Death washes upon the beach daily – mostly birds: cormorants, pelicans, grebes, gulls, and lately, seals. The sea sweeps their broken, swollen bodies onto the shore. The breaking waves offer them up, then roll them back and forth as if deciding whether to hold on or let go, much as we grasp what’s left of our lost loved ones – anything, good, bad, indifferent. This belonged to him. She gave this to me. We fought over this. Eventually the tide recedes beaching the carcasses of shell and meat. Reality sets in.
Somehow the carcasses are removed. To where, it doesn’t really matter. Their life essence is elsewhere. Their death seems complete. Natural. Simple. Or is there a mate, child, parent or sibling out at sea mourning? A cormorant resting upon the rocks with grief inflating its breast, bursting from the heart outwards. A pelican diving to hide its tears. A grebe floating lost in memory. A gull wallowing in a depression it doesn’t even realize is there. A seal howling its sorrow into the wind.
I have a bad habit when I drink. I invite guests. This wouldn’t be an issue, except that people take me up on my invitations when I’m sober. While we were doing silly dances on the club floor, yes, I invited you to spend New Year’s Eve with us. I even offered to let you stay at our place. Was I sincere? Probably not. Actually, no, I didn’t mean it. Had you asked me while I was tipsy if I meant it, I would have been frank. Sadly, my sober persona can’t seem to speak the truth. Rather I pay the consequences. The New Year’s Eve guest not only spent the night but the night of New Year’s Day as well. I believe the only reason this guest left was do to the awkwardness of the increasingly hushed conspiratorial tones Superman and I took while discussing how to rid ourselves of this person.
I’m not sure what compels me to be so hospitable. While sober I certainly say things like, “You should come over” or “Let’s get together.” But, I mean them as half-heartedly as the next person. If I really want you to come to my place, the invitation will be extended – repeatedly and soberly. Perhaps I should make up cards to hand out when tippling, “Did I invite you while I was under the influence of alcohol? Believe me, it was just the drink talking, not me.”
“Don’t judge. Don’t be a hater,” she said to us while pushing her girlfriend’s sagging head up. Her friend was oozing onto the floor with that liquid bone posture only brought about by copious amounts of alcohol. Her dry heaves warned us of an imminent explosion. The first woman held a brown paper bag to the friend’s mouth with one hand while trying to gather her hair in the other. “God, I never have a hairband when I need one. You’re gonna be okay. Just let it out. I’ve got your hair.”
Who am I to judge? I have been too drunk in public on occasion. Just not in a tiny NYC pizza place with only three small tables where everyone can see and hear what you are up to. I hope I’d have had the decorum not to vomit in the restaurant had it been me. Even with the luxury of a paper bag to catch it. We didn’t judge, just made an assessment. Knowing better than to put ourselves in a situation where we would definitely become haters, we walked out without ordering.
Perfectly curvaceous she clings to him. Pouty lips, come-hither stare, full ripe breasts, often blatantly bared for all to see. Sometimes she’s human, other times she is some mythical creature like a mermaid or genie. You know her from the pinup posters and girlie magazines. You question why she’s bound to this loser for life. As you look him up from head to toe, you realize she might be right there, but she’ll always be just an inked fantasy. He could never attract a girl like that. What girl would want a guy like him?
Marathons are ruining my friendships. Something awful happens to people in their late 30s and early 40s that compels them to run marathons. I understand it’s a lofty goal that can give one a sense of accomplishment. But, when a friend tells me she’s training for a marathon, I know what that really means. Our friendship is on hold. She will spend every spare moment of the next few months training for this run. On the rare occasions I see her, our conversation will be a tedious account of how many miles she’s up to and her training regimen. She will stop drinking because it interferes with her running. So, I will drink more in order to listen to her myopic topic. Soon her goals get loftier, instead of just finishing the marathon, she wants to do it in a reasonable time. Requiring more training. All the while, I am secretly wishing her a nasty ankle sprain that will stop this madness. It’s not that I don’t want her to achieve her goals, it’s just that I hate how our friendship suffers.
Perhaps I’d be more sympathetic if I ever had the desire to run a marathon. I’m not even tempted to run a measly 5k. Honestly, I hate running. I’ve put in the time, and never get past the feeling that my heart is going to burst through my chest and kill me on the spot. The fact that I know of no one who has ever died of a heart explosion does nothing to allay my fears. I’m also seemingly incapable of the runner’s high. When a bumbling recent convert to the gym told me of his runner’s high, I just wanted to tell him to go to hell.
Now that I’ve been through this marathon business several times with a variety of friends, I realize that unless one becomes a regular marathon runner, the drive that pushed them out there – the search for something: happiness, accomplishment, recognition, is never attained. Once the race is run, they go back to their same daily questioning of their purpose in life. Then come the complaints about all the pounds they packed on after they stopped training. It starts all over again as they talk about running another marathon, which they never do. So, do us both a favor. Don’t run a marathon. Keep drinking, and let’s have some fun hanging out together.
I am having a party – maybe. That is I am decorating, cleaning my house, preparing food and beverage, but I have no idea whether anyone will show up or how much food and beverage to prepare. When did “maybe” become an officially acceptable reply to attend an event in someone’s home? I was raised in the era of “yes” or “no,” which wasn’t all that very long ago. The only other acceptable answer back in the day was, “Yes, but I will be late,” which had to be cleared with the host of the party long before the day of the event. Of course, I blame technology and Tupperware.
First came Tupperware, the “party” that forces unsuspecting friends to purchase something they don’t want or need from the host. This idea has since expanded from Longaberger baskets to custom-made clothing. It used to be obvious that you would have to shell out. Now you just might arrive and discover you have to buy candles in order to leave lest your friend think you unsupportive of her hard work – meaning opening a bottle of wine, a bag of chips and salsa as well as going to the trouble to invite you. Even though I have never hosted one of these “parties,” their very existence make friends wary when you invite them to anything.
Technology legitimized “maybe.” It is an official option on Facebook as well as evite. “Maybe” is the equivalent to all the kids get trophies now because we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Saying that you will not attend my party, does not hurt my feelings. I recognize that you have a life and other obligations. Just tell me, “No.” Depending on who you are, that could save me a lot of money on alcohol or another hour of cooking just to make something that fits within your crazily narrow dietary parameters that I seem to feel the need to accommodate because I consider you a friend, albeit not a good enough friend to have the courtesy to tell me whether you are or are not attending my party.
Leave it to me to offend New York pride with innocence and honesty. I am going to state it for the record, New York is not the greatest city in the world in every aspect of everything. Those may be my last words as despite their PC positions, people here are more intolerant than many others I’ve experienced throughout the country. Either because many of them have never been anywhere else or when they go anywhere else, they immediately expect elsewhere to be NYC. Guess what, that’s why New York City is what it is, it’s different. You will not find it elsewhere. What you can find elsewhere are other things well done.
Recently a New Yorker with great swagger and confidence (is that redundant?) asked me what I thought of the holiday displays in the city. I had the audacity to state that in my opinion Chicago does a better job uplifting the entire city in lights. It really comes down to the difference between the Democrats and the Republicans. Chicago laces the trees in public parks and lining the streets in a spectacular array of lights evoking a feeling of festivity for any soul wandering or lost. New York throws up a few leftover, bargain bin light features on random light poles and calls it a day, relying on private businesses to provide the spectacle for shoppers. Well, not every business is Rockefeller Center or Harry Winston (currently my favorite commercial light display ever). Most of New York is dark, lit only with store windows featuring the same old mannequins sporting sparkly clothing surrounded by items the storeowners want you to buy. Seriously Michael Kors you can’t afford anything better than a bit of silver garland? “I’m sorry, but you’re out! Auf Wiedersehen.” (Kiss. Kiss) Tiffany & Co, the inventors of lavishness barely eke out a boring display of white buildings dotted with Tiffany boxes and designs so dull you wonder if not for the box, did he get it at Kay? Come on, folks. Get into the spirit. Pay your taxes for an uplifting holiday display to counter the short, gray days.
I had to smile though, when I received the pat answer to any criticism of Manhattan. “You should see the holiday displays in Brooklyn.”
PS I am only able to post images of Chicago because since the streets of NYC are so pathetic there are no images online. I will have to photographically update some time this week. Check back.
Magnificent Mile Chicago
Lincoln Park, Chicago