Posts Tagged ‘Mom’

Goodbye and Goodnight, Uncle George

As an adult, I find it curious what triggers the memories of my inner child. I was reminded of two of these triggers today: cigars and chainsaws.

Uncle George was not my uncle as defined by my family tree. But he was an uncle in every other sense of the word. Growing up, I don’t recall many of my parents friends. Most had very little impact on me, except for one couple, George and Ruth. They were Flatlanders, hailing from the state of New Jersey, and wielding thick Jersey accents. Sparkles recalls Uncle George’s accent and how the number 33 sounded like a gruff “turty tree” George perpetually smoked cigars, which seemed exotic in a world of Marlboro and Camel cigarettes. His voice, husky and thick from the smoke, made him seem scary to small children, but we all knew him as gentle and kind.

But what I remember of Uncle George the most is the sound of chainsaws, waking us up in time for church on Sunday mornings in the summer. I don’t know when it started, and I don’t know when it ended, but for the entirety of my childhood memory, every Sunday, Dad and Uncle George would fill up the chainsaws with gas, grab a case of Budweiser, and head out into the woods with the Jitterbug. For those of you unfamiliar with a Jitterbug, it is a big-ass, old, rundown truck, bigger than a pickup truck, but smaller than an eighteen wheeler. Ours was this green monster with a wooden flat bed in the back. Dad and George would toss in the chainsaws and beer and head out into the three hundred acre woods in search of trees to cut for firewood.

They would start in the spring after the snow melted, and finish up in fall sometime before the frost. The sounds of the chainsaws on Sunday morning through the open windows were hard to sleep through. And by the time we started running the fireplace in the late fall, we had about fifteen cord of wood stacked up under the tree.

I remember helping sometimes. I’m not certain, but if my memory of the story is correct, Uncle George was witness to my first word. Dad would take me with them into the field while they were splitting wood. Whenever Dad missed the log with the ax, he would say, “Shit.” Me, as bright as I was, took in the situation. And when I was ready, and Dad missed with the ax, I said my first word. “Shit.”

I hear it was funny until I was in church, during a very quiet part of the service. I dropped my book over the pew and said, “Shit.”

I didn’t swear again until I was eighteen.

I helped again as I was older. I don’t remember ever being taught how to use an ax or chainsaw, but my job was stacking. I remember hating to stack wood. As a teenager, I would dread hearing the Jitterbug come back out of the woods full of trees because it meant time for us kids to work. We knew it was a necessity, but like any kid, we didn’t want to participate.

I know that Uncle George must have taken a portion of their cut back to his house. He too had a large house and many children. But I don’t recall ever seeing his black truck full of wood. I do remember, however, using his truck with the carpenter boxes on the side, as a horse trailer.

For a while, I borrowed a pony from a family down the street. Their kids had grown up and gone away, and the pony was just hanging out in the field, so Dad made arrangements for me to borrow it for a few years. So yes, when I asked for a pony, I got one. I was as spoiled as my parents could afford to allow.

To transport the pony the three miles to our house, Dad and Uncle George used a couple 2x4s and loaded the pony into the back of Uncle George’s nicely painted black truck. I can still see the image of my pony in a pickup truck.

After their kids had left the house, my parents sold George and Ruth a parcel of land where they built a little cabin in the woods. Just one bedroom, a bathroom and an integrated kitchen/living room. Easy to heat during the harsh Maine winters, and beautifully constructed by George and his sons. And Meine Schwester. At that time, Uncle George referred to her as Punky Brewster. We always complained that she never helped with anything. But Uncle George knew better. He let her help build the cabin by nailing down floorboards.

A picturesque cabin in the woods. Made with love. The summer they were building it, my friends and Brother K and I would sneak out and meet there to play strip Trivial Pursuit. No one knew how to play poker and we never got further than bathing suits. Brother K was Tom Sawyer, sneaking out his bedroom window and climbing down the back tree. I was Huck Finn, going down the stairs, picking up the snacks Mom had left for us as I walked out the front door. I remember one night, walking home from their cabin through the woods and seeing my first meteorite streak down the dark trail. This is where George the Carpenter would retire. This is what made George and Ruth better Mainers than I would ever be.

Uncle George was an integral part of our lives. Through good and bad. Again, I don’t know the details, but I know that he was there the day tragedy struck and I learned the lesson about operating heavy machinery while drinking. Uncle George’s truck flew down the driveway as if it was defying gravity and friction. It was a few hours before we found out that Dad was in the hospital. Meine Schwester recalls seeing Uncle George’s torn up thigh. The only detail I recall is that my father’s hand had been cut by a chainsaw. Dad’s tendons were cut in the last two fingers of his left hand. This wouldn’t have been as tragic if Dad wasn’t left handed.

Dad used to play guitar better than anyone else I knew. Of course, I probably thought that because he was my father, but he was incredible at picking and created pure magic in the air with his twelve string. Dad and George would play and sing, and no matter how bad things seemed, we always had music. It is what kept us all together. Dad’s injury wouldn’t have seemed so tragic, except that he does everything left handed except play guitar.

That was the day the music died.

I don’t blame anyone. I don’t know what happened. I don’t even know what year that was. But I feel like it was a turning point for my parents. Eventually, my senior year, they divorced. I wasn’t upset. They weren’t in love. I was excited that they were moving on with their lives and they could stop being miserable. I went off to college, Dad moved away. My family moved out of the big house and into a smaller house that didn’t require fifteen cord of wood to heat. My pony moved back to his home. I was busy learning about differential equations and stress/strain curves of materials. The sounds of chainsaws and guitars, and the smell of cigars faded into my memories.

Until today, when I learned that Uncle George had passed away. I hadn’t known he was ill. I hadn’t heard much about him for the past few years. I read the obituary and saw that his kids had all grown and married and have families of their own. I don’t know how long he lived in that little cabin in the woods. I don’t know if he still played guitar and smoked cigars and forced trees into works of art. But I do know that he made a difference in my life. And I never took the opportunity to tell him.

Thirty-six hours in Boston

I couldn’t blog about it earlier, but I spent the weekend in Boston. Although that isn’t entirely accurate because it is hard to spend a weekend in Boston when I live in California.

I took a redeye flight on Friday night. It was supposed to leave at 10:30 pm, but didn’t leave until after midnight. So I didn’t land until 9 am, which is the time I told my high school friend I would meet her for coffee.

It was freaking cold when I landed, and I was half an hour late, but I managed to get to Mike’s Pastries. I hate to admit it, but Facebook makes it possible to call up someone I haven’t seen in over a decade and say, Hey, I’m gonna be in town for 36 hours. Wanna meet for coffee?

It was great catching up. So many things have happened over the years to get us to where we are.

We talked for a couple hours, then my mom arrived and was double parked. I picked up the cake my brother had ordered and said my goodbyes.

My mom and I went to CraftBoston and saw a lot of really great work. It was great to have a chance to spend some time with her since I won’t get to see her at Christmas.

I do feel bad that I passed out in the car on the way to New Hampshire to pick up Motorcycle Man. Hard to stay awake after taking a redeye.

We then went down to Brother K and The President’s house for The President’s 30th birthday. I am surprised that it was actually a surprise. I thought that Sparkles may have ruined it when we were at our Cousin’s 40th surprise party two weeks earlier. Luckily, the jug o’ wine from Olive Garden had clouded The President’s memory.

My apologies to The President for not keeping up with drinking. I know that is my duty as resident Asshole, but I just can’t live up to the expectations. ‘Tis the problem with getting older.

Sunday I slept in just a little, that is until MiniMe woke me. Hung out with the fam for a little bit, then my cousin dropped me off at Logan.

And that was where I was, a week ago, as I wrote this post while sipping a winter solstice ale—deep red in color, malty and generously hopped—at the Boston Beer Works. So it is only fitting that today, on the actual winter solstice, I find this post half written. No, it wasn’t the beer that made me forget to finish it, it was because the WordPress iPhone app had crashed, lost half of what I had written, thus pissing me off.

This was the last of my travels for the year.

Strange dreams

The other day, a friend quoted Shakespeare, “To sleep, perchance to dream.” I said, I’d rather not because I have crazy vivid dreams. Here is the one from this morning. I bet dream interpreters would have a field day with this!

The first thing I remember in this nightmare was my siblings and I on the side of the divided road (like El Camino) and something happened. I think it was a bad driver, but I don’t remember exactly what rules were broken and who was breaking them. But this woman was pissed, and she was going to do something about it. I think she was a real estate agent, and she looked like someone on tv, but I don’t remember what show. I don’t know why, but she drove her sub-sub compact to a turn lane in the median, but to do so, she had to drive a few feet the wrong way down the road. As she did, she honked at some guy passing her, and I couldn’t get over how what she was doing was so much worse than what the other person did.

My siblings and I walked down the road. It got smaller and smaller until it was just dirt, and we came to the shack that we lived in with our mom. I was about to take Perl out for a walk when my sister’s friend came running up and regaled us with a story of this serial killer going around town. He had chased down a car and beaten two people to death with a tire iron. And no one could find him. I tried to convince someone to go with me to walk Perl, but I couldn’t.

Then, a man wearing a gorilla mask started pounding on the door. It took me two times, but I pressed 911 on my phone and showed him. That was when he pounded so hard on the glass next to the door that it shattered and he walked in. He took off his mask and it was a friend of my brother, so I hung up the phone and started yelling at him. How was I supposed to fix that glass? How were we going to keep the serial killer out now? Gorilla man had a friend behind him, and they went to find Brother K in the one story house.

At this point, I was talking with Meme in the living room. She was in a chair, I was sitting on the floor in front of her. My dog really needed to go out to pee. And in walks Meme’s best friend, thin and frail, and covered in dirt from head to toe. I couldn’t imagine she had outrun the serial killer. I gave her a hug and didn’t want to let go. She explained how she had gotten dirty, and even though it had been an accident, and on any other day, I would have been shocked, I just laughed because it wasn’t the serial killer.

So I left Meme and her friend in the living room and went to the bedroom where Mom was wrapping gifts for me to give my Indian friend at her wedding. Something long and rectangular, something the same length, but cylindrical, and something smaller and square. I was impressed with Mom’s wrapping skills. My siblings all came into the room, as well as my dog who still had to pee. We decided then and there to take a vacation somewhere until they caught the guy.

And I couldn’t take the stress anymore and woke up.

I can place some of it. On Heroes recently, Skylar beat a man with a tire iron. I was watching my friend wrap gifts last night for her wedding. I do have an Indian friend getting married, but this isn’t her wedding. I saw someone try to make a left turn through a space in a divided highway through a turn lane for the oncoming traffic. And I think the realtor was someone from a tv show I was half watching last night while painting my nails. Brother K was prominent because I was talking to him on the phone before bed. And yesterday, I was talking about seeing Meme and her friend this summer when I went to Maine. So it isn’t like my dreams are random, they just seem it.

And sometimes they are good dreams. This just wasn’t one.

Photos from Frankie’s Memorial Service

I felt a little awkward taking photos at a memorial service, but there were so many memories there. So hopefully, I will be forgiven for that—and for not using a flash, which produced a bunch of blurry photos.

I’ve attached a few below, but you can find all of them in My Gallery

Another episode of Hair Porn

Wilson has moved two doors down the street to Studio FX. I went to the wrong place first and they said he was gone. I had a moment of fear that I wouldn't have a new haircut for next week. I gave him a call and found his new location.

He asked if I wanted a new style. I said, Sure, I trust you.

Then he started cutting the underlayers. They are so short, it made me really nervous. But I have faith that he has a plan.

Now he is doing color. He decided it would just be one color this time. I said okay. Who am I to say no? I know nothing about hair.

I forgot to take a before picture, but if you start looking back in the blog you can find some recent photos from Napa.

The locks falling in my lap were pretty long…

Easter Birthday Weekend

I’m a little slow, but here are the photos from my weekend in DC for meine Schwester’s 30th birthday. We wandered around the monuments, drank and danced in an Irish pub, and made easter baskets that Mom sent.

Why I blog and tweet

For most of my life, I've had a running commentary in my head. Pretended that I was narrating the movie of my life. I hear voices, but it isn't the psychotic kind, just the kind where I invent dialogs between characters. I imagine what I would say to someone if they were with me at that moment.

Twitter let's me spurt out those comments as if someone were listening. And people respond. However, I usually don't tweet if I'm having real conversation. It seems superficial.

My blog let's me narrate my own life. Only the best parts. I leave out the mundane. I also leave out a lot that would ruin the movie, or my character. I don't want you to think less of me than you already do. ;-) I also exclude stuff that is just too personal for other people. Although I do like to make fun of the occasional stranger. Sadly this flight is lacking in characters.

It makes me wonder if I will forget all the stuff I leave out. If people read this thinking this is everything to my life, when really it is only a piece.

Those events I exclude are my most cherished and defining memories.

The golden rule

Is this what has become of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”?

Every morning and night I walk my dog along the same path. She is 45 lbs, long and lean like a greyhound. She is shy and cautious around most dogs, and excited to see others. She could care less about most people. She has never bitten anyone, even another dog who bit her.

The majority of people who walk the path are not dog owners. When they see us coming, they walk way around into the grass. They never say hello or smile. They act as if the sheer presence of my dog is an inconvenience to them.

So to be neighborly, I do things to try to make them more comfortable. I reign my dog in so that she is right next to me. I make her walk on the grass. I look them in the eyes and smile. I say hello.

None of it helped. The people still walk way around us and stare as if my dog is going to lash out and bite them at any moment. They make no effort to get to know me or my dog so that we can all walk together on the sidewalk.

So after a few years of this, I’ve finally given up. Anytime I pass someone on the path, I keep my head down and my dog and I both walk way around them in the grass. I no longer smile. I no longer say hello.

I feel like a leper in my own home.

All this because I choose to be a dog owner.

I can only imagine what it must feel like for people who are something that people are afraid of and that they can’t change.


Two people told me Sunday they were re-gifting items I’d given them. One before she’d even opened it!

They both pretended to ask if it was okay and I pretended that it was fine. ‘Oh, no problem.’ And I say pretend because it was all this bizarre form of courtesy where they tell me they are going to hurt my feelings in such a way that they don’t really want to know that they hurt my feelings. They just want to believe that I am okay with them giving away something so that I don’t ask where it is later and have some awkward moment when they’ve ‘misplaced’ it.

Something you need to understand is that I hate shopping. I am the person who sits on the outside of the store and waits for you to come back out. I wander aimlessly around the racks and don’t buy anything. So when I do buy a gift, I put a lot of thought and effort into it because I have many gifts in my house that may not go with my decor (or what I want my decor to be), but I know that someone painstakingly chose that item for me, and so it is not the gift that I appreciate, but the thought that went into it.

The first was a friend who is having a tough time right now. She kept asking me to give her all the answers. So I spent 45 minutes in the bookstore looking for a book of answers. What I found instead was a book titled Why Shit Happens: The Science of a Really Bad Day. I also picked out a very simple, leather bound journal that was made in my home state. When I gave the gift, I explained that the book is someone else’s answers, but the journal is for her own.

What I didn’t know is that the journal looked just like the one that belonged to her ex. The journal that proved he was lying to her. So when she said that she had to give away my journal because it reminded her of his journal, I understood. But at the same time, it hurt because it signals that the time and thought that I put into finding it, and the emotions that came with it, means less to her than the pain he caused her.

The second was a gift I brought back from vacation. I don’t believe in bringing back lots of trinkets from places I’ve been and giving them to people who didn’t go with me. But I wanted to thank a friend for helping out. So I spent an hour looking through all the trinket shops searching for something that didn’t scream Disney, would be small and simple, and had some utilitarian purpose. I like giving consumables because the recipient can just use it and get rid of it. I also like to give gifts that I would like myself. So I found a very simple wine bottle stopper. The top had three metal balls in the shape of Mickey. Elegant and useful.

When I called to tell her I’d left her something from Disney, she was excited about it and immediately told me that she planned to regift it to this guy who collects Disney pins. She didn’t even know what it was that I’d left her. It was a slap in the face that I couldn’t possibly have gotten her something that she would actually want to keep for herself. So, pathetically, beside the bottle stopper, I left her a Disney pin that I had gotten from our parking stub in hopes that she would give him the pin but keep the bottle stopper. I really considered taking the bottle stopper back because I really like it and would use it. But I had already said it was hers, and once I’ve given something, I can’t take it back. Even if I know it was given away before it was even received.

And this is why I hate giving physical gifts. I’d rather give an experience. Experiences are harder to regift.

I love unprompted stories

Bartender started in with a story. I wondered how it pertained to me.

Last night he stayed up late to watch the UConn-Syracuse game. After six overtimes, Syracuse finally won (boo!). He got to sleep late and had to wake at 4:30am to get to work. He fell asleep on the bus.

Bus Driver kicked Bartender out in an unfamiliar neighborhood. He was freaked out for just a moment, and then he remembered he has the internets in his pocket.

Bartender pulled out his original iPhone and said it saved him this morning. He figured out where he was and directions to walk the 20 minutes back to his stop.

And when he told me the story, he didn't even know. ;-)