Sunday, August 30, 2009

Strangeness of Strangers

We seem to have an addiction in the family. Yeah, we have alcoholics and we have workaholics and we have other -olics that I can't even imagine. No, this is a different vice, albatross, cross, whatever you wish to call it. We need chaos. Pressure, deadlines, too many balls in the air. If we don't have it, we make it. If we can't make it, we borrow others'. Our current drug of choice is a kitchen remodel. Good buzz, a bit pricey, but it should quiet the monster for at least a year, right? Right?

I slink out of the house on a beautiful, cool summer day to one of our regular dealers, a shady dude known as Mr. Home Depot, "D-poh" in the parlance of the street. I showered before I left the house, but I already feel dirty. I'm there for the second time in two days, looking to score a shower and a vanity, oh, yeah, and a faucet. I'm nervous, because I'm a poser. Not a contractor, you dig? Just a kid from the 'burbs. I grab one of the flat carts, trying to look mad. No basket cart for me, no way. I navigate to the back row, way past the paint and the pvc and light fixtures to the bathroom section. It's dark and scary, and frankly sort of seedy. So I grab my stash and slink to the front to pay for my haul. In and out, don't make eye contact with the other addicts and junkies. Get out to the parking lot with my huge-ass cart and my huge-ass boxes, trying to do this on the lo' down. Anonymous. Fumble for the key fob. Pop the trunk. Lift the tail gate. Got to load the Honda and get back to my 'hood.

I can barely lift the first box, which is the size of a coffin and weighs as much. Christ, the carton is bigger than than the bathroom where it will be installed. I get it man-handled onto the rear gate of my Element, and I go white. It's too fuckin' big to fit in the car. I'm naked in the parking lot, sweating cold rivulets of panic, watching the other addicts watch me. Oh shit, oh shit. I got to get out of there. I call my wife, needing to hear her voice, needing her to know that I can't get the fix home, no little pick-me-up coming home with Daddy. I'm busted and shaking and crazed.

And this preppy, tired looking 40'ish woman stops and smiles at me, shakes her head. She knows why I'm there. "Don't jam it in," she says. "Maybe put it on the roof." I think to myself, "Well if I could lift the monster that high off the ground, I'd just adjust my blue tights and red cape and fly the fucker home." Thanks a lot. At least she didn't point and just laugh. I'm in a bad way. Why did I ever get hooked on chaos in the first place?

But the next guy, he ambles over and stops. He looks at me, at Box-zilla, at the car. And he shrugs. "Need a hand? Looks heavy." No judgement. Just a do-gooder. And for the next ten minutes, as I try to get my lever my shit into the back of the damn car, at least three more guys quit their own missions for a moment and offer to help. Nice guys. Friendly faces. Helping out a brother in need. I say, "No thanks" but their kindness calms me down. I think. I find a knife in my kid's tackle box and cut Box-zilla down to size. When I'm done, I've jimmied the bastard in enough that it only hangs out the back the the car about four feet. I cram the other shit in and get ready to leave, when the prepster comes on out of the D-poh with her own little bag of goodies, and laughs. "So you jammed it in?" Bitch.

I get on home, shaking from my trip and praying to get the monkey off my back. The high of the fix doesn't last. Chaos keeps on calling.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Dear God,

How are you? Please take no offense that I have recently publicly identified myself an an atheist. I was tired. Today, I'm agnostic. For the record, on Saturday I was Episcopalian. Attention deficit, religious identity disorder?!? ADRID... Do they make a pill for that?

Respectfully, you have a tremendous sense of humor. The depth and breadth of your creations, and the interactions between them, create a panoply of ideas, emotions, and memories that spin this humble man's head in dizzying fashion. So, thank you for the last week. It was very entertaining. Can you take a minute to help me figure out how it is all connected?

As you know, we attended the annual clam bake in Wareham last weekend. It's been going on forever and a year, but the word on the street is this was the last year. The man who has done the heavy lifting (literally) for the event is tired. After all, he's raised (with his wonderful wife) four children to adulthood and a pack of grandkids that grows algebraically -- if not exponentially -- every year. He's done it all without expectations, and I think he is a classic stoic and noble. And his hands are always dirty. Oh, and he has cancer. He didn't tell anyone, of course, but word got out. Maybe someone will step up and keep the fire burning (and the seaweed steaming), but if not, it has been an amazing run.

We drove up to Maine and spent some time on the water with friends. This family from Maryland we visited with has beautiful children and as a couple, a grace and bearing that makes one realize there are lots of really great, nice normal people on our little blue marble. We fetched sea glass from the shore, surfed in warm Maine water (...okay, there is no such thing, but it was water and we were in Maine), and kayaked out to this little lonely island to poke around an abandoned lighthouse. Exploring the island, I wondered what it was like a hundred years ago. I studied the pealing lead paint and contemplated our footprint on the environment. I imagined the world taken over by zombies and how this island would measure up as a refuge. Really.

We zipped over to Vermont for the wedding of a very good man. My in-laws took our our kids so my wife and I could play adults for a night. I remembered why we moved closer to them, and even with the oddness that is my wife's family (and I know odd families), I could not help but feel a brimming sense of joy that my son's grandfather thinks playing catch with him is better than anything else on the planet. I found myself, during the service at the wedding, reciting the Lord's Prayer and feeling comforted by its words and patterns. I looked at Jesus on the cross and wished it had gone otherwise for him; he seemed like a good fellow. I sat next to my wife and remembered our wedding, all of the hopes and dreams we had. It gave me a sense of optimism I hadn't felt in some time, knowing this young couple was going to give a life together a chance - I hope they realize their dreams and make some new ones on their journey together.

I crossed paths with my favorite uncle who was diagnosed with lung cancer and given two years to live...twelve or thirteen years ago. He's had a good hand all along. I saw my aunt (not my uncle's wife) and was oblivious to the fact she's still an alcoholic. I heard the theme song to Jaws in my head as we kayaked out to the aforementioned island and at the same time told my kids that sharks were not remotely interested in us. I slid head first into home in a meaningless softball game to break up the shutout the opposing pitcher was spinning. I was safe and my knees are killing me. A friend told me tragic news that was welcome tidings to her. I stayed up late to watch A-Rod hammer a walk-off homerun off a rookie in the fifteenth inning. Our puppy Abbott chewed his leash off to gain his freedom and then chewed off Hobbes' for good measure.

So, yeah, it was a good week. Rich. But I feel like a 7th grader reading a Bronte novel; I get the plot, character, and setting but have no idea what it means. So, sir or madam, any chance you could lend me your teacher's edition? I feel bad that I don't get it. I'm the dumb kid in class. But I do thank you for everything that you threw my way last week. For an atheistic leaning, currently lapsed Episcopalian agnostic, that sounds like a prayer. Or a request for a little extra help in the form of enlightenment.