Jun 26, 2019

Flatulence and Physical Fitness - Can we survive?

A while back, my spousal unit and I realized that we had gotten out of shape: the clothes were snug, the breath was short and the joints were stiff. There was only one thing left to do; we decided to stop the insanity and to start eating healthily. That we made this momentous decision while scarfing down a pizza is beside the point, but in any event we made it stick. The pounds began to disappear and before long we were exercising - which brings us to this sour moment.

Our gym is a spacious place that offers a wide variety of fitness programs and classes. One of the said classes is "Power cycle 45", which is 45 minutes of vigorous pedal strokes on stationary bicycles made specifically for that exercise. The class is lead by an instructor, who plays upbeat music and barks out commands and encouragement. But lately a force has arrived that drowns out the instructor's commands and renders her encouragement impotent.

It is here that I should warn the reader who stumbles upon this missive that the subject matter is not genteel. Some may even think this whole thing to be crude - and it is! So, if you're squeamish, turn back now.

Let us continue.

We arrive to the gym at 5:40 and get our bikes ready. We warm up for 5 minutes and then it starts. Typically, within 10 minutes we are breathing hard and sweating profusely. And it is in that gasping, vulnerable state that recently, on several occasions, someone in the room is - how shall I say it?- easing one out! It is not an audible salvo; oh noooo, the presence of the beast, at first, is entirely an affront to the olfactory. So imagine if you will - you've got the beat, you're "adding gears" and "engaging your core", then suddenly there is an enemy. And its not just any old garden variety demon I tell you. It has legs. It's a protein enriched, paint peeling, nose hair singeing assault that advances, retreats and advances again (we think the circular flow of the ceiling fans enhance that effect, but it could be other incoming sorties).

At first, you think you'll survive by breathing through your mouth only; thereby by-passing the sense of smell. But no. You soon discover that this mutant wave has a corresponding flavor and the thought of this phantom gas finding a home in your lungs is a little too much for even an able bodied soul to endure. So, there we are, defenseless, at the mercy of the killer fog and no avenue of escape, save running from the room. We are perplexed and perturbed...but not defeated.

So now, we are looking for suspects - and there are several: The bald guy who always leaves a few minutes early - it did seem that the air was better after he left. But perhaps not. Then there is the big, T-Rex looking older guy with the forehead like a drive in movie screen; he sweats gallons which leads me to think that he'd fog the place out with no problem. But there is no sure fire proof. And let's not let the women off the hook. There's a couple of them in there that have the distinct ability to empty a room - no doubt about it.

So, my intrepid wife and I are on the case like dogged private investigators slinking around in trench coats, collars up, standing flat against the wall to avoid detection. We intend to get to the bottom of this offense. So far our best ideas are:
  • To shame the perpetrator by audibly gagging out a loud exclamation; such as, "who died?!!". But that's a little too dramatic for reserved patrons such as us, plus, by bringing attention to the sordid matter, we open ourselves up to suspicion. and a retort like "the smeller is the feller! It's a slippery slope.

  • Engaging our classmates in small talk about breakfast choices - we suspect the offender is a "protein shake" consumer - owing to the hint of digesting soy that rides shotgun on the rancid breeze. Of course, bacon and eggs is no fragrant walk in the park. It's such an unsettled science.

  • Just giving up exercise indoors all together - What good is physical fitness when you're being bombarded by a force that is clearly life shortening?

In any event, I must apologize again for the crude subject matter, and I hope that future missives are  more pleasant and uplifting - but, assuming we survive this invader,  it's not likely.

Jun 24, 2019

One Perfect Kiss

Brandon community bowling alley and skating rink - July 1968: He had noticed this new lovely last Saturday night as he pushed the dust mop up and down the lanes. He did this routine task every night, a few minutes before the cigarette smoking, shit talking, hardcore bowlers arrived. Over on the skating rink that adjoined the 8 lane bowling alley, the skaters were there, early as usual; their mindless chatter a cacophony of teenage madness. He had thought about this new, graceful beauty all week and now here she was again. His mind whirled with plans designed to, at the very least, somehow catch her eye. Suddenly, his romantic reverie was shattered by the building manager's piercing reprimand. He looked up to see William Donahue's wonky finger pointing at the waxy hardwoods: "We ain't got all day boy!" "Yes, sir, I'm on it", he croaked back; but despite the admonishment, his gaze immediately drifted directly back to the alluring figure sitting just apart from the gaggle of chewing gum chomping chirpies. To his amazement, she demurely looked his way and smiled at him as she laced up her skates; then abruptly, with one graceful pirouette, she was on the floor. She could skate rings around the other girls...and there was just something about her. So, it had come down to this, Saturday night with Frankie Valli blaring from the juke box, and his heart beating a little faster...

Her skating skills were legendary,
a hardwood ballerina.
She had talents more profound
Than skating round in circles

Shy with eyes most otherworldly,
happily a chance beginning.
Lead to one short, stolen kiss
and a love that's never ending

One perfect kiss in the dark recess
One perfect kiss as she catches her breath
Before my heart could recover
she's back in the groove
One perfect kiss in shimmering light.
One perfect kiss to last all the night.
One note of her favorite song
And I'm yesterday's news.

Shy with eyes most otherworldly,
happily a chance beginning.
The skating rink has long been gone,
but the love is never ending.

One perfect kiss in the dark recess
one perfect kiss in a brief moments rest.
My heart would never recover
from her glide and her spin.
One perfect kiss, her eyes on the rink.
One perfect kiss, then gone in a blink.
I'd wait in the shadows until
she returned once again.

Donahue: You're fired!

Author's take: Too many unnatural rhymes, but, you know, man, the times were desperate.

Mar 23, 2017

Jason’s Dream


Since Laura passed I have been begging for some sign from her to let me know some things.
Are you still with me? Are you happy where you are? Can you  see Fiona growing up from your new home? Do you love me still?
Crazy, I know.
When we depart this world, those of us who are left behind can only hold on to beliefs of where we go when we pass, what we can see from our new home, etc.
Religion teaches us that there is a beautiful place that awaits us after we pass.
Science teaches us that life is an energy force, and energy cannot die – it only transforms.
Combining the two, I believe that there is a place where our life force goes after we leave the earthly realm.
Religion says that it’s called heaven, where we get to see long departed loved ones and the streets are paved with gold, and there’s no pain or suffering or tears. This would (or will) be a great place to reside.
Some science says that there is likely a parallel dimension that we trans-morph into, a world exactly like our own, with some subtle and some not so subtle differences.
Of course, no one has come from beyond to tell us which is which and what is real.

After daughter Ruth E. passed, the second night of trying to sleep, I had a most amazing and very real dream. I was awakened in the early morning hours by Ruth E.’s voice whispering in my ear. I turned over in my bed and opened my eyes and she was standing over me, big smile on her face, telling me “I’m home”. It was as if she were coming home from a date later than expected and was just letting me know that she was home and safe. As she turned and walked away from the bed I said “Wait – where have you been?”. She looked over her shoulder at me and said, in a way that only Ruth E. could say it, “Duh”. Then she laughed and kept on walking down the hall.
The dream was so real and so vivid that I immediately woke Laura up and told her about it. We both cried ourselves back to sleep that morning, and we never spoke of it to each other again.

It’s now early March 2017. I’m still reeling over the death of my beloved Laura, who left  just over three months earlier. I force myself out of bed on a Friday morning, off work and making plans for the day – laundry, dishes, scrubbing the sink, etc. My phone rings.
A little about the caller.
Jason Summers is a good friend, a super talented musician, a great father to his girls and all around great man. We met him through Michael as they were (and still are) in various bands together. Since meeting Jason, we started seeing him as another son. He was there through some of the worst times in our lives, was a pallbearer for Ruth E. and continues to offer love and support to our family, of which, like it or not, he is a part of.
I answered the phone that Friday morning with the fear that something may have happened to him or his family as Jason never calls that early in the morning.
Jason starts by apologizing for calling so early but he had to tell me about a dream that he had the night before. Seems that the dream was so real that it woke him at 5am and he couldn’t get it off his mind.
He dreamed that he was in his old apartment back in his hometown of Pittsburgh, walking out the front door. He looked across the street and saw Laura standing there – holding a red balloon. She had that large Laura smile on her face and he motioned for her to cross the street. She gave him the ‘mom’ look of ‘hell no, you cross the street to me’. Jason added  “you know, just like Laura would”.
Jason crossed the street and she met him with a big hug.
“What are you doing here?”, Jason asked.
Laura answered “Waiting on Larry to pick me up. We meet here at this time every day” Then, he drops me back off here as I have to go one way and he has to go another. But we meet here every day, same time”
Jason says that in the dream he turns and sees me driving down the street. I pull over and Laura, red balloon still in hand, gets into the car. She gives me a kiss on the cheek and turns back to Jason and says “everything’s going to be alright”. Then we drive away.
He woke up. He tells me over the phone that it was so real that he couldn’t go back to sleep. He wanted to call me and tell me then but was unsure how I would take hearing about the dream.
He says that it's the most vivid dream that he's ever had and that it was beautiful!
“She still loves you Larry”, Jason says through tears.
“Jason – you have just changed the entire trajectory of my day”, I told him.
We talked for a minute more and then I started scrubbing the sink. I cried, and scrubbed for almost an hour. Cleanest that sink has ever been, I did most of the rinsing with tears. Forget about all the other chores - I spent the rest of my time with her photos, with a grocery list that she had started, with emails that she had sent to me. And I grieved long and hard that day.

She had let me know that she was alright and that she still loved me. She had communicated this through Jason, a guy that called her his second mom and that she loved as a son. She had spoken through Jason as Ruth E. had spoken through me.
I choose to believe this. It makes me feel so much better.
And while I loved him as a son before that phone call, I’ll never forget what that man did for me that day.
He delivered some much-needed answers.
And that certainly helps me along with this grieving process and lets me know that there is a place where we all go after we die.

Mar 2, 2017

Good Friends

Laura had friends, as most people do. She had many-too numerous to mention in a post such as this.
We've had mutual friends throughout the years, the boys from the old school (think croquet), the Crowders from Mebane, the Jaycees in Newberry, etc.
Here, I'd like to touch on just a couple. While this does not discount any of the many people that she called her friends, these two that I speak of are ones that she held near and dear and kept in constant contact with.

Martha Suber
We met Martha in the early 90s while shooting a music video for the DARE program for the Newberry County School District Gifted and Talented Program. Martha had written a song called "I'm Too Cool" which was an anti-drug statement aimed at rural kids. Unlike most 'just say no' messages at the time, this one targeted kids who didn't live on the mean streets of a big city. While drugs weren't a huge problem for our county (thanks to programs like DARE and the excellent law enforcement this county has enjoyed), there was always a threat of drugs infiltrating this peaceful, rural community. A music video that targeted and featured local kids was the right prescription for getting the message out that drugs were not the answer. Martha had brought along a producer/director, Kimberly J Miller, recently from California into the project and soon we were rehearsing kids for the leads, scouting locations and gathering the equipment needed to accomplish our project. After many pre-production meetings, the shoot got underway. We had about 30 actors, singers and dancers rehearsed and ready to roll. While Kim directed and choreographed and I provided lighting and camera, Laura was assigned the ominous task of Line Producer. For those unfamilier with the term, a Line Producer's job consists of, well, everything else. Need a golf cart for a certain location? Ask the line producer. Need a crane for a certain shot? Ask your line producer. Need to ferry actors to and from locations? You get the picture. Laura was absolutely flawless in this position. Her proven sales ability allowed her to wheel and deal almost anything we needed out of local business owners and government leaders. For the crane, she had one day's notice. Next day the crane was parked exactly where we needed it. Awesome woman!
Martha, meanwhile, as the composer and guitarist/harmonica player, was also featured in the video. She had some downtime between takes and would stand with Laura to keep her company. They developed a rapport and soon became friends.
The shoot lasted over 30 days. Locations included the old Newberry Opera House (at the time still in a state of decay, Community Hall, a logging truck bed, basketball court, dairy farm, Wal Mart, an old barn, downtown Prosperity and Whitmire, SC and Martha's front porch. By the end of the shoot and edit, the four of us were exhausted. Kim and I worked on editing, finished the piece and picked a premier date and finally collapsed. It was decided that the four of us, by now fast friends, would take a trip to the beach to renew.
And so we did.
Since then, Martha and Laura became friends and confidants. When Martha moved to Virginia we would often visit her. While Laura and Martha hung out and caught up on life, I would travel the Civil War trails of the area. When Laura and I had some marital difficulties, Martha was her refuge. After Martha moved backed to SC, we often went over for 'graze and float', eating chicken and swimming. When Martha started playing gigs again in SC, Laura tried as often as possible to be there. I'd have to say that Martha was her closest friend since they had known one another so long. And then there's...

Rachel Moore
So Laura started working at a place called Medi Home Care as a receptionist. She got the job through her friend at a temp agency and the original offer was 25 hours per week while working for the temp agency. After that contract expired, she was to be offered a full time position with full benefits. Those assheads lied to her over and over and never gave her what they promised, which included health coverage...but I digress. There was a lovely young lady working there that Laura took a sudden liking to. She would come home with "Rachel" stories nearly every day, each story crazier than the previous one. Soon, I had to meet this Rachel. She was everything that I had heard and then some. Outrageous, outspoken, out there! Just like Laura. Soon, Laura was coming home with weird coincidence stories. "Did you know that Rachel and Dan lived in a log home? Did you know that Rachel has a sister near Winston Salem like I do? Did you know that her favorite food is..." Almost every day I would hear another strange coincidence that would link these two. They were almost like twins separated at birth. Next thing I know, Laura is calling her after work and chatting for hours. It became a regular thing. Next was "I'm going out for drinks with the girls". I was happy that Laura was doing more than just working and going home to TV. She had her regular Tuesday night trip with Martha to hear her and Freddie play in Union. The rest of the week was, if Fiona wasn't visiting, the girls were going out to dinner or drinks, or both. Laura was finally beginning to enjoy life again in a social way. When Ruth E passed away, Laura withdrew into a social shell. She was happy with family gatherings, and she was excited about her weekly trips and the occasional Saturdays with Martha at the pool. Now, she was getting out again, dining and drinking with new friends, bitching about work and I could see her coming back to life.
Just minutes after Laura passed away, I was standing in the ICU hallway next to the elevator. I was still in a state of shock and disbelief. I hear the elevator door open and  Rachel walks out, tears streaming down her face. "I'm too late aren't I", she says. I nodded. She grabbed me in a tight hug and we cried together.
Since then, we have talked and cried on the phone several times, and will continue to for the foreseeable future. Rachel and her husband Dan have found a place in my heart, thanks to the lovely Laura Reid.