Jul 22

Happy Fourth!

Happy Fourth. I hope you have big plans that involve a barbecue, but not chemical burns, being outdoors, but not sunburns, and good times, but not … too good a time?

The juxtaposition-for-dramatic-and-ironic-contrast device ran empty on me there, apologies.

Not much to our Fourth. The city didn’t host a fireworks show this year. Not sure why. It can’t be too pandemic related, though, since they returned to their parade tradition this morning. (Last year they had a reverse parade and people apparently drove their cars around parked floats. You do what you can.)

The next small town up the road is hosting fireworks, and there are a few large church displays. Someone at one of the lakes is doing fireworks. It’s out there if you want it, plus a parade. There’s also a neighborhood parade, and we rode our bikes through that route just after they concluded this morning. We rode very fast, but did not catch them. That would have been amusing.

Perhaps our neighbor, who has wowed us all with pyrotechnic displays that surely equal a mortgage payment the last two years, will hurl flaming sulfur and blackpowder into the sky this evening.

Let’s check in on the cats, who would be fine with fewer things exploding within earshot.

Phoebe was enjoying a late afternoon in the sun on the dining room table that she is not supposed to be on.

But she’s so cute, and she doesn’t care about your rules, so what are you going to do?

You get her back by putting a taco toy on her head. That’s what you do.

Poseidon was playing … under … the tunnel?

At least he wasn’t on something he’s not supposed to be on. For a change. (Alert the media!)

And alert them because he’s ready for his closeup.

I mentioned we saw a rock ‘n’ roll show on Friday night. I’m going to stretch this out all week, so settle in. Here are a few clips from Toad the Wet Sprocket.

“All I Want” is a song about the fleeting feeling of epiphany. It comes and it goes, but when it goes, it goes very quickly. Yes, it’s a nostalgia-adjacent song that’s sang nostalgically. Peak Gen X irony, I’ll grant you.

A few years later, this song was released. And, pretty quickly Toad the Wet Sprocket found themselves at that point where they say “This song is a hit! … but it’s just not as big as your last one.”

I wonder, if they had any sense they’d be doing this 30-plus years later, if they would have stayed away from the Monty Python reference.

Tomorrow, I’ll share a Gin Blossoms clip, because Friday night had a distinct mid-90s feel to it.

We were also in Nashville for part of the weekend. Our friends Sally Ann and Spencer finally held their wedding reception. (They did a private wedding during peak Covid and Saturday they finally brought all of their people together. They had a party worth waiting for. We all got dressed up and had a fine time. Because we were in Nashville, I had barbecue for lunch Saturday and Sunday. Because we were returning to Bloomington, we brought enough barbecue back for two dinners.

We had one of those dinners tonight.

Most importantly, our friends had a lovely time, and they deserved it. It was nice to be a small part of their festivities. They hired a photographer for the evening, and I didn’t even pull my phone out of my pocket for any pictures. You don’t have to take my word for it, though.

We looked very sophisticated.

Our neighbor did not set off fireworks. It was a quiet Fourth, and that’s just fine, too.

May 22

Riding into the weekend

Finally, we were able to get in another bike ride this week. The two extra days off did my legs no favors. But someone didn’t seem phased. I was playing catch up for 90 minutes.

At the very end of the ride I caught her.

Or, seen another way …

Even then, it took a well-timed break — near our pre-selected turnaround point is the home of a few friends who were out in their yard so we stopped for a chat — and a desperate chase just to stay in sight.

She’ll get faster before I do, probably, which is the real concern.

Did you know I am still putting dive videos on social media? I am still putting dive videos on social media. Here’s today’s dose. I’ve got about five more weeks worth of clips, I’m sure.

That’s it for now. See you Monday. Until then, check out my Instagram. And did you know that Phoebe and Poseidon have an Instagram account? Also, be sure to keep up with me on Twitter as well.

Apr 22

The last sports show of the semester

I took a picture of a monitor showing someone taking a picture of a jib camera, which was shooting video of the person taking a picture. I wish I knew how to be more meta than that. Plenty of people can, but I’m just shooting from the hip, which is why this is framed so awkwardly.

Anyway, it’s basically senior night for the sports crew, so I got to take pictures with some of our graduating people. I keep a folder of them now, so I can pull out the right picture at the right moment and make them remember the little people.

Here’s Ta, who is going home to work for a company called Main Stand where he’s going to do just incredible things. We all know this to be true because he does incredible things on a regular, daily basis already.

Here’s Jevan, who will surely be making his next big announcement any moment now. He anchored tonight, his last show. He wore the same suit the first time he sat at the desk a few years ago. It was a conscious closing of the circle, I think.

His classmate Sean is also destined for great things. He’s been with this bunch for two years, but he’s been so instrumental in seemingly everything that it feels like he’s been there forever.

And it was also Old Home Week. This is Justin. After working with the sports crew here for a long time, he graduated last year. These days he’s doing local news at KEPR in Washington state. I remember when he and I talked about this, and about the job interview, and I asked him if he thought he could enjoy news, because it’s a different animal than the sports he’s always focused on. And, I said, you have to want it, because the news is demanding of your time and attention and your emotion.

He loves it.

He came back to visit his brother, who is also about to walk. He also talked to all the young IUSTV people tonight. That was just the coolest thing.

They’re all quite cool, honestly. Being around them was the best part of my day. Even when they made jokes at my expense. (Sometimes I set them up so nicely, they can’t not make the jokes.)

(Usually that’s a deliberate choice on my part.)

Jan 22

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes …

We got a text in the pre-dawn hours this weekend, the sort that comes with a sting and a great ache created by a newly formed hollow place.

Our friend Brian’s father passed away. He’d been fighting some heart-related problems and things were starting to improve until, suddenly, the doctors and nurses had to say they’d done all they can do. It’s just terrible.

Tom was a husband, a grandpa and a father. He is the father of one of the most steadfast men I know. Brian and I worked together for four-and-a-half years. Everyone called us office spouses. We shared a cubicle, mostly because I didn’t drive him crazy. I only didn’t drive him crazy because I admired him so much.

And that was the guy at work. Away from keyboards and glowing screens, Brian is the person that knows my wife and me as a couple longer than anyone. He delivered the toast at our wedding. He helped us move. Multiple times. For many years, when we lived in the same town, we dined with Brian and his wife, Elizabeth, weekly. We have celebrated countless little successes with them. We have boasted unceasingly about the achievements of their brilliant daughter. We have all held each other and cried in the most unimaginable grief.

Tom and his wife, Janet, who (I’m trying to find a not-clichéd way to say it, but she) is just about a perfect gem of a human being, took us in for no other reason than we were their boy’s friends. It is part of their shared generous spirit to the world beyond their door. A lot of people do that, sure. The McAlisters made it feel like it was just for you, like you were the only lucky people that got added, which was far from the case. Felt like it, though. They met because they were spelunkers, and it worked. They had two sons and their family, official and otherwise, just grew and grew and grew.

Here’s Brian and his dad, Tom, after Brian’s daughter’s birthday party. She was a wee thing then and is a certifiably genius college student today. I don’t have a great frame of reference for father-son moments, but this felt like one, almost 14 years ago, to the day.

It looked important and cool. I didn’t want to intrude.

What’s more, their welcoming spirit was familiar. Felt like part of my family. My grandmother was that same way. Never met a stranger. She ministered with food and laughter. There for most anyone for most anything at most any time. Tom and Janet, always gave off a known sort of kindness. Their easy, unspoken, cherished bosom buddy sort of personality was normal.

One terribly sad year, Brian and Elizabeth decided to not have Thanksgiving. Their son passed away a week before and they needed some time to themselves. Rather than think of them being alone, I invited Tom and Janet, the grieving grandparents, to my grandparents’ for Thanksgiving dinner. They didn’t live that far away and it was the obvious gesture. I don’t recall if I asked my grandmother’s permission to bring people into her home. Probably I did, but I knew she wouldn’t care. These were good people because they were my people and that would have been enough. Besides, that’s what she did. There was never a “Why?” but “How many plates do we need to set out?”

And so Tom and Janet drove over and 10 of us sat around the kitchen table. In the blessing, I prayed for the family that was with us and I prayed for those who were elsewhere. I asked for strength and health for those who needed it and peace and patience and understanding for those seeking it.

Eight days earlier they lost a grandbaby and had to watch their son and daughter-in-law crumble before them. And Tom and Janet were rocks, smoothed and weathered by time and sharpened by experience. They were the great, steady, oaks of the forest. They were the comforting lights in the night. Only they were better than all of that. We don’t have imagery for such an inconceivable thing, really. After one of the services, I wrote about our friends, Tom and Janet, “You don’t know of pain until you see a parent who knows they can’t comfort their child. You don’t know strength – a true strength borne of love – until you see them do it anyway.”

That Thanksgiving, I realized that you don’t know vulnerability, real human rawness, until you’ve seen people unabashedly share their grief in a stranger’s kitchen. I also learned that you don’t know the best stuff of the human spirit until you’ve seen strangers grieve for new friends.

We laughed, too. Everyone told tall tales and we all tried to talk about other things. Tom and Janet, so grateful for a brief evening of normal, stayed a long time. I was proud we could all do that and not at all surprised that they were sent home with food.

I’ve always thought of that as a story about my grandmother. It’s one of my most precious and fondest moments with her, the materfamilias, always teaching the best of her traits by example, always demonstrating that the simple things are the important things. But I’ve come to realize it’s a story about the family I was lucky enough to get, and the family I was wise enough to choose.

I’ve been writing this with teary-eyed emotions, but now comes the hard part.

Four years later, when my grandmother died, Tom and Janet made the drive over again. For just a moment, in a way I couldn’t have anticipated, dear sweet friends covered the unfillable hole.

Since we got that early morning message I’ve thought of little more than how difficult it is to fill such a hole, even temporarily, for the people you love. How I want to do that for my friend Brian, and his mother, Janet, and that lovely family.

Dec 21

The memories park

This is the park where my lovely bride played as a child. She’d dangle in the trees off to the left of the frame. And she would swing on the ropes and the monkey bars that used to stand through those woods in the background. These days we walk on the paths and run on the track.

It’s also where, 13 years ago yesterday, we took our engagement photos. We just happened to find ourselves there again yesterday, but without the snow. Because, you see, we took our photos in 19.7 degree weather.

We tried to recreate a few of the photos. Only our faithful photographer — who shot our engagement in a Nor’easter and our wedding in the hottest heat wave of the summer — wasn’t there.

Here we are today.

And 13 years ago.

Once more, today.

And, again, in 2008.

For the record, that bench was still cold, this week.

Here’s a low stone wall and the woods of Connecticut. It couldn’t be any more authentic if you put a Joe Lieberman sign out there.

And last night we picked up a pizza and had dinner with The Yankee’s college diving coach. Dan is a lovely guy. Wonderful conversation, and the best tomato pie around, from Pepe’s Pizzeria.

And, perhaps the best part, we had plenty for leftovers.