Cruising Poetic

So we’ll go no more a-roving
So late into the night,
Though the heart still be as loving,
And the moon still be as bright.
                                 -Lord Byron
Those lines makes me think of all those teenage nights spent driving around with my two best friends, Matt Petty and Lee Walsh. We never seemed to have a destination, but we were always going somewhere. It was freedom like I had not known before. We were the Lewis and Clark Expedition of the streets of Fort Worth.
There’s an episode of the Wonder Years right after Kevin gets his license. He and his friends go out wandering. At the end the narrator says, “We didn’t really accomplish anything that night. Nothing of any real importance, anyway. But through the high school years that lay ahead… there would be a thousand other nights, just like that one. Stupid, ridiculous… and glorious.” I love that line. It says it all.
It’s a rite of passage for young American men after getting a driver’s license. As long as there have been cars and roads to drive them on and cities to drive them through, boys have sought their freedom behind the wheel. Its more about the journey than the destination. Its about constant discovery and endless change and the element of chance. You can control the vehicle, but not always the conditions. Ahead lies risk and danger, joy and exhaltation. You can’t easily turn around so you only move forward, pushing forever away from the place of your birth and constantly toward the grave. If you’re fortunate you have close friends to share the wonder with you along the way.

Bananas Foster or: How I Almost Married a Chubby Girl Because Her Hot Cousin Dumped Me

Thanks to Facebook, I have reconnected with a bunch of people with whom I have been out of touch for many years. When I look back at the past 20 years, I find there is not a single person I’ve been in touch with consistently. I suppose this is normal in the years after high school. So I will quickly fill in the gaps for all my new friends and reconnected friends and family:

1990 – 1993 Hot Tub Time Machine
In Hasbro’s “The Game of Life” you get to choose the path for college or career. Both paths lead to the same place, and ultimately come out pretty even, but the career path requires crap work and low pay at first. In my life I tried college briefly, but chose the career path. I worked lame jobs and hard jobs during those years and many of the years that followed.
Most of that period was spent hanging out with Matt and Lee, my two best friends from High School. Those were wasted years, but fun times.
1994 – 1998 The Empire Strikes Back
I was orphaned in my twenties. I lost my mom in ’94 and my dad in ’98, both to cancer. I lost both of my grandmothers in the same week in February of ’99. I lost my faith somewhere along that road. Then I found it, then I lost it again. That’s probably a story for another blog.
I’ve been married twice and almost married a few times more. I married my first wife a month before my mom died. I almost bolted from the church that day, but I looked out of the groom’s room and saw my dad rolling in my mom in a wheelchair. She had literally left her death bed to see my wedding. So I went through with it. Four years later, a month after my dad died, I threw out the first wife. If my first marriage was a book, it would be children’s book, the kind with big innocent cardboard pages, simple words, and almost no sex, like “Goodnight Moon”.
1999 – 2001 Doctor Strange Love or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
I highly recommend first marriages. It’s a great learning experience. For example, I learned you shouldn’t marry your prom date. I also learned that I love sampling wedding cake, but I hate weddings. So after my first marriage ended, I got engaged a few times, but always avoided setting a date. Between 1998 and 2002, I sampled a lot of cakes.
2002 – present Field of Dreams
I met my second wife, Lisa in 2002. Our marriage is a dream. Lisa is my best friend, and my one true love. I could write pages about Lisa, and I will, but not yet. We have a terrific son. He’s a smart and talented kid with a well developed sense of humor. It sometimes really pisses me off to see myself reflected so perfectly in another person.
I learned the value of hard work early on, and those lessons have served me well. I now have great job that I enjoy going to every day. What I do is also fodder for another blog post.
As I approach my middle years, I am satisfied with my life. I am married to a woman I love. I have a job I would do for free. We’re mostly healthy and mostly happy most of the time. My life is full of laughter, and when I see the bald guy with the grey chin whiskers in the mirror, I generally like him.
Now… we’re all caught up. I’d ask how you’ve been for the last twenty years, but I’d rather read it in your blog. So get to work everyone, and start sending me those links.

Couple Friends

I’m certain most married men can relate to this. My wife, Lisa, is frequently trying to find us couple friends to hang out with. This involves starting with a woman she is already friends with, usually someone from work or from high school, then introducing the husbands into the mix. In order for this to be successful, the husbands (me and the other guy) must become friends. Ideally we would become the kind of friends who would hang out without our wives around, thus creating a sub-group within the couple friend dynamic. The statistical probability of this formula working is approximately 285:1 against. The obstacles to success are abundant, but I’ll pick off a few obvious ones.
Social Science. Men don’t quickly bond with other men. The bonds among men take years to form and are often shaped by shared tragedy or at least shared adversity. I’m pretty sure this is true of most male mammals. If you need examples, check out monkeys, lions or elephants. The herds, or whatever, are made up of females and babies. The males are either off somewhere alone or with males with whom they grew up. If a new male is introduced into the pack of males, it is summarily humiliated, beaten and assigned a lesser position in the chain of command or it takes control of the pack by ousting the current leader (this might happen in human groups if The Rock showed up).

Social Disorders. I used to think I was introverted, but now I’m certain that I’m antisocial. I’m comfortable in crowds, and I’m okay being openly antisocial. There is a quote in the new BBC “Sherlock Holmes” series where Sherlock says, “I’m not a psychopath. I’m a high functioning sociopath. Do your research.” I get that. As Lisa has tried to bring her friends’ husbands around, I have picked them off, one by one, as unworthy. I am willing to admit that if I had a problem with one man or two or even three, it could be them. But if my problem is with every man (or, let’s face it, every man, woman and child), it may be me. I remember when I was much younger, choosing not to ask a girl out because she had a bunch of friends, and I really didn’t like them. It seemed easier to just not try, than to start a relationship that would end with me telling her that everyone she knows is an asshole.

Offspring. We have a twelve year old son. If the other couple has a child of similar age, then they must also get along. If the other couple has a baby or toddler, then it’s just never going to work. I am past the point in my life where I want to make social arrangements around a little child. I don’t want to double date to a Pixar film or have to work around naps or listen to tantrums. Sometimes Lisa, who is a Labor and Delivery Nurse, will meet people at work who are having a baby and who seem like a perfect match to us socially. All I can think when I hear this is, “do I really want to spend a lot of time around a baby?”

Alcohol. We like to drink. I like it a lot. I drink in crowds. I drink alone. It’s one of the only ways I am able to function socially. That Lisa also likes to drink, and is okay with my constant drinking is one of the magic bonds that hold us together. Trying to be couple friends with people who don’t drink is a deal breaker. If their reason for not drinking is religious, all the more so.

Humor, politics, and religion. I have a very dry sense of humor, and a caustic wit that is fully engaged 95% of the time. If you look up caustic wit, you will probably find sarcasm as a synonym. If the other couple is not of a similar demeanor, this could be a problem. Lisa and I are both quite liberal in our social politics and in our religion. Of the two of us, she is the one you would describe as having a religion. Any one of these factors if discussed openly can make or break a friendship.

So if you’ve been friends with my wife for years, and your husband and I are on an equal socio-economic plane, and we have shared a trauma together, probably brought on by being drunk, funny and antisocial in a public place, then this could work. If it’s not a perfect fit, but you’d generally describe yourself as a secular humanist and you’re willing to let your husband narrowly avoid being arrested or beaten up in a bar fight then it may be worth a try. Provided you don’t have small children.

Thanksgiving

If I had a religion, Thanksgiving would be my high holy day. It’s got everything a holiday should have and nothing it shouldn’t.

Thanksgiving is the 4th of July with Turkey. It has history. Think Pilgrims and Indians sharing a feast after a bad harvest and fear of the Winter that was afoot. It’s the ultimate American holiday.

Thanksgiving is Christmas with all the joy and none of the stress. There’s no need to decorate, or spend months stressing about what gifts to buy. It’s a chance for friends and family to come together, enjoy a meal and enjoy each others company. It’s a chance to be thankful for whatever you’ve got, whether it’s a feast and fifty people to share it with or just a hot plate of food and shelter from the cold.

Thanksgiving is New Years Day without the lame-ass plans for the future. It’s a day off work. It’s got a parade, football, and booze if you plan it right.

Thanksgiving is Saint Patrick’s Day without the Irish. Again, parade (show tunes… you know what I’m talking about), football and booze. This might actually apply to few holidays, so you should assume any holiday that has parades, sports, food or alcohol is just a Thanksgiving knock-off.

So, happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy the feast.

Sex and the 20 Year Reunion

This year is the 20th anniversary of my high school graduation. Looking back twenty years, it seems my primary interest back then was trying to have sex with my female classmates. This obsession is in no way meant to convey any success in that endeavor. In fact, just to be perfectly clear, I was involuntarily sexless throughout high school. But the endless quest for sex is no doubt what makes every teenage boy wake up, go to school, get a job, drive a car and so on, and I was no different.

Twenty years later, I am older, wiser and more experienced, and I’m facing the prospect of a twenty year high school reunion. I am successful, happily married, well adjusted, and in the best physical condition of my life. And now, all these years later, I can honestly say that even if I weren’t happily married, I wouldn’t want to have sex with any of the women that I went to school with. Age has ravaged the class of ’90. When I look at the current photos on line, I sigh with relief at the bullets I dodged. I don’t see missed opportunities. I see the road not travelled and thank the photo pages on facebook for the road I’m on.