Monthly Archives: November 2013

Girlfriend Is Better.

There comes a point in any relationship that lasts beyond the first morning when you meet each others’ friends. With luck, this will happen in an inviting environment and will involve everyone having a drink in their hand and probably a plate in front of them.  This serves two purposes: It proves to your sweetie that you aren’t some sad, pathetic loser, and it proves to your friends that your girlfriend isn’t imaginary. The operative phrase here is “With luck”. Alas, things do not always go as planned.

Just before Halloween, my sweetie convinced me to attend the haunted house at the old mortuary in Georgetown. I will admit that this is most definitely not my thing, not that I’m easily scared, it’s just that confined spaces are not my thing, and I don’t respond well to strobe lights. That being said, we had a good time and returned to her house for a relaxing end to the evening.  No sooner had I removed my shoes and sat down than I was summoned by a rather frantic cry. Water ( and thankfully it was only water) was pouring out of the toilet and shower stall onto the bathroom floor. Long story short: I spent 45 minutes mopping the floor with a variety of towels, putting them down as a barrier at the threshold and then wringing them in turn into the teacup sized sink. Very little water made it into the bedroom, and the emergency plumber discovered the root cause – the guest of an upstairs resident had disposed of some feminine hygiene products by flushing them! Ugh! It under these circumstances  that I was introduced to two of the neighbours,- standing in half an inch of thankfully clean water, wringing out towels like a washerwoman on speed. Not the best way to meet people, but it could have been worse.

It was worse. We had arranged to get together the following Monday,  me picking her up from work and heading to her place for a quiet evening. Alas, this was the same Monday when we learned of the sudden death of our friend ( see “Tango Funebre”).  An impromptu gathering had been organised, and as I could hardly take her home and head off to the gathering, we both attended. She knew some of the dozen people there by name and through stories, but had met none of them. Not the best of social occasions to meet new people, but she could see and understand  the depth of our grief and bewilderment, and the group accepted her as one of our own. I can’t imagine how she felt, surrounded by strangers numbed by shock and trying to make some sort of sense of the news. I’m sure that at first we must have seemed like zombies, but as the evening progressed, we all took comfort from each others’ presence and a kind of balance was achieved.

Needless to say, alcohol played a part in evening, replacing one kind of numbness with another, and I was grateful for the fact that she maintained a level of sobriety that was far beyond my ability. I had warned her in advance that I probably wouldn’t be in a fit state to drive, and for once, I proved Yogi Berra wrong.  I dread to imagine what she thought as I stumbled to bed, falling into a deep, dreamless unconsciousness within minutes of arriving home, but I do appreciate her for having the decency not to pass judgement or say anything about it the next day.

As if that wasn’t enough, we had planned to spend that weekend at my place,  relaxing, watching a movie or two, generally enjoying each others’ company, but  instead found ourselves attending the memorial service. I felt terrible telling her that she would have to fend for herself at lunchtime due to the fact that those of us acting as ushers would be meeting at the pub and had decided that we needed time alone as a group in order to process the weeks’ events and reconnect. She took the news with equanimity, understanding that at times like this, the circle needs to draw tighter and that there is a need to express emotion without restraint or the need for explanation. At both the formal reception and the informal gathering afterwards she understood my need to catch up with people, some of whom I hadn’t seen in over a year, and was accepting of my sometimes brief and jargon laden explanations.  Again, I felt guilt over leaving her to fend for herself for so much of the day in a veritable ocean of strange faces and unfamiliar terms, especially under such emotion laden conditions, but again, she accepted the circumstances and at least now has a deeper understanding of just what a special place my school is, and how it breeds a sense of community like no other.  Additionally, I got to see how she responds to extreme circumstances at short notice, how she deals with other peoples’ grief and how much she is willing to put up with from me. I only hope that I can do the same if the tables are ever reversed.



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Tango Funebre

Three weeks ago today, the world lost a truly wonderful human being. Witty, charming, intelligent, self effacing and always willing to help. His death is proof that the world isn’t fair, as if any of us needed it. I found out by chance, glancing down at my phone as I sat on the futon reading, I saw I had a message waiting, and read with increasing horror and disbelief of the death of a friend I had known for four years.

Suffice it to say that the rest of the day was spent in a blur of emails and Facebook posts as the community came together in order to share its’ collective grief and attempt to process the news. When one learns of news like this, there is a need to congregate, share stories and attempt to make sense of events in a group setting, and this was achieved through an ad hoc gathering at a tribemates’ home . Normally, such meetings are joyous affairs, with much joking and ribbing, but this was different. The room held an air of stunned incomprehension as we all tried to make sense of the days’ news, swapped stories of the last time we’d seen our friend and attempted to numb the pain with alcohol.

Five days later, we gathered at a local church for a memorial service. I and four others who had been in the same close learning circle as our friend acted as ushers, handing out programs, directing attendees and trying ( although not succeeding) in maintaining an air of calm. Around 250 people attended, with another 55 watching proceedings online, and it was heartening to see the extent to which our friend had affected the lives of others, as well as the respect, appreciation and love the community had for him. I doubt if anyone remained dry eyed through the memorial, and I will admit to losing it, especially during the singing of “All Through The Night” which ended the event.

But life goes on, we all have to continue with our regular activities, not as an insult to those who have passed on, but as proof that we remember them, honour their lives and keep the memory of them alive with us. After a formal reception, many of us adjourned to a tribemates’ house for a second gathering, which I know our friend would have enjoyed. Drinks flowed, plates were filled and emptied, stories were repeated and jokes told, so that the pain of the day was softened by the presence of so many people whom we had not seen for many months. It was hard on all of us, no one could truly comprehend that someone as vital, loving and caring as our friend was no longer with us. I’m not going to descend into platitudes, but it was clear during the weekend that the whole community developed a sense of how fragile life is, that no opportunity to meet with friends should ever be passed up, that we need to stay close to those whom we had previously regarded as peripheral. This is not to say that we don’t grieve for our friend, or have concern for the welfare of his wife and children, but there is now an awareness that even the bitterest of events can bring forth an understanding of how much love one person can create, and a sweetness in shared memories and experiences.

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Doctor Doctor.

I’ve always been in pretty good health. I’ve never been hospitalised, only had one surgery, and that was as an out patient, and have never broken anything except wind, although there are some who would say that I need to see a physician about that. Not that I’m blase about my health, far from it, but apart from the occasional visit, I never give my well being  second thought.

All this changed recently though. Whilst dropping the kids off for their weekend with me, my ex handed me a letter from the insurance company that informed me that I had been dropped from her plan as of Halloween. This did not exactly come as a shock to me, as I knew that she would be dropping me from the plan at some point after the divorce. At least it took her this long, so I have been able to build up a stockpile of my meds. All this means that for the past 2 weeks I have been flying without a parachute when it comes to healthcare. Yes, I know that the ACA has kicked in, despite all the haters have done, and are trying to do in order to to stop it, but here’s the thing. I can’t afford to sign up, and can’t afford to pay the fine for not signing up. Joseph Heller, where are you when we need you?

There is an upside, though. After my next birthday I am supposed to have the check most likely to induce discomfort and indeed jokes  in men. Yep, that one. If I’m not covered by then, it won’t be an issue, and it will avoid a potentially awkward moment. What if, whilst he’s performing the exam, I call out the name of another doctor by mistake? How embarrassing would that be? Although it would give me another excuse not to shake his hand afterwards, I suppose.

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All I Want

ALL I WANT. 08/04/13

I have no solid basis for this, but I’m pretty sure that humanity invented the word “Want” about 10 minutes after it invented fire. As soon as people have something, they want something better, be it a bigger cave in a nicer part of the valley, a spear with  a sharper point or an iPhone 5. It’s an evolutionary imperative. If we didn’t have wants, we’d all still be living in crappy caves with not enough storage, a lousy view and last years’ style in loin cloths.

However, some of our species seem to have missed that  cave painting. Take my son, for instance. He’s a truly great kid with a great future ahead of him. He’s caring, articulate, insightful and thoughtful, all truly commendable qualities in a fully rounded human being, but he has almost no needs.

Let me explain. After we drop his sister off at her riding class, we have just over an hour to ourselves. I ask him what he wants to do, and invariably it is a trip to the bakery for a cookie. Actually, usually two, if they only have the regular sized ones, but given the full run of the store he makes a modest selection and is inordinately happy with his choice.

Birthdays are a case in point. I gave his sister a gift card for the American Girl Doll store for a not insignificant amount which made her very happy. If you’ve seen the catalogue, you will understand just how pricey the stuff is, yet my son had some trouble in even thinking of ideas for gifts and settled eventually on a pair of cordless headphones for his desktop.  I felt bad about not getting him something else, but he’s not interested in having things just to have them, so why waste the money? “How very un-American” I hear you say, but that’s how it is.

Whilst in town  last week he stopped at the outdoor bargain table of a local store and was very keen on the USB hubs for sale. Long story short, it cost me $1.90 to buy one for him   ( and one for me) , and he was delighted. How wonderful to be happy with such a simple thing. To take it down another few levels, after a particularly warm afternoon at the beach with his friends I offered him the choice between Ice Cream and Lemonade as a way to cool off. He chose the latter, and as I didn’t feel like driving for the 15 minutes it would have took us to go to his favourite spot, we headed to my favourite pub. This is how bad a father I am: I didn’t realise that he doesn’t like carbonated drinks, which is all they had. He was happy, and I mean actually happy with a pint of ice water and a pint glass filled with pretzels. I have a kid who is happy with bread and water. How the fuck do you come to terms with that?

This makes it very hard for me to deny his requests on the rare occasions when he does ask for something. When in the store he will make a hesitant request for either Cheezits  or Wheat Thins. I know they aren’t exactly the healthiest things in the world, but he could be eating a lot worse. When I say “Yes’, as I invariably do, he picks up a standard size box, even though the larger ones are right along side.  Greed is a concept I’m pretty sure he doesn’t understand.

None of this is a complaint, I just have difficulty with the polarity of wanting to fulfill all my kids’ material needs when one of them doesn’t really have any.

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Sharp Dressed Man


I’m just going to sit here for a few seconds while the bass line drills its’ way through your consciousness  like the evil brain worm it is. As even a blind man on a speeding horse could tell you, and as I’ve mentioned previously, I don’t exactly go out of my way to look flash. Married parenthood tends to lend itself towards comfort rather more than style.  Most new parents have had at least one, if not more favourite or special items of clothing ruined by the actions of their offspring, be it the  accidental “spillage” of a newborn, the effects of the drier on a wayward crayon, or one of the more creative acts of a budding artist.

Such situations, plus the fact that what little social interaction as is available is with people in similar circumstances means that practicality wins out every time over style, like the Yankees playing the Peoria Mudhens.

However, my new found singledom has meant that my wardrobe is sadly lacking in modernity, flair, elan and all the things one needs to make that all important first impression.  Luckily I am blessed with better friends than I deserve, one of whom offered her services as style guru for a shopping trip that can be best described as a hetero version of “Queer Eye For The Straight Guy”.

I gave my guide free rein, knowing that she would push me beyond my comfort zone without making me wear anything that wouldn’t work, and she delivered in spades, in what can only be regarded as a sartorial equivalent of LPD (Leadership and Personal Development –  a core course at my business school). After a quick, and uninspiring sweep of one store we headed out across downtown where I was presented with several stacks of potential purchases. I hadn’t realised just how tiring it is to be constantly changing clothes. All that buttoning, unbuttoning, stepping in and out, pulling on, etc gets tiring, but pays dividends in the end.

There is a great deal of satisfaction to be had from realising that you do indeed fit a size two sizes smaller than you normally wear, or that contrary to what you might have thought, you do look good in a  particular colour. As an aside, you will indulge me if I don’t go into the details of my purchases as it will spoil the effect when they finally go public.

Shoes, however, are a different matter. I buy Costco brand sneakers. They’re cheap, durable and comfortable. The closest I have come to buying real shoes in the past seven years is three pairs of brown slip ons, from Costco, of course, that work well either with jeans or khakis, but that’s it. Our last stop of the day was at Nordstrom.  Ooh boy!  Now I get what all the fuss is about, ladies. I ended up spending only slightly less on three pairs of shoes than I did on all my other clothing combined. The canvas shoes were a must, as I have to have at least one pair I can wear with shorts. The Chukkas are a bit more hipster than I’m used to, but that’s not a very high hurdle to clear. However, the  highlight of the evening were a pair of gorgeous brown brogues, wonderfully tooled and with the glow of lovingly maintained antique Walnut furniture.

I spent more on that one pair of shoes than on all my other shoe purchases in the previous decade combined. I kid you not.

Laden down with  five bags, we repaired to a restaurant for Happy Hour as a reward for my companions’ display of courage above and beyond the call of duty, and my need to ease the pain of spending the equivalent of a months’ rent in four hours on clothing. Needless to say, an hour and a half later, the restorative effects of a couple of Manhattans and several plates of very tasty sushi revived our flagging spirits for less than the cost of one shoe. Again, money well spent.

Having said all that, I had a fantastic time.  I got to spend several hours enjoying the undivided attention of one of my all time favourite people, I underwent a major transformational  experience and have given my wardrobe a sorely need update. I wish I’d done this years ago, but at least now I have no excuse not  to dress like someone from the 21st Century. Thanks, Sweetie.

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Eight Days A Week


 I could just as easily called this post “Unbelievable”, truth be told. See, I don’t really believe it either.
 Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin. (research the reference). The week of July 15th was something of a watershed for me. See, I had six dates in seven days. Yes, you read that correctly.  Now, admittedly two of them were with the same woman who is a friend, so they don’t technically count as dates, but to an outsider they would appear so, and as one of them was a happy hour, you get my drift.
It seems I have crossed some sort of self confidence barrier, and it shows.
One date was a complete waste of time, and I had my suspicions before I even left the house. These were confirmed when my companion expressed disappointment that the Museum Of Glass didn’t have any Chihuly pieces, and didn’t understand the phrase “In Extremis”.
One was a second date at a very nice cocktail bar on Cap. Hill, which went very well indeed. My date was a very sweet college administrator  who arrived looking most charming indeed, and didn’t even bat an eyelid upon learning of my habit of disappearing down rabbit holes in my reading habits.
I must have come across as very non threatening, as she  offered to drive me back to my stop. After she parked, she responded most positively to my suggestion that we meet again, either for a movie or the theatre. I don’t know if this is actually possible, but after we hugged goodbye she gave me a kiss that was both rushed and hesitant at the same time. As I say, she’s very sweet, and it really warmed my heart.
My first trip to Tacoma that week had been somewhat more productive than the second. Not only was my date a teacher, and therefore very well educated, but she had taken on the challenge of changing my opinion of Tacoma. After a very nice lunch we made a brief stop at the Federal Courthouse – No, not what you think, but to see the Chihuly art there followed by my first trip to  the Museum Of Glass.  We had a chance to chat over a drink afterwards, and again, I must have made a good impression as she agreed to meeting again as she dropped me off at my car.
Then comes the highlight of the week. Long story short. We’d both picked each other and had some email and phone exchanges a few weeks prior before she’d had to back off, due to some heavy stuff going down. I backed off in order to give her some space, but she emailed me a week before I’d intended to reconnect. The date went extremely well, after some logistical problems, but we hit it off immediately. We found we had a lot in common and the conversation went on long into the evening. I won’t go into detail, but the evening ended with a very long and enjoyable goodbye, with the promise of much, much more to come.
Whisky Tango Foxtrot? I mean, seriously! Even when I was half my current age I never received this kind of attention. Despite the incredibly low hurdle, what gives? Have I been seriously underrating myself all these years? I know that the marriage did a great deal of damage to my self confidence, sense of self worth and self image, but really, is it that easy?

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Dedicated Follower Of Fashion



As those of you who know me will have realised by now, I’m not one for getting dressed up. As far as I’m concerned, as long as my jeans and T shirt don’t have too many holes, I’m fit to be seen in public. Yes, I do have an acquittal suit, and it does change your attitude and outlook when dressed up, but mostly I regard clothes as something essential but not important.

Dating has changed this to some extent, but not having much of an eye for these things, I have stuck with the basics when buying clothes for going out. O.K. Costo. There, I’ve said it. I can ( and indeed do) clothe myself entirely from Costos’ huge stacks.

It’s just not been an issue for me until a friend for whom I have an inordinate appreciation said that I dressed like “Someone from the last century”. Quite an accurate description, actually, especially since I am still wearing T shirts I brought with me from the U.K in 1992 which were far from new even then.

I called her bluff on her offer to take me clothes shopping and proceeded henceforth to check Pinterest, as the only magazines I read – “When Saturday Comes” and “The Economist” are sadly lacking style sections. I thought this would be a fairly quick and easy task, but I was sadly mistaken.

We’re all pretty much used to the ridiculousness of female fashion, but I was unaware that the absurdity had spread to  the Menswear department. In the approximately two hours I spent scrolling through I found precisely nine pictures that suited me. Nine. That’s about 0.001% of all the pictures, the rest of which fell into four distinct categories.:

1. You’re not actually going out in public dressed like that, are you?
2. Laughing so hard the tears ran down my legs.
3. Slack jawed bewilderment.
4. Nazi homo – eroticism.

I honestly expected some of the pictures to be captioned “Now is the time on “Sprockets” when we dance”.

Thing is, I can’t really get a good sense of what the clothes look like until I see them in the store, so it’s going to be a fun, and I’m pretty sure, tiring day when we do get organised. Still, I’m pretty certain it will be worth it in the long run.

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Twistin’ By The Pool


Having two kids with birthdays less than three weeks apart has had both benefits and drawbacks over the years, most noticeably the very similar guest lists, as my son includes his friends’ siblings and my daughter likewise. A lot of our friends have two kids, almost all about the same age as ours, so the only real difference has been the content of the goodie bags, the nature of any crafts involved and the amount of pink and purple present.

This year, after toying with the idea of a party at the local horse riding school, my daughter decided on a pool party at the local Aquatic Centre. Previous years have involved the renting of a bouncy castle and the provision of cake, ice cream and enough room for them to run around like lunatics followed by the slow transition into a barbeque for close friends until it becomes too dark to see.

This wouldn’t happen this year, largely due to the logistics, the “drop off” nature of the party and my Dad not being here for the first time since Mum died. On the plus side, there was very little to organise as the A.C. took care of the cake, ice cream and utensils, so all we had to do was organise goodie bags, which my ex had already prepared. Of course, the kids had a blast, and seeing as it wasn’t my custodial  weekend, I departed after the cake cutting as I had to go home and change for a date.

One week later, today, in fact, we found ourselves in the same situation, as my son had decided on a pool party too. The crowd was much smaller due to many of his friends being away camping or with the non resident custodial parent. Funnily enough, he didn’t care and had just as much fun with the 6 other kids present as his sister had the week before with twice the number.

What it is to be satisfied with simple pleasures. Also, three hours in the pool tires out kids a darn sight faster than 6 hours running round the garden, bouncy castle or not, so the wind down was much smoother and easier.

I have to say that I’m very happy that both the kids seem to enjoy whatever they have. They’re not driven by the desire for more simply for the sake of having more. Not that I’m bragging, but I think we did a pretty good job of getting them this far without them turning into the type of snide little brat one sees so often nowadays.

All in all a very successful week.

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Avec Elegance


I’m realising just how much women my age care about their appearance and how little my ex did. Case in point: yesterday I had a very enjoyable dinner at a well known waterside restaurant. And no, I’m NOT talking about Ivars’ acres of clams!  I’m not a spendthrift, but neither am I a miser.

Anyway, my point is this: my companion was a very charming lady who despite the fact that this was our first meeting had obviously given some thought to her appearance, even though the deck was most definitely stacked in her favour, as it is for all women on dates. No Capris and T Shirt for her.  She was dressed stylishly but in an understated way, her hemline being neither too short nor too long, her hair left loose and her neckline neither plunging nor hugging her chin, her arms bare.

Everything about her appearance suggested a successful, confident businesswoman who knows what she wants and is used to being in charge. Guess what? That’s exactly what she is. I guess, though, that women tread a fine line: how to appear attractive without looking too obvious , how to show confidence without appearing bossy, how to show interest without giving a misleading impression.

Anyway, I take it as a good sign that we sat chatting for quite some time after the bill arrived. Bill? to be honest, it was large enough to be called William, never mind Bill. She was graceful right to the end of the evening, and I’ll take it as a sign of interest that she raised the question of us meeting again, something that I  want very much, if for no other reason that it was such a pleasure to spend the evening engaged in intelligent, stimulating wide ranging conversation that never flagged and never resorted to the linguistic tricks and innuendos that so often ruin an evening.

Question. Is it true that if he plays with her hair she’s interested? I do hope so, because she adjusted her hair  (Just below shoulder length and naturally blonde)every few minutes, and we were at the table for well over 3 hours.

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July 4th has never been a particularly easy holiday for me. I put up with it, go along with the day, pack away a few beers, but that’s about it. Try and see it from my perspective. It’s a bit like celebrating D – Day in front of Germans, or the fall of Saigon in front of Americans. Get the picture? Good!

This year, however, was much, much easier. I took my early awakening as an opportunity to get things done, and so spent the morning in the traditional way by brewing some Belgian beer and watching a Japanese movie – “Gojira”, to be precise. What could be more American?

I was glad of the early start, however, when at just after 2pm, the power failed. I spent the following 9 hours in splendid isolation, sitting on the deck reading and listening to podcasts, with a 2 hour nap in the middle. A very relaxing day, with the added bonus of watching the sun sink slowly in the west, the sky turning from pale blue to yellow, orange, red and deep blue before settling in to a deep, deep black, a fireworks display that put to shame the best efforts of the Chinese chemists whose products rent the evening air with screeches,flashes, bangs and pops.

It’s funny, but I really enjoyed the day, seeing as I had no distractions and was able to follow wherever my fancy led me. I had to laugh when my ex asked me the next day: “Did you come to the parade?” Why in the name of Bonaparte’s balls would I drive to her town to watch a parade? I guess she was pissed off that I hadn’t asked to come to her barbeque, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to give her the benefit of that win.

All in all, a very enjoyable day. Perhaps I should hope for a few more power outages during the year. Thanksgiving would be a good one, don’t you think?

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