Thursday, June 28, 2018

On the Road Again

A lot of my childhood memories involve the open road.  Being on it.  Going to places with the family because the Coach's work took him places.  I don't always remember the factual details of those travels.  Was I eight?  Or was I ten?  Was it early morning before the sun came up ?  Or was it dark because the day was almost over?  Were we in California?  Or were we in New Mexico?  But what I do remember was the intensity of feeling I had in certain moments.

Like this one.

I'm sitting in a diner booth with my family, checking out a laminated menu.  I look up and out the window and see a long, long stretch of road gleaming in the twilight, and suddenly, because I'm in an unfamiliar place deciding what I want to eat, I feel homesick.  Isolated.  Disconnected from my real life back in Provo where I have a dog and friends and my own room.  The road outside feels oddly menacing--something designed to bring into my life a whole big world that might change what I think I know.

The feeling passed.  But sometimes when I'm on the road now, the memory of that moment travels with me.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Getting All Zen. But not too Zen.

To deal with my occasional bouts of depression and anxiety I took a mindfulness course a few years ago.  I loved the instructor and I picked up on some useful practices, such as meditation, although I am not a good meditator, because I have an attention span of . . .


. . . a dog.  And not a smart type of dog like a border collie either.

Anyway.  When I am feeling particularly anxious, I do some meditating, reminding myself that I am the mountain and everything else is just the weather and so forth.  It's helpful.  But occasionally this thought occurs to me:  if I get REALLY good at this--if I turn all Zen on myself--I might not be able to write funny anymore.

Not saying I'm that funny, but you know what I mean.

Here's the deal.  Humor grows out of some kind of emotional pain.  Or if not exactly pain, then certainly discomfort.  You know.  Like embarrassment.  Which is why you end up writing columns about the summer your family's eyeballs turned yellow because you all had the hepatitis and people fled when they saw you approach.  Not that you did much approaching of other people that summer because you were in bed feeling like you wanted to die and also your liver was hurting and also you could smell stale beer wafting through your open bedroom window that someone had poured in the middle of the street the night before.  Because that's how hepatitis works.  It turns your sense of scent into your super power.  SUCH A STUPID SUPER POWER IF YOU'RE A HUMAN!

Anyway.  It's useful sometimes to remember what E.B. White once said.  Turning pain into humor pays off in the end.  Or maybe he didn't say exactly that.

But he should have.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Sometimes a Complete Stranger Changes (Sort of) Your Life

Once upon a time a long, long time ago when I was on a road trip with our kids who were mere babies, I met an older woman bobbing around in a motel swimming pool with her grandchildren.  Also bobbing around was the blonde, good-looking mother of said grandchildren.  She and the grandmother treated one another affectionately so I assumed they were mother and daughter.

But wait!  They weren't!

In fact, they were ex's.  Ex-DIL.  Ex-MIL.

"You know," the grandmother said to me, "when my son and his wife divorced, I decided to stay on good terms with her so we could all enjoy the children together."

Or something to that effect.  I didn't have a tape recorder in the swimming pool with me that day.  But I've never forgotten the sight of her with grandchildren draped around her sun-browned neck.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Sometimes your childhood BFF's mom turns 90

And then you drive down to Provo with Gigi Ballif and attend a tea party in her mother's honor.  Which we did today.

It's always interesting to revisit the places and people you knew when you were a kid.  Ruth is a woman I admire endlessly.  She's intelligent, forthright, and practical with a social conscience--like a certain kind of Yankee woman, although she actually grew up on Long Island.  (Gigi told me stories about New York when we were kids and how there were these magic places there called "automats" where you just got your food out of machines.  The East!  So advanced!  Probably the food was even made by robots just like in The Jetsons!)

I will say, however, when I was a kid I was a little bit afraid of Ruth, even though she always made us Danish pancakes for breakfast when I slept over at Gigi's house.  I was trying to figure out today exactly why I was afraid,  and  then I realized then I was afraid of everybody's mother in those days. That was me.  A MOTHER-FEARING WEENIE.

Anyway.  I've been wondering if I ever scared anybody.  I doubt it.

But I hope I did.  At least a little bit.