Family dinner at the Peninsula Creamery in Palo Alto, CA…
Sister-in-law MARGE: What are you going to order?
ME: Pancakes and bacon.
Marge looks at me sideways.
ME: If I wanted to eat healthy tonight, I wouldn’t have brought you here.
MARGE: You’re going to wind up just like Jerry.
ME: I’m okay with that. I’ll start eating healthy when I’m hospitalized.
Nephew MATTHEW: Hey, at least you have a goal.
I have days where it takes every ounce of patience, dignity, professionalism, and self-control I possess to refrain from screaming aloud in anger and frustration. I wonder how good it might feel to really let go with one of those blood-curdling wails that frighten wild animals two counties away. Then I remember how (like the other Michael J) lucky I really am.
I’m over it now.
ME: A slice of peach pie, please.
SERVER: Would you like it warmed up, or a la mode?
ME: No thanks.
The server returns with a slice of apple pie. I look duly puzzled.
SERVER: Oh shoot, you said peach, right?
ME: Yes. Or cherry, if you’re out of peach.
The server returns with the SAME slice of apple pie, this time with a dollop of whipped cream on top.
ME: You’re joking…
SERVER: OMG!!! I’m so sorry. I’ll be right back. Peach, right?
ME: …with no whipped cream.
Server wanders off while I scan the restaurant for Ashton Kutcher and a candid camera crew. Server returns with a slice of apricot pie.
SERVER: How’s that?
ME: Close enough…
Server cheerily makes her way to the next table as I scrape off the whipped cream.
2013 was a year of loss and deep grief, as well as a year of rebirth and celebration – in other words, a normal year for me. While I look forward to 2014, I am ever cognizant of that old caveat: tomorrow is promised to no one. So…put your arms around someone you love today and TELL them you love them. And then do it again tomorrow. Call that aunt you haven’t seen in ages and let her know that you love her and think of her across the miles. Look up from your busy lives to observe the world beyond your iPhones and Droids and Facebook pages once in a while and pay closer attention to the human faces who cross our paths every day. Minister to each other – I don’t mean in a religious sense, but as fellow human beings in need of acknowledgment, love, understanding and compassion. I’m pretty sure that’s all of us.
Sad. Heartbreaking. Revolting. Makes me want to holler. And, unfortunately, pick up a weapon of my own. Legislation won’t solve it. Death penalty won’t solve or deter. We didn’t arrive here overnight, and we won’t solve it overnight. I suspect real long-term solutions ultimately begin in our homes and dinner tables at 6pm each night and take generations of diligence to turn this Nimitz-sized curse around in this ocean of lost souls.
Much respect to you, Jason Collins. I know it would have been easier to remain quiet until your career was over, or until you secured one more contract – or FOREVER, for that matter. But you took a braver stand, a greater risk, and you are to be commended. With your actions today, you have emboldened many others to follow in your noble footsteps.
The following descriptions relate to two people you know:
Each had a parent from rural Kentucky.
Their mothers gave birth to her first child before her 18th birthday.
Both lived with their “family” in Los Angeles before relocating to northern California in the 1960’s.
Each had a violent alcoholic parent with a checkered legal history and numerous incarcerations. In both cases, this same alcoholic parent eventually became the sole custodial parent after the sober parent died before the child’s 10th birthday.
Subsequently, each of these individuals spent short stints in out-of-state orphanages.
Each spent a single night in a juvenile detention center at age 8.
They were both frequent travelers of Santa Susanna Pass Rd – the infamous thoroughfare (Spahn Movie Ranch) connecting San Fernando Valley to Simi Valley.
They both lived in foster care and/or state run facilities until obtaining their legal emancipation at age 17.
After falling in love, they both married at age 19, found short-term domestic bliss, and became fathers at 21.
Who are the two individuals I am describing?
Can I buy you a drink?
Weird night. No Giants game. No Warriors. No Sharks. Too late to paint. I’ll open my book and enjoy every second of it, but it occurs to me that something significant has changed in me over the years: I have absolutely no idea what’s on TV anymore. I used to be a walking talking TV Guide, and now I’m completely clueless. TV has become my sports, news, & documentary portal and that’s about it. There’s nothing snobby or elitist at work here, just a recognition that my habits have changed. I know I’m missing some good stuff, but there’s only so much coach this potato can take.