Saturday, May 10, 2014

What It Was (again)

Several year ago I wrote this little post about my nostalgia for a particular summer in my past.  It was a simple reminiscence.

Me during the the summer of '85, half my lifetime (and 40lbs) ago

It's the traditional start of summer this weekend. Happy heat to all. It gets me thinking.

My best summer - in all respects - was 1985. Poverty stricken, meaningless soul-sucking employment, car-less, rent paid late every month - it didn't matter. It ranks above all others. Despite my relatively advanced age at the time (24), it felt like the last full blown summer of my youth. It was a grand one and I remember it fondly. It was magnificent precisely because it lacked substance - material or otherwise - and so it had a pure, zen-like, in-the-moment, perfection. In the interest of full disclosure, there was, as I remember, a lot of beer as well.

There were other good ones: '93 (the first summer I knew Curry), '91 (three months and 10,000 miles of driving with the Padre), and '90 which, despite (or perhaps, because of) its proximity to my brother's death, was similar to that live-each-moment ideal. I spent a good portion of that lost summer of grief with GE on a secluded NoCal beach contemplating waves, fog and cold - testical-retracting - water. Though all three remain special, they still dim in comparison to that last boyish season of the mid 1980's.

Perhaps, like all memories, I merely glean the best and gloss the rest, but every year about this time I get nostalgiac for that summer of bliss (and the poverty-shrugging, thin, young, man who inhabited it) half a lifetime ago.

What was your best summer?

At the time, Rhonda, the person with whom I had spent a good portion of that summer responded:

I don't recall that summer, exactly. You'll have to give me some reminders.

When I saw her comment I dashed off a response filled with memories. It was stream of consciousness, and in many ways more poetic than my original post.

I came across that old post this morning, and my response, and was moved.  I liked what I had written, but felt the hooks of memory getting more bites and decided to fill out my response more fully.  It is, in many respects, meaningless to anyone but the two of us.
So be it.


It was a summer bookended by a frozen, Memorial Day move in, and a sweaty, Labor Day, ER to remedy your enormous blisters. 
It was the summer of your apartment on Clarkson and my hollow studio on Penn. 
My summer of white t-shirts, long boxers and ripped, khaki shorts. 
Of cantelope lunches and crockpot dinners. 
Of my $4 haircuts (from a mad, Cyprian, combed-over barber.) 
Of my golden brown flesh. 
Of your blondest of blond locks.
Of your brownest of brown roots. 
Of weekend rides to the park, and reservoir beach days with Rat. 
Of biking home from work to meet you on your building's stoop, and the stifling heat when I stayed overnight. 
Of my first viewing of Summer Lovers and my puzzlement of its meaning for you. 
Of ghastly Power Station at Red Rocks and delightful Prizzi's Honor at the cinema. 
Of our first meal at The Rattlesnake Club, and far less sophisticated fare elsewhere. 
Of me mocking you seeing St. Elmo's Fire and you mocking me seeing nothing. 
Of Kyle obsessively cleaning laundramat washers, and me obsessively avoiding cleanliness. 
Of weekly FACs with Jeff at the new City Spirit. 
Of my drunken appearances at your door after.  
Of our restricted range, but much better journeys in that season without any cars. 
Of your first trip to San Francisco, and the postcard you sent from there (I still have it and laugh at the "recalled watermelon" clipping you pasted to it). 
Of Fables of the Reconstruction and Reconstruction of the Fables. 
Of Gene Loves Jezebel bouncing from your speakers and Days of Wine and Roses lurching out of mine. 
Of Mark's unannounced visit from nowhere, and no other visitors at all. 
Of dabbled photographs, and dabbled watercolors, and dabbled collage. 
Of fresh fruit in a colander (that I still own), and bread with a snappy crust. 
Of Pip in her snobbish glory, and Tuffy in his vacant repose. 
Of Ben-way's first sunny season, and Ruth Gordon, Orson Welles, Yul Brynner and Rock Hudson's last. 
It was a summer whose "plan for the future" referred to the weekend - that basked in Kristofferson's truth.   
It was a summer of no means at all, but our world didn't cost a thing.

And it was the best summer of my life.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Seasons Change

It was more than 6 years ago that I began this blog.  Nearly 3 years since I last posted.  In that three years of blogging there were more than a thousand posts.
Ahh, heady times.

Life got in the way.  The litany of family upheavals, the usurpation of fast updates via Facebook, the sense that I was writing rather than living, and the passing of the personal blog into its little corner of history all led to the abandonment.  It wasn't just me.  Most of the blogs I linked and followed have tottered down the same dusty trail - Curry, Blaize, Steve, etc have packed it up and chucked it in.  Only Banks maintains his corner of the blogosphere.

The funny thing is, I find myself referring back to this blog regularly.  It acts a repository of memories and history from that time: a little diary of my life - my family's life.  It's surprising how often it reminds me of something I would have forgotten entirely had it not been for this documentation.

After much internalized debate I've opted to start again, to try to make the dots connect with some degree of regularity.  Years from now, as my memory becomes even more corrupted, perhaps this will be my map back.  This is a new season for our lives.  They aren't little kids anymore.

In the meantime,
People grow...

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Comes Around Once A Year

A repost for this day.

The phone rang while I was shaving. It was quarter of seven in the morning, but a phone call wasn't uncommon at that hour. I would frequently get early calls from the office to let me know if there were problems waiting for me when I arrived. However, after the long Memorial Day weekend I really didn't want to start the week with issues. RC got the phone. She said it was for me. "Is it Tracy?" I asked as I walked to the phone. "It doesn't sound like her," RC answered, sotto voce.

"Hello?" I said putting the phone to my ear.
"Lex?" asked the voice at the other end.
"You don't know me, Lex. I work with your mom. My name is Rick," she said.
"Hi, Rick," I said.
"Kind of a weird thing to ask, I know, but do you know how to get a hold of your mom?"
"Uh, I think she's still in Washington. She took a long weekend there with a friend," I answered.
"Yeah, we can't reach her."
"I have a phone number she gave me. Let me get it." I flipped through the pad next to the phone and recited the number to her.
"That's the one we have, but no one is answering," she said.
"I'm sorry, that's all I have. They probably took the phone off the hook."
She was quiet for a while.
"Are you still there?" I asked, finally.
"Lex, I know we've never met, but I have some bad news." she said quietly.
"Oh," I said, a little confused, "What happened?"
"There's been an accident," she said.
Oh God, I thought, one of my grandparents has fallen and broken a hip. Great.
"I feel weird telling you. I've never met you," she said, obviously nervous.
"Well, you know, just tell me, I guess," I said, a little befuddled.
Her voice broke. "Your brother was in an accident yesterday."
"Lee?" I asked.
"He... he was killed."
"What?" I said quietly.
"Lee was killed."
"What?" I said, a little louder.
"An accident, yesterday, Lee was killed."
"What?" I yelled.
"On his motorcycle, yesterday, in Denver. I'm so sorry."
"What!" I screamed.
RC stood next to me and asked me what was I talking about. I said the words: "Lee is dead."
RC screamed, "Oh God!" and collapsed against the wall before sliding to the floor, her head in her hands. I turned back to the phone. Rick was just saying how sorry she was. I don't really remember listening to her much after that. I just remember mumbling, what, over and over again; a gut-wrenching mantra.

There was for me the sense of walking on a seabed in an old diving suit, the clunky lead boots tied me to the muck below as my body's buoyancy fought to push me to the surface. It felt like I had forgotten the helmet and I could not breath.

That phone call came 18 years ago today, May 29th, 1990. It was a stone thrown in a pond, changing everything, the ripples of which continue even now. Of course, it wasn't the phone call that did the changing; it was the previous day's death the phone call reported that did the destruction. Although Lee died on that Memorial Day, it's always felt to me like he died the day after, during that early morning phone call. It was as if all those whats I kept repeating were my desperate attempts to save him: a verbal defibrillator that failed.

By September of that year I would be running through most of Europe on a three month odyssey to escape that which I could not fix, could not manage away. It was a failed solution, the first of many, from alcohol to hermitage; none of which could make the pain stop (I even made a bitter and angry list, pages and pages long, of everyone that I thought a more just universe should have killed before him - in hindsight, a rather funny roll call).

For so many years after his death I saw the loss of my brother, my dearest, closest friend, as something I must get over - must move beyond - as if it were separate and distinct from myself, some obstacle thrown up in my path to be pushed aside or navigated around. That proved impossible, not just because my grief was so devasting, but because it would not be left behind. Only when I realized that it would always be with me did I see my way forward. The tragedy would be a sledge I hauled behind me for the rest of my days in exhaustion, or even an anchor that eternally tethered me to a horrible moment; or I could pick the grief up, pare it down, and stow it in a pack, to be carried forever as part of my baggage. I choose the latter; better to bear it on my back than drag it through the dirt.

Over time its added weight has strengthened me and expanded my endurance. The weight also means I move more deliberately and, on some days, more painfully, but I move. As I grow older I find, like backpacking through the mountains, I must rest more frequently as I tire more quickly. On the worst of days it can make me gasp for air, but that, at least, is breathing.

My son's middle name is my brother's first. My Boy looks very much like his uncle and his best qualities - his sweetness, his empathy, his laugh - remind me of his namesake. I see my sibling every day in my child. That makes the load both heavier and lighter. That is my life, after.

So, today, it is with me, as it is every day, and like that heavy backpack in the mountains I must shift it as needed to ease its burden, to maintain my balance, but I can not leave it behind. It is part of who I am and who I will always be.

And, on this day, I miss him, a lot.

Saturday, January 1, 2011