Saturday, May 26, 2012

Sunday Snippets -- A Catholic Carnival

RAnn at This That and the Other Thing hosts the weekly carnival, and frankly, it has been far too long since I walked that carnival midway...hope you remember me; I do remember all of you!

This week I blogged on an event over twenty years ago that highlighted the power of a first impression, and the temperature of vending machine coffee...not pretty.  I rounded off the week taking myself a little less seriously while the theme from "Ice Castles" gently plays in the background.  So sorry.

So...if you want to laugh or just smile a bit with me feel free to join me on the ferris wheel (definitely not the Tilt-a-Whirl -- for reasons best left unmentioned).  Nice to see you all again!  Thanks for the nudges.

Ice Castles


Of all the tortures concocted in Guantanamo Bay to squeeze the turban size of Osama Bin Laden from his former haberdasher none can compare to exposing the bloodthirsty terrorist to a high school talent show, though I am told the Geneva Convention may have something to do with its suppression.  I was an active and willing participant in such displays of mediocrity (at best) some twenty-two years ago, and can only now speak of it.  I will never be able to fully atone for exposing my parents to the horror and marvel at their strength of character in not running from the auditorium screaming and foaming at the mouth.  We always thought our parents were crying with pride and joy; now we know that it was merely an outward sign of their pain. 

In 1984 I performed not once but twice; first, I sang Bryan Adam’s breathy and gruff “Straight from the Heart” in a non-breathy and clearly off-key voice that induced incontinence in anyone over forty.  My second number was quite serendipitous: a talentless cheerleader had roped her football-playing squeeze to sing “Just You and I” by Eddie Rabbitt and Crystal Gayle (a song that made toenails curl even before our ungodly duet hacked it); the football player wisely booked a week before the show, and I was tapped to replace him lest the cheerleader display a well-choreographed and rhythmic tantrum.  I felt like a headliner – two performances!  Of course, the cheerleader sounded like Minnie Mouse and I a cross between Willie Nelson and Peter Brady but the cheerleading squad in the front row all hugged and smiled, and I did manage a few dates out of the whole affair, so all’s well that ends well.

Some other hits mangled by students that fateful year: “To Sir with Love” (Sir attempted suicide during the song), a sprightly piano rendition of the theme from “St. Elmo’s Fire” (the strings all had to be replaced afterward), and my personal favorite, the theme from “Ice Castles”.

Please don't let this feeling end
It's ev'rything I am
Ev'rything I want to be
I can see what's mine now
Finding out what's true
Since I found you
Looking through the eyes of love…

Even now those lyrics can induce vomiting.  It is truly one of the sappiest songs ever written; I have seen patients over the years display stroke-like symptoms after hearing it on the radio, and several states have banned it for fear of motor vehicle accidents.  The rendition performed in 1984 at Depew High was truly the most effective means of torture ever concocted in the annals of man’s injustice to men.  

Nonetheless, even in times of strife there are signs of light, and a friend recognized the power of the lyrics as a source of levity; whenever a classmate would get heavy and melodramatic about something that meant a lot to them (examples: “I really feel like I am called to be the leader of the free world” or “I am so happy when I am writing poetry about death”) he would raise his eyebrows, turn to me an whisper, “Ice Castles”.  Those two words became a pithy description of the emotionally driven epiphanies that are so commonplace in the hormonally-charged years of our lives.  They were a humorous avenue to not take ourselves quite so seriously.  We needed that.  Still do.

Over the years I have seen so many instances of “Ice Castles”; among religious circles those “called by God to (fill in the blank)” abound.  It can all sound so monumental and dramatic…but somewhere in the mix of emotion and melodrama lays the reality that each of us is called to be humble servants:

You have been told, O mortal, what is good,
and what the LORD requires of you:
Only to do justice and to love goodness,
and to walk humbly with your God.
         Micah 6:8

I recall dinner parties and parish ice-cream socials where I was cornered and trapped by someone who has finally realized his calling, only to see it dissipate in a month or two for the next endeavor…and I regretfully admit to doing the same to others, inducing blank stairs and drooling.  We have a penchant for the dramatic; perhaps it is a longing.  I mean, c’mon, the Hebrews got a pillar of fire; would an occasional inferno and deep voice be too much?  If the best we can cling to is a grilled-cheese sandwich that looks like our savior I might voice to the Lord that a big Old Testament style miracle would be handy.  Nonetheless, in His wisdom we are called to faith without seeing…so an occasional pontification on discernment that may or may not be factual is understandable and forgivable, if not regrettable.

So what of “walking humbly with our God?”  I propose: when we find ourselves feeling a bit grandiose (“I truly am the funniest blogger EVER”) it is a good thing to look in the mirror, raise our eyebrows and whisper “Ice Castles”.  It works.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Three down...six to go.


Watching children grow through their teen-age years to young adulthood is an emotional dichotomy:  on the one hand we revel in their new-found independence and look with pride upon their maturing personalities.  On the other we do our best to suppress thoughts of homicide.  Somewhere in-between we exist, toggling between “insightful discussions” and rip-roaring battles, hoping against hope that any character flaws will be outgrown, or at worst quickly cured in therapy.

The age-old question is whether our influence will be a help or hindrance as they hack away feverishly at the umbilical cord we have protected and maintained since their birth.  Did I yell too much?  Was I too judgmental?  Did I build confidence or injure self-esteem?  Were my punishments and discipline of any value?  Did I tell him how proud I am?  Did I share my love for him?  Was it enough?

My eldest son is graduating from high school.  What a different experience from his two older sisters; for the girls, it was all tears and memories, private jokes and best-friends-forever…for boys, not so much.  Brotherhood and friendship, indeed, but none of the giggling and hugs; just a bunch of guys ready to take the next step, grateful for where they came from.   A refreshing change.

My sincere thanks to the Christian Brothers for a fine education.  Now he’s on to Jesuit college in the fall, Canisius to be precise, “Where Leaders are Made”.  Perhaps.  I would be quite satisfied with a self-sufficient, hard-working man, leader or not.  A man of faith.   A man of respect and honor. 

If we can get through freshman year without a visit to the ER I will count that as success.  One step at a time.  For now, I’m proud.

St. John Baptiste de la Salle, Pray for us.
Live Jesus in our hearts forever.

St. Peter Canisius, pray for us.

Monday, May 21, 2012

It was coffee...honest, it really was. Really.


Twenty years ago on this very date I started a new job in a printing company as a laborer.  It was a smallish firm, 100 or so employees, that specialized in high-end printing.  My job was simple enough: load printed paper in a machine that folded it to whatever specifications the customer wanted.  Who could screw that up? 

On my first day I met the foreman of the bindery, a short-statured and short-tempered Italian man in his mid-forties who smoked continually and looked like he killed young guys like me for relaxation.  He directed me to the vending area, told me to get a cup of coffee and wait until he had time to train me.  Simple enough.

No one told me the machine dispensed molten lava.

I watched as the machine dropped a plastic cup in the holder while a jet of searing brown liquid squirted from the nozzle.  I grabbed the cup only to realize it was far too hot to handle; I carefully lifted it by the very rim with my middle finger and thumb.  Even there I felt as though the skin on my finger-tips would begin to blister and sizzle like a Jimmy Dean sausage link in a cast iron skillet.  The funny thing was I really didn’t like coffee, but that Italian looked like he might’ve popped me if I said so, so I carried it back to the bindery like an engineer grasping a fuel rod in a nuclear reactor.

I found a seat near some drill presses, an old desk chair long since discarded by someone in administration and left to the small-fries in the plant.  One of the laborers, an older woman who looked like she’d been ‘round the block a few dozen times, looked on with curiosity and anticipation…for what, I wondered?  I chose to look aloof and did my best to appear somewhere between disinterested and irritated.  I thought it fit in the atmosphere.

As soon as my young derriere hit the seat I knew what she was waiting for.  The chair was as loose as an Oliver Street barmaid (North Tonawandans know whereof I speak) and immediately tipped back at a forty-five degree angle.  My ginger grasp of the cup of magma gave way in the violent jerk of the chair and every ounce spilled in a burst of steam on my lap, soaking my jeans from waist to mid-thigh.  I jumped up and attempted to stop the scalding by pulling the front of my pants away from the skin, but the damage was done.  I blistered in unspeakable places and it felt as though my most prized possessions were deep fried.  I realized throughout the entire ordeal only the old woman noted my coffee dance…and she found the whole event rather humorous.  I most assuredly did not.

The liquid cooled quickly once it did its heinous damage, and I was left with a seared crotch and a yellowish-brown stain on my Levi’s, as well as a dilemma: do I leave the job to change?  My home was more than 30 minutes away…would the foreman allow an hour away from the job? 

I chose instead to pretend that nothing happened.  I nonchalantly got up, walked to the foreman, received my training and worked, stained, burned lap and all.  It was truly one of the worst days I ever spent on a job.  I was too new to explain the stain and wetness, but too scared to do something about it, and too much in pain to really give a rat’s behind, frankly.

Four years later I left that job for my current employer.  I was newly enrolled in nursing school, and gave my notice to the foreman (who I had come to know as one of the kindest gentlemen I have ever known, may he rest in peace).  I was feted at a little get-together at a local bar, and had a great time with people who had come to be friends.  It was a great night of laughs, but a particular question caught me by surprise:

“Dave, I have something I have been meaning to ask for years”, Sally broached.  “You seem like a great guy, smart, going to college and all that, but one thing bothers me…I just don’t understand, knowing you now, how you peed your pants on your first day at the plant.”

I looked puzzled for a moment, then roared with laughter – my coffee stain, known to me and the old lady in the bindery alone, was interpreted by everyone else as a moment of incontinence.  I was so worried about what people would have thought about the spilled coffee that I failed to see that they might’ve thought I wet myself.  Talk about miscalculations.  I recounted the events of that day to everyone’s amusement, and probable relief.

When I think back on the first impressions others have made on me I wonder how many were absolute misinterpretations; how many were based on false assumptions and predjudices?  Twenty years ago I kept a secret, probably rather unwisely, and my reputation was colored by that decision for four years.  I wonder how many observations of others I have made that are completely and utterly based on false assumptions?  Probably too many to mention.

“Assumptions are the termites of relationships”.
-          Henry Winkler

As I consider that fateful (and painful) day twenty years ago, I resolve to consider more deeply the assumptions I have made of others, whether based on appearance, demeanor, education or behavior.  How many relationships were altered or prevented?  Perhaps one day we will have the opportunity to ask, “You seem so normal, but what about…”; perhaps not.  I venture to think that not all is as it seems. 

It wasn’t for me.  It was just a seared and blistered crotch in a wet pair of Levi’s. If only I had worn khakis.



Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Livin' Large


Being somewhat of a mondaine I called my stylist at the exclusive salon I frequent to freshen my coiffure…thankfully Tammy said Super Cuts was empty and I could get right in.  I sat in the chair and listened to her recount her tortured childhood with appropriate “uh huh’s”, smiles and nods as she deftly utilized the number four metal clippers to restore my head to middle-aged-nearly-bald ordinariness.  As my wife and I walked to the car she said, “She did a pretty good job, huh?”

Frankly, I didn’t notice.

You see, I have been getting the same haircut for the last thirty-odd years.  I really don’t pay all that much attention; I mean, how bad can you screw it up when ninety percent of the work is done by clippers?  At my age and weight no matter what I do to my hair I look like the captain of the bowling league anyway.

Afterwards I treated the little lady to Cold Stone Creamery for some ice cream.  It is truly a magical, mystical place…a Mecca for the plump.  The skinny little clerk asked, “What size would you like – ‘Like It’, ‘Love It’, ‘Gotta Have It’, ‘Feedbag’ or ‘Five Gallon Bucket’?”  I got ‘Feedbag’ because I’m trying to cut back.  I’m told there are secret ingredients in their ice cream that are highly addicting.  I looked it up online and found out its fat and sugar.

Hi.  My name is Dave M.  I am a fat and sugar-aholic.

We headed home and took up position on our “his and hers” lounge chairs with matching laptops with content bellies and exhausted taste buds.  While my gall bladder fibrillates uncontrollably I am satisfied; satisfied with my regular old haircut, satisfied with my lounge chair and laptop, satisfied with my wife and kids, satisfied with my home…satisfied with life. 

I think I’ll go bowling to celebrate.

Monday, May 14, 2012

I feel a draft.


Time for statistics:
Roughly 24% of my time over the last 19 years has been spent dressed in scrubs. Approximately 33% has been lived in pajamas.  The other 43% of my hours have mostly been spent in jeans or shorts.

Why is this significant?  It is the reason my fly is open so often.  Let me explain.

Scrub pants are tied on, tightly if you are an inverted cone shape such as myself.  Pajamas likewise.  Jeans?  One button and a fly.  Shorts?  Ditto.  All very simple, straightforward and man-friendly ways to dress.  

Dress pants, though, are clearly the work of a woman.  Let me illuminate.

Seventeen years into my career I finally landed a management position, thank you.  With the position came a change in attire; gone are the care-free days of scrubs.  Now dress pants, shirt and tie are the norm, and I am quite ill-at-ease with the change.  I have for years refused to wear a tie to functions with the explanation that I was born with my umbilical cord around my neck (true story) and thereby felt wholly uncomfortable with anything encircling my cervical spine.  I’m not sure there is any validity to that at all but it worked with my dear mother, who still recounts the whole ordeal with horror.  Even now I wear a tie with rarity, though my time-worn explanation doesn’t work with my superiors.  The whole “ER-violence-don’t-want- to-be-choked-to-death-by-a-psychopathic-patient-finding-out-he-has-gonnorhea” explanation seems to be sufficient.

On to the dress pants and my frequently open fly.

Dress pants, as I have indicated, are unlike the simple apparel I am so comfortable with.  First, they must be pressed.  My wife is a maven in so many things, but the iron and she are unacquainted.  Thus it is my duty to press them.  Most mornings are far too tumultuous as the brood fights over shower time, and often I am at the losing end of the battle and have to go to work looking as though I wore the pants throughout the night in a cardboard box…but even this is not the problem.

The culprit is the elaborate and time-consuming method in which a man of my ilk and girth must strap on the slacks to prevent their untimely slippage and subsequent gluteal exposition.  First, one must button the inner button.  Then, the clasp.  Finally, the belt-line button.  If one remembers, and the key word is if, there is a fly to be zippered.  After the mandatory shackling it’s no wonder the fly is so often forgotten.  There are just too many damn steps.

Earlier I made the unabashed chauvinistic statement that dress pants are the work of a woman.  I stand by that statement after years of watching my wife clasp, snap, zip, tie and button her clothing and am completely convinced that women like to wear clothing that feels like an apartment door in Queens.  Dress pants have that air about them.  I want a button and a zipper.  I got Fort Knox.  I might as well apply make-up and spray my hair with Aqua-Net.  Okay, that’s taking it a little far.  Although I do like the hold.

Some managers I have known are fairly full of themselves, and I am sure you know one or two yourself.  Me?  Not a chance.  No one can look all that important sporting an open fly.

It keeps me humble.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Thirst


We’d looked for a home for nearly three years.

Twasn’t easy, with the limitations we had way back when…we had a fairly limited budget, a credit rating held together with Scotch tape and chewed gum, and a knowledge of real estate second only to our knowledge of robotic surgery.

We had hoped to find a rural homestead, but the search was fruitless after nearly three summers of driving throughout the rolling farmlands of Western New York.  Either the property was perfect and the house a shack, or vice-versa.  Our real estate agent was new to the trade; frankly, we were her first clients, and her selections were not always spot-on (I’ll never forget the house that used to be the administration building and tower for an airstrip, complete with runway).  We tried to switch to a more experienced agent, but our budget was a bit too small for his efforts and he all but ignored us. 
   
Our small children had grown used to long trips in the country and had a cadre of games and art supplies stored in the van for our excursions.  We stopped now and again for ice cream or burgers, so the rewards kept them in line, but even they were growing weary.  We began to feel discouraged and took a few weekends off.

“Why don’t you move near the hospital?” a friend asked.  We never considered moving to the city; we were suburban born and raised, and it seemed very incongruent to look at a postage-stamp sized urban lot when we’d spent months looking at acreage.  I drove in to the city to my job at the hospital every day and never saw anything that remotely looked like home.  Nonetheless, we decided to take a look; it couldn’t hurt, and the pickings were slim anyway.

We attended an open house in the north end of the city, a tidy working-class neighborhood with a central avenue that boasted restaurants and quaint shops.  When we pulled up to what would become our home we were immediately drawn to it; the gardens were neat and well-manicured, and the porch was large and inviting.  Inside the woodwork and leaded glass windows smacked of turn-of-the-century charm, and the back yard was secluded and deeply green…we felt like we belonged. 

We submitted a bid, it was accepted, and a month later we entered our new home.

It was a dream come true, from the built-in cabinets to the wood-burning fireplace, and we were in love with our beautiful house.  It was perfect, and the children immediately made it their own.

It has been many years since the day we crossed the threshold for the first time as homeowners, and much has changed.  The house has seemingly shrunk.  Every paint chip, flaw and stain greets my eye.  The leaded glass cabinet doors have seen better days, and the porch has a bit of a sag.  When I think of the thrill of moving in so long ago, I wonder why I didn’t see those things.  I seemed to be so more optimistic then, so eager to see the beauty over the time-worn.  Now I see things and immediately worry about time and home equity loans, budgets and property value.

As I age I have also begun to see the wear-and-tear of my own body.  I am too fat, my pressure is too high…my energy level waxes and wanes, and my beard is slowly graying.  The children are growing fast – one in Manhattan, another married, another off to college; the family that drove across the country side seemed so permanent, so stable…but they are leaving one by one.  My beloved has one artificial knee, and I’m afraid it won’t be long before the other needs new parts.  We walk a bit slower, and after walking tend to need ibuprofen a bit too much.

This is such a transitional time; I’m not sure how to proceed.  Of course, I’ve never been much of a life-expert; I pretty much make it up as I go…but now everything is in a state of flux.  In two months I’m going to welcome my first grand-child.  That seems like a turning-point, and I’m not sure just what it will bring…I am tentatively ready.

Spiritually I continue to flounder, wishing for consolation or a sign and coming up empty.  The usual things don’t seem to carry the same comfort, and I haven’t been able to put my finger on something to fill their void, so I stick as best I can with what I know.  The questions come; boy do they.  Sometimes I block them out in fear.  I used to be so sure, so confident, as only the very young can be, I suppose.  Seems a bit foolish now; yet there is a gnawing in my soul, a yearning I can’t deny. 

Many have written to me since my previous less-than-jovial posts, and I thank you for your words and prayers.  I’m still struggling, and many of you are too, I have learned.   I am encouraged by that kind of honesty; I think it is the only way we can really grow in wisdom and knowledge…I need to be real; I feel as though there is little use in appearances anymore. 

At the Easter Vigil our cantor sang, “Like a deer that longs for running streams, my soul is longing for you; thirsting for you, my God”.   Those words were a powerful reminder to me of the irresistible attraction we have for the one who made us.  No matter the struggle, no matter the feeling of doubt and self-deprecation, no matter the sense of discontent, no matter the world spinning in wild rejection of all things holy – I thirst for my God.

But I have to ask: will that be enough?  

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ordinary.

My wife worries that I might leave her for another woman.   

I suppose I've given her reason…I have been aloof, working many hours overtime, moody and unapproachable.  I work primarily with women, and the reality of work means that there are times when I'm with them far more than with my own family; that concerns her.  Fortunately for my soul and our marriage, there is little chance of that. 

I try to convince her that it couldn't happen with snarky remarks; "Oh, yes, they take a good long look at me and say, 'ooooh, nine kids…what a catch'"; reality is I am not very attractive at this point in my life.  To be sure, there seems to be no shortage of infidelity, and the homely are no exception (spend one hour with Jerry Springer)…but my lack of allure is deeper.  I have not been a happy person. 

I adore my wife, and the mere thought of our separation by any means produces waves of anxiety and grief; she has remained loving when in many ways I am rather unlovable.  She has had grief of her own when our spiritual lives diverged some two years ago -- she remained a missionary…but me?  I'm not quite sure even now.  She loves when I am unlovable, is patient when I am unreasonable and gruff, shows compassion even when I am unmerciful to those who mean most.  To leave her would be my undoing. 

Perhaps I am in a mid-life crisis of sorts.  I feel separated from my youth more than ever.  I am beginning to realize that time is limited; ambition loses relevance in such consideration.  The things that I considered peripheral have begun to weigh heavily on my heart: my relationship with my children, my wife, friends, how and for what I would be remembered.   

Up to this point I had definite ideas of what success is and how it is measured; now I am not as sure.  I have always believed that each of us is called to great things and that I had the potential to be a force of change; isn't that what we teach our children?  Now I consider that more likely most of us are called to be ordinary and small in the estimation of the world.  Mother Teresa said we are not called to be successful, just faithful.  That always seemed quaint to me, pithy enough to print on a card or wall-hanging; now it hovers in my thoughts, almost accusingly. 

I don't pretend to be a failure; I have succeeded in some things, done well in my career and still have some potential…but much of my life is rather ordinary, and at this moment in my life I feel comforted by that.  I have left it behind for greater pursuits, but now feel called to re-learn what ordinary life is all about.  And the most important part of ordinary life I need to re-discover is my faith. 

I have read the stories of wonder and miracles and have heard of the grandeur of God through the words of those who have seen it first-hand…but most of us won't see the Red Sea part or follow a column of fire through a desert; we won't see the dead raised and the blind restored to sight.  For you and me, God comes to us in the ordinary -- the cry of a baby, the love of a woman, the bonds of friendship, the grass under our feet, the sun on our backs.  The grandeur of God's love appears ordinary precisely because it surrounds and envelopes us day-in and day-out.  It is quite nearly routine…and in that routine I have become indifferent, even bored -- because I didn't see it. 

I have always struggled to believe that God loves me.  I feel a need to earn it, prove my worth before deserving it, which is so contrary to what I have been taught.  I expected His love to be shown in some magnanimous, extraordinary way.  Now I am beginning to see that in its constant, abiding presence God's love for me is just…ordinary.  Perhaps that is the most extraordinary thing of all.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pretending.

If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you.   John 15:19 
I am a bi-annual visitor to New York City and fashion myself as somewhat of an expert on all things Gotham.  I am more than eager to share my experiences and recommendations to anyone, asked or not; yet if I were placed among a room-full of life-long New Yorkers I'm sure I would draw a few eye rolls or perchance a Bronx cheer.  They have a condescending tolerance of the tourist...we do grease the wheel a bit, but how annoying.  I admire and emulate them, their little over-priced apartments, yellow cabs and frenetic pace -- but after a few days I am fastening my seatbelt as the plane points home.  

I am not a New Yorker, and make no claim; but I point with pride that in a very small way I have succeeded in disguising my tourist status with one of the more ubiquitous residents of the City: the hand-bill hawkers.   

They are on every corner; "Want to see a comedy show?"  "Would you like to try a tour bus?"  "Are you going up the Empire State Building?"  They try their best to lure us to venues well-suited to remove tourist dollars from their owners, and most of us are fairly easy to spot with our glazed eyes pointed skyward and cameras clutched firmly in hand...but not I.  I have carefully observed the natives walk by unscathed, and have adopted their mannerisms and style.  Eyes straight forward, a look of disinterest with a touch of malaise, and nary a map or camera in sight...nine times out of ten, I walk by unmolested.  While I am not a native, for fleeting moments I feel that way every time I fail to draw their attention. 

It is a ruse, a well-executed act by a yokel from the streets of Buffalo trying to be something he admires but is not.  I love New York, but it is not my home, and when there I am but a tourist.  I work with a lovely lady who lived much of her life in New York and recently moved to the area, and when I pontificate on the lure of the City she says in no uncertain terms, "Nice place to visit.  To live there?  Not so much."   

Mel Torme sang, "There's a Broken Heart for Every Light on Broadway", and I am sure he was probably right.  Many come to New York with dreams in hand and find success, but many more do not.  It is a hard place, I am told, one that does not show mercy.  Art Garfunkel pined "New York, you've got money on your mind...and my words won't make a dime worth's of difference..."  As Manhattan continues to gentrify one thing is abundantly clear: money means welcome.  Those who have not are welcome...to leave.   

I have done a yeoman's job of convincing myself that I would fit right in and find success. I am in no position to live in New York, and am quite sure such an attempt would end in disaster; yet I consider and plan.  There isn't any truth to it, and down deep I know that.  My wife is firmly grounded in reality, but I have an uncanny ability to fabricate reality when it suits my fancy.   

As Advent begins I have been gifted with a realization that fabricated reality for me is not limited to New York City.  I have been playing a part, and the ruse is falling apart. 

When the plane lifts off the ground in Buffalo on route to the Big Apple I become something different, but something apart from reality.  Almost two years ago I left my faith for the world, for many varied reasons.  I have tried to fit in, fit the bill...but I have failed.  I am paralyzed by anxiety and angst.  I suffer bouts of sleeplessness and anger.  I have lost compassion, patience and mercy.  I drink too much, weigh too much, and am away from home too much.  I tried to become something...but it was not reality; it has beaten me.  I have discovered that living to survive means nothing; living to succeed is self-perpetuating defeat and empty of meaning.  I cannot dedicate my days to obtaining the comforts of existence.  I need to hope in the reality of eternal life. 

I have not divorced myself from the Church completely.  When in New York I attend daily Mass at St. Patrick's, an hour in 24 of play and adventure; in my life I have kept my Sunday observance, kept appearances...but it has been a grain of sand, really.  For so long my faith defined me; now it is window-dressing, nothing more.  A hard reality to swallow. 

I am not a native of the Earthly city; that has become increasingly clear.  It has rejected me as it has rejected the hopes and dreams of many before me and many to come.  I am not at home with continuous self-promotion.  I am not at ease with hardness of heart.  The world knows that, and in some ways mocks me because of it; unlike the ruse I have prefected for the hand-bill hawkers of the streets of New York, at every turn I am recognized for who I am...I can no longer pretend.  I see that now. 

I throw myself upon the mercy of my God and ask your prayers.  I need to come home. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Waiting...

I like to think that I am not an impulse buyer, that I have control over my desires and am able to hover over the absurdities that draw countless into purchasing useless items…but alas, I am a rube. I cannot tell you how many nail clippers and eyeglass repair kits I have purchased over the years, dangling before my eyes while waiting to pay for my loaf of bread, carton of milk and stick of butter; they beckon, saying, "Be prudent! We are cheap and oh so useful!" And that lovely salesgirl from the craft brewery giving samples by the cheese aisle…she needs the commission, for goodness sake. A twelve-pack is the least I could do. Oh what the heck, my brother could use one, too.

My wife refuses to send me to the store for anything. She knows me too well. "Get a gallon of milk"; I return with prosciutto and asiago cheese. "Get a loaf of bread for sandwiches"; my bags are stuffed with mussels, limes and Corona. "Get two bottles of wine for our guests tonight"; six Cabernets, a white burgundy or two, a pair of Chardonnays, a Merlot and Riesling later and I'm loading the trunk like a sommelier on speed. Not to mention a Dewar's White Label for good measure.

At my place of employment the fund-raising arm of the hospital (the "foundation") holds fairly frequent "sales" whereby loyal employees such as yours truly may purchase items and have the cost deducted over two or three pay periods directly from one's paycheck. In other words, YOU CAN PICK OUT ALL KINDS OF COOL STUFF, LEAVE THAT DAY WITH A HUGE BAG OF GOODS, AND NOT PAY A CENT UP FRONT. This is, to the impulse buyer, like shooting the winning goal in the Stanley Cup Playoffs while Aerosmith sings a song about how awesome you are.

At the most recent sale I bought a four-CD set of Elvis Presley's greatest hits, a rain gage for the garden, a book on how to build stuff from lumber, and a hummingbird feeder. I have thus far listened to two CD's, the rain gage has about an inch of water sitting in it, and the book has been read and now sits in the reference library (the cabinet across from the toilet). The hummingbird feeder is another story.

It’s a gaudy affair…with a stained-glass hummingbird hovering over a fluted red reservoir of sugar water with crystals hanging to the left and the right. It isn't something I would normally buy, but I went to that blasted annual "Garden Walk" in Buffalo and have been buying garden kitsch ever since. It hangs over the front porch, and I have not seen a hummingbird within miles. Quite frankly, I have never actually seen a hummingbird; I take everyone's word that they actually exist though I can't positively confirm it…sort of like the lunar landing. So it hangs, gently swaying in the breeze, attracting nothing.

I bought a bird feeder about two weeks ago and hung it on a bracket on the garage. The children and missus stood vigil for hours, waiting for a bird to land on it. Nothing came. Just when it seemed a flop, the very next morning every bird within ten square miles was crapping on the lawn furniture while throwing the seed all over the driveway. Success. No so much with the hummingbirds. It has been nearly a month. The instructions said to change the sugar water weekly; I did so once and felt like an ass, so I haven't in three weeks.

That ridiculous hummingbird feeder irritates me.  I want results.  I want a hummingbird...but to quote Yukon Cornelius, "nuthin".