As of mid morning on Monday my hair still smelled like woodsmoke from Saturday night’s bonfire on Herring Cove beach. I washed it later in the day, but delaying the shampooing allowed the odor to linger in a lame attempt to cling to the week I had just spent at the Cape. It ended too soon.
After my adventures in Greece earlier this summer, I came to the realization that 2 weeks in Greece was essentially the same cost as the house I rent in Wellfleet. Hmmm. That was striking. Maybe it was time to let go of of this twenty year tradition for the sake of experiencing new destinations…
But, the magic of the Cape seems to get me every time, even when getting there is a clusterf*ck of traffic. Morning walks to the ocean, swimming with my dog in a pond that feels like our own and enjoying friends and low key entertaining…I just don’t know how to let it go.
Difficulty letting go has been a theme for me, it seems. This annual vacation, my Volvo wagon, lovers, specific articles of clothing…I hang on to things that have personal meaning that is sometimes irrational and beyond physical properties. I suspect it comes from unresolved childhood issues and a general lack of stability growing up. I mean, by the time I was in 6th grade I had attended three different school districts (and 5 separate buildings) and moved at least 8 times, which certainly didn’t lend much in terms of consistency to my life.
Perhaps all of that upheaval created a need for some constants in my life, beyond my brother and oldest of friends, and the annual trip to the Cape has simply grown into an event that is beyond a mere beach vacation. It’s a touchstone of my summer.
As I drove east and then south to Wellfleet, I did so with the mindset that this was it, end of an era, and I felt okay about it. Seven days later I knew that somehow I would find a way to continue this tradition, even with an anticipated return to Greece and a trip with my youngest son to Spain. At least for the next year. It’s just too important to my emotional and mental health, and my dog, to abandon.
Traveling with my 20 year-old son made for an interesting trip. Because of the time he spent in Thailand last year, he has some experience with having to navigate his way from destination to destination. He may not have the same intuition as my oldest son when it comes to transportation, but he has grown to be helpful and developed some useful skills.
I’ve jokingly remarked a couple of times (maybe even to you, specifically) that the best part of our recent vacation to Greece was having someone with whom to day drink. With some sobering up reflection, I now recognize that what’s going to remain with me, even longer than the 5lbs of feta and dolmas I brought home, are the moments we spent talking, sharing thoughts, making decisions together (rosé or white?) and spending hours and hours outside together, under cloudless blue skies.
Over the years I’ve witnessed too many friends lose a child, most frequently, a son. I grew up in a town where a number of my peers died being physically reckless in a way different than today’s young people. Usually it was a car + alcohol + speed situation, not exactly the same kinds of substances to which our country is experiencing an epidemic of abuse and addiction to currently. Narcotics have always been way too scary to mess around with to me, which initially made overdoses so incredibly shocking. Now, though, it is my presumed cause of death when anyone between the ages of 17 and 30 dies suddenly.
A few former colleagues of mine have lost children suddenly and at least one was directly related to substance abuse. That mom told me something that will always stay with me. In my whole life, I might have experienced two other instances in which words have had the same profound impact on my heart and thoughts. What she said was revelatory:
All you can do is enjoy them while you’ve got them.
During times of frustration with my sons, I’ve reached for that truism frequently. It helped me to accept that I couldn’t make my sons do, or not do, really much of anything. Whether it was attending classes at the High, writing a thank you note or washing their hair, it was on them. No amount of time spent arguing or in disagreement could force any of my children to do what I wanted them to do, if it wasn’t what they wanted to do. They are their own people.
After my friend’s loss and the lesson she gave to me, I remember thinking “if something really horrible happened to my kid, I wouldn’t want his last interaction with me to have been a heated exchange about why he hadn’t handed in a required assignment for school.” I’d much rather it be a quick “love you” at the end of a call or text. I learned I needed to let some things go.
On Naxos Island, my son and I rented bikes for the day and rode about 20 miles to the beach and an abandoned hotel project that had become a destination for graffiti artists. After we were fitted for bikes and provided with helmets, my son clipped the strap on his together and hung it on his handlebars. I said, “you’re not wearing that?” And he said “No.” I bit my tongue, clipped my helmet on and told him to leave his helmet behind if he wasn’t going to wear it. My helmet remained firmly in place on my head for the duration of the ride.
Over the course of the day, I suggested once or twice that my son might want to hit the sunscreen. He declined. I rubbed on my second or third application of the #30 spf I had purchased in Athens without comment. His decision. His eventual sunburn.
There comes a point in a parent’s life when they have to let go in ways that may be frightening, especially when their child’s approach is completely contrary to what they themselves had spent years teaching their offspring was the right or best or appropriate or safe way to conduct the life they had been given. It’s part of the process of separating from one another, isn’t it?
I returned to Albany last week to hear of the death of the child of a neighbor I had when I was in high school. Again, a son. My assumption about the cause of the young man’s death was, unfortunately, correct. My heart hurt for those left behind.
Finding one’s way through life isn’t easy, despite the maps with which we are provided. We hope that our children make good choices, but when they don’t, we can only wish for the consequences to be negligible – a sunburn at worst, certainly not the loss of their young life.
I don’t remember not knowing gay people. My mother had matter-of-factly told me as a young child, that sometimes women loved women and men loved men and it meant the same thing as a man and a woman loving each other. It just was. That made sense. It was simple.
When I moved to Albany and began working in local restaurants, I formed relationships with lots of gay guys. I mean, it’s the FOH industry demographic much of the time. Say what you will about stereotyping, but gay men generally have style to spare. Some of my happiest memories are of hanging out with the Yono’s crew in the late 80s and early 90s, doing a circuit from The Griffin to the (State Street)Pub to the QE2 before ending the night at the Palais. Good times with great friends with whom I remain in contact to this day.
For whatever reason, many of the former students with whom I still correspond are gay adults. I see them and their creative, successful lives and I am just so thrilled to be a witness to it. Their lives are rich and opportunities seem to be much more fairly distributed than they may have been in the not-too-distant past. The expansion of same sex marriage, and the societal benefits which come with marriage, have finally legitimized a relationship that for far too long had been considered inferior or abnormal.
Things surely are better now. We’re past all that, right?
Except, in recent days there have been a couple of incidents that have me questioning how much progress has truly been made. The first situation involved a public display of LGBTQ reading materials. From what I understand, a community member had a strong and negative response to the materials being showcased and responded with an act of vandalism. Immediately remorseful, the perpetrator offered a sincere confession and evidence of suffering from anxiety. Something about those books triggered* a person to commit violence. The story made me feel really sad.
On a sunny afternoon in Troy a few days after hearing about the act described above, I met Peggy LeGee, a transitioning woman who possesses a level of openness and enthusiasm not often seen. After I took her photo, we spent the next 10 minutes talking about her career in education, performing and art and her upcoming retirement. She was excited for her next chapter, tired from the conflict of realizing herself in an educational setting and suffering professional disciplinary actions as a consequence. It must be exhausting to have your need to express yourself met with resistance and even punishment.
These two examples may not initially seem to be related, but there’s a common theme of acceptance in each, don’t you think? Or maybe I should say, lack thereof. Why isn’t acceptance the default instead of the exception? What do you care about who someone loves? How does it impact you if a person chooses or feels compelled to present themselves as a particular gender or sexuality?
Respecting one another and our own individual need for personal expression and realization shouldn’t be as rare as a mythical beast, or merely for the month of June.
*triggered is only bested by “pushing the envelope” from being my least favorite term, but it’s the right word here.
While it may not have officially been a holiday weekend, it sure felt like one! It started on Thursday with the first Alive at Five for the season. I shot photos on a beautiful evening down by the Hudson for a Seen gallery and it didn’t matter at all that I knew no one present including any of the bands. The sun was shining and, after the rainy spring we’ve experienced, that was enough.
Friday night was the Albany Institute of History and Art’s annual gala and it was a wonderful night. Other than the meal, all of the events were held outside on what was a spectacular evening. Unlike the situation on Thursday, though, there were dozens upon dozens of familiar faces and, along with copious amounts of wine, conversations flowed. Standing on the front lawn of the Institute and looking across Washington Avenue at the building which had been my very first Albany home, was a remarkable reminder of how I’ve grown to be a part of this special city.
Saturday began with a yoga class and flowed into a mellow day of exploring Lark Street’s annual Art on Lark. This is such a great event and, again, the weather gods provided abundant sunshine for the crowds who were browsing artwork, enjoying a bite to eat or soaking up the sounds of one of the performers providing entertainment. Like the previous night, there were so many familiar faces that I was happy to see – and photograph. The evening came with a walk for ice cream and even more music, as the open mic at Emack & Bolio’s provided free entertainment to go with my two scoops.
After yet another refreshingly cool night’s sleep, Sunday started with beer yoga at Fort Orange Brewing. Like my Saturday morning practice, this class was lightly attended but I’m so glad I went. It is always one of my favorites, especially when the “garage” gets opened up and the sun shines in. Definitely the perfect prelude to Albany’s Pride Parade.
What can I say about the Parade? Well, it was amazing and I couldn’t stop smiling. The joy radiating was overwhelming and, while the event was for many the highlight of a month’s worth of LGTBQ activities, the Pride I felt in my city was tremendous. Love is love, friends, and that emotion beamed down upon every person present as warm as the day’s sunshine. It was a fantastic weekend. How was yours?
I’m no army brat, so the term captain isn’t one I use with any frequency. Which is probably why I took note of the fact that I did indeed use the word twice in a single evening recently. Both were in the “proper noun” category, meaning a place and a person, (of sorts) and both have left me feeling reflective. I’m not complaining, it’s not a bad way to be, particularly as my academic years winds down.
So, the first occurrence was related to a mega reunion, involving many graduating classes, which occurred last weekend. While the event initially sounded fun and worthy of a drive “home,” as the date approached it began to feel less and less appealing. I don’t like really big crowds and I didn’t think I would know many people there. My immediate classmate cohort had been a freshman class of 65 which the much larger class(es) we were merged into, in a neighboring district (we didn’t have a high school in my town), had either absorbed or spit out. What was the point of driving 100+ miles to talk to people with whom I wouldn’t necessarily have engaged 35 years ago?
But, then I started seeing the names of the people who were making significant effort to get to Orange County and I reconsidered. I still didn’t feel comfortable going to the large, and probably loud, outdoor party on Saturday, but there was an interest in a Friday evening social at a local place that everyone there had memories of hanging out at during our late teens and twenties.
The get together was held at the Captain’s Table, a joint where softball teams celebrated after every game, win or lose, when we were kids. It was very much a roadside burger and beer stand, with barstool seating and, as I remember, hinged wooden windows that could be dropped at the end of the night. I learned to like beer there, something I had to do because it was the cheapest alcoholic beverage at the time and I was saving my money to travel.
Friday night’s mixer made me shake my head many times, none of which were particularly bad reasons. I shook my head to clear cobwebs and hopefully recall a long forgotten name. Or history. What was our connection? Shared academic classes? Parties? Did we hang out? Where do you start when you’re talking with someone you haven’t seen in 35 years?
There were, of course, some Laker friends whose names are pretty much etched on my heart. Those people? We really know each other and our histories have been entwined for decades. It takes no effort to remember our shared memories, families, or joint experiences and I’m always happy to see them anywhere. That part is easy.
I stayed at the Table long enough to catch up with a couple of people, eat a burger and drink a beer. That was really all I could manage since I needed to drive north again to spend the night with friends in New Paltz. I left feeling a twinge of regret for
1. Not arranging my schedule better to accommodate staying later and
2. Just not being more comfortable with a crowd.
My takeaway from the happy hour is that I really need to either work on my social skills or avoid placing myself in situations like this in the future. I’m pretty certain that I felt similarly after the last big get together. Maybe I just need to accept that I’m not the reunion type? How do you manage similar events? Any techniques you’d like to share for making reunions more meaningful?
Now, if you’re thinking my second captain of the night was a Captain Morgan and Coke, you’re wrong. It actually involves an adorable addition to the household of friends – a new puppy! Captain is a cocker spaniel who has stolen the hearts, and the shoes, of his new parents since he arrived a couple of weeks ago. It’s been a while since I’ve been around a puppy and I almost forgot how cute they are and how much work they can be! Although Captain is ridiculously adorable and easy to be with (even when he bites my toes), I sincerely salute both of this weekend’s Captains and wish them health and longevity.
In the past decade there was a run of not so great holiday weekends in my life. There had been discoveries and recollections which had left in their wake a slight dread when a three or four-day holiday weekend approached. A good time for all was not guaranteed since unexpected and bad news seemed to arrive as reliably as holiday weekend sales on new cars and large appliances – and I’m not interested in buying any of those things. I’m good, thanks.
This recent extended weekend, though, was different. There was a loose plan for a quick overnight getaway in the Berkshires. Cocktails in a cool and semi-swanky bar bid adieu to the work week and hello to a mini vaca in a delicious way. Museum passes were borrowed from the public library for free admission to a museum that I’ve wanted to visit for some time. The forecast changed from rainy to sunny, a positive change that provided an obvious example of how things can also unexpectedly improve.
Strolling through farmers markets and sipping a Bellini on a sunny terrace are two of the most perfect things to do under blue skies. Especially with someone who treats you well and makes you laugh.
The weekend rolled on with a full morning on the deck with the Sunday NYT, followed by a party with interesting people and a fire which left my hair and clothing pungent with the smell of wood smoke. Spreading four bags of mulch and planting the flowers and herbs from Saturday’s market was Monday’s warmup to a five mile run – with an al fresco nap sandwiched between the more vigorous activities. The grill is definitely back in the rotation and I can’t believe I forgot how easy it is cook dinner when there are not pots or pans left behind to scrub. Ah, the almost summer vibe is strong…
I don’t know that I’ll ever completely forget the bad holiday weekends I’ve experienced, but I also don’t know that’s necessarily a negative thing. We should remember important things and lessons learned, especially when they help one to appreciate their current situation.
Memorial Day Weekend 2019 was, at last, a completely sunny, relaxing, fun, leisurely and most of all, happy, stretch of days. I hope yours was similar.*
*If it wasn’t, keep the faith. There’s always next year – or July 4th.
Until recently, I didn’t realize that one of the things that makes me happiest, is making connections. I like when things come together and add up. It feels good. Prior to having this epiphany, I hadn’t really considered the thread of connections I’ve experienced over the years. Below are a couple of recent ones which came to mind and probably helped to inspire this new self awareness I’m feeling..
Last weekend, a friend in Rome posted on the FB seeking someone visiting Rome at that moment and traveling back to the states shortly thereafter. Within 40 seconds I remembered that I had not one, but two friends currently in that exact situation! After a little social media stalking, I observed that one of my friends had departed Rome earlier in the day, but the other friend was fairly nearby and able to help with the international errand being requested. In return, Rome Friend scored seats at my favorite Trattoria for Foodie Friend doing a Favor. How amazing is that?
In a cool and delicious cafe in Northville, Sacandaga Kitchenette, Runner Friend and I talked with a neighboring couple who were lovely. Childhood sweethearts, they looked amazing and were so interesting to speak with about the race, the village we were in, their home Gloversville and, of course, Richard Russo. The wife said she had met him at an event celebrating his generous support of Gloversville’s public library. I confessed my crush. She asked if I had heard of the other author who hailed from that small and somewhat struggling city? Her mother’s cousin, Joseph Persico?
The name was so familiar, and I had a memory of working a party for Dale Miller and Stone Ends and catering an event in someone’s home. I immediately knew Persico was a nonfiction writer, but couldn’t come up with a title of one of his works without the help of Google. The Colin Powell biography rang a bell. I looked at the date it was published, 1995. Yep, that’s exactly when I worked for Dale. I had worked the book publication party at Joe Persico’s House almost 25 years ago. How funny is that?