Tag 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

Une Ile.

As I’ve said recently (see Darkness On The Edge Of Gastown), I’ve never gone too long without a vacation of some sort, and much as I enjoy Vancouver, my most recent sojourn was of a different nature entirely. Some time ago my sweetie asked rather hesitantly if I’d be interested in a vacation on Kauai with her and a couple of her friends from the Bay Area. Of course, I agreed, wrote the cheque for my obligations and waited for the day to come. My sweetie is a light packer and so we both set off each carrying only a small backpack and rolling carry on bag for a week in the tropics, which is much less than I’m used to stuffing into the car for a weekend in Whistler, but considering the climate and the extortion involved in checking a bag it was worth it.

The flight was uneventful and I won’t bore you with the details, but I miss the old days when my ex and I were Gold Club members and traveled regularly to Vegas in First Class. Alas our favourite airline decided to alienate their most loyal passengers and try to establish a national presence instead of remaining the best carrier on the west coast. I also resent being nickeled and dimed at every point on the trip, but such is life.

We were met at the airport by my sweetie’s friends and despite our tiredness we engaged in the obligatory shopping trip to stock the kitchen of our rented condo. Culture shock: Hawaii is bloody expensive. I mean really, bloody expensive and so I fought hard to bite my tongue and not start every sentence with “How much?!” However, a short walk from the condo to the beach – less than 100 yards – a quick dip in the ocean and a good night’s sleep restored me to the happy, smiling, witty life and soul of the party you all know so well.

One thing I appreciate about vacations now is the lack of an agenda or timetable and the ability to change either, even if there is nothing on them, and the lack of urgency in getting anything done or getting out of the house by a certain time. I most certainly appreciated the opportunity to simply sit on the beach, book in hand and listen to the surf, and that would have been enough for me, but you can’t come all that way and not do something. This is  why I found myself introduced to snorkeling. My sweetie travels all over the south Pacific and spends most of that time in the water so I could hardly refuse. In fact, the decision was taken before we left:

Her: “Do you want to go snorkeling when we are in Hawaii?”

Me: Internal dialogue – ” I’m a poor swimmer, haven’t snorkeled before and hate putting my head underwater.”

External dialogue – ” Of course”.

Four days in the water made me into a convert, although I’m sure that the octopus, Moray eels, scores of tropical fish and the turtle we saw had a hell of a lot to do with it.  I”m not the most adventurous person in the world, so it may surprise you to learn that I also had my first taste of boogie boarding. Yes, you read that correctly. I only tried it on two occasions and managed to catch a couple of good waves. That, coupled with the fact that I didn’t end up a quadriplegic  smells like Napalm in the morning in my book.

One thing I couldn’t get over was the rain. On our first night we went out to dinner and whilst sat on the (thankfully covered)  verandah experienced some truly torrential downpours that ended as suddenly as they began, each being followed by absolute calm and a return in temperature to the mid 70s.

The trip also marked our first anniversary, and so it also included the ritual exchange of gifts – a pendant for my sweetie, and Aloha shirts for me. On seeing the price of the pendant she’d chosen I then understood why she’d offered to pay for the second shirt, although little did I know that she’d secretly bought me a third shirt I’d taken a fancy to but not bought a couple of days previously. Overall, it was a wonderful week away, a chance to bond with her closest friends and an opportunity to develop what for these parts is a healthy tan. Oh, and the kicker? when I finally unpacked, I found in the bottom of my case about a teaspoonful of sand from our favourite snorkeling beach that despite my best efforts had managed to cling to my clothes and smuggle itself through security. I guess that it’s only fair that having gone to visit the island, the island should come and visit me.

Mahalo!

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Filed under Hawaii, snorkeling, travel, vacation

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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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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Filed under dating, friends, personal relationships

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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Jive Turkey. 11/24/12

Digging deep for today’s title. Still, I have to ask, how was your Thanksgiving? Got to say that mine wasn’t bad. Tuesday was a dry run of sorts. It was my regular day to be with the kids, so I brought them to their mums’ house and we hung out as usual, but I ate dinner there as it was curriculum night at school, and there was no way I was going to miss that.

And so it began. STBX had cooked a ham and enough sides to kill a donkey, but that didn’t stop us. Her rationale was that she didn’t think we’d want turkey two days running. I love ham.

Needless to say the 1st and 2nd graders’ play about Tutankhamen was adorable. The senior class had their presentations set up and my son gave a stellar explanation of hieroglyphics and the importance of the Rosetta Stone.

We had Thanksgiving on Wednesday as my Father In Law had to fly back to SFO the next day for a Bridge tournament. For the first time, STBX bought a 15lb organic turkey on the basis that a prepared breast is enough for 3 of us, but seeing as the kids are getting more adventurous, it made sense. Can’t beat the smell of a full, roast turkey. I prepared myself by going to the gym for a full workout and specifically didn’t wear a belt when I got dressed. Everything went incredibly well, I have to say, especially as STBX is aware that I have moved on and now regard myself as  De facto single.

You’d think that would be enough, wouldn’t you?  But no! On Thanksgiving I hit the gym before going to see the kids and give STBX a chance to work out and then went over to a friends’ house for my 2 1/2 th Thanksgiving dinner of the week. I had accepted the open invitation from my friend to spend Thanksgiving with her and her husband. I’m guessing that most of you didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving in the company of a German and a part Apache firefighter, but things are never ordinary when “Ding” is around. This was the topper – turkey AND ham! Spot the overachieving newlywed!  BTW, Ding, it was the best meal I have had in a long time.

Add copious amounts of high end vodka and scotch, some mystery booze and an eggnog pie topping that had to be at least 50% proof and you won’t be surprised to learn that by the end of the evening I had  been given my introduction to “Rock Band”. Popular opinion has it that no one has ever seen the drums get such a thorough pounding until then. Apparently the last time anyone saw a beating like that, Rodney King was involved. Hmm. Maybe I have some unresolved anger issues to work out after all. It wasn’t all fun and games, though, as my attempt at “Won’t Get Fooled Again” on the guitar resulted in a blister that has now turned the most beautiful shade of deep purple you have ever seen.

All joking aside, this week had made me reflect on thanks. I’m thankful for where I am now, that I am happier, more confident, more outgoing than I have ever been. I’m thankful for my kids, who while they can drive me insane, are still the most intelligent, resilient, caring and wonderful kids I will ever know. I’m thankful for all of my friends, because without you, I don’t know if I would be here. I’m thankful for your unconditional love and support. I’m thankful for the possibilities the future holds.

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