I Know The Feeling

British man runs marathon in backyard during lockdown

Not the insanity of running a marathon anywhere, but my exercise has been lacking in the past few weeks. A couple body weight exercises here and there, some basketball with my boys. But not a lot of discipline.

I have, however, discovered that the perimeter of the un-wooded section of Nogglestead is almost exactly one third of a mile.

We’re not doing road running here as my youngest is not ready for running on farm roads with no shoulder and cars passing at fifty or sixty miles an hour. I’m not sure I’m ready for that. Maybe he is ready but I’m holding him back. Regardless, it’s three laps to a mile trail running, so a little over nine laps to a 5k. I’m not ready for that yet–my slow pace on the mile above represents not only me slacking but me recovering from a bout of plantar fasciitis. So I’ll take my eleven minute mile over uneven terrain. And we will see what today brings.

A Conversation At A Place Somewhat Like Nogglestead

WIFE: (reading a box label) Cartridges, Small Arms? Are those…
WIFE: Did you buy a lot?
HUSBAND: [laughs in Kim du Toitian] No.

Kim du Toit probably has more rounds in his pockets.

But one of the things at the start of the current unpleasantness was that I was comfortable with our food situation, but I felt we might be a little light on ammunition in the event of a larger breakdown. I mentioned this to my beautiful wife, and she said I should take care of that. So I did.

But do we have enough guns?

[laughs in Kim du Toitian] No.


Brian J., so how are you spending your new free time during the coronavacation? Are you learning a new skill? Catching up on old projects? Writing that novel whose first pages you most recently pecked out some years ago? Working on your renewed interest in poetry?

Well, of course not. Those would be productive uses of my time.

For the most part, my life has not changed. I’ve been a remote employee for a long time, so my working life has not really changed.

I do have my children home all day, but it’s almost like they’re on spring break or summer vacation. They have some school assignments and Zoom meetings with their classes, but it’s a lot of video game time, arguing that they should have more video game time, and some basketball in the driveway. I have been Coronaschooling them, though, even though they’ve got a handful of assignments from me which mostly serve as an excuse to watch old movies.

The only thing I can really say that I’ve been getting done, really, this coronavacation are:

  • Blogging more frequently.
  • A bit more housecleaning, such as the light fixtures, which I only do semi-annually.
  • Installing red lights outside our office doors for visual indicators that my beautiful wife or I are on the phone:

    Although, to be honest, these are little battery operated LED lights, so it’s not like I wired up electricity and switches for them ($11 for two on Amazon). I did, however, not use the big piece of double-stick tape that came with each unit, instead opting for Velcro like I did with the old hand-held games because a two-sided tape solution was going to make for a problem when the batteries died.

    Although it gives me another idea for a project: Taking down those old games, replacing the batteries/cleaning out the battery acid/testing those games.

  • Spending like a half an hour putting one of our cats in a box, photographing my cat jumping out of the box, and trying to get a relatively unblurry image so I can put text on it.

    I am not kidding. I tried the iPhone, I tried a digital camera, I tried a lot of things before settling on this one. Man, cats are fast when they’re jumping out of boxes. Also, when trying not to be put back into boxes.

  • Sleeping. No kidding; my FitBit sleep scores are edging into the 70s and sometimes into the 80s on Saturdays, which means eight fitful hours of sleep a night. I’m going to miss it when the boys go back to school next August and I have to set an early alarm.

So this is unlike my beautiful wife who is practicing piano, trumpet, and flute and continues with her normal self-improvement programs.

Within the next week or so, I am thinking about organizing the record collection at Nogglestead now that we have received our order of record dividers from Amazon. Perhaps I will paint the fence and deck and will do this in a short amount of time (unlike years past, where the endeavor took weeks or, well, to be honest, I’ve never actually finished painting the fence).

Or I can sit at the keyboard and continue refreshing blogs for the latest news or panicked speculation about the death toll of coronavirus or, more as time passes, the erosion of civil liberties and niceties that the coronareaction has brought.

I will leave it to you, gentle reader, to speculate as to which direction I will go. Or continue.

Coronaschooling, Efficiency Edition

Today at Nogglestead, we’re doing some efficient homeschooling. We’re studying both the Spanish language and sex education reviewing the works of Shakira.

Eeesh, just kidding. If I wanted my boys to be educated like that, I’d send them to public school.

Although I own the album She Wolf, I really can’t watch the whole video. I get to a certain point, and I start thinking less about how flexible Shakira is and more about how many adductor muscles I would tear if I tried to do what she’s doing.

You know, a lot of time, I cross-post these gags on Facebook so people I’ve met in real life can see them, but I didn’t post this one as my Facebook friends list contains an awful lot of pastors.

Sorry, Friar, I don’t mean to shock you with some of my more earthy posts.

Footnoting My Humor, Reducks

So there’s a thing going around Facebook where you are supposed to list ten jobs, nine of which you have done and one of which you have not. Gentle reader, as you know, I have held many, many jobs in my life as I have a degree in English and Philosophy, and that leads one to a vagabond life of chasing an extra quarter an hour until you trip into a career. Or it did for me, anyway.

At any rate, I cannot do a Facebook share-your-personal-information schtick without subverting it, so I posted this:

Let me explain.

These are job declarations in Job Control Language, one of those inscrutable but efficient programming languages that run on Big Iron, that is, mainframes and whatnot.

You know, I’ve never programmed in that language, although there’s probably still plenty of jobs for programming Big Iron around. My rejoinder on Facebook is going to be that it’s the 21st century, man. But the last statement is not a job, it’s the invocation of a job library. Or something.

I know a couple of old programmers who might get the joke. Strangely enough, my sainted mother had to run JCL commands at her last government job, so she might have gotten it. But probably nobody else.

It’s so obscure that it made me laugh out loud, though. Sad!

Also, I want to remind you, gentle reader, why I do not play in these cut-and-paste-games on Facebook:

(Last image courtesy of Glenn Reynolds’ Facebook feed.)

Homeschooling, Day 卌 卌 IIII

So on Thursday night, we did not get to the poetry until after 8pm, so I had to pick a short one for the evening.

I selected “Trees” by Joyce (a boy) Kilmer (text here).

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Quick, what movie quotes that poem?

Continue reading “Homeschooling, Day 卌 卌 IIII”

Homeschooling, Day XIII: History of the 20th Century

I think I’m going to make my children transcribe and research everything from “We Didn’t Start The Fire”:

When I was in high school, the last couple of days of the Honors Western Civilization class featured a video that covered the 20th century. For extra credit, we could turn in our notes from watching the film. I transcribed the lyrics to this song (because we did not have the Internet, gentle reader, and either had to go by ear or by the tiny liner notes in the cassette case).

Although I did not actually turn these notes in, a friend of mine took them and turned them in. The teacher, of course, had no idea.

That Dolphin Show I Saw In Milwaukee

Last night, I was telling my oldest child about how my grandmother used to take my brother and I out of school for a day once a year, and she would take us different places in Milwaukee. She took us to the Milwaukee Art Museum, but she did that more than once and more than on the day with Nana because she managed the gift shop at one point and could get us in without charge. She took us to the Milwaukee Public Museum which had the Streets of Old Milwaukee exhibit. She took us to the downtown library, where you could check out an Atari 2600 and a game cartridge for blocks of an hour (and I foolishly picked Space Invaders, but my brother picked E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, so you can guess that was a long hour for us).

And one time she took us to see the dolphin show at the Public Natatorium. In Milwaukee. Probably in the winter.

We didn’t actually see the dolphin show; as it was a school day and we were the only kids in the audience, the dolphin trainer had us come help with the show. So we held up fish whilst the dolphins leapt and held up the hoops the dolphins darted through. Although after the end of the show, I was feeling comfortable with the dolphins and reached for it, but the dolphin chattered in a way that scared me, so I backed off.

I told my son the story, and then I went to the Internet to back me up on this.

OnMilwaukee has stories about the public natatoria built in Milwaukee in the latter part of the nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries which include the first indoor pool in the United States. The Old Milwaukee blog has the rest of the story about how entrepreneurs briefly turned the last of the natatoria into a destination restaurant with the dolphin shows.

The dolphin shows. In a restaurant. In Milwaukee.

The past is an unbelievable place.

Coronavirus Update: PATIENT ZERO FOUND

Must credit MfBJN!

Fun fact: In the middle 1980s, when I was 13 or 14 years old, I was addicted to the tabloids. Not the National Enquirer which had celebrity news. I spent far too much money on Weekly World News and The Sun which had the crazy, unreal things in them. Like Bat Boy.

I would have better served myself in spending that lawn mowing money on comic books or blowing it on the Rampage machine up the hill at the U-Gas.

Because Nothing Interesting Ever Happened On Leap Day

So my mother-in-law gives each member of the family a wall calendar for Christmas, but over the years, I’ve found that although I hanged it on the office wall, I didn’t really write anything on it as appointments go on the family calendar (generally, the one she gives to my beautiful wife) that hangs in the dining room. I often found that I was months behind in turning the pages of it. So last year I reclaimed the wall space (to hang the Hirschfeld print and a Packers-themed wallhanging Christmas gift from my mother-in-law to be named later).

Which is why this year’s calendar is still in its wrap. I have it placed atop the bookshelves near where it would hang were I still to hang it. And as I was performing my biannual (or is it biennial?) office cleaning, I saw it and noted something awry with it.

365 interesting things in a year with 366 days.

Clearly, the cover designer was not paying attention.

I have not cracked it open to see if a day is, in fact, missing its remarkable people, extraordinary events, and/or fascinating facts.

Because clearly this misprint will be a collectors item someday.

Homeschooling, Day 9: Not the Movie For It

Yesterday, my beautiful wife picked “Fire and Ice” by Robert Frost for our daily poem.

I thought of the perfect film for it:

The Ice Pirates starring Robert Urich between his stints as Gavilan and Spenser.

Yes, it was on Showtime in the middle 1980s. Yes, I did watch it over and over again whilst confined to quarters, which in the middle 1980s was a 12′ by 60′ trailer, and I wasn’t supposed to go outside when my mother wasn’t home during the work week.

Although I have it on DVD, I am not sure when I will watch it with the boys. Mostly because I don’t want to have to explain what a Space Herpe is. Or, worse, not explain it and have to explain to another parent why my child called her child a Space Herpe.

Coronaviraschooling: Day 8

So every day of this last week, their first at home because of the coronavirus lockdown, the boys and I (and sometimes my beautiful wife) have taken a poem and hand-copied it to keep up with our handwriting and to talk about poetry. We started with “If” by Rudyward Kipling, and apparently it’s a thing now because I’ve seen it on a couple different blogs (here and here this very week). I was going to have them do “The Gods of Copybook Headings”, but it’s pretty long–“If” took the slowest writer an hour (complaining included).

So we did a couple of shorter poems–a sonnet by Edna St. Vincent Millay, “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost, “Ozymandias” by Shelley on Friday.

Continuing the theme of Romantic poets writing about ancient Asian things, yesterday we went with “Kubla Khan” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge:

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
    Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round;
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail:
And mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean;
And ’mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!
    The shadow of the dome of pleasure
    Floated midway on the waves;
    Where was heard the mingled measure
    From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!

    A damsel with a dulcimer
    In a vision once I saw:
    It was an Abyssinian maid
    And on her dulcimer she played,
    Singing of Mount Abora.
    Could I revive within me
    Her symphony and song,
    To such a deep delight ’twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

After about an hour (including complaining), we finished. We talked about the rhyme scheme, the meter, and the way the poet uses strange contractions to make meter. I mentioned that Coleridge is best known for writing the Iron Maiden song “Rime of the Ancient Mariner“.

And then we watched the film version of the poem.

I told my beautiful wife I had just picked it up. Wherein “just” in this case means three years ago.

My wife and youngest son watched the whole thing with me; the oldest son wandered off, and when he returned, he asked what was happening, as though it was making real sense between the Olivia Newton-John numbers. We told him it would have made more sense if he hadn’t missed the animated interlude in the middle. Which was not true, but.

Today, I think we will continue our mythology unit with the 1980 Clash of the Titans.

Confession: I did select “Kubla Khan” just so we would get to watch the movie thereafter. There, I said it.

I’m Not Sure There’s Anything He Couldn’t Do

My father was born in the Baby Boom generation to a family of carpenters and outdoorsmen, gentle reader, so as I grew up, I was pretty sure he knew how to do everything. He could build a house, repair or rebuild a car, survive in the woods on his own, and so on.

Of course, my parents divorced when I was a pre-teen, my mother got custody, and we moved to Missouri, so I really didn’t get to spend a lot of time with him in those years where I could have learned a lot of things like this from him. You know, useful skills. Not that it would necessarily have done any good, though. I did live with him during my college years, and I didn’t take the time to absorb what I could have then, either, as I was busy working or studying (just kidding) or trying to frame myself as a poet and writer who would eventually be a big deal in New York or something. Anyway, to cosmopolitan for anything like working with my hands.

I am probably retconning a bit to be harder on myself than I need to be here. After all, I worked retail, warehouse, and printing jobs through those years and into my immediate post-college career, so I wasn’t as genteel as that. However, I did not learn a lot from my father when I could have.

So I received a little note this week from my grandmother in Wisconsin along with an enclosure.

It’s a poem he wrote in 1966, high school or perhaps his first year in the Marine Corps. It’s before he met my mother, as she did not enter the Corps until the next year. Maybe it was for the girl girl who gave him this sweater. Or another. He was a handsome young man, a football player in college, and popular with the girls. Although my grandmother had it, so perhaps he wrote it for her.

Apparently, he could write poetry and had nice handwriting to boot.

So here I am, older than he ever was, and I still have to find a way to equal him. Although I’ve got him on years married to the same woman. I think he topped out at eleven years twice.

Coronaviraschooling, Day 1

Today, we had a unit on Sophocles and Aeschylus.

As I have mentioned before, in the days before cable and the Internet, you really had a limited selection of things to watch, and we watched Hercules and Hercules Unchained on Saturday and Sunday afternoons along with a whole host of peplum. Although I remember the Sinbad movies as well, but it looks like those were not products of the 1960s but the 1970s. And a whole bunch of Zorro.

I like recapturing those Saturday and Sunday afternoons when I find a film like this one at some yard sale or another and watching it, sometimes with my boys (who don’t mind the old films so much since I’ve inured them to it with viewings of old films like The Iron Mask and National Velvet).

And then I do a little research and learn tidbits of trivia (“research” means I read the Wikipedia entry for Steve Reeves) and learned Internet truths like he was the highest paid actor in the world in his day and that he was considered for the roles of Doctor No and The Man With No Name.

Neat stuff.

But, clearly, I am not watching the old films as fast as I thought I would at the beginning of last year. Perhaps the coronacation will allow me to catch up a bit.

“Where do you see yourself in five years?” the business coach asked.

She didn’t ask me; I don’t have a business or life coach. She asked this of my beautiful wife the other day, and my wife asked me last night while we watched the sunset.

I remember Joe DuBois asked me that in 1998. We were standing at the old timey semicircle sink, washing up after a day of running printing presses, and I told him I did not know. I mean, back then, I was five years out from college, and I told him that I hadn’t expected to be working as a printing press operator five years from then.

It’s pretty clear I’ve never really been much of a planner. My wife, on the other hand, does, so this question is right in her wheelhouse. She likes to plan out the week to come on Sunday nights, including the nights we’re staying in (all of them these days) and what we will eat for each meal. She likes to get a little more granular than that, but when the week unfolds, something always comes up which derails the weekly plan. Someone has a homework emergency. Work runs long. Or something. These variations stress her out a lot at times, whereas I am able to better go with the flow.

If I skip ahead in five year segments from my conversation with Joe, I would find myself working at an Internet startup that I hoped would make me rich. Five years later, I had worked been an Executive and had just struck out on my own as a consultant, but mostly was taking care of my two children. Five years later, both my kids are in school, and I’ve taken a contract with another startup that I hoped would make me rich–my billed income was certainly high, and I thought the sky was the limit (until my accountant calculated the annual tax increase, which sobered things quickly). I’d also started training in martial arts after my boys did. Five years later, my consulting work had gotten stale, and I took a full time position that’s not as swashbuckling, to say the least, as being an independent contractor. Five years from then, which is only three years from now, I’ll have a high school graduate and high school sophomore and…. Who knows?

If we reel back in the years in five year increments, we can see what I was blogging about on this day in history.

March 20, 2015
Book Report: Holiday Memory by Dylan Thomas (1978)

March 20, 2010
No posts on this date, but a couple on March 21:
This Administration Cannot See Clearly
Charity Founded By Former Elected Officials Blows Entire Budget On Overhead, Parties
An Unfortunate Turn To Boilerplate Health Care Sob Story

March 20, 2005
No posts on March 20, 2005, either, which is odd as it was at the height of my blogging. However, on March 21, I posted:
Book Report: Duty: A Father, His Son, and the Man Who Won the War by Bob Greene (2000)
The Dogs That Didn’t Bark
Collateral Damage Audience
Post-Dispatch Gets It Right In Sidebar
But There Won’t Be Smoking Allowed

To be honest, that’s what the blog is really about: Giving me the ability to go back to a point in time and see what was going on in the world and in my life at the time. You, gentle reader, are just along for the slow-moving ride.

And where ever I am five years from now, I’ll know how I got there. But I’m not sure where that is, nor am I sure where I would want that to be.


So the spellchecker in the browser here does not recognize the spelling of coronavirus yet, which is a nice thing.

On Tuesday, we had a project manager for a local contractor out to re-bid replacing the gutters at Nogglestead. The current gutters, many years or decades old, can no longer handle the deluge that comes with severe spring thunderstorms. I had the same fellow out to bid last year, but we didn’t have it done for some reason–I got busy or something. At any rate, the price was the same, so I put down a deposit on it. Sometime in the next week or so, a team will be out to put my new gutters on amid the panic. After he took my check, the project manager held out his hand to shake mine, and I felt like a dandy germophobe in not clasping his.

I went to Sam’s Club yesterday to top things off in case some time in the near future I won’t be able to. The hours have been trimmed, and I got there about an hour after the store opened. I can’t give you an apples-to-apples comparison of the same time period on a normal weekday, but it wasn’t terribly crowded. Cleaning products were limited to two per SKU as were diapers and whatnot. The laundry detergent was mostly gone. The meat department and produce department were a little light, but I managed to get what I needed. I managed to hit the checkouts as everyone else did, but I remembered I wanted to pick up some sushi for lunch, so I went back, and when I got to the registers a second time, the lines were minimal.

We have been staying in more than normal, with only one trip out some days (Sam’s Club or the recycling center). Today, my beautiful wife is going to visit a 92-year-old woman who just joined her choir. When she first showed for choir, she forgot where she parked, and my wife drove her around the church parking lot looking for her car. So the new choir member made an afghan for my wife, and she wants my wife to pick it up today in spite of the current unpleasantness.

Five of the last six days have been overcast and rainy, with only yesterday warm and sunny. Spring always catches me by surprise. This year more than others. But a cool, rainy spring last year led to our best peach crop ever, and the trees are starting to blossom now. I hope we’re not going to get another freeze, but it is definitely possible.

So that’s the story. Life goes on, especially for the people who have to go to work somewhere that’s not in the service industry. It might even seem more normal for the people who still have to go out to work every day than it does for those of us in the professional trades who sit at home alone but for the Internet headlines and rumors for company.

Good luck out there in the post-apocalyptic wasteland. Remember to eat your neighbors first while they’re still plump, before they start getting thin from starvation, and only then dip into your stockpiled beans.

The Cost Savings Are Lost By Me

Now that I’m dispensing financial advice to your detriment, gentle reader, I want to let you know in on a little secret I learned back in the old days, before the macarenavirus, when my son and I could freely travel to the YMCA for a triathlon class in advance of a triathlon sure to be canceled now.

After class, we went to the vending machines to get a Gatorade. The price listed on the machine said $1.50, and it had a credit card reader, so I used the credit card to buy a couple of drinks.

When I checked the credit card statement, I had a pair of charges for $1.60. When I checked the machines again, I saw the fine print: The price reflects a ten cent discount for using cash.

Well! I never! Well, no, I rather too often!

So I have decided that I’m going to save that ten cents each drink and pay with cash from now on.

One thing to note about me is that I don’t tend to carry coins out of my house. We have a little mite box for the Lutheran Women Missionary League, a little receptacle for change that you can bring, once a month, to church and dump into a larger box. So whatever change I accumulate in my pockets goes in there when I unpack for the evening.

Now I do try to generally be frugal with my pocket money as I will, if given the opportunity, stuff it into some collection plate or another. So I get a twenty out of the ATM once or twice a week, and then I promptly stop by the doughnut store. As a matter of fact, I tend to get that twenty just to buy doughnuts. My order comes to $4.76, and the proprietor gives me a quarter and three fives in change. If I have a dollar, I’ll tuck it in the tip cup. If not, sometimes I tuck in a five (a tip jar is a sort of personal collection plate, ainna?).

So when I get to the YMCA, I have a wallet full of five dollar bills. Two of the machines dispensing Gatorades do not take five dollar bills (apparently, the only “cash” allowed is coins or one dollar bills). One of them does, though, and we get a Gatorade and change paid out in three Sacajawea dollars and two quarters. Two quarters and a Sacajawea buy the other, and I have two dollars left.

Two dollars in coins.

You already know what happens next: I get home and put the change into the Mite Box.

So I’ve essentially spent two dollars to save twenty cents.

Fiscal responsibility really isn’t my strong suit. I have an English and Philosophy degree, friends. Not accounting. I would have said “economics,” but we know that’s not a study of money so much as manipulating people into doing what the economists want.

But An Attractive Woman In Yoga Pants Is How I Got The Back Pain

An ad that appears often on sites that know how to thwart (or pay off) my ad blocker:

I haven’t watched the video to see whether it is a yoga thing or not, but I am pretty sure that I’ll not look as eye-catching and clickable as the ladies in the ads if I do any kind of stretch you would find on the Internet.

Time will tell, though, as I got my beautiful wife who favors yoga pants gift certificates to the local yoga shop for her birthday, and someday when the air is clear again, we shall use them.

In the interim, though, I’ll be doing her bidding in the garden and getting the back pain that I’ll need to cure.

The Dying Time, Redux

I predicted even before the macarenavirus troubles began that a dying time was coming. As you know, gentle reader, my aunt and godmother died on Thanksgiving. Her illness and the age of the previous generation led me to my unhappy musings.

Yesterday, the best man at my wedding died of a drug overdose.

I had met Mike in high school where he was a year behind me. We had a Spanish class for a year and got to be acquaintances. When I went away to the university, Mike was one of the people to whom I wrote (letters, not emails, as I am far older than most people who use you.regettingold.om). We shared an interest in poetry and exchanged poems (printed on computer paper as we did have computers back then, you damn kids, but not the Internet, really). When I came back on break my senior year, we did coffee house open mic nights and poetry slams together, and we did that throughout the middle 1990s along with some roleplaying games and trips to GenCon.

We started parting ways toward the end of the 1990s. I got a girlfriend, and he got married, and although the house I rented with my new bride was only a couple blocks from his, we didn’t see each other as much because we were married men or something. He wasn’t even my first choice for best man; I think I slotted him for second runner up or usher, but when my first choice for best man decided he could not, in good conscience, stand at my wedding (and another groom’s man stopped talking to me), I gave him a battlefield promotion to best man. And he did it well.

We didn’t drift apart after that; sometime after I moved out to Casinoport, he stopped returning my phone calls. The last time I reached out to him was November 2000, when I left a message in Spanish on his machine (voice mail was on tape recorders or locally hosted computer chips back then, gentle reader) to invite him to go see Bedazzled. He never called back.

Although I would have called him my best friend back then, in retrospect I’m not sure how good of a friend he really was. He was, erm, good with the ladies. He was handsome, smart, athletic, and appeared to have self-confidence in bunches. So, yeah, he was with a lot of ladies, including a number of women in whom I was interested and told him so. He used drugs and kept that hidden from me because he knew I would disapprove. He definitely showed me what he thought I would approve of, so I’m not sure who he was.

He called me up in early 2008. A mutual friend, the other of my groom’s men who bailed on me over a philosophical argument of some sort, had reached out to him after a decade, which prompted him to call me to apologize for the break in our friendship. He told me that, back in the day, I was such an ass that he would have to tell other people before meeting me that I was an ass and that he got tired of having to warn people about me. He told me a bit of what he was up to, but he never asked me anything about how I was or what I was doing. I was an executive downtown, and we had a baby, and I lived in Old Trees, not far from one of his obsessive flames and one of my crushes (two different people) that he slept with lived. I was bursting to tell him if he asked or if he even seemed interested, but the call was about him, not me.

So the fellow who was to be my groom’s man but stormed off after the philosophical argument reached out to me yesterday to let me know that Mike had passed. I understand he had substance abuse and mental health issues that followed him into middle age. That he pushed away most of his remaining friends. I was just talking about him with my wife not long ago, but I hadn’t felt compelled to reach out to him.

The service is on Thursday night, but it’s in St. Louis, so I won’t make it. It’s funny, for someone I haven’t talked to in a long time how this has affected me. Perhaps because I thought we were such good friends once, but I was later not sure (so, Brian J., why don’t you trust anyone, including your own judgment in people?). Maybe because he was a peer and one of the first of my youth cohort to die that I’m aware of. I don’t know.

Sadly, so many of these death posts are about how I feel about it and not a roaring tribute to the deceased. But I am an egotist and a recovering ass, so it’s par for the course.

(Link for you.regettingold.com seen today on Friar’s Fires and Neatorama.)


For some reason, Wally has been on my mind recently. I flagged a poem in Robert Hayden’s Collected Poems with the name.

Wally lived in the projects at the other end of the block from us, but he would shamble down 40th Street a couple times a day, probably on the way to the grocery, drug store, or liquor store on Florist. He was ancient to those of us under ten years old. He had white hair and no teeth, and he moved slowly. I was never sure if he was infirm or intoxicated, but he would always happily comply when a group of children would surround him and request his rendition of “Tiny Bubbles”.

I was talking to my brother a couple weeks ago, and he mentioned that Wally served in World War I. Doing the math, I guess that would work out–he was about eighty. My grandfather served in World War II and was only a little older than I am now in 1970-something.

What stories Wally (and my grandfather) could have shared with me. Probably not about the wars, as men of those conflicts didn’t talk much about it, but just the things they had seen in the early part of the 20th century.

It’s probably why I like self-published personal memoirs like The Apple Man and Growing Up In The Bend. I get to hear those stories of ordinary men in their own words, without having to actually talk to them (or risk them with various infections).

Another good reminder to live in the present with those around you instead of tinkling on a blog or banging your head against a promise chain for hours a day.