I started typing this under the influence of Covid.

Everything was going along fine.

In my new job, I have very little vacation time banked, so I had to borrow a pre-approved vacation day from January to round out taking the last part of the year off. Judy and I were both looking forward to having some down time together.

Right after dinner on Christmas day, Judy bolted upright and announced she had a massive headache coming on. She immediately got up and went to bed until the next day.

I didn’t get sick until 2 days later on the evening of the 27th. I took a home test which confirmed I was indeed positive. I already knew what the result would be because I was feeling a full-on flu. And as bad as I felt, I never expected the major symptoms to lift a day and a half later with a final dry heave that seemed to chuck the illness from my body.

I never lost my sense of taste like Judy did. No, I just sounded like I had a massive head cold when I talked – you could hear it in my voice. Yet inside, I felt fine. No stuffy head. Weird. That’s long gone now. And Judy is slowly getting her taste buds back.

Per CDC guidelines, I was allowed to stay away from work for the first part of January. When I went back to work, I had to wear a mask in common areas for the first week.

On New Years, we were still in a Covid hangover state. Had NO interest in drinking. Every year we watch the ball come down and we film ourselves in front of the TV screen cracking a bottle of bubbly. I set the camera up. We watched the ball come down, but failed to pop the cork at the witching hour. I did hold the bottle up to the camera though.

Last year at New Years, we were guests in Myrtle Beach, hosted by our friends Donna and Ernie. Despite pea soup fog that masked the fireworks on the beach, that was a really nice evening. What a difference a year makes.

2022 was the biggest year of shit, I swear. At least for us. We had to put our Boston Terrier Sophie down. I effed up my back. My brother died. We have friends that are really sick. We lost people we’d broken bread with – more reminders of our own mortality. It was a good thing I gave up watching news last January. That would have been the straw that broke me.

Despite my disparagement of 2022, a couple of good things happened. One, my niece Amelia got married in Maine to a gentleman named Scott who everyone including us seems to like. Not only was it a great wedding, it was one of those rare chances to be in the same room with a lot of relatives and friends. There was nothing not to like.

And all of our flights left and arrived on time without incident.

That was in September.

Fast forward to October. On the afternoon of the 22nd to be exact.

Her name is Baby Sally. So named because she reminded us of a beat-up doll our son used to drag around when he was a toddler. The doll looked like something you’d find in the trash – she had only one eye that still opened and closed and its blonde hair looked like the doll had plugged its finger into an electrical socket. But Ivan loved that thing.

Sally is a sandy-colored-with-white-highlights rescue, registered at the receiving adoption center as a long-haired Chihuahua. She definitely has some Chi in her, but if you look at images of long-haired Chihuahuas on the internet, they look like poofy dogs, all fluffed out with lots of hair.

Sally has long hair. In places. I would not describe her as fluffy, but she is extremely soft to the touch. Her hair is an aberration of sorts. Some runs in strings down the middle of her back. She has sparsely placed shorter hairs forming a fringe around her head and neck and legs. And right on the top of her head is a kind of pushed up bad hairpiece that looks like it’s been bleached white compared to the surrounding sandy hair. Her delicate face is buffeted beautifully by perfectly positioned whisker hair. One might say her hairs are artistically placed to make her outstandingly unique.

I once gave a band a review for their new album. They especially loved the summation at the end that included these words: If Jethro Tull and Heart had gotten together and had a love child, it would have been this band.

Well, put it like this. In the same spirit, if you mixed a long-haired Chihuahua with the creature from the middle of Jabba the Hutt’s stomach with a fox with touches of Dobby and Yoda and added in a bunch of meerkat, followed by plugging the dog into a 220 light socket, you would have Sally.

We’re convinced she’s mostly meerkat. She likes to sit up straight like they do with her front paws bent over.

We were pointed in Sally’s direction by our rescue friend Lynette. Over the months since we’d laid our dear Sophie to rest, Lynette would occasionally post pics of new rescues.

Can’t tell you how the stars aligned. Maybe we’d had enough distance from Sophie passing. Not sure. But there came a day when Lynette posted a shot of a rather pitiful looking creature. This poor thing looked like she’d been through the wringer.

But there was something in her eyes. I phoned Judy from work. She went and looked and called me back. “Doug. Have you seen this dog?”

“Yeah. There’s just something about her.”

A couple of hours later, Judy called me back and said, “She’s growing on me. Let’s go meet her.”

I made arrangements with Lynette to visit the following day.

Less than 24 hours later, we were sitting on Lynette’s back porch on a Saturday morning with 7 dogs swarming around us, all in various states of excitement. But Sally took the initiative. She jumped straight into Judy’s lap and remained.

Judy looked at me.

I looked at her.

Okay. This is the dog.

Can’t explain it. It was a chemical thing.

From the time we first met her in person to the time we walked her over our threshold was 5 hours.

After leading her on a short leash into the house, closing the door and setting her free, we were unable to put our hands on her for the first several hours.

She had boundless energy. Shaking like a leaf. Doing zoomies through the rooms, seemingly running up the sides of the walls at times. The only way to get her to trust an initial approach was to let her come to us. So I sat on the floor for 2 hours and 40 minutes coaxing her to approach.

My back didn’t appreciate the prolonged tailbone on the floor bit, but the minor sacrifice was far outweighed by first contact.

Sally stayed by me for the first 24 hours. Jumped up into my chair. Aligned herself alongside my thigh, then progressed to curling up in my lap. Started doing her 2 signature moves. Pushing her cold, wet nose under your arm so she can nestle, and angling so she’s pressed with her back to your chest, her adorable little face lookin’ up at ya.

That pissed Judy off. Sally only wanted me. I called Judy on her mad face. She didn’t shy away. Admitted it. I understood.

Judy didn’t have her nose out of joint long. By day 2, Sally was glued to Judy. I quickly became a much loved, but recognized second banana.

We wanted a lap dog. We got one. She likes to lean in, as they say.

Sally is an acrobat. Pound for pound, they say Chihuahuas are superb athletes. We can attest. We’ve seen her leap off a chair and do major circus tricks around us, bounding off the furniture in our house.

At night, she jumps up and sleeps on the bed with us. But you’d never know she was there because she’s light as a feather. Which is good, because the few times she’s pranced across the tops of our pillows and faces in the middle of the night, her stepping on my closed eyes isn’t as bad as it could be. Yeah, she’s stabbing thumb-sized paws into my eyes, but she’s not ripping corneas off or anything.

When rescue people tell you a dog is more or less housetrained, that is code. You are in for accidents. Sally has been great about catching on. But during the first week, we were rolling the dice. We’d had this same situation with Sophie when we first got her. All things will pass.

I discovered her first #1s and #2s the old-fashioned way. By stepping in them. With the pee incidents, I was especially glad I was barefoot. I much prefer that to having it seep through a sock. I was also barefoot for the number twos. One of those encounters was with a sticky full-formed turd that stuck to the ball of my foot.

I have filmed a lot of stuff around the house. But one thing I did not film was an old man in his bathrobe hopping on one foot to the guest bathroom with a turd stuck to his foot. If I had footage of that, I’m certain I’d find the humor in it. You don’t get to see that every day.

But by the same token, as they said in the movie Spinal Tap, “It was not pleasant to be a part of the comedy.”

Rescues have problems with abandonment, especially in the early phases of adoption. A few days into Sally’s residence, I returned to work and Judy had a day where she had to go grocery shopping for a couple of hours.

Neither of us was sure if Sally would be destructive if left completely alone this early in the process. So before Judy headed off to Kroger, she put Sally in a crate. A cage if you will, constructed of open 1″ by 3″ wire rectangles.

Judy put a bathrobe of hers as a bedding so Sally would smell familiarity.

When Judy returned, Sally was going ape-shit in her crate. As Judy released Sally exploding into the bedroom, Judy noticed that the inside of the crate looked different for some reason. That’s when she realized some of her clothes were inside the crate.

Right beside the crate, there was a hard-backed chair which had had some of Judy’s garments draped over the top. 2 shirts. A pair of slacks. A sweater.

I used the word had.

Sally had pulled all 4 garments through one of those small cage openings and transferred them to inside her crate in a pile. Without damaging the clothes. Not a single tear or tooth mark.

Whether you know it or not, that’s Penn & Teller shit.

We’ve never owned a small dog before. When we got her, she was 5.8 lbs. She’s holding at an even 8 now and her recent vet appointment confirmed she is at her fighting weight for a long-haired mixed Chi. In good health.

The adoption service process is amazing. For $250, they hand you a dog who’s been de-wormed, vaccinated, washed, clipped and chipped. Not to mention initial vets having to put her out to spay her and remove 2 residual baby teeth.

By the time Sally got into our arms, she’d had a run. She was found abandoned at a dump, locked in a cage with another small dog.

We were happy when she came to live in our house.

There’s a song called Our House on the first Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young album Deja vu. It’s an innocent little 3-minute ditty about young love where Graham Nash paints a picture, a snapshot of an afternoon of quiet alone time with his then paramour Joni Mitchell. It’s a pretty song. The chorus goes:

Our house is a very, very, very fine house
With 2 cats in the yard
Life used to be so hard
Now everything is easy ’cause of you.

Beautiful sentiment except we don’t have 2 cats in the yard. We had the one kitten we helped rescue last year, but other than that, we just have a wiry-haired looking Chi who we don’t dare leave alone in the yard because of hawks.

Yeah. Hawks. What’s that about? When we got the dog, we were casually advised to watch her outside because hawks will swoop down and wing off with creatures up to l0 pounds.

Shit. Are you kidding me? Hawks? It was all blustery disbelief until I talked to a woman who’d lost a Chihuahua to a hawk in her back yard in Arizona. No, it really happens.

Then I started doubting myself. Would I know a hawk if I saw one? Would I recognize its call? I wasn’t sure. That’s the beauty of the internet. You can look up videos and audio files that tell you everything you need to know. Now that I’m educated, I’m seeing hawks everywhere.

Our house is different. Not cookie cutter at all. It was built in 3 stages beginning in 1982. The original structure before add-ons was a small house. The foyer and the “library” were added at one point and then later, the back third of the house was tacked on. The “back” is where Judy and I spend most of our hangout time. It’s an expansive space that serves as our bedroom and informal TV viewing area. We’ve often said if we had to compact ourselves into a living space, the back room would be the place. It has a walk-in closet. A bathroom. The furnace room. It has a door that opens to the outside. The only thing missing is a kitchenette, but we could always work that in.

The house has gone through some structural changes since we moved in. Custom shelving was built in multiple rooms. We chopped off an attached island in the kitchen and opened that space up by repurposing the island into a heavy mobile one. During the last few years, we had ceiling fans replaced, ripped out antiquated ceiling light fixtures and replaced them with recessed lighting. We had wood floors put in.

I’m not sure we always thought this would be our forever home, but as time marches on, it’s looking like that may indeed be the case. After almost 20 years, we know the house. We know the yard. We know the spirits that have inhabited.

Our house is a museum of sorts. Filled with our history. Just about every object in our house has a story. It might be a story we both remember or maybe only Judy remembers. Or me. But none of our holdings would mean much to others. If Judy and I were to drop dead tomorrow, it would be a hellish experience for folks to go through to try and decipher things that are not their personal memories. Just the fact that I have hundreds and hundreds of hours of home movies that even I’ve never gone back and looked at. Too much to wade through.

We have a lot of baggage we’ve put on display, but it works. At least for us. There are 2 anecdotes that wrap up the feeling in our house.

The first one was from someone who was visiting for the first time. He stopped, looked around, and said, “I’ve been in a lot nicer houses, but this is a home.”

Once after a party, we were contacted the next day by a guest who called to say, “Your house oozes love.”

I agree on both counts. That’s no accident.

The house has been the scene of more than a few raucous parties. We don’t play around when we throw a party. We put out food and premium liquor. We provide entertainment. Live musicians, magicians, bellydancing, flamenco dancers, fire-breathing, and of course, yours truly, Mr. Elvis Devo. There might even be the premiere of a short film. You never know.

We live out in the sticks a bit so we are allowed to be loud. So we are. Years back, we opened the door to greet an older friend whose hair was blown back by the noise level. She laughed. “Oh, this is a real party!”

The parties can be big or small. We’ve had just as much fun sitting in a circle with a single guest, putting on some classic vinyl and singing every song on the record.

There were no parties in 2022. Like I said, with a handful of exceptions, I was glad to see that year fall away.

Prior to my Covid down time, I read about Site and Sound picking a new best picture of all time. Site and Sound is made up of roughly 1600 film critics who get together every 10 years and rank the best movies ever made. For decades, Citizen Kane was in first place. In 2012, Site and Sound “stunned” the world when they announced the demotion of Citizen Kane and named Hitchcock’s Vertigo as the new king of all movies. But in 2022, Site and Sound baffled more than anything else. They named a new #1. Wait for it. According to Site and Sound critics, the best movie ever made was released in 1975.

Title: Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles

Never heard of it? Don’t feel bad. I hadn’t either. And I watch a lot of obscure cinema.

Watching movies you’ve never heard of comes with risk.

Back in early December of 2022, I’d heard about the movie and a friend of mine actually previewed 20 or 30 minutes and said it was painfully slow. I went out and read about it. Its importance in the film world is boiled down to this quote: “Probably the best known example of slow cinema.”

Okay, I’ll bite. If you were in the market to watch a movie, I’m willing to bet my next paycheck that if the description bragged about how slow it was, you would pass.

You don’t have to watch it. I did the legwork for you. All 202 minutes.

There was only 1 hitch. The movie was streaming on HBO Max. I’ve had HBO for a long time. I’d noticed them shifting over time to moving all their content to HBO Max. For many moons, I’d been able to watch regular HBO offerings and only new movies were hosted on HBO Max. Now it’s all Max. I checked my Xfinity monthly statement to make sure I was paying for Max and I was. Great. I searched out the movie and on the screen, it asked me to sign in. Gave me a 6-digit code. I walk from the living room to the computer room and bring up the HBO Max site and enter my code. Their website tells me I’m logged in and then advises me to return to the TV and enjoy my streaming.

When I returned to the living room, the TV was asking me to sign in again. Gave me another 6-digit code. Returned to the computer room. When I tried to put in the new code, the website informed me I was already signed in. The website told me to return to the HBO Max streaming experience. After going through a groundhog day moment several times over, I made the mistake of engaging an Xfinity rep in a chat session. I was not feeling good. I have no idea why I picked that moment to get into the ring.

I could tell my chat specialist was not American. Nor was English her first language. Her name was Paula.

No, it wasn’t.

I’m willing to put my wallet on the table. Years ago, we saw a documentary about American companies contracting out for chat specialists in places like China and India. When the help desk folks are trained, they are given a selection of American names to pick from because Americans are the worst over a chat line and they hate names that aren’t “American.” I know the game. I’m gonna say it again. Her name was not Paula.

Paula had me go through gyrations, stomping back and forth between the computer room and the living room for an hour and a half, trying things I’d already tried unsuccessfully. I kept telling her, “There’s something else going on behind the scenes.”

Paula just kept sending me back non-helpful suggestions. On several occasions, she put me on hold for minutes at a time while she consulted with her supervisor. At one point, she had me remove the power cable from the back of the DVR and hold the plug in my hand for 30 seconds. I was willing to do that.

Go ahead. Ask me why. Probably 15 years ago, I was working on a PC with one of my teammates. No matter what we tried, we could not get that piece of equipment running. Then the teammate turns to me and says, “Let’s try this.” He yanked the power cord off the back of the workstation and held it in his hand for 30 seconds. Plugged it back in and the machine booted up in no time. I couldn’t believe that was the fix. He explained he’d worked at a PC repair shop in a previous life and learned the trick there.

“It releases static charges built up in the connection.”

I have used that trick several times since. So, yeah, when Paula asked me to try that, I was willing.

Didn’t work.

Paula goes offline for a consultation and comes back asking me to unplug every single device and hold all the plugs out for 30 seconds. I knew Paula was grasping at straws at that point.

I wrote back. “We’re done. I’m not doing that.”

To which she replied, “Good news! I’m glad everything is working!”

To which I answered, “It still doesn’t work. You haven’t helped me.”

I terminated the chat and went back out to the HBO Max website which again informed me I was already signed in and should already be enjoying the HBO Max experience. Went back out to the living room where there was yet another 6-digit code to sign in with. I threw my hands up and shuffled off to do something else.

About 10 minutes later, I came through the living room again and HBO Max was streaming on the screen.

In the IT help realm, you sometimes have individuals who fix things in the background when you call with a problem. They don’t admit to fixing anything, there’s just a pause followed by the help person advising, “Try it now.” When you try it again and it works, you might ask the IT person what they did to fix it and they won’t tell you.

Okay. So I’ve done 90 minutes with Paula that I’ll never get back. I’m still feeling the symptoms of Covid aftermath. And that’s when I queued up Jeanne Dielman.

Alright. There’s slow and then there’s more slow. Jeanne was a tough exercise in patience. Sample scene: Jeanne washes her dinner dishes. She stands back-to at her small French apartment sink. Fills the sink. Washes her dishes. All of them. Filmed in real time with no cutting away. The camera has been stuck in the same framing shot the whole time capturing Jeanne washing her dishes. It’s like a 10-minute scene. No joke. Hey, you want to see Jeanne clean her floor? Sure. Let’s put the camera on a tripod and film her in real time washing the entire floor.

There is almost no dialogue. No music. No car chases. No explosions.

I know most of you are going to run to your TVs to watch Jeanne clean her house for hours on end so I won’t spoil the ending. To be fair, there is an ending point that is made, but even after that, the film ends with Jeanne sitting stationary, staring expressionless into the lens, for about 6 minutes.

I knew a comedian once who used the quip, “It was like a cancer slowly creeping up my spine.”

After Jeanne Dielman’s wild ride, I was up for more of HBO Max’s programming.

There was a doc called Santa Camp about a training camp for mall Santas having to admit people that are not old white guys with beards. I thought it was interesting.

I followed up with Scott Schwartz in A Christmas Story Christmas, the sequel to the beloved classic A Christmas Story. I met and befriended Scott and his dad Danny when we lived in southern California in the late 1980s. Danny’s son Scott was a famous child actor. He was in The Toy with Richard Pryor and Jackie Gleason. He was in Kid Co. Scott played Flick in Christmas Story – the jackass that sticks his warm wet tongue on a frozen steel pole and gets stuck.

Scott had some good gigs back in the day, but went into a window where he wasn’t working as an actor, so I’m pretty sure he was delighted to be asked back as an adult. It was interesting to see Scott playing a bar owner.

And that was it. I watched 3 movies on HBO Max and was done. I was ready to vacate the movies for some audio listening.

Before checking out of TV-land, I went out on YouTube and checked the number of views for Faux Paws. One more person had watched it. Went from 195 views to 196. Overnight. It’s the little things for me.

During my blemished vacation that capped out 2022, I was fatigued the whole week after my positive covid test. For $108, I’d ordered the Revolver super remix set of CDs and was delighted when Amazon dropped the box on my doorstep. I couldn’t go anywhere so it gave me something to do.

The original Beatles album has 14 tracks and they recorded Paperback Writer and Rain during those sessions bringing the total of songs covered to 16. But there are 64 tracks in the box. I’ll let you do the division, but across the collection, you’re going to hear several versions of each song. From demo to rehearsal to multiple takes until you get the right one.

I knew a lot of the “boot” recordings because I’d owned them for years through illicit channels. But there was some cool stuff I’d never heard. Them recording Yellow Submarine as just the band with no voiceovers or special effects added. Rain played at its normal speed rather than the slowed-down version we know. George playing the demo for Love You To on an acoustic guitar, contrasting how it ended up driven by a sitar in the final version.

Still. 64 tracks is a bunch of listening, even for a Beatles guy.

It comes with a 12″ x 12″ hardback book rife with rare behind the scenes photos of them recording and tons of commentary. I tried my best to wade through the text. I stopped about halfway through where they’re analyzing Here, There and Everywhere.

This is the sentence I stopped at:

For takes five to 13, track one included Paul’s electric rhythm guitar, drums played by Ringo and George’s electric 12-string guitar melody for the bridge and the final notes produced with a volume pedal effect.

The book is chock full of that. I may get back to it. We’ll see. I left a bookmark just in case. You never know.

Right when I was looking for a change of musical diet, I was surfing YouTube one sleepless night and came across an excellent interview with Stevie Nicks. We saw her live on March 15th, 2015 in Charlottesville with the reconstituted Fleetwood Mac featuring Christine McVie who had returned after a 20-year absence. One of my favorite Christine songs is You Make Loving Fun – I had no idea if they’d play it, but I hoped.

The night of the concert, traffic was backed up for miles, all people trying to squeeze through a small 2-lane into prepaid parking. I could see we weren’t going to be inside by 8 PM, but I didn’t sweat it. Bands never start on time. As we crept along in stop and go traffic that moved forward inches at a time, I told Judy and Ivan and his wife Jenn to get out and walk up to the arena so they wouldn’t be late. After letting them out, it took forever to get inside. Still. No band ever starts on time.

Okay. Well, one does. Fleetwood Mac. And why? Probably because we’re all about the same age. We’ve progressed to wanting to get things over with and get home to bed.

I walked in during Stevie singing Dreams. Got to my seat. What did I miss? They started with The Chain. I was okay with missing that one.

“But you just missed Christine McVie singing You Make Loving Fun.”

I can’t tell you why I didn’t blow my stack. I don’t even think What the hell? ran through my mind. I decided to get into what was left. Which was much. That was one helluva show and they were wonderful.

Stevie YouTube videos led to Fleetwood Mac videos led to a video of Christine McVie alone on a stage sitting behind a piano singing Songbird. When she finished, I sat in silence.

And I love you, I love you, I love you
Like never before

Just beautiful.

You could have heard a pin drop in my mind.

Seeing Christine sing Songbird made me want more of that voice. A voice, that by the way, when I first heard her on the radio, was androgynous to me – I couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman singing. And for some reason, I was super intrigued with that.

One of my almost current CDs on our shelves is 2017’s Lindsey Buckingham Christine McVie which is a mix of songs written by the 2 of them backed by the rest of Fleetwood Mac minus Stevie Nicks. Buckingham said it was basically what the next Fleetwood Mac album would have been if Stevie hadn’t quit. So, albeit with no Stevie influence, it sounds like a pretty damned good Fleetwood Mac record.

I hadn’t played it in months. I turned it up a little. And a good time was had by all.

And 2 days later, Christine was gone.

Coincidence that I was thinking about her?

The week before my brother died, he had been heavy on my mind. He hadn’t been on my radar in a while, but I was getting an internal push to write him a letter. And then I didn’t. And it was too late.

Coincidence I’d been thinking about him?

For Christmas, I’d asked for the 50th anniversary edition of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s Deja vu. Just like with the Revolver remix box, this 4-CD set came with the original recording supplemented by dozens of demos, alternate takes, and unused material.

While I enjoyed most of the box set, there were a couple of duds in there, at least for me. One is Neil Young’s Helpless which to me drags Deja vu down with an anchor and that’s coming from a Neil Young fan. That song is drudgery. The only thing that makes it worse is the box set contains an earlier version of Helpless. Nothing beats a failure like doubling down on the pain.

At a live CSNY concert, Neil introduced one of his songs like this: “This is a song that starts out slow and then peters out all together.” In the case of Helpless, he skipped the slow part. Go ahead. Change my mind.

My favorite track, probably fueled by inner rebellion, is David Crosby’s Almost Cut My Hair. You get to hear David strumming out the demo on an acoustic. On another CD, you hear the band taking a crack at a 10-minute version with David Crosby and Stephen Stills exchanging shredding guitar solos. When you play the official released version, it is clear why they picked that take – more concise. David’s vocal is stronger. They did the right thing.

There I was, weak from Covid, listening to David singing about having the flu for Christmas. Check. Singing about not feeling up to par. Check. Listening to Helpless again? Un-check.

The week I was un-checking Helpless, David Crosby died. Coincidence I was thinking about him?

I’ve been back and forth on the writing thing. Caring and not caring. I’m lazy, and frankly, I like being lazy from time to time, but I get mad at myself when I don’t type. I spend hours on my back in the dark punching myself out. I should have had my Santa bio done a year ago and I’m still finishing it. Slowly. Maybe it’s fear of success. Maybe it’s a feeling that when it’s done, I’ll be done. Bled out.

For Christmas, my daughter-in-law got me the new Mountain Goats Bleed Out CD and writer John Darnielle sings this opening on the title track:

Every time they knock me down
I rise to my feet
Every time I take a bullet
They find a medic
To patch me up real neat
You only have to run the numbers to know
Sooner or later everybody’s gotta go
I’m gonna bleed out

I’ve been feeling that. Bled out some days. Like it’s time to go. And I don’t mean that in a bad way.

He goes on to put the final wring of truth on things:

I will go down punching, but I will go down
And my corner man won’t bring me back around
I’m gonna bleed out

And then adds:

I’m gonna tell my friends to all go to Hell
And wish my enemies well

I sort of feel like that’s what I’ve done over the last several months. So if you were on the big ignore side or the well wishes end of it, I beg forgiveness when I know it’s not necessary to beg.

I hope John Danielle is in good health. I quoted him a lot. I can’t have everyone I think about dropping dead.

Especially since my 50th high school reunion in Maine is coming up in June. Hmm.

I’ve been enjoying the solitude of our house. And the warmth of a small huddled circle of beings where there is no ill will. Every memory I want to be reminded of is here.

It’s been a month since I started this. Took a big break in the middle. I have these little fits with myself. So I’m back. Ready to finish the Santa book and ready to finish this.

I ask myself often: Why do you bother typing? And I think it’s the same reason a lot of us get up in the morning. There’s a part of survivors that wants to give the big hawk in the sky the middle finger.

Or as John Darnielle says:

I’m doing this for revenge
I’m doing this to try to stay true
I’m doing this for the ones they had to leave behind
I’m doing this for you

Don’t read too much ego into that. I don’t. There have been days in my life where I was hanging by fingernails and it was not pleasant to be a part of the comedy. Through my filter, Mr. Darnielle isn’t talking about himself as much as he’s talking about all of us. We’ve all had a moment or two of being strung out, but still feeling that little streak of “No, I’m not done yet.”

I tell stories sometimes. I like doing it. I enjoy informally recording bits of history, both my own and slivers of the thousands of people who’ve blown through my life. They say friendships exist for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. I’ve had them all in spades. This has been a great ride so everything that happens from here on out is frosting.

Decades ago, I interviewed now deceased bellydance guru Bert Balladine. It was a great conversation. He spoke of places he’d been, people he’d met, the adventures he’d experienced. At one point, he looked over at me and said that even though he considered himself a world traveler, at the end of the day everyone just wants to come home to a house with a white picket fence.

And that’s exactly how he ended up.

Me, too.

About a week ago, I volunteered to vacuum the house while Judy was preparing food for the kids coming over for Sunday dinner. It took me 3 hours, but much of that was moving objects out of the way and back into place, and I also went as far as lifting up couch and chair cushions to vacuum underneath.

As I went through the house, my eyes made contact with artifacts that most people wouldn’t give a second glance to. I had some nice fleeting thoughts in memoryville. Our possessions run the gamut. Everything from a worn coffee table we’ve had during our entire marriage – the marble top was snapped in half during a disastrous move in the 1980s – to a pendant that holds a lock of Ivan’s baby hair. None of these objects mean anything really. Just to us. And in most cases, only us. For those who come after, I won’t haunt you for jettisoning our life. Everything is temporary.

I felt crippled when I was done with my chore, but I also felt a sense of accomplishment. That night when the kids came over, I watched my granddaughter eat a Ritz cracker. Little salt crumbs fell off as she munched. She was sitting at a table, but crumbs no one else would notice were still falling to the floor when she would turn her head. While no one else noticed, and I ended up not saying anything, my inner housewife surfaced multiple times in my head exclaiming, “I just vacuumed!”

Our house is a very, very, very fine house. And yeah, life has been really hard from time to time. But for the most part, we have eased into making everything easy.

Life keeps coming out swinging and so do we.

I’ve been blessed with a very full life. Lots of people. Lots of experiences. There are still things that aren’t perfect, but overall, if I were to croak today, I would be okay with the big picture.

The day Glenn Frey of The Eagles died, my boss came in bearing the news. “Well, what’d you expect?” he exclaimed. “He was in his 60s!”

Obviously, I am old enough to die, but it might piss me off when I do. I still have things I’m responsible for. Taking the trash out. Feeding the birds. Taking over the vacuuming once every 5 years or so. Plus I gotta stick around and occasionally step in a small puddle of pee like the one I discovered accidentally a couple of weeks ago as I was walking our dinner to the back room. My hands were occupied clutching bowls of food as I stood frozen in a pelican stance, one leg crooked in the air. Judy ran to get rags and a cleaner to wipe off the bottom of my foot so I could put my leg down.

Not too long ago, we were out on the back patio with our 6-year-old granddaughter. She’s quite the dancer and singer who seems to make up some pretty good songs out of thin air. I’m not wishing it upon her, but she could easily become an artist.

I stood beside her looking out at the yard and said, “So let me ask you. When you grow up and you’re big and famous, are you going to buy me a mansion to live in?”

She was deadpan. Didn’t miss a beat. “Sure, if you live long enough.”

She wasn’t being mean. She wasn’t trying to be funny either. Just being real.

Since beginning this tome, I’ve learned some things about our little dog. She’s non-allergenic. She doesn’t shed much. And most surprising of all, Sally may not be a mix – in between squeezing in Tom Willett how-to segments, I’ve been watching late-night YouTube videos about dog behavior and I’ve come across 4 videos showing a dog that looks exactly like ours. Exactly.

Doesn’t matter. We are in love. There is heavy petting going on.

We take Sally for walks now and she loves it. She barks furiously and comes unhinged on the occasional parked car with no one in it, but it’s all a process.

This past week, we took Sally on her first social outing. We had a friend that hosted us for dinner. Sally was nervous at first, but adapted pretty well. Our friend wormed his way into Sally’s heart by offering her little slivers of cheese during the evening.

That was all good until Sally chucked it all up in the car on the way home. Sally doesn’t seem to travel well. So far.

Sally’s figuring things out. We’ll get there. There are worse things.

They say dogs like Sally can live 20 years or more.


That’s a lot of hawk watchin’.