Mainely Christmas


A Gift from the Sea
Christmas Tree-The Cottage-Wells, Maine
 
Long Shadows-Ogunquit Beach Maine
Season's End Ogunquit Beach
Clouds-Wells Cottage Maine
This is for You-Wells Beach Maine
Tidal Pool-Wells Beach Maine
Skipping Stones-Wells Beach, Maine
 
Starshine-Wells Beach, Maine
Say Cheese, Wells Beach-Maine
Taking Flight Before Sandy-Wells Beach, Maine
Fall Colors-The Path-Wells Beach-Maine
The Path to Wells Beach-Maine
Ogunquit River-Footbridge Beach-Maine

Boothbay Harbor-Maine


Peeling Paint-Boothbay Harbor-Maine
Rocking Porch-Boothbay Harbor-Maine
Rose Hips and Beach Roses-Footbridge Beach-Maine
The Fence-Footbridge Beach-Maine
Reflections-Ogunquit Beach-Maine
  
Footbridge-Ogunquit-Maine
 
Seagrass-Wells Beach-Maine
Christmas in July-Nubble Light-Cape Neddick-Maine
 
A Thorn Between Two Beach Roses
 
Paul and Bill-Cape Neddick-Maine
 

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The Patient Gardener

When I finally agreed to live with Paul he packed up my ragtag group of furnishings on a snowy winter day and moved them by himself to surprise me while I was at work one day.  He was too excited to wait for me, or perhaps he understood that my involvement would only prolong the process. Walking through my empty basement apartment one final time, I paused at the bedroom door, took a deep breath and turned off the light. “It’s time to stop saying goodbye,” my friend Nancy advised me tearfully when I told her that I was moving again, and that was the thought in my head as I trudged through the snow towards a warm waiting car. I mentally counted; five homes in four years, each time hoping to find a place that would heal me.  “I want to plant a garden,” I told Paul as we drove to New Hampshire and for the rest of that winter I looked through the window at the banks of silent snow and envisioned a border garden in the backyard at the edge of the forest.

When spring came Paul surprised me again by having two tons of dark organic soil delivered. When I arrived home from work I found him sitting in a lawn chair at the foot of the dirt mound holding a glass of wine and smiling as if he were basking in the view of a majestic mountain range.  Cart by cart we moved the mountain to the edge of the forest framing the yard with a serpentine border of brown loam.  We loaded up the border with perennials, annuals, landscape lighting an irrigation system and a fountain.
One night in midsummer we sat on the back deck and surveyed our kingdom.  “I’m just amazed by the mass of beautiful mounds of white flowers,” Paul joked pointing out the one flaw in my master plan.  The sweet alyssum I planted would not grow. No matter how much love and attention I lavished on them, they remained stunted.  “This garden needs a gardener who cares,” he would say to me while planting a kiss on my head.

Eventually we sold the house in New Hampshire and bought our condo in Boston.  No longer any outdoor space for a garden, I planted Alyssum seedlings again in a box of dirt precipitously perched on the ledge of our kitchen windows.  They flourished all summer and filled our home with a subtle sweet scent. I let them go to seed over the winter and in the spring they surprised me by returning in an even larger mound of sweet white flowers.   
Like humans, plants need water, light and nutrients to survive, but it takes something special for them to thrive.  Who knows when a flower will bloom or a heart will heal, but this is how a garden grows; Learn to say hello instead of goodbye, find a gardener who cares, put them in the right spot and they’ll bloom in the most unlikely spaces.

 

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Imperfection: Less than 100 words

He is not perfect.

These are four words that sink into my heart like a warm knife through butter.

For all of my bravado about being happy and the sweet perfection of my new found life, there are still days when I must admit that life is not perfect.

That he is not perfect.

Because perfection is someone who can read my mind completely and still it lies unread.

Unread by him.

But more so by me.


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The Whole Tomato

There comes a time when you are alone in your own little kitchen at night, looking at a tomato and think it’s just me, should I slice this and waste half or just go without that can make you think of John Donne.  It is an unlikely comparison but I assure you it makes sense, because John Donne wrote “Every Man’s death diminishes me.”  If that is true, then every person standing alone at their kitchen counter late at night wondering if his or her worth is greater than a whole tomato diminishes my own self-worth. So, I want to tell you what you are worth:

You are worth being kissed.  Not just any kiss but the type that sends pulses of electricity through your body and feels like the answer to the hunger that has been trapped inside of you for a thousand years and sucks so much air from your lungs that you think you will never breathe again. 
You are worth being giddy.  Giddy every time you see him at the end of an absence, whether an hour, a day or a week.  Having your heart skip a beat uncontrollably as his face lights up when he sees you and flashes a big goofy grin.

You are worth being objectified:  objectified by someone who loves you so much that he can’t keep his hands and eyes off of you as you pass through the room. Worth being pinched and slapped on your rear-end because he loves you so much that he can’t see anything but physical perfection.
You are worth being loved unconditionally:  loved by your parents, your siblings, your friends and your other half.  Loved for the person you are and not the person you will become.  Not the potentially new and improved you, but the one on Tuesday morning before you have washed your hair and brushed your teeth.

You are worth a big wedding:  a wedding under a big white tent with a thousand twinkling lights on a perfect June day.  A wedding where friends and family laugh and cry and make embarrassing toasts and drink too much and dance and hug you and kiss you and tell you that they wish they had a love like yours.  

You are worth a marriage that is legal: by the federal government, in all fifty states, in all countries.
You are worth great sex:  Without guilt, without shame but with wild abandon and frequency; sometimes just for the pure animal instinct of it and sometimes for the intimate act of joining your souls, but always consensual.

You are worth a pet name:  pookie, sweetie, boo-boo, schmoopie, honey, handsome, hubby, dumpling, darling or monkey-butt.
You are worth being a parent: No matter how they come into your life, no matter if it is a child a dog a cat or a mouse.

You are worth spooning:  Late at night in your bed when the moon casts soft shadows and in the early morning half-light surrounded by the scent and warmth of his skin when he says “five more minutes” and you wish for five hundred more years.
When a gay teenager in Mississippi, a middle aged man in Chicago or a lonely housewife in Kansas wonders if they will ever be loved and decides that life is not worth living, then I am the lesser for it.  Because your worth is my worth and not so very long ago, I decided that I was worth the whole tomato.  And so are you.

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Taken!

When he doesn’t respond to my text message I know something is wrong, can feel it in my bones.  I call his cell phone; four rings and it transfers to voice mail.  It sounds too chipper, as if the message should somehow change to reflect the situation.  When the recording of his voice answers, I expect to hear sirens blaring and a half coherent message with long pauses as he gasps for air:  “I can’t talk right now…I’ve been in a horrible and disfiguring accident… Leave a message and if I’m not dead I’ll call you." Because if that is not what has happened to him, then by God he’ll wish it had.

If there is one thing that Paul and I do well, it is communicate.  The day after our first date, he sent a text message to me:  “Good conversation, good looking, good start, it’s all good!”  From that point forward we were as good as married. Couldn’t let a day go by that we didn’t know where the other one was.  Because when you finally find your split-apart there is a fear that you will lose track of him again.
When I leave work at ten pm, much later than I told Paul I would leave, I call his phone again but there is no answer.  This is so uncharacteristic that my mind creates a variety of scenarios to fill in the missing details.  It’s good like that.  My brain will take a little snippet of a past experience mix it with the present and embellish it with a flourish to make it interesting but believable. Behold the string of blog posts before this one. 
My mind goes back to Halloween night at a local night club. The men are all in costumes; sailors, policemen, soldiers.  But they all seem to be missing their shirts or wearing pants a few sizes too small. I don’t think there is such a thing as a costume that is not preceded by the term sexy anymore. Except for clown costumes, they seem to have cornered the market on creepy.  I see a man lean in and whisper into Paul’s ear. When I ask Paul what the man said to him he says “He told me that I should win the contest for most handsome.” 

I wouldn’t disagree with that and it is a validation of what I already know, although I wonder why I wasn’t included in the most handsome category too.  But tonight my mind uses that experience to create a scenario for Paul’s absence. I cross the street and walk into the Tapas bar where Paul was waiting for me.  I tell the hostess that I am incredibly late and should have called to let my party know and ask if I can search the bar.  She looks genuinely concerned. I assume this is because I am in Washington, DC and not Boston.  
He is nowhere to be found. 

That’s it.  Paul struck up a conversation with a stranger.  The stranger masquerading as a sexy sailor was infatuated with Paul’s good looks and dropped some drugs into his vodka tonic.  Paul is now unconscious at the bottom of a well in the sexy sailor’s basement, who is in fact not a sailor but a creepy clown.  There is no other reasonable explanation.   

I am inconsolable as I walk to the hotel eating an extra-large order of French fries.  I make a mental note to be angry at Paul, if he is alive, for making me eat crisis food.  When I get to our room, my key card does not work.  I bang my fist on the door. There is no answer!
When I present my key card to the hotel desk clerk he eyes me suspiciously.  Who can blame him?  My eyes are red, my heart is racing and I am making love to French fries.  I hand him my driver’s license and he slowly hands me the repaired key card.

When I open the door, I expect carnage, a lifeless body.  What I find is Paul snoring on the bed and an infomercial playing on the TV.  Spitting out my French fries I angrily shove Paul’s arm.  He wakes up with a start and says “You scared me!”
“I scared you?”  I ask angrily.  With ketchup on my lips, piercing red rimmed eyes and the harsh light of the hall behind me, I am aware that I would win the creepy clown costume contest.

You should know that it took a full day for me to forgive him.  But I knew that Paul would be travelling for work this week to someplace, I can’t remember where.  Graciously I decided that it was important to talk about this before his trip and put this event in the past.  In the end, it all comes down to communication.  And if there is one thing that we do well, it is communicate.
 



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Stardust

The stars floating above our heads on this Cool Maine evening look the same to me as they did when I was a thirteen year old boy surviving North Carolina. Every Sunday night I would flick on the garage light, throw open the back screen door and noisily drag the wheel-less trash cans down the gravel driveway. After placing the metal cans on the curb there would be a sudden piercing silence. Looking up at the starry sky I would imagine what life on a planet circling one of those distant points of light might be like; wondering if there was some lonely alien boy looking back at me.

But I was certain that any civilization existing on a distant planet would be far too advanced to be touched by divorce, discrimination or Sunday night football.  This was the year that my kind- hearted eighth grade teacher, Sister Mary Claire asked us to write a letter to our grown up selves; a message in a bottle to be delivered sometime in the distant future. 

I remember feeling self-conscious about what to write. As a thirteen year old gay boy in the south, I didn’t talk about my feelings, I suppressed them and goodness knows I didn’t eat them,  I was far too skinny.  So, I wrote a generic letter:
            Dear Bill,

            Wow, I can’t believe you are an adult now, congratulations!
I hope that life is good for you now and that you are happy.  I am sure that a lot has changed.  Are you still best friends with Willy?  I bet you are.
Do you still live in Greensboro?
Well, I better go now.
Sincerely,
You (Ha, ha!)

I don’t recall ever receiving the physical letter.  Perhaps Sister Mary Claire threw them all away in a rage after catching most of the eighth grade class in the field at recess smoking marijuana.  Or maybe she lost them when she was transferred to a convent in a crime riddled neighborhood of Baltimore.  Many years later I heard that she left the Catholic Church.  Perhaps the yellowed letters written with a number two pencil sit in a shoebox under a disenchanted aging woman’s bed who stares out at the expanding galaxy of her own past.  But it was less the actual delivery of the letter and more the act of writing it that spoke to me.  That there would be a future Bill in a distant world was enough of a message.
It did not occur to me then that Sister Mary Claire might have written a letter to herself. But we are all made of stardust.  I think we both searched the heavens looking for answers while the world around us spun out of control.

When Paul and I bought our cottage in Maine I bought two solar “sun jars”.  We place them under the full sun during the day and sit by their soft yellow light under the stars at night.  Tonight, I look up at the stars, and see their history; see the light that left on its journey through space years ago.  Looking across the table at Paul’s face I see the answer to that thirteen year old boy’s question and more importantly, the delivery of his message. 
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The Story in The Story

It is six thirty in the morning and I am sitting at our dining room table with a cup of coffee on one side of me and the window half open on the other.  I opened the window hoping that inspiration would be carried on the back of the cool morning breeze. The half-light of the sun barely illuminates the living room, which makes the dark grouping of objects seem more like a suggestion of furniture instead of concrete reality. If I were to stretch my arm through the window I could almost touch the brick corner of our neighbor’s building.  But it remains just out of reach: as does any inspiration for a story.

As a writer a great deal of my time is spent trying to bridge the world around me with the world inside of me. Often times, Paul will catch me staring blankly into space.  I worry that he feels like he is living with a person who is experiencing the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease; someone who is not always present in the world.

He will snap his fingers in front of my face and say “Hello? Can you repeat what I just told you?”   When I flatly recount his story verbatim he’ll look at me and say “Wow, my story sounds even more boring when you tell it.”  To which I respond
“Not really.”

But that is the crux of the matter.  Any story can be told, but it is the way in which it is told that matters. If I write about my grandfather’s table, I can describe the way it looks.  It is round with dark grained wood, curved legs and has multiple leaves to make it bigger. All of these things are true.  It is an object in this world.  But if I speak of its journey from the mountains of North Carolina to its spot in our dining room with our blended family sitting around it for the first time together on the evening before our marriage, it becomes something else. It becomes the bridge between this world and my world; a story in a story.

“I choose a block of marble and chop off whatever I don’t need.” Rodin said.

I suppose that is what I do with a block of words.  Whittling them down until the story hiding inside of the story is revealed.  It runs in my family.  My grandfather did this with his drawings.  We would sit at his dining room table and he would begin to draw as if the picture already existed on the paper and his pencil merely highlighted it.    And so must his mother, who was a musical prodigy, have done the same with him; at the very same table singing in French as she played the Mandolin. The love of art and the art of love played out over and over again upon this table.

Paul walks into the living room humming and arranges the pillows on the now clearly defined sofa.  The clock above me plays its tune and strikes eight.  I sit up, stretch my arms, look out through the window and catch a glimpse of my neighbor sitting at his kitchen table.  I wonder if he has been there the whole time.

“Did you find any perspiration?” Paul asks playfully, knowingly misusing the word as he kisses me.

“Yep” I say, ready to join the real world again.  “It was there in front of me the whole time.”

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And Miss This? (Flash Fiction)

The moon drained the sunlight from the sky, leaving in its wake a red stain of clouds.  If there had been any news of an eclipse, I couldn’t remember it.  But it seemed right.  It fit the occasion.

When Tommy finally showed up, he acted like he didn’t see it.  That’s when I knew that he couldn’t, that he wouldn’t forgive me. So I held out my hand and said “See, its right there!” pointing along my arm at the round light with a crescent of black at its edge. That’s when he started to cry.

“Jesus Tommy don’t do that. I told you it only happened once and it won’t happen again.” I said.

This was not the way I wanted to it to go.  When I sent him the text message I hoped that he would remember all of the good times and forget the bad times.  He would walk up to me the way he did the first time.  He’d smile nervously and say that he forgot his watch and ask me if I knew what time it was.

“It’s the Golden time of day.”  I said then and he cocked his head.  His eyes and his crooked smile asked questions that his voice could not. I took off my sunglasses so he could see my eyes, see the answers and said “It’s a title of a song, but it’s also my favorite time of the day when the sun creates this glow” I said pointing to the glittering ocean.

He sat down next to me on my towel then, his shoulder touching mine and asked why I wasn’t going home to take a gay nap like most of the other boys did at the end of a beach day, resting up before heading back out to the clubs late at night. “And miss this?” I asked him and let it hang in the air.
Three years later and we still used that line.  We’d be at the grocery store on a cold winter day loading the car.  Tommy would look at me, his brown curly hair turning white from the snow, his hazel eyes red rimmed with the cold and say “And miss this?”  Or late at night while lying in bed I’d stroke his hair and whisper “And miss this?”  Or the final time when my heart practically burst as we sat silently for what seemed like hours at the dinner table when he finally broke the silence and bitterly asked “And miss this?”
As the moon passed in front of the sun the world became dark, I looked up at Tommy and waited to hear him say it.  But the sound of the waves became too loud and the Earth broke free from the moon’s shadow.
It’s not the pain of dying that is unbearable; it’s the truth that’s unleashed.  Like the glaring headlights of an oncoming car, not an eclipse, and the shattered pieces of glass glistening like diamonds on the ocean.  It’s the pain of letting go, the final release, dropping the phone and leaving an unfinished message.
There is a dark space between the sun and the moon, between what is and what should have been and if you can’t connect the two, you have to accept what is missed.
 
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Good Lighting

Our cottage in Maine is not so much appointed with furniture as it is with light.  The sunrise paints great blocks of yellow rectangles and sunset’s final kiss leaves a rosy blush at the end of the day, which is generally when I ask Paul to take my picture.  The light is gentler then and as the years progress, I have begun to appreciate good lighting.

If there is anyone else who appreciates good lighting, it is our utility company.  Paul has completed no end of “lighting projects”.  Seems there isn’t a spot that could not benefit from a little more illumination; the space above and below the kitchen cabinets, the area behind the TV, the wall above the sofa and even the margin below our bed.  Dark corners don’t stand a chance in our home. When I say that Paul lights up my life, I mean it quite literally.
On a recent cool September evening as we sat by the communal fire pit, our neighbor Michelle leaned back in her Adirondack chair, warmed from the fire as much as from a glass of wine and mused out loud, “We just love looking up at your cottage; it always has such a nice glow with all of those open windows.”  She paused and smiled while gazing into the fire and then added, “By the way, where did you get that dresser in your bedroom?”
The heat in my face was less from the fire and more from the blood rushing to it as I mentally rewound the tape from past nights’ bedroom activities, damn Paul and all of his lighting. But I understood what she was saying.  There is a comfort in a lamp’s glow or a flickering television when viewed from the outside on a dark night.
It says that there is life here.  Someone you love has left a light on for you.
As the fire danced and the children screamed and squealed while chasing an unfortunate frog, I began to think of this past summer, of the shortening days and lengthening nights.  Soon enough the long days of summer would be memories and I was not so keen to let them go.
So I catalogued them in my mind: the marsh bisected by a river of silver in the early morning fog, the walk along the sandy trail while the crickets chirp in the beach roses under the fierce midday sun, the splintered sunlight, like millions of diamonds sparkling on a blue velvet ocean, the slanted light on Paul’s face when I meet him at the train station on a Friday evening. 
These are the little lights that I leave on for myself, to illuminate the dark corners of a cold winter’s night. 

This is good lighting.
 
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Would You Die for Love?

“I would go ape shit on anyone who ever tried to hurt you.”  Paul says this with an aggressive conviction that shocks me.  It doesn’t surprise me that he would protect me, or that his love for me runs so deep. The shock comes from a silent understanding that passes like a current between us.  The very reason someone might hurt me is because of our love for each other.

He said this to me the night before I testified in front of New Hampshire’s Judiciary Committee to oppose the repeal of marriage equality.  I was doing something that most Americans will never have to do.   I was fighting to keep my marriage legal.

To speak about something as personal as love and family in front of an impersonal governmental body is daunting.  To speak in front of elected officials that called me diseased, sick and a pedophile was almost unbearable.  Several times I voiced my disapproval for being called these things, only to be told that I should remain quiet and respectful of those speaking.  But how do you remain quiet when someone calls your husband sick and immoral?

I didn’t.  I started this blog.  Since then I have received many e-mails from others who wanted to tell me their story.  Recently, I received an e-mail from a film maker, Wajahat Ali Abbasi who is filming a movie about the true story of two Iranian boys executed by public hanging in 2005 for the crime of loving each other.

My first thought after receiving this e-mail was “This is another part of the world, it couldn’t happen here.”  But then I thought about our politicians who spew lies and hate about me; about the pastor from my home state of North Carolina who called for gays to be executed; about one of my own family members who called me sick and will not speak to me; about the former class member who hurled a homophobic epithet at us during our high school reunion.

De-humanizing a population makes it possible to extinguish them.  In eight countries, including Iran, being gay is punishable by death.

When I asked Wajahat what the motivation was for making this film, he told me of his friend, a twenty year old bright boy with a promising career.  This boy came out to his friends and family and experienced daily relentless bullying.  He became afraid of leaving his home.  One day while returning from college he disappeared.  Two days later, his body was found.  His murder was declared a suicide.

The film, Sin, is Wajahat’s attempt to tell the personal story, to put a human face on the two boys who were blindfolded and hung in July of 2005.  You can view his Kickstarter funding page here.  The trailer is at the bottom of this post.

I learned some sobering facts while researching this post.  One of them is that because I am gay, I am forty one times more likely to become a victim of a hate crime.  The question is not would I die for love, but will I?

 


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How to Dance

When I was in the eighth grade, my mother registered me for a dance class.  She was certain it would give me the confidence that I lacked.  Perhaps secretly, she also hoped that it would make me like girls.  What she didn’t understand was that the confidence I needed would not be gained by learning how to count steps, but more so by simply taking them.

Each week I would join fifteen other gangly teenagers, mostly girls twice my size, in Miss Isaacs’s basement. We mastered such dances as the fox trot and cha-cha; steps in the 1970s that guaranteed we would never be asked to dance more than once. 

On the day of our final class Miss Isaac glided into class with sparkly high heels on her plump little legs and tilted her frosted haired head to one side.  Anticipation climaxed during her pregnant pause.

“Today, we will learn how to boogie!”  She finally said.

She punctuated this statement by placing a hand on her hip and pointing the index finger on her other hand to the sky, à la John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.

With a scratch she placed the needle on the record player and proceeded to tell us that in order to truly master disco it was necessary to move our hips to the beat.  If you were a skinny, pimpled, closeted gay boy in 1970’s North Carolina, I can assure you that moving your hips to the beat was something you most certainly did not want to do, lest you get beat up.   Probably the only thing worse was watching Miss Isaac move her hips to the beat.  My attempt to dance without revealing my true identity was like watching a dog walk backwards, equally awkward and laughable.

I never really learned how to dance until about five years ago when I met Linda.

Linda and I travelled the world together in my last job.  If you are a woman, Linda is the type of woman you want to be.  If you are a male, you want to be near her.  If you are her manager you count yourself lucky to have someone so smart on your team.

We often found ourselves together at software conferences hosted in different cities.  The final night always involved a celebration for the participants who were primed with alcohol and music.  Every time Linda was on the dance floor, dancing the way I wanted to dance; hands above her head, her blond hair swinging to the beat.

It took a trip to Singapore for me to agree to finally dance with her.  On Saint Patrick’s Day in a city as far away as we could possibly travel in an establishment nick-named the “Four Floors of Whores” I danced with Linda for the first time surrounded by Asian prostitutes and “Lady Boys”. It was as far away from Miss Isaac’s basement as I could get.  Even then, I was self-conscious.

But there is a moment when the desire to dance truly hits you.  It can come in the car, or while you are doing the laundry or when you are walking down the street.  Or it can come in the moment of drunken clarity in the flashing lights of a Singaporean nightclub when a friend so happy and giddy with life tells you “My husband is the love of my life and each day I find I love him more.”  At that moment, you have to decide whether you will sit it out or finally learn how to dance.

Tonight, I am sitting in the basement of a bar one hour west of Boston watching Linda dance.  It is her fiftieth birthday party; she recently lost her mother and just decided to quit her job.  But you wouldn’t see any of that if you saw her dance.  She is holding her husband’s hands as the music washes over her. I turn to Paul, raise my hands above my head and ask him if he wants to dance.  Linda taught me something Miss Isaac never did.  In order to learn how to dance, first learn how to love.


 

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City Kitty

There is a rat in the middle of the street.  It is less of a rat and more of a suggestion of the shape of a rat. I don’t know what has happened to the internal structure of bone and guts that used to make it three dimensional, nor do I care.  I cross the street, walk into the deli and pick up my dinner. On the way home, I cross the street and step over the rat shape suggestion while eating a French fry. It is at this point that realization dawns on me. I have become a city person.

When we purchased our city condo, we did not plan on a major renovation of the kitchen.  The plan was to put a few coats of paint on the walls and spruce up the hardware.  In other words we would put some lipstick on it and be done with it.  But then the home inspection took place.

“Yep, you got yourselves some city kitties,”  the inspector said pointing a flashlight in the area under the sink.

“There are cats under the sink?” I asked while stooping down to catch a glimpse of cute little kittens.

“Eh, no, but there are rats, mice, what have you,”  the inspector said unfazed.  I jumped back.  Disgust and terror were etched into my face.  We closed on our condo at 10 am on a Friday morning; by Friday evening we had ripped out most of the kitchen revealing a hole in the wall.  It was not a cute little cartoon mouse hole with a door, but a jagged gaping cavern big enough for a rat caravan to drive through, whooping and hollering with their sharp yellow teeth and beady red eyes.  We sealed every opening meticulously and replaced all cabinetry, countertops, appliances and flooring.  Any surface that might have been a dance floor for nasty little tap-dancing rat feet was dumped.

But the rats still live outside of our condo. It is one of the things you learn to accept as a city person.  You seal off your kitchen and then you seal off yourself.

When I walk down the street I stare into the middle distance effectively eliminating eye contact.  When approached by strangers asking for directions, my first assumption is that they are crazed religious zealots that will try to usher me into a nondescript white van.  My second assumption is that they are crazed religious politicians looking for sex.

I have learned to ignore the soft spoken homeless man who asks me for change every morning. When I enter an elevator alone, I press the “door close” button quickly ten times with the hopes that the door will close before the woman shouting “wait” is able to enter. When a car does not stop as I cross the street I bark like a territorial dog “It’s a crosswalk, you asshole!”

I think about this and weigh the pros and cons of city life in my mind as I walk a block to have my hair cut.  Sophia greets me warmly and says “We do it short?”

“Yes, buzz the sides and scissors on top,”  I answer her.  She is a middle aged Moroccan woman with dark curly hair and deep brown soulful eyes.  I close my eyes, prepared to shut myself off. The phone rings and she apologizes to answer.  The conversation is short, but she seems worried.

“All is well with your family?” I ask.

“My son, he is young and foolish.  He is in hospital in Atlanta, because he do stupid thing.  He jump off fence and break his leg.” She frets and I can see the worry in her eyes.  “So far from home. You are from the south, I know people there are kind like you,”  she phrases this as more of a question.
“Yes, people are very kind there; he will be well taken care of,”  I reply and her eyes lose some of the worry.  We pass the rest of the time as she cuts my hair speaking of her home in Morocco, of her native languages of Arabic and French.
“You and your friend must stay in my home if ever you go to Morocco.  Is very nice, you will like it,” She says.
"And you must stay in our home in Maine,”  I reply.
When I leave, I switch to my rusty French.  “Merci, Madame, bonne soirée.”
 “Et vous aussi,”  she says, surprised by the gesture.
As I walk down the sidewalk, the T screeches around the corner. I know that I will never go to Morocco and Sophia will never visit me in Maine.  But, it doesn’t matter.  I’m back where I need to be.



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Church Bulletin


Dear Parishioners:

As you know, the assault on marriage and the family continues. We must be ever vigilant in our defense of this most holy and unchanging union.  Therefore, next week we will work to thwart the redefinition of marriage by celebrating “Traditional Marriage Sunday” which will take place immediately following Sunday services.  I hope that you will join me for this most important event. 
But who says discrimination has to be boring? Not us! We’ve lined up some fun and educational activities to showcase “Traditional Marriage”. Here are just a few zany highlights:

·         Arrange my marriage!:  Do you have a single daughter?  Are you concerned about her future?  Then join us while our esteemed organist, Miss Rapture plays her own rendition of “Single Ladies” on the Wurlitzer as we pull photos from a boy grab bag and girl grab bag to arrange the perfect marriage!  This one is sure to fill up quickly so please add your progeny’s name to the sign-up list and bring a 5X7 photo with your child’s name written in indelible ink on the back.

·         Count the Wives:  Think you know how many wives each biblical man had?   The rules are simple, we give you a name. You shout out a number.  Easy peasy right? But wait: one is rarely the answer. How many wives did Solomon have? Don’t even get us started, LOL!

·         Take my widow… Please? Have a childless, widowed Sister-In-Law?   Join this discussion group and help a sister out.  Are you confused by Leviticus and Deuteronomy’s conflicting advice on the subject?  Marry her; don’t marry her, what’s a brother to do? We’ll discuss the finer points and bring a conclusion to this interesting and perplexing conundrum.

·         Medieval Marriage Cake Walk: Political intrigue!  Secrets!  War! Royalty!  Are you a pawn, a knight, a king or a queen?  (not that kind…LOL)  This game will be sure to please and enlighten you to the mystery of medieval marriages when women were sold like property to create strategic political alliances.  Sound like chess?  It is!  If you get check-mate then you’re going home with one of Miss Lou Ann’s tasty wedding cakes!
Now all of this tom foolery in the name of good old fashioned values will be sure to leave you famished.  You’ll be pleased to know that Miss Green’s delicious shrimp salad will be for sale and now for the surprise news…. Chick-Fil-A will serve chicken sandwiches dripping in their brand new Antigé sauce!  Sounds French, but you’ll forgive them for that when you try this new devilishly hot sauce that puts the “ate” back in hate!

Now, brothers and sisters some serious news; As you know there were some unfortunate photos that have surfaced of yours truly while I attempted to help some errant sheep get back over their fence.  Miss Brown will be selling her beautiful cotton poly blend smocks to help raise funds for my court battle with PETA.  You will love these dresses, stains don’t stick, they stay miraculously clean.
So come on out! (Unless you’re gay)

Signed,
The most Reverend Whatawaste



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The Plan

Paul has a plan.

He always has a plan. This is one of the things that I love about him. Without provocation, he says “Huh, that’s a cute idea” as if I can hear the conversation taking place in his head, which is another thing I love about him. He thinks that I can read his mind.

“What?” I say, proving that I cannot indeed, read his thoughts.

“The Powerball lottery is now three hundred million dollars. We’ll pass through eight states on our drive home. Let’s stop and buy a ticket in each one,” he says.

This makes me very happy. We are going to drive seven hundred miles; eleven hours in the car and this plan makes me happy. Perhaps I cannot read his mind, but surely he can read mine.

We have come to Virginia to move my oldest daughter into her off campus apartment. I am such a fool. I thought that because I had already experienced the pain of separation when my ex-wife left with my daughters the first time that this would not be difficult. But last night’s parting loops through my mind like a broken record.

Walking through her apartment, I search for things left undone. The trash needs to be taken out. The nightlights need to be plugged in. “Make sure you keep that window in your bedroom locked.” I tell her. But it is of no use, if I look hard enough I will always find things left undone.

“I will Dad. I don’t want you guys to leave.” She says holding her arms out, signaling that it is time for us to leave. I pull her to me and hold on, inhaling the scent of her. Not the soap she uses, or the shampoo, but the scent that parents love when they smell the top of a baby’s head; because it is a part of themselves.

When I let go and look up, I see Paul’s face. He wears an upside down smile and his eyes answer my question.

“OK, I’m leaving now, goodbye.” I say looking away.

As I walk to the car, a part of me reflexively expects Katherine to follow shouting “Daddy, wait” because this is what would occur when as a child she tarried. I would say the exact words “OK, I’m leaving now, goodbye” and make an exaggerated exit like a vaudevillian actor.

This time, she does not follow.

We wake up early the next morning and begin our trip home. We stop to fill up the car with gas and purchase our first lottery ticket in Virginia. The day is wrapped in promise as the slanted early morning sun shines through the car windows.

“Will we change anything when we win?” I ask as I turn to face Paul in the driver’s seat.

“You know I don’t think that way.” He says looking straight ahead.

But as our cache of lottery tickets grows we begin to discuss what we will do with the winnings. We would most certainly keep working, but just until we get pissed off by some transgression at work, which is estimated to take fifteen minutes, tops. Paul would purchase a Bentley automobile and I would become a full time writer. We begin to mentally cancel upcoming social engagements because we’ll be busy meeting with our financial advisors and accountants.

The evening light is golden as we make our final stop thirty minutes west of Boston to buy our last lottery ticket. In no time at all we are home.

Of course you know that we did not win the lottery. But that was not the plan. Turns out that Paul can read my mind. He knew that eight tickets, a mere sixteen dollars, would be enough to keep my mind occupied during the eleven hour car ride home; to keep me from thinking about things left undone.

Paul had a plan.


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