually not far from the place where I found Barbie’s walk of shame dress on the sidewalk. It certainly is a lively neighborhood. I walked by these for a couple of days, and they reminded me of the fairy tale, “The Dancing Shoes.” In the story 12 princesses are locked in their room at night with new dancing shoes (they were always locking up the women back then) but in the morning their beautiful shoes are all danced to pieces. Sounds like a good time to me. The king can afford to replace them, but he doesn’t like not knowing what his daughters are up to. So he decrees anyone who can find out what’s going on gets to marry one of the daughters and gets the kingdom when the king dies. However, if you try to find out and fail, your head gets cut off. Pretty high stakes and the princesses gleefully drug all of the arrogant princes who try to find out, and they sleep the whole night away. Royal heads are rolling. A humble, injured soldier meets an old women, who essentially sells out the princesses by telling him not to drink the wine they offer him. And she gives he an invisible cloak so he can follow them! I guess girl power wasn’t a thing yet. I mean c’mon, all they are doing is dancing and wearing out shoes. How terrible, they must be stopped! So of course he follows them, and discovers they have been hanging out with 12 princes from an underground kingdom and dancing the night away. But the jig is up, the oldest has to marry him and her sisters were “condemned to be placed under a spell of enchantment for as many days as they had danced nights with the princes.” You’d like to hope that in 2017, the three princes/princesses/generally fun people who owned these shoes fared better.
Beauty’s Where You Find It
This is also on my walk to the train. Some of the walk is classic urban grit, like this rusty fence and broken stone wall that’s part of a bridge. The train goes underneath it, and the road is busy, and it’s near the airport, so right at this point I’ve forgotten about dancing princesses and absorbing the trains, planes, and automobile ambiance.
But then when I take a few more steps , I come upon this:
A riotous symphony of color of totally wild sweet peas. Perfect.
I’ve been so busy with the kid and life transitions, I have committed 2 summer Boston sins: The first was I forgot to look up the Free Friday Flicks list, as in, forgot it existed. Thanks to dancing Mike for picking up the slack! The 2nd was worse: once I was alerted to the movie list, I actually forgot about it again. This past Friday night was the first one. We were not there. Mike mentioned it when he saw me on Saturday night. Ugh.
I know there are far worse things, but right now these traditions feel even more important to help keep us grounded, so forgetting them seems really bad. But If I’ve learned anything during my 50+ years on the planet, it’s get over your damn self and keep going freak. Or maybe that’s what I yell at other drivers. Anywho, the movies take a 2 week hiatus to make way for the Fourth of July Pops festivities and I will be there on July 14 when they return.
While I sit in a corner to think about what I’ve done, here’s a post from a few years ago about how it should have happened. It will happen, but just a little late. Unless I forget again. Middle age can be a real pain in the ass.
I walked to the Hatch Shell in Boston for my first Free Friday Flicks of the season—it’s my 29th year of watching movies there; the first one I remember was “Batman”— not the one with Michael Keaton as Batman and Jack Nicholson as the Joker. No, this was the made-for-TV Batman movie with Adam West (who has recently moved on to the bat cave in the sky) and Burt Ward, complete with the “Pow,” “Bam” and “Smash” hand drawn exclamation bubbles. (Young ones, Google it or just watch the SpongeBob episodes with Mermaid Man—same diff). Back then they also showed lots of classic movies. FFF, as we like to call it, was where I first saw Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, and Citizen Kane. I’m sure they were cheap for the city to get and the crowd was easy to please. It was a handful of mostly people like me—broke post-college and college students who were happy to find something—anything—free to do on a Friday night.
I’ve seen a lot of things come and go at FFF. But nearly always, at the core has been my pink blanket, aka F*cking Pink Blanket. For years, it has been the centerpiece, nay, the very FFF raison d’être, welcoming newcomers and seasoned attendees alike. Until last night. As usual, I had arrived early, unveiled the FP Blanket and secured the area. Something was off, but I couldn’t put my finger on it until my friends came and pointed out, there were not one, not two but at least THREE other pink blankets around us. Of course, they were not nearly as amazing as the FP Blanket, but still, they were not pastel posers. I was concerned. I see you are puzzled; let me explain.
The FP Blanket, pictured above on Friday night, is at least 40 years old, and like all good things from the 70s, it’s made from an indestructible synthetic material that defies physics and logic. It hasn’t gotten any more worn, nor has the color faded. It’s just as f*cking pink now as it was when it was on the bed of whichever of my unlucky family members had it. Or maybe it was a guest blanket, which would explain our lack of guests growing up.
Before cell phones, meeting up with friends at the Hatch Shell was a challenge, as most of us left our carrier pigeons and tin cans with string at home. Thus, the neon pink blanket became an important feature for spotting our group amongst the sea of particularly unremarkable, yet confusing blankets. In the 90s, I met my friend Becky and invited her to FFF. She’s the one who dubbed the blanket the F*cking Pink Blanket. She‘s not profane, mind you—other than the blanket, I’d be hard pressed to tell you that last time I heard her swear. But she is an excellent story teller and that summer, on the blanket, she told a story about her friends who were trying to buy a tandem bike, an unusual item. They found an ad for one (in a print publication no doubt) and called the number (this was before the internet and before there were readily available photos. If you think it’s tiresome to keep reading about these stories that happened before the internet, imagine how tiresome it was to live this way — barbaric!) When they reached the seller, he said,in his pure Boston accent, “I gotta warn you, it’s f*cking pink.” The rest, as they say, is history, and ever after the blanket became the F*cking Pink Blanket.
So, you must understand, there can be no others. Because of my longevity and good nature, I have decided to give you, Other Pink Blanket Owners, a friendly warning. I understand you must be new to FFF, so please know that I own the FP Blanket and you need to find another blanket to bring. I’m sure you will. Your flimsy, natural fiber blanket won’t last anyway, so I’m saving you a lot trouble. Maybe you can use yours for a sick dog or to cover up your IKEA furniture when you move out of Boston. Need some hints of what else you could bring? Low chairs, sleeping bags, and really any kind of blanket is acceptable. Except pink. That’s my blanket and how people find me, not you. No one wants to sit with you, who has the fake, non-F*cking Pink Blanket. And don’t think for a minute little girl with the square pink blanket that I’m going to go any easier on you than I will on the others. Cute doesn’t play in my town, sister, and make no mistake, this is my town and my FFF. Thank you for attention to this matter, and I look forward to not seeing you next week.
Sandy, owner of the true and only F*cking Pink Blanket.
Another quick one, my chickadees. Yours truly had too much fun this weekend, and you know what that means. The facade I like to cultivate that I’m a dedicated, organized blogger gets blown to Cheeto land. I did get to see my best friend from childhood and her delightful, funny husband. They live in the desert, and I don’t get to see them very much, so that was completely awesome.
Back at work today, I got a text message from the kid to tell me his friends were over again and that they’d used my card to get food. I sighed heavily. They have been frequenting my house several times a week for the past few months. I get it, this is their last summer together before college changes everything. But today I got crabby. Where are the other parents? I muttered to myself. Why is my house where everyone gathers? No one offers to pay for anything. We end up driving everyone one home. Grumble, bitch. I checked my account for the food delivery damage. $60 bucks. Sigh.
But then I thought about my childhood friend. Her house was the gathering house. It had a yard all around it and had the advantage of not having a dad who yelled, like I had at my house. In the summers, we practically lived at her house, showing up before lunch and staying way past sunset to play hide and seek. And all day we inhaled immeasurable amounts of ice cream, Popsicles, sandwiches, snacks, and Kool-Aid. True, there were 7 kids who actually lived there, so what was a couple more, but still. I never heard her mom complain about us being there, sprawling all over the furniture, running around the yard, or consuming mass quantities of food.
So as I sit and listen to the kid and his friends laughing and talking trash (OK, it’s Dungeons & Dragons trash talking), I realize, I’m paying it forward for all those summers of freeloading as only kids can do — freely, without malice, and with gusto. Thank you summer second mom, I’m honored to carry on your tradition.
It was a very busy week, so I’ll keep this sort. I’m happy to report the kid is graduated! I’m grateful for my sister and-bro-in-law who were able to come from Connecticut for the ceremony, for my ex for being the kind of ex where we can celebrate these milestones in peace, and for my kid who tossed up his mortarboard in joy and then promptly lost it. He’s careful most of the time, maybe too careful, so if there was a time to unload something, this was it! It also saves him from having to put it in a box and move it around for years before either losing it or find it moldering away in an attic. Well done! I’m also grateful for the live streaming so family and friends in other states could watch.
I’m also grateful for the Boston Gay Pride Parade that happened on Saturday. It certainly was a year to come out and show support. I had to leave early to facilitate graduation celebrations with the kid’s friends, but not before I got to see Senator Elizabeth Warren dance with the trans group. She hugged, she waved, she smiled, and she was hugged and selfied in return. Her and our joy was uplifting, but even more moving was just having her there. Some days it feels like she and a handful of other Congressional members are the only things standing between us and Cheeto flea Armageddon. So, I’m so grateful to live in Massachusetts, and will continue to stand behind Elizabeth and others to keep on dancing and fighting and being grateful.