Thursday, August 19, 2010

Um, no

From time to time I teach classes where I work. In one particular class, all but one of the students arrived early. While we were waiting for the final student, the ones who were there were talking among themselves. The following snippet occurred between a young, blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman, who I will call Sue (not her real name), and a young man from India working for us on a Green Card, whom I will call Umang (not his real name). You should know that my employer bunches our holidays together so we get a week and a half or two weeks off over the Christmas and New Year holiday -- that's our "Christmas Break":

Sue: Are you going back to India during Christmas Break, Umang?

Umang: No.

Sue: You did last year, didn't you?

Umang: Yes, but it's too expensive for me to go every year. I go every other year.

Sue: Do you even celebrate Christmas?

Umang: No, I am a Hindi.

Sue: Does that mean you worship the Devil?

Me: ::head bang on podium::


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Mid-life Crisis

Special note: The following post was actually written two years ago, almost to the day. I thought I had posted it then -- I don't know why I didn't --but I came across it today in a folder of unposted posts, which I guess are "unposts". Two years have past, and some things have changed, but I still think it's worth posting. Here it is:

One night recently Judi and I were sitting in her Florida room while it rained outside. "Look at the paver-stone walk," she said, referring to the walkway that runs in front of the butterfly gardens. "Does it remind you of somewhere we've been?"

The walkway was puddled, and raindrops were splashing down hard. The accent lights in the butterfly garden were shining in the wet.

Somewhere we've been? We've been to so many places. The someplaces began to flood into my mind:

San Diego, St. Lucia, Lisbon, Atlantic City, Cedar Rapids, Key West, Los Angeles, Curacao, Dallas, Seaside Heights, Chicago, Barbados, Pensacola...

...Palm Springs, Freeport, Barcelona, Binghamton, Bonaire, Miami Beach, Yosemite, St. Kitts and Nevis, Rome, Boston, Tortola, Madison, Daytona Beach...

...San Francisco, St. Maarten, Naples (Italy, not Florida), New York City, San Antonio, Puerto Rico, Santa Cruz, Cannes, St. Thomas, St. Paul, St. Petersburg (Florida, not Russia)...

...Aruba, Napa, St. Barths, Savannah, Provincetown, Las Vegas, St. John, York (Maine), Jacksonville, Nassau, Biloxi, Reno, Sanibel, Venice...

...and how many others? But I watched the lights in the raindrop-shattered puddles, and the memory she was talking about literally bubbled up in my mind. It was a memory from almost twenty years ago:

"New Orleans," I said, and Judi smiled brightly in the dark.

"We were in Jackson Square," I continued. "It began to rain, and we ducked under cover. The rain cleaned off the pavement, and the lights were reflected in the water on the pavement just like that."

The last few years, I've been going through a mid-life crisis. Nothing extraordinary, nothing worth blogging about, just the usual run-of-the-mill mid-life crisis that most men go through around my age. You know: Why haven't I accomplished more with my life? What do I have to show? I had expected so much more of myself, and now I will never achieve it: I'm on the downhill run towards death. Why did I squander my youth?

You know, that kind of ho-hum mid-life crisis.

But recently I've been coming to terms with it (as most men my age do). It started with the realization that if I were to be diagnosed with a fatal disease tomorrow, I would have to admit to myself that already, in my life, I have been to many extraordinary places. Already, in my life, I have seen many extraordinary things, eaten many extraordinary meals, experienced many extraordinary adventures (did I ever tell you about the time...?). Already, I have met many extraordinary people...

...not to mention having had the most extraordinary of them all by my side the entire time.

Already, I have made many extraordinary memories.

My journey to acceptance of mortality isn't complete, but in moments like that one, that night, watching the sharply plunking raindrops send out circles of rapidly expanding light and reliving the warm, hearty memories of that New Orleans night so many years ago, I realize what it is I have, and how much more satisfying that is than dwelling on what I have not.

I haven't lived the life I had thought I would lead. But I could have done worse. I could have done a lot worse.

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Is it all good?

A while back (okay, five years ago -- how times flies) I posted about the magical effect of the phrase "bless his heart." Last week a coworker informed us that she nags her father, but, she added, "it's all good."

"It's all good." Such a breezy statement. Just as it seems you can say anything bad about anyone if you include "bless his heart", you can also confess to any crime and be forgiven as long as you wrap it up with, "it's all good." The Urban Dictionary has this entry for "It's all good":
Platitude that covers so many emotions and situations that it says little; its only real meaning is that the speaker is trying to rise above whatever problem exists, without expressing their underlying negative emotions.
Ouch. C'mon, Urban Dictionary, don't hold back.

Anyway, as with "bless his heart," let's see how far we can push this. Let's start with the original inspiration for this post:
I nag my Dad, but it's all good.
Okay, she seems to be saying, "it's not like it sounds." She might even be implying (or intending to imply) that her Dad doesn't mind being nagged.

Let's kick it up a notch:
I wrecked my Dad's new car, but it's all good.
Okay, we can buy this, too. Maybe Dad is simply grateful that his child wasn't hurt. And who knows? Maybe he was already regretting buying that particular model, and he's relieved that fate took it off his hands.
I got mad at Dad and threw a glass and cut him over the eye, but it's all good.
You know, this example begins to show the real power of "it's all good", because it works. "It's all good" is so obdurately positive that it convinces you that, somehow, something positive came out of this incident. It somehow ended well. The world is a better place for this assault and battery.

One final try:
I framed Dad for that armed bank heist that I pulled, and now he's doing twenty-five in the state pen, but it's all good.
Doesn't this leave you with a sunny, happy little feeling? It is all good. And, somehow, we are deflected from the question of, for whom?

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Monday, August 09, 2010

Happy Birthday, Judi!

Yesterday was Judi's Happy Birthday. She took the opportunity to visit the butterfly exhibit at our local zoo. It was her final opportunity, because, coincidentally, the limited-run butterfly exhibit ended on her birthday. The exhibit was nothing special -- Judi's own gardens and Butterfly House are more impressive, her gardens aren't on a limited run, and she's a much better guide than the largely uninformed volunteers at the zoo -- but afterwards she went into the bird house and fed the lorikeets.

"Feeding the lorikeets" means buying a tiny cup of some sort of nectar at a booth which is outside the bird house. You realize why the booth is outside the bird house as soon as you re-enter the bird house with the tiny cup of nectar in your hand. You are expecting to freely move to the center of the bird house and hold up your tiny cup of nectar, inviting the birds to sip. What really happens is the birds (who are not stupid) dive-bomb you the instant you come through the door from the nectar booth:

Judi feeding the lorikeets

But Judi surprised me and got into it:

Judi feeding the lorikeets

Rock on, Judi! Although I wish you many more Happy Birthdays to come, I hope you continue to refuse to grow up.

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