Life Lesson

There is a life lesson that has taken me too many years (decades) to figure out. Partly because I've spent the majority of my adult life renting apartments rather than owning a home. Partly because I've spent the majority of my adult life obliviously walking around, skirting responsibility and commitment. Partly because I'm a hammerhead.

Having something beautiful is a luxury, a delight.

Maintaining something beautiful is work.

This applies to many things.

A home. The picture below is the entryway of a mansion in Galveston. It was built in the early 20th century, and it is gorgeous. Hand-carved wood all over. But, it takes a team of employees and volunteers - along with large grants - to keep it up.
The Bishop's Palace - Galveston, Tx
The Bishop's Palace - Galveston, Tx

Or a patio with flowers. Flowers have to be watered regularly, and weeds will grow through the bricks unless we are vigilant.
Cat's Paradise

Jewelry - Silver will tarnish and must be polished.
Pendant - Silver, 18K and Opal by Barry Perez

Talent - musical, artistic or any other talent you may have developed - requires continued practice, or you will lose the skill, the edge, the ease and the beauty with which you perform.
The Talented Jorge & Nicole

Friendships and relationships
Courtesy of Pexels 
Courtesy of Pexels

I was walking home this afternoon from brunch - just before it began to rain. I passed a beautiful house, a house that I would have loved to live in. It occurred to me that the bigger the home, the more there is to maintain because there's that much more to break down. A few years ago I wouldn't have considered that. I have moved in with my partner – the same one who, without my having to call, came to pick me up when it began to rain – and I have begun to learn what it means to truly be responsible for something and its maintenance. The old house we live in has a leak in the roof and it's entirely up to us to fix it. There is no office to call to come take care of it. And, we either mow the lawn or it becomes a forest, regardless of how much I'd prefer to be laying around reading. I could leave when I got angry, or I could finally figure out what it takes to make a relationship work. I have a lifetime of leaving that has become a habit, a way of life. I am having to learn a new way of life.

The lesson hasn't been easy or without tears. But, I have grown so much in the last few years that I almost don't recognize myself. Has it been worth it? As far as I'm concerned, yes. (You'd have to ask my partner for his perspective.) I have a long way to go, but I am so glad I have begun.

Thank you for reading.

Finishing with a Kick in the Pants

July 19, 2012

I have finished Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. I very much enjoyed the book, but I have mixed emotions about it.

Most of all, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I looked forward to getting off work to read it, the way I hear people at work getting excited about watching the TV show they're currently keeping up with. Contrast that with the book I'm reading now, which I put down regularly and wonder if there's something else I could be reading, Fried Green Tomatoes is definitely a keeper. I spent many hours sitting on the patio reading while my cats nibbled on grass, and in the recliner, which one cat has pretty much claimed as her own and I have to ask special permission to use. I went a long time without using it and they've gotten out of the habit of sitting on my lap. I need to get back to that. I need more books like this one.

A buddy of mine who is a teacher once gave a few of us a minor lecture about the difficulty of writing a narrative by jumping back and forth in time. It was a warning and a suggestion that we not try it unless we were seasoned writers. In a side-by-side with the movie, I can say that the movie went back and forth from present to past (depression era). The book – much more so than the movie – jumps around in time. It doesn't just go from present day to the past; it jumps from present day to two main points in the past and a sprinkling of other temporal locations. Each chapter begins with the date and place, but it was fairly easy from context to figure out where in the century I was, but that might be because I saw the movie first and I knew what was going to happen in one timeline, so I could tell when I was reading in the other.

I thought that she handled it very well, but I felt that there was perhaps a bit too much of it; too many different times. Not that I lost track (I didn't) but it just seemed a little too much. Along the same lines, there seemed to be more characters than one is used to reading about. I didn't feel, necessarily, that there were simply too many characters, but that possibly too much time was taken in following up on so many of them. Taking time to digress and give history about a couple of key minor players is good, but we seemed to be all over the place at times. And while she tied most of it together in the end, I'm not sure that it all added to the story, enough to justify the erratic flow.

As I said before, a lot of it is about a woman in the 80's waking up and discovering that she's no longer a young woman and that perhaps all of the rules she's been following so closely weren't as important as she had thought. Similar to Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind in that respect.

The other part, now that's a real kick in the pants. What's hinted at in the movie is just stated flat out in the book. I don't like to write spoilers, so I'll be vague. But, there were a couple of fabulously unexpected things toward the end of the book/movie. I loved reading about the love and loyalty that Flagg expresses, even though I could feel my more orthodox Catholic friends squirm a little in my mind while I read those parts. Clearly, I'm not one to judge anybody, much less fictional characters or the author who writes them. And the disapproval that my mind projects onto my unsuspecting friends only makes it more delicious.

This was a book well worth reading. I purchased it on my Nook, but I would actually like to have it on my bookshelf. Thank you for reading this review. I look forward to writing more soon.

Until then I remain

Your friend in books,



May 20, 2012

I have a friend who shall remain nameless. I’ve mentioned him a few times here; I’ve called him Nameless, and he shall remain Nameless. This is his choice. I leave it to you, Gentle Reader, to figure out who he is. People who know me closely will not have a problem.

The thing is that Nameless and I dated – or I thought we dated – for a while. That didn’t work out well. This is actually my second attempt at writing this entry because the first one ended up going on and on about the relationship and the details of why it didn’t work out, but that’s not really what I want to write about – for this particular post or in general.

Nameless and I are still very good friends. He’s actually my best friend, and I’m not one to use that handle gratuitously. He’s more like a brother. I’ve met his family and they have adopted me; I’m invited to all the functions. Recently a friend of his asked if we were back together. I’ve had to really begin to watch myself that way, because it’s easy to slip into the habits and familiarity of couplehood. But, he doesn’t want to be together; he has told me this more times than I care to mention.

My point, and I do have one, is that while I’m trying to date again, it’s not easy. First of all, it’s not easy to meet people – for me anyway. Second, it’s not easy to meet people that I would want to date. I’m really just not into bars any more; I should go more often just to kind of keep that line in the water, but it’s a lot of hassle. Then there’s online dating. ***Please do not read this next sentence if you’re squeamish.*** If you create a profile on a gay dating site and describe yourself to God and everybody as a top, then you’d better have the balls and self-confidence to go along with that bold statement because I don’t have time to babysit or listen to snivelly, whiny men who ask me every 5 minutes if they’re bothering me. ***Okay, you may begin reading again.***

But, I end up comparing people to Nameless. By that I don’t mean to say that he’s where I set the standard because I’d like to think my standards are a little higher than somebody who won’t agree to officially call me a boyfriend much less a partner; I’m shooting for a husband here. But, I end up asking myself, “Would I introduce this man to my mother? My sister? My nieces and nephews? Would this man introduce me to his family and make me a part of it? Could I make this man an intimate part of my life? Would I buy a house with him? (This didn’t happen with Nameless, but I wanted it to.) The answer so far has been no… since I stopped thinking that I was dating Nameless, anyway. There were a few close-calls before him.

This doesn’t even touch on the number of friends I’ve met through him, some of whom I call my own friends. So, when I broke up with him, and said that we could be just friends, and it turned out that this meant that nothing changed except for my expectations, it left me in an awkward position. Many people have told me that I should consider just phasing him out of my life – for a while anyway. (One person told me to just burn the bridge, but she’s warped and has far more self-esteem and friends than I do.) The truth is that he’s more than a friend. When I need help with something he generally will drop whatever he’s doing to help me. (Like, when I run out of gas in the pouring rain, for instance.) He’s been with me for any important events in my life since we’ve become close. When I attended a very moving retreat at church there was a supper at the end for family members to join the attendees. He’s the (only) one who came. He was there when I was confirmed as a Catholic; he was there when I was in a car accident that left me lying on the side of the road and eventually in an ambulance. I know that I can count on him and I can’t just turn my back on that.

So, now as I meet people and begin talking with other men I feel a pang of guilt from time to time. It will be awkward if I ever do date again. But, even beyond that, coming out of that situation has left me a little fuzzy, as if I’ve been napping for ages and I’m coming into the world again, blinking in the bright sun, rubbing sleep out of my eyes and wondering what’s happened. I used to have a circle of friends (one of my own) and this and that happened and now I don’t have that circle any more, and all of my friends seem to be through Nameless to one degree or another. I’m not just in the market for a boyfriend; I’m looking for a brand new set of friends that I can count on. (Before anybody gets their panties into a wad, let me clarify by saying that this doesn’t mean that I DON’T have friends, it just means that I want more of them.) Because, every time I get to a weekend or an evening and I want to go out for dinner I call Nameless. For anything big or small my first reaction is to call Nameless. And, while I will never say that I regret knowing him or that I wish we weren’t friends, I’m never going to make new friends this way.

So, that’s my awkward little story about a very special person, who shall remain Nameless. Now it’s very late, I’m very tired and though I probably won’t sleep due to the volume of coffee I’ve consumed today I need to think about going to bed.

More later,

e A r n i e

I Hate GPS

March 11, 2012

It's very possible that I hate GPS's. They might be one more step along the path to a land that David Foster Wallace envisioned in his novel Infinite Jest, a world in which we are so separated from each other that something happening – a car crash or anything – is a big deal because it creates an opportunity for people to come into actual contact with each other. I should clarify here, for anybody who does not know me personally, that there's the tiniest possibility that I'm bitter and/or jaded. But, I feel that this argument has some valid points.

Why do people like GPS? There could be a few reasons.

So they don't get lost. Wrong. Ask any female in Nameless's family and they'll be an example of how this is not, indeed, true. They still get lost and people still wonder how they could leave the city and enter another one and it never occur to them that they've gone the wrong direction when they were only supposed to cross the highway in the first place.

So that you don't have to stop to ask for directions. All I can say is that this is one more step down the isolationist path that never leads this country to a better place. You can site horror stories of coming across ugly, hateful, racist even psychopathically homicidal people when stopping at a gas station to ask for directions and I'll match them one for one with my own lived experiences asking complete strangers for help.

So that you can take road trips more easily. I actually enjoy looking at a map and planning out the route. I've heard stories of GPS systems taking people in circles and then those people being kind of screwed because they were relying on the GPS which was clearly letting them down. But I'll also be the first to admit that technology can improve, especially when there's enough demand for it. But, you miss the fun of looking at a map (which for me is fun in and of itself), seeing what towns you're going to be going through and just basically building the anticipation of the trip. (The introduction to this blog expresses my opinion of instant and total gratification using another example.)

I have had friends say that they were going to come over. I've tried to give them directions, but they won't listen. They'll only tell me to give them my address so that they can plug it into their GPS. This is where I get offended slightly. I cannot help but feel slighted that the piece of technology is allowed to speak and I, their supposed friend, am not. My address as I know it does not work in GPS systems. One time I figured out how to put it in so that it would recognize it, but even then the guy got lost because he turned the wrong direction and went into a high school instead of onto my street, which doesn't say a lot for the people I call friends, except that I don't call him friend, nor have I spoken to him again since – for different reasons.

So, Friday my oldest friend announced that she was coming to see me the next day (yesterday). She used the pronoun 'we' so I had to assume that she was bringing her boy toy. She's 44 and he's 25 and he is the most self–absorbed human being I have ever encountered. When he walked into my home the first words out of his mouth were "What is your wifi?" while he was looking at his iPhone. Not looking at me. No hi, no good to see you, not even a glace in my direction. Again, this has less to do with GPS than it has to do with the people I associate with. But, before they arrived I had called them to see how far along the road from San Antonio to Austin they were. I called my friend's phone, but he answered it and said (not 'Hello'), "Real quick, what's your address so I can put it in my GPS". Well, I had already sent them the Very Easy Directions to my apartment and I was in no mood to fight with a technology, so I told him that my address didn't work in those things, that I had already tried it with several friends and it never works. He was crestfallen, but still didn't say hello. I did manage to get my way, though (to be allowed to talk to my friend.). I asked him a really complicated question and he had to put my friend on the phone. (I asked them where they were.)

I know that this is much like anything else. People who are inconsiderate will use this as another tool for that end and people who are considerate will still be so. Also, if somebody is going to pay more attention to a technology than to me, then perhaps I'm just as well off if they can't find their way here. I actually have a friend who refused to come over because I couldn’t' give him an address that would work in his GPS. And, I have another friend who relies heavily on her GPS around town, and she gladly let me give her directions to my apartment, which is good because even when they get the directions to work in the GPS they generally end up lost anyway.

So, if I have a point it's that you should appreciate your friends more than your technologies. But, that has more or less the same problem as parenting books. The people who read them are not the people who probably need to read them.

Now, since we've arbitrarily decided to lie to ourselves about the time it's suddenly 11:30 pm and I'd better get to bed so that I can be up and at work at the new 8 am tomorrow.

Good night.