Category Archives: friends

I Knew The Bride ( When She Used To Rock And Roll)

There are many wonderful things about  being divorced, most of which are the subjects of prior posts, but having a social life has to be one of the top three, even ranking above not being treated like a mildly retarded houseboy.

This came to the fore when my best friend announced his impending nuptials.  I was fortunate that his bachelor weekend took place on one of my kid free weekends, although my sweetie was not exactly enamoured of eagerness to attend. This of course, was only the prelude to a beach wedding in Mexico. My first reaction to the location was one of mildly stunned disbelief because as a graduate of the same sustainability focused business school as the Bride and Groom I couldn’t help but comment on the huge carbon footprint generated by each attendee. Despite the fact that the resort espoused environmentally friendly values, each of us would have to plant a veritable forest  as a carbon offset. Much better for them to get married in a location convenient to the greatest number of guests and put some of the money saved into funding the free bar at the reception.   Indeed, for the amount I spent on airfare and accommodation I could have been as drunk as a touring Australian rugby team for a month and still have had enough cash left over to pay for a liver transplant.

Of the ten hour trip, including the three hour layover at LAX I will say naught, leaving your imagination to fill in the blanks. We arrived at 11 p.m. local time and turned in as quickly as possible as the rain beat against the windows. It rained for the next 48 hours without a break longer than five minutes as we seemed to have timed our arrival to coincide with a tropical storm. Not to worry, as we were on the upper floor of the building.  Little did we suspect that this was, in fact, the shallow end. We awoke on the second morning to find a substantial pool of water on the tiles and resorted to using beach towels to dry the floor. The mat at the end of the bed was a thick bathroom mat and when I hung it over the edge of the shower, water poured out of it like it was a bucket. Not a good sign, but seeing as the design of the room relied on natural ventilation, there was no way of stopping the deluge, so we just dealt with it and turned on the fan in the vain hope of inducing some evaporation.

This wasn’t the room’s only shortcoming. Apparently Mexican plumbing is unable to cope with paper, hence the lidded container in the bathroom about which I shall say no more, except to point out that my disquiet at this is that someone had to empty it every day, a job I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Not to go all Sex Pistols on you, but some of the living conditions I  saw on the trip really brought home to me how easy most of us have it. Squalor isn’t the word, and it made me wonder just how people manage to keep their sanity whilst living under such conditions. Take Valladolid for example. The center of the city is full of wonderful colonial era buildings, one of which housed the hotel at which we ate lunch, but in order to get there, we had to pass through what I can only describe as being an area just above the level of a Favella, yet there we were in our air conditioned bus heading for one of the best meals we will ever have.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch the foul weather abated in time for the wedding, almost as if someone had made a human sacrifice to the sun. I did find it rather strange to see the Groom standing in front of the Gazebo on the beach wearing a very tasteful tie and what I can only assume was his acquittal suit, yet barefoot. the Bride looked as stunning as only a  bride can, of course and the service was mercifully short.  it seemed a heck of a long way to travel for such a short ceremony, but I guess there’s no need to drag it out any longer than necessary.

Of course the evening ended with much eating and drinking. Especially the drinking. We left early as it was clear that the party would consist of nothing but dancing, and to coin a phrase, “Charlie don’t surf”.

Side trips to the truly stunning and awe inspiring runs at  Chichen Itza and Tulum as well as a stop at an incredible Cenote were highlights of the trip, as was my being able to upgrade to first class on the thankfully direct flight home. I had a horror show of a final day and was afraid I’d miss my flight, so the copious amounts of Vodka available made the trip home a darn sight more relaxing than it would have been had I been in Coach.

There were many lowlights, of which I won’t speak here, but will keep them for a later post, as they brought up a lot of emotions that I’d rather not expand upon right now.

It was funny to be present at a wedding for two people who obviously love each other deeply and are perfect for each other from the perspective of someone who found himself in a domestic arrangement devoid of almost all intimacy, respect or understanding. I found my self both jealous ( not in a bad way) and happy for my friends as they are both truly wonderful people who will no doubt enjoy a long, happy,fulfilling and supportive marriage. I couldn’t help but think “So that’s what it looks like”.

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Filed under friends, Mexico, vacation, Weddings

Happy Birthday

I celebrated a birthday recently. Nothing unusual in that you may say, but it is the first one I’ve celebrated in a decade. My daughter was born on my 41st birthday, and as you can imagine, one can’t compete with that, so whilst we all had much fun decorating the garden in pink and purple, setting up Princess Pavilions, organising craft activities, inflating bouncy castles and balloons, my birthday was acknowledged begrudgingly, if at all by my Ex mentioning it in passing as the birthday party morphed into a late evening barbeque with our friends.

Lest you all reach for the world’s smallest violin, I’m not invoking victimhood. I love my daughter and will always put her first, but it’s nice to have some recognition of having survived yet another lap around Sol.

This year was different. I hit the big five-oh and my sweetie wanted to make sure that the event didn’t go unremarked. I drew up a list and she sent out emails and made all the arrangements whilst I remained in blissful ignorance ( “No change there” I hear you say) until the day.

This is where it got weird. I usually spend the day shifting tables, setting up and generally making sure everything is organised whilst my Ex worked her way down her list of tasks. “A woman’s work is never delegated” as Basil Fawlty once remarked, so it was no wonder that I felt more than a little guilt sitting in her kitchen while she busied herself with the final preparations, insisting that I relax. Seeing how much energy she was putting into the event made me realise just how much effort I had expended in the past and how much I was treated like a servant in my own home.

Of course the evening was a great success, with much drinking, eating and conversation, and I can’t begin to explain how nice it was to be able to sit down and just enjoy an entire afternoon without having to run inside to deal with some minor chore every ten minutes. The decorations were overwhelmingly red and white and my sweetie had even gone to the great extravagance of buying Liverpool Football Club paper plates, cups and hats for the occasion. The cake was an amazing rendition of the Liverpool crest, and I just couldn’t believe that she had gone to so much effort on my behalf.

Then of course, came the gifts which fell into two categories. The useful ones were incredibly on target and much appreciated. The gag gifts also had a lot of thought behind them, including the pack of replacement pencil leads (think about that one),and the place mat with my head stuck onto the bodies of assorted dinosaurs. I was truly humbled by the amount of effort and thought that had gone into each gift. My friends are a truly wonderful bunch, and to be the centre of their attention humbled me in a way that I have rarely experienced.

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We Are Going To Be Friends.

I’m sure that at one time or another each of us has been in one or both of the following situations; either introducing two friends from different parts of our lives, or being introduced to people from another part of a mutual friend’s life. I’ve been in both situations recently. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin. A couple of months ago, my sweetie suggested that we get together for drinks and tapas with some of her friends one Saturday afternoon.  This is, as you know, something of a major development in a relationship, and I took it as an indication that she was comfortable enough in our relationship to introduce me to her wider circle. So, off we hied to a local tapas bar for Happy Hour, during which I met three of her best friends. They were all charming, witty, intelligent and amusing, so things went well, with lots of jokes and a level of  casual intimacy that suggested that I’d passed the test. Yay for me!

This  belief was confirmed when the five of us got together for dinner a couple of weeks later at the home of one of the aforementioned friends. All went well, as did a second event last week, in which I supplied ample amounts of home brewed beer. It’s always reassuring to learn that you have been accepted by a wider group, and that your sweetie has the confidence to want to introduce you to their wider circle. No matter what we might think, the approval of our friends is an important aspect of any relationship. Having seen how my Ex has alienated her two closest friends with her choice of new partner, I know how much effect this can have.

My sweetie has already met my friends – see “Girlfriend Is Better” and “Tango Funebre”, and passed the test with flying colors, but there is an even more important test in my situation; meeting the kids. My ex and I had agreed not to introduce anyone new to the kids until the relationship had reached the six month mark, and agreement to which I, and only I stuck.  I will admit that I had more than a little trepidation in broaching the subject with my sweetie, as it is much more of an acid test than meeting friends. Luckily, she had already told me about a museum exhibit that would interest the kids, so I suggested that meeting us there would be a good introduction; we’d be on neutral ground and the kids would be interested enough in the exhibits that her presence would not be seen as anything unusual, there being plenty of other distractions.

My other major concern was how the kids would react to the news, so I brought up the subject at dinner the night before. They already knew about the museum trip, and to my surprise and immense relief were completely nonplussed to learn that “My friend” would be joining us. As we waited outside the museum, my daughter, as expected, was all questions and nervous energy, making both me and my son dizzy as she did her best impression of a Whirling Dervish on speed. To my immense relief, the visit went well;  the kids were intrigued by the Lego sculptures and spend quite a while making their own, before we explored the rest of the museum. I must admit that whilst my daughter enjoyed the ‘Hands on” exhibits, my son was less than enthralled, and my failure as a father was rubbed in a few minutes later when he announced that the Jimi Hendrix exhibit was “Not interesting”.  Mind you, this is a boy who listens to medieval English plainsong and polyphony in order to get to sleep and listens to The Blackeyed Peas in the shower, so  he still has a way to go, although my daughter refers to Frank Sinatra as “That really good singer”.

We retreated to a nearby pizza restaurant where my son really came out of his shell, which I had expected,as he takes a while to warm up to new people, whilst my daughter, the social butterfly had been fully engaged since the start.Thankfully, my sweetie really liked meeting the kids. As someone who had made a conscious decision not to have kids, I did wonder how she would react, but she took it all in her stride.

So this is the elephant in the room; what would I have done if things had gone differently? If the kids had  not liked her and spent the whole time being sullen and sulky, or if my sweetie had been unable to cope with the kids, what then? Would I have brought the relationship to an end? There is no way I would have my kids around someone who didn’t like them or whom they didn’t like, and the bottom line is that my kids are part of the deal.  I will admit that I had spent several days on tenterhooks prior to last Saturday as it was pretty much a make or break event and I was mightily relieved when all went well.

We will be taking things slowly, but now that they have met, it should be easier from now on. The next step is her coming to the island and meeting us for dinner. We want to take the process slowly and not rush ahead to the part where all four of us are in the house over night. That may take a while but on the basis of this first step, I think things should go well.

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Filed under dating, friends, lifestyle

Creep.

As you know, I’ve made no secret of my dating experiences, which, by and large, have been positive ones. The women have been in general, intelligent, charming, witty and attractive, even if our first meeting was our last. I had assumed that my ex had begun dating even before she announced that she wanted a divorce, but I was informed recently by an impeccable source that in fact she didn’t start dating until after she had learned that I had. I don’t know how early she started dating, or what kind of guy she would want to date, but now the pieces have fallen into place.

Let me back up a little. A few months ago I was getting the kids ready to take them back to their house after their weekend with me when in response to her brother, my daughter said “Oh good, that means I get to meet Ryder”. I assumed that this was a new horse at the stables where she takes lessons, and let the remark go. Imagine my surprise when upon exiting the car we were assailed by a large dog of somewhat mixed heritage. This, I learned was the “Ryder” in question, and my son then informed me that his mother was
“Taking care of it for a friend”. I said nothing, being too busy extracting  burning fragments of bullshit detector from the walls and treating the  wounds I suffered in  the explosion.

After their next visit, I saw a guy in the far reaches of the garden, and was informed by my daughter  that this was “Andrew”, a friend of her mothers’ who was helping with the garden. It was then that I decided to spare no expense and invest in a really high end, industrial strength bullshit detector. They don’t come cheap, but in the long run they are more cost effective than the ongoing cost of  bandages, Neosporin and fire extinguishers.

I never doubted that at some point she would start dating, but when we were having counseling sessions, we both agreed to give the other a polite heads up if we started dating someone on a regular basis and would wait six months before introducing anyone new to the kids. For the record, I’ve stuck to that second rule, but as she seems to have torn up the agreement, I see no need to inform her of my current situation.

I did wonder about him, but as my ex said nothing, I refused to give her the satisfaction of seeing me make the first move. I had expected that at some point either she would say something or he would at least introduce himself, no matter how sheepishly, but not so. In fact, he didn’t even have the guts to look me in the eye, making sure he got as far away from me as possible, even when he had to walk within three feet of me to get out of the garage when I arrived just as they were unloading the car after a Costco trip.

Even when in the same room, he lacked the courage to act like an adult. On walking into the kitchen one Friday to collect the kids for the weekend, I saw him sitting at the counter eating a sandwich. Rather than stay where he was, I spied him out of the corner of my eye slipping out of the back door like a loose turd. And this from a man who is supposedly in the armed forces, purportedly an Army Ranger. Hmm, if that is the kind of individual on whom this country depends, Darwin help us.

Since then, my opinion of him has not improved. Far from it, in fact. Apparently, he chews tobacco and then spits into used soda bottles. Charming, really charming. He also lacks the ability to put anything away, as his gear litters every spare inch of floor space. He has been heard swearing in front of the kids, and is a redneck to boot! Apparently the first time he met my ex Father In Law he got into a heated political argument. Nice. My ex Father in Law is very liberal, very well read and a PhD, and  yet this Fox “News” watcher tried to argue politics with him?

The kicker, however, came a few weeks ago. I received a text from a friend saying that she and another friend of ours wanted to have a talk about my kids. Apparently, GI Joe had forced my daughter to perform some sort of military calisthenics as punishment. Yes, you read that correctly. Thankfully he has not laid a hand on either of the kids, but if he ever does, I guarantee that I will put him in a wheelchair. As a result of his boorishness and my ex’s inability to see the situation, our two closest friends have cut off all contact with her, and refused to let their kids associate with ours at their house. Bear in mind that my son has known two of these kids since he was two years old, and my daughter has known all four of them all her life, and you can imagine what this means.

I had a chat with the kids about the situation, and both of them understand that he is not their father, has no right to tell them what to do and that they do not have to listen to him. In fact, I made it quite clear to both of them that if they felt uncomfortable at any time that they should call me and I would come and collect them.

Now, I realise that I am not the perfect partner. I accept and acknowledge my wide range of faults, but since when did regaining singledom mean that someone trades down? I know that sounds harsh, but really? Has my ex’s self esteem dropped so low, is she so lonely and desperate that she is willing to accept a tobacco chewing redneck enlisted man as her best option? To be honest, I only really care about the kids in all this. She can go to hell in a handcart for all I care. I know that sounds harsh, but as we told the kids when they were small, choices have consequences. I can’t imagine she is actually happy with the situation, especially as he is out of the state for several days at a time, and I have no reason to believe that he can be trusted to be faithful to her. May she live in interesting times.

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Filed under Divorce, family, friends

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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Sharp Dressed Man

SHARP DRESSED MAN. 08/01/13

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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