This American Life

It is a little known fact that I was abducted as an infant. My kidnappers, part of the underground baby trade, came for me in the middle of the darkest night and spirited me away from my privileged, wealthy family living in a small European country. The road was long and twisted that led me to a loving, but inadequate middle class family in North Carolina. I might never have been the wiser were it not for the tell-tale signs that whispered of a life that was meant for riches.

Indeed, my voice twangs of North Carolina, but my heart sings for the land of my birth. Cellular memory does not forget, for the blood of noblemen courses through my veins. Some may call it false memories, but I prefer faux-souvenirs. Do you see? Even my words betray an adopted life of barbecue, big hair, Hee-Haw and smell my finger jokes.

As a child, my brothers were content to play in our dirt yard chained to their posts, but I dreamt of a life less pedestrian.

“Would you say that I’m a winter or more of a summer?” I would ask the neighborhood girls while trying out concealers to cover my E-Z Bake oven light bulb burns. Choosing the right shade was important, as was baking tasty cakes to go with our afternoon tea. It was a clear signal of my genteel DNA. That is when the doubts of my origins began. Did I see the concern in my poor adoptive mother’s face as well?

Once the seed of doubt was planted, it sprouted and began to curl, a vine of twisted truth in my mind; its tendrils pointing to the clues all around me. Like the way my oldest “brother” would pick out tunes on his hill-billy guitar, “turkey in the straw” and “stairway to heaven” shouting “How you like them apples?” My younger siblings would respond with raucous laughter and farts. Turning up my nose at the vulgarity I played the classics on my piano, “School bus stop” and “Hot Cross Buns”. I would play like the regal young lord that I was over and over again with the hopes that real music would soothe the savage beasts. To my horror, my music books were defaced with graffiti: ‘Shut up!’ and ‘You suck!’.

Life among the commoners as a child was difficult.

But I accepted it and buried the doubts deep into my sub-conscious, because that is what all healthy well-bred people do. Until one month ago, when Paul and I attended the Boston car show. It seems such an unlikely event to stir up the past. But we can only push down thoughts for so long before they bubble back up to the surface.

On the way to the car show Paul asked me what type of car I might like.

“A light blue one with leather heated seats.”

For a moment, Paul stared at my forehead as if there might be more of an answer written into the wrinkles.

“Is there any particular make or model?”

“A pretty one.” I replied hoping that might be enough. Apparently it was not.

He began to recite a long list of V-6, Turbo Diesel, blah-blah, boring stuff, I really should check my e-mail, options. I retreated to the happy place in my head, nodding politely when there was a lull. When we arrived at the car show we looked at Volkswagens and Toyotas, Kias and Hondas; common folk cars.

And then my long suppressed memories of gentility came crashing to the surface. There among the riff-raff cars were Mercedes, Bentley and Ferrari. Oh, ma mère et mon père, how could I have forgotten you? Forgive your poor humble, long lost son.

As I sat in the back of the Mercedes S600 Sedan tears of longing and remembrance streaked down my face. Yes, this is how life was meant to be. The smell of top grain leather, the sheen of real burl walnut trim, the view of the lesser world as it slips quietly by a well-tuned Bavarian engineered vehicle.

“OK, let’s go look at the Passat again.” Paul said, and just like that the vision faded.

But now I can no longer bury the memories of summer homes and country estates, of Chateaus and limousines, of my birth right, so horribly ripped from my fingers all those many years ago and replaced with polyester, grits and “Hey y’all, watch this” shenanigans. If by some small chance, my poor old wealthy, heartbroken parents happen to be cruising the Internet while on their private jet and read this, I implore you come back for me. You have a son, a son-in-law and grandchildren.

You will find me in Boston, in a Passat; a light blue one, with leather, ok, pleather seats.



 Another Bill + Paul Cartoon


DIY Romance

Are there any among us who cannot use more love?

The Authentic Life has joined forces with DIY Romance to provide you with more of it. Just as varied as real love, the stories about it are short, long, funny, sad, fictional and non-fictional. The sky is the limit.

Please click one more time to read my latest post on DIY Romance, Sound Waves. Here is a snippet to pique your interest:

There is a closeness permitted when someone cuts your hair, their hands stroking your head, their body inches from yours. We listened to Mahler while he gently nudged my head from side to side. That closeness and tension increased through dinner while we listened to Mozart and then Brahms as we sat side by side on the sofa drinking beer after dinner. The music washed over us.
Read the full story here.


The big 5-0

I am going to be fifty.

There, I said it. It’s not happening today, this month or this year, probably next year. But, I’m not going to worry about that. OK, I might be worrying a little about it. I might actually be worrying a lot about that. But worry causes stress, and stress causes wrinkles, so I’m worried that my worrying is going to make me age pre-maturely. Although at pre-fifty, I think I’m holding up pretty well.

Recently, my daughters gave me a collection of pictures in which I am sixteen years younger. I held them up and remarked to Paul how black my hair used to be. I expected him to make a loving comment about how much better looking I have become.

“Yeah and look at how thin you were then, too.” He casually replied.

Paul really is of no help in this aging thing. And here’s why, he relishes being the younger one; the arm candy, the trophy husband. To hear him talk, you would think that there were multiple generations between us. When I talk about the pinnacle of TV programming in the 1970’s being the Friday night line up consisting of both The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family he stares at me as if I am speaking Chinese.

Oh, he tries to be empathetic. At a restaurant he’ll ask if I would like for him to read the menu to me. When I emphatically refuse, he’ll ask if he can hold the menu out even further for me to read. When I miss something that the waitress has said, he’ll shout out WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO ORDER exaggerating the words while pointing to his mouth.

“I’ll just have the strangled chicken with bourbon satay.” I say, ignoring his taunts.

He rolls his eyes and whispers to the waitress “He’ll have the seared chicken with barbecue sauce” and the waitress nods knowingly.

“I only need my glasses for reading, I’ll have you know.” I say, offended.

“And the hearing aid to hear.” He whispers.


“Oh nothing, you know, from the neck down, you could pass for a twenty year old.” He says attempting to throw me a bone. I wish I could just accept the second part of that statement and ignore the first.

“So, from the neck up, I might as well be eighty years old is what you’re really saying. What if I decide to let myself go, get fat, wrinkly, bald and smelly?” I ask him.

“Ha! That will never happen; you’re way too vain for that.”

“Damn right....wait, I don’t think you meant that as a compliment…” I say narrowing my eyes.

He laughs at all of my facial lotions, creams and lighteners; better living through chemistry is what I have always said. No, the real issue here is that Paul is afraid I am becoming a literal “Benjamin Button” progressively becoming younger. Then he won’t be the young, pretty one.

To illustrate that point, I told Paul about a recent conversation I had with some female co-workers regarding the upcoming milestone birthday. “Oh, forty must be a tough one.” They chimed in. If bodily contact in the office wasn’t such a touchy issue I would have kissed them both on the mouth. Paul’s take on it was a little different.

“Aren’t they in their twenties? Do you think they even see a difference between forty and fifty?”

But, as I said, I’m not going to worry about it. I am not going to be fifty years old, but fifty years YOUNG. And it will be a celebration. I expect a crowd of at least one hundred of my closest friends, a DJ, go-go boys and maybe a special appearance by Rihanna. I let Paul know that he should begin planning this.

“And maybe Willard Scott can announce your birthday on the Today show too.” Paul said.

“Hell yeah…wait, I don’t think you meant that as a positive thing…”

Its jealousy is what it is.


The Happiness Window

I am on a quest for happiness.

I didn’t know that I needed to be on one, but during my holiday travel I was duped into the journey while looking for a snack to carry onto the plane. Here I was thinking that some trail mix with little chocolate M&M’s, a Diet Coke and an on time departure might just make me happy enough. But then I glanced at the book section. I fell for the happy yellow title of a book and bought it.

It turns out that even though you think you are happy, you’re not. I am paraphrasing. The book might actually say that there is always room for more happiness. To be honest, I got halfway through the book and then lost interest. There just wasn’t a connection between me and the author. It wasn’t the fact that her quest for happiness involved nagging less, singing more and generally having more fun. As Martha says, “That’s a good thing.” Anyone who knows me is aware that I probably sing more than I should. I don’t nag and God knows I have my fun. But my relationship with the writer ended at this sentence:

“Time spent with men doesn’t make a difference.”

It says this right near the end of page fifty two. I wasted fifty one and three quarters pages of my life searching for more happiness. It took me too long to realize that time spent with men was the one thing that would absolutely bring me happiness.

In the fourth grade Sister Mary Claire told us that a squirrel could cross the USA by jumping from branch to branch when the country was young. I used to lie in bed looking out of my window at those pine trees framed by a perfect Carolina blue sky wishing I was that squirrel; the lucky bastard. I could picture him without a worry in this world becoming a dot on the horizon as he made his way to some other part of the country.

Then one day, just like that squirrel I hopped from cloud to cloud and landed in another part of the country myself. I looked out of the window at the pine trees framed by a perfect New England blue sky. Did the squirrel feel as duped as I did when I bought the happy book? The world didn’t look any different through that window and I didn’t feel any different.

And then I discovered that time spent with men would make me happy in a way that I was never allowed to believe. I would like to say that this was an epiphany and that suddenly the world became brighter in an instant. But that is not the way that a quest for happiness works. There is not a clear path and unfortunately, each of us must find their own way.

But here is the amazing thing. When you find your way to happy land the view outside of your window changes in a way you cannot believe. When I look outside of my window from my little 497 square feet of space at the brick building next door, it is one of the most beautiful sites I have ever seen. When I go back to North Carolina and look out of my bedroom I see the same trees and the same sky as my childhood and guess what? The same happy feeling is there too.

And so my quest for happiness has come back to me. I’m about as happy as I have ever been, but I can add some more.

So I'd like to ask, what makes you happy? I’d really like to know. Everyone looks at life through a different window. To get the ball rolling I’ll give you an example. This morning walking to the bus stop my iPod landed on a song by Kylie Minogue that I had not heard in a while. It was like discovering it all over again. That made me happy.

 If you are a parent, I’m going to absolve you from saying your children make you happy. That’s a given.

See that comment box below? Go ahead type in something that makes you happy, the more obscure the better. If you don’t see the box, click on the line that says # comments. And if you don’t have an account click “comment as” and select “anonymous” or Name/URL” and type in a name. Yes, I am talking to you Sam and Cary……And I am sure everyone would like to hear from you Paul....

What makes you happy?

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