Saturday, November 21, 2015

Lend me your ears and I'll sing you a song and I'll try not to sing out of key

This is basically just a big old love letter to my Peace Corps friends. It is self-indulgent, with way too many photos.

I haven't said it perfectly, but I've done the best I can.
We love you, Rhonda!
I owe giant thanks to my friend Rhonda for turning 50, for inviting me to her birthday party, for pulling such an incredible group together in Austin.
Birthday lady!
I have many, many things to say about Austin, but this post is about reconnecting with friends from the long-ago, far-away past. 
The bakery misspelled Rhonda. When I told my friends there was no H, Ralph said, "They spelled it Appy Birthday?"
So. Here's the story.

My Peace Corps friend Rhonda was turning 50 and wanted a destination birthday party.
Kombucha and birthday button and new boots!
She invited a bunch of other Peace Corps friends--all of whom she has kept up with over the years. She and I just reconnected a year ago. I last saw all the others 20 years ago in Ecuador.

I was excited but also nervous. Twenty years is a long time.

How would it feel seeing old friends after such a long absence?
And here we are again.
It felt like sunshine and giant hugs and love and awesome memories and laughing until it hurts, all wrapped in rainbows and sprinkled with pixie dust and unicorn kisses. Oh, and then doused liberally  with Moscow Mules made with Tito's vodka.

Is approximately how it felt.
Rich is the Moscow Mule master.
My god, it was amazing. These are people we struggled with, laughed and cried with, had truly crazy adventures with, and loved. We remembered things that were in each other's hearts, way back then.

And that's what it all comes down to, every time: love.

I had the same feeling as I do with my high school friends, which prior to the weekend I'd have said I have with nobody else. And in fact, my worlds collided seamlessly when my dear Delhi friend Nicole, who drove me to Austin from Dallas, took me to hook up with my Peace Corps friends.

They all met, Carissa liked Nicole's boots, and Nicole immediately set about hooking her up on Poshmark.
We just met and we're busy.
There was a feeling of magic, of suspended time and reality, of complete acceptance, of unmitigated joy.
Women of Omnibus 70!
It was both extraordinary and so utterly normal. Instead of beer and nachos in Austin, we could easily have been chatting over beer and chifles in Tumbaco or Quito.
Mas cerveza, por favor.
For me it is gratifyingly deep and soul-affirming to reconnect with people who lived through particular and unusual circumstances and time together.

There was much remember-when-ing all weekend. We are still the same people. Older, with more life experience. But the same.
That Suzy look!
I have a vivid memory of buying sliced watermelon on the street in a hot, grimy coastal city. When the vendor asked which pieces we wanted, Carissa said, "The one no flies have walked on."

Remember when: we took overnight buses and hitched rides in the back of pickup trucks to go visit Suzy at the beach? When Janet and I hiked through the rain forest to visit with another volunteer's community and were immediately offered banana chicha (a beverage made by masticating bananas, spitting them into a vessel, and waiting for it to ferment)? Remember that priest at Eric's site who used to take us night swimming at hot springs and turned out to have two secret families?

The remember-whens all swirled together with who-we-are-nows.

People are married, have kids, have jobs with huge responsibilities, coach football, grow crops, make soap, run an Airbnb in the Galapagos...  
Hello, Carissa!
Oh, hi, Pearl!
We're all older but still so much the same, in the best possible way.
Aww, Ralph and Juan Carlos!
When we went out in a group to drink, eat, dance, we were kind of like a swarm of bees. You know how they're all individual entities, but together, they have a particular energy, and they hum? Our hums were uproarious laughter, and our product, rather than honey, was inanity and chaos. And we were having such a good time together you could see the energy shift around us.
No, nobody else was doing this. But they wanted to!
We danced so ridiculously to 80s songs in a non-dancing bar that people actually joined in. Or looked like they wanted to, but were afraid of being judged.

Carissa and Rich and Alex and Pearl had rented a charming house, and the last night, a bunch of us crashed in the living room. I was the only one short enough to fit on the couch. I knew from Peace Corps days that it was bound to be a snorey, if brief, night.
To sleep, perchance to dream..
I tiptoed out in the morning, giving these guys a little kiss on the head, in the same way I kiss my kids. Everyone else was still asleep but Carissa, who'd made coffee, bless her.

I  left Austin exhausted, with no voice, and my body 98% nachos and Titos. My face was sore from laughing, and my heart was full to bursting.
Cheeks hurt!
I meant what I said. It always comes down to love.
And also maybe try to choose the one that no flies have walked on.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

I need this reminder, boy howdy do I, and maybe some of you might as well

If you've been with me for a while, you've seen this before. If not, and you have have crazy in your life, these are very useful.

(If you do not, congratulations and file these away just in case.)

Also: If you don't know me, you should know that I use crazy liberally and not necessarily pejoratively, and I apply the term to myself as well. But I make a strong distinction between those of us who know we have problems and seek help for them, and the crazies who walk around believing they're fine, even superior, and wreaking havoc.

Below are my dear friend Mark Bennett's rules. Clicking the title below will take you to his post.

10 Practical Rules for Dealing with the Borderline Personality

I get to deal with a whole lot of crazy at work. The following rules are applicable to lots of flavors of crazy, but I've had a heavy dose of borderline personalities lately. So here are my ten rules for dealing with borderline personalities and other crazy people:
  1. If you don't have to deal with a crazy person, don't.
  2. You can't outsmart crazy. You also can't fix crazy. (You could outcrazy it, but that makes you crazy too.)
  3. When you get in a contest of wills with a crazy person, you've already lost.
  4. The crazy person doesn't have as much to lose as you.
  5. Your desired outcome is to get away from the crazy person.
  6. You have no idea what the crazy person's desired outcome is.
  7. The crazy person sees anything you have done as justification for what she's about to do.
  8. Anything nice you do for the crazy person, she will use as ammunition later.
  9. The crazy person sees any outcome as vindication.
  10. When you start caring what the crazy person thinks, you're joining her in her craziness.

Monday, November 02, 2015

How to become number one in a hot party show

Image credit: CDC
I feel the need to mention that if you are bothered by the scatological, or have never had a parasite or talked about your fecal matter as casually as saying, "Please pass the salt," then this post may not be for you.

So. You've been warned.

Jordan somehow developed Giardia.

I knew it. When the doctor called and said she was shocked, and that she'd learned something from the whole experience, I felt vindicated. Because I knew it!

See, I had Giardia in Peace Corps. It was 20 years ago, but I recognized it. If you yourself have never had the misfortune, I will tell you that there is this particular malodorous flatulence that accompanies it. I say particular and not particularly, because it's specific.

Yes. So my son began farting and I was like, I know those farts!

I may not be a sommelier or professional perfumer, but I do have a skill, if I may say so myself.

I was kind of reluctant to take him to the doctor just on the basis of his flatulence, but his annual physical was approaching, so timing was perfect. When the doctor asked if I had any concerns I told her about his vile gas, and how I'd like to have stool samples done.

She looked at Jordan for confirmation, and so I said, "Right? You've been having terrible farts?"

And he nodded and said, "Oh, yeah."

She questioned doing so without diarrhea, stomach pain, etc. But I continued to express concern and certainty, and she sent us home with three little vials of liquid and instructions.

"What are we going to do with those, Mama?"

"We're going to put your poop in them."


So I explained how we were going to put some wax paper on the toilet seat and then I would take it off and scoop little pieces of his poop into each of the vials until I got to the red line.

I was afraid he'd be freaked out. Au contraire. He was pretty psyched.

Had I ever done this before? He wanted to know. As if one might need special skills. I assured him I had. When? How? He wanted details. I mentioned a dog with worms. He was super impressed.

I went through the instructions with him.

So the moment of truth arrived, and as luck would have it, we were at home. We could do it right now, today!

"Mama. You're not allowed to poop directly into the container."

"You're right." (Although I'd kind of like to see you try.)

"We're going to use wax paper."


What I hadn't counted on was the interest this would generate. India was not about to be left out. So there I was, following instructions, scooping various particles of poop with tiny little spoons, with an audience. I was kind of surprised Betty didn't join us.

Jordan, still enthroned, said authoritatively, "You're not filling it past the red line, are you?"

"No, honey."

"Only to the red line."

"Only to the red line."

Then India, "Mama? Can I try?"

"No, sweetheard. It's better if Mama does it."

"Why is that bottle red?"

Instructions from one side, questions from another. When all I wanted to do was scoop the feces into the little containers as quickly as possible, wash my hands, and get out of the stinky bathroom.

Seemingly impervious, they wanted to converse. What are the people going to do with the poo-poo? How was I going to take it to the doctor? Was I going to put it in my pocket? And why didn't India get to poop in little bottles? No fair that only Jordan got to!

And once again I found myself saying, "It's true. Nothing is fair. Maybe one day we can scoop your poop into little bottles as well."

Are you kidding me with this shit?

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Fair is fowl and fowl is fair

You know I generally prefer the nature through a window.

But on Sunday morning last weekend in New Jersey, I got up and went for a run. It really was spectacularly beautiful.

When I used to run a lot, I'd make running mixes and listen to the same ones over and over. The repetition was soothing, really, because when I run I'm usually so in my head processing things, that what I'm listening to is often secondary

But now I run very rarely and no longer walk to work, and as such, haven't made a playlist in years.

Instead, I go to the Bootie mashup blog and download the free monthly top ten albums.

The artwork does not resonate with me, but I love the mixes. Most of them are fast, combine old and new music, and are so fun. I just cannot pass up the combinations of  Carly Rae Jepson and Nine Inch Nails or Miley Cyrus and the Village People.

So there I was, running with Bootie in the early morning. The weather was perfect, slightly cool and misty. The leaves further north of here have turned so many brilliant colors. I passed charming old stone houses and red barns on stone foundations.

These were neighborhoods, some farms, and for the most part without sidewalks. Only a couple cars passed me, and gave me wide berth. But just in case, I ran just off the road, on the grass.

I pulled out my phone to take pictures. Look how charming!

And then I saw them. A gaggle of geese. Enough to take a grown man down.
I made a little "Aaaah!" sound. And then clapped my had over my mouth, because what if geese take that kind of noise as provocation?

Then I thought, "My goose is cooked!" And had myself a nervous little self-congratulatory giggle.
I tried to remember what you do in case of goose attack. Did I even know?

Stop, drop, and roll is for fire. With a bear, you bang pots and pans. With a rabid raccoon, you hope to hell you have a crowbar. And I know from all the recent shark attacks that you're supposed to punch it in the nose and go for its eyes.

But geese?

Play dead? Make your arms big and flap and roar? I've only read about swans. When they try to drown you, you beat them with your kayak paddle and try to get the fuck  away from them.

They'll probably still drown you, but you do your best.

And were these attack geese, guarding the farm? Or just stopping through on their way to South Beach for the winter? The latter of course seemed safer, unless they felt provoked.

They didn't look particularly interested. But to be safe, I crossed the road and slowed my pace, avoiding eye contact but still slyly observing them. I figured this would seem nonthreatening.

I kept going for about 10 feet and then chickened out. I turned back, found another road, and continued on.

I encountered no other wildlife.

And then today, out of the blue, my friend Coleen, with whom I have had serious discussions about swans, gave me this helpful survival poster.

So glad I didn't know this last week.
Also: I don't really understand the inclusion of cats. Either they are cat haters or they just couldn't think of another scary animal. Why not hippo, raccoon, or Cape Buffalo?