Friday, May 25, 2012

On The Radio

It's hard to believe that at this time last week, JB and I were on the 8:30am flight to West Palm Beach for the birthday weekend he put together.

Even when flying for pleasure, you can't take the flight attendant out of JB. Before we were even half way to cruising altitude, he was out of his seat and huddled in the galley talking and laughing with the crew like old friends.

While I was trying to sign onto the inflight wi-fi, a flight attendant leaned over to set a double Bloody Mary on my tray table. "Happy birthday," she whispered in my ear. I love flying with JB.

As we followed the signs to Ground Transportation, JB kept the charm going and made friendly smalltalk with the woman behind the Avis rental counter. Within four minutes he learned "Bella" was short for Isabella; he knew how long she's been living in Florida and the series of events which led her here; and he confirmed that yes -- at times -- Bella still misses New Jersey.

I know JB well enough to know he was angling for an upgrade, but I also know that he doesn't have a single phony bone in his body. (Not counting his right hip.)

I've always admired his friendly, approachable personality and the ease with which he relates to people. I suppose that's what makes him so good at his job. And also why he enjoys it so much.

Taking the wheel of the Mustang, JB pulled out of the lot, pausing a few seconds to contemplate the "severe tire damage" spikes, then turned toward the highway. But not before we took a few minutes to figure out how to retract the convertible top and scan the FM dial. We stopped on a station playing a special tribute program to honor the memory and talent of Donna Summer.

Cruising south on I-95 toward Miami, enjoying the feel of the sun and warm breeze on my face, I made a decision. I decided to let go of the worry and stress from the weeks behind and embrace the weekend with a blank slate.

And in that moment I felt myself relax into the passenger seat just as one of my favorites came on the radio. An overwhelming sense of gratitude and contentment washed over, warming me in places the Florida sun could never hope to reach.

"Dim all the lights sweet darling / 'cause tonight it's all the way / Turn up the old Victrola / gonna dance the night away..."

I reached over and squeezed JB's hand.  " just don't come easy / no it seldom does..."  He looked over at me and winked. I tried to say 'thank you', but the lump in my throat wouldn't let the sound come out.  "...when you find the perfect love / let it fill you up..."  He read my lips and squeezed back.

"Dim all the lights sweet honey / 'cause tonight it's you and me..."

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Mother's Day II

Gladys always remembers to call me on my birthday. That was one of the reasons why, when asked where I wanted to go for my birthday weekend, I chose Florida.

But mostly, it just seemed like the right thing to do. It's been about five years since Gladys has been to Atlanta for a visit and, at 82, we're not sure when she'll be back again. And lately when we've called to check in with her, she's been sounding lonely and a little depressed.

At least it seemed that way to us as she'd answer the phone. Once she heard our voice, she'd perk right up and become the Gladys we know and love again. Full of laughter and sunshine. JB and I haven't been able to understand why, at this point in this beautiful woman's life, her children rarely speak to her.

I met Gladys close to fifteen years ago, shortly after the beginning of my relationship with JB. She was the mother of JB's ex, Rod. She still is. As weird as that may sound, becoming friends with your partner's ex's mom, I don't remember it feeling weird. Gladys was just one of the gang, the cherished elder of our urban tribe.

With my ailing mother so far away, I admired Rod's relationship with his mother, and maybe I was a little envious. And when JB and I both lost our mothers in 2003, we sort of adopted Gladys as our surrogate Mom. And we always looked forward to her visits.

Something changed shortly after Rod started seeing Andy. I'm not sure exactly what happened, but Gladys' two or three visits a year trickled down to one, then none. Neither mother or son would give any details. When pressed, Rod would cryptically say, "You don't see what she's really like," and change the subject. And when we'd ask Gladys if she was coming up for the Fourth of July or Thanksgiving, she'd simply say she wasn't invited.

It's natural we want to blame Andy. He brought his own tribe into that relationship and had an unspoken – yet unmistakable – way of letting us know we were a notch or two beneath him. Gradually we started seeing less and less of Rod and Andy, and the time we did spend left a sour aftertaste. We recently heard they moved to the mountains, a couple hours out of town.

Whatever part Andy might have in all this, Rod is a grown ass man and the decisions he makes are his responsibility. It's hard for JB and I to imagine, from our perspective, what could come between a son and his mother that not long ago seemed so close. Especially when the opportunities to spend time together become more precious and less certain.

On one hand, it's not our business to interfere in their relationship. On the other, we have our own relationship with Gladys. And when we showed up on her Delray Beach doorstep on my birthday last Friday, she lit up like a christmas tree.

I said during our embrace, "I thought this year I'd save you the phone call."

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Long Weekend

JB had been asking me where I wanted to go for my birthday. It was a leading question which told me he wanted to change the routine of the past few years of camping in the mountains. And why not? Thanks to JB I have something most people would think I'm crazy to use so rarely: a spouse flight pass.

The only thing holding me back from taking full advantage of my free travel has been my job. Vacation time off needs to be carefully planned in advance. So I took a four-day weekend at a time which could be opportune or perhaps prove ill-timed. We'll see when I get to the office.

But I had a great time this weekend!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


I feel badly for not blogging as much as I should lately. Much of my recent efforts have been focussed on my work. If I had to choose a word to summarize the past month, it would be "challenging". And it still could go either way -- literally -- as I found that, of the two remaining members of my previous supervisor's team, there's only enough in the Q3 budget for one.

But challenge isn't a bad word, not at all. I'm no physiology expert, but it seems there's a reason nearly every muscle in the body has an opposing counterpart. And it's well known that all muscles atrophy without the constant challenge of gravity. We go to the gym to challenge our muscles, we go to school to challenge our minds.

When I had to take Statics and Dynamics in college, I thought at the time these subjects were irrelevant to my major of electrical engineering. I was wrong, of course. Forces acting against each other, directly or obliquely, explain electric currents and magnetic fields as well as they do the mechanical motion of apples, automobiles and planets.

A force unopposed is practically useless. A car without brakes is an obvious example. But even the process of steering involves the application of a corrective force slightly counter to the vehicle's drive and inertia.

Often the word "friction" is used pejoratively in common language. But we wouldn't be able to drive, sit, stand, walk or run without it. Objects would slip from our grasp. Sex would be extremely unsatisfying.

My "challenge" this week is to maintain an awareness of terminology which get used (and sometimes misused) in a business sense to not form judgments but keep my mind open to the positive, constructive possibilities behind it.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Set It And Forget It

It was brought to my attention recently that I may have a problem. No, it wasn't a formal intervention, nothing like that. Just an offhand remark. There was no implied judgment or intent to get me to change my ways. Just an observational matter of fact. But it did make me think.

"You sure do like kitchen gadgets."

Am I on a dangerous path to self-destruction? Am I hurting myself and the people I love by ignoring my limitations and continuing to grow my collection of small kitchen appliances?

Recent events have opened my mind to considering the possibility. Perhaps I have lost sight of the big picture here. In general, the purpose of any kitchen appliance is, first and foremost, convenience. Its goal is to make our lives easier by saving time, space and/or material resources. That's the idea anyway.

Now I could go on and on (and on) about the nature of time, space and matter. It's a little-known fact that Einstein published Zur Elektrodynamik begetter K├Ârper shortly after purchasing an electric hotplate from Montgomery Ward. Can you imagine what he could have accomplished had he access to the Internet and an Amazon Prime membership? The world would truly be a different place right now.

I really don't think I have an addiction to kitchen gadgets. In fact, I find the notion preposterous. If I have to admit to anything, my only "problem" might be drinking large quantities of liquor and wooting.

But we all have mornings like that, right? Head fuzzy, tummy woozy, breath bad. That vague mixture of apprehension and deja vu as we open our eyes, roll over and check our inbox. Seeing the subject, "Your order has shipped!" and thinking, "What it is this time?"

No? Just me? Damn.

Whatever this is has to be good. Why else
would I have paid extra for Next Day Air?

Ronco? As in "Popeil Pocket Fisherman" Ronco? That Ronco?

It always pays to use the Internet to thoroughly research your Internet purchases
before opening them. You know, in case you need to put it right on Craig's List.

But I do like creating healthful food. Especially when it's never been this easy.
I'm keeping it!

(Gee, Ron looks good for almost 80. How much for the Popeil Pocket Facelift?)

Hmm. This looks a bit larger than the photo online. Seems I opted for the "Professional"
model. Chalk that up to the effect of a few cocktails on my logical reasoning faculties:
"If two chickens = good, then four chickens = fucking awesome!"

But wait, you said... Nevermind.