Miscellaneous

‘Ciao, Darling’ – For Jason

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Seventeen years ago my friend Donna called me to ask if she could invite her friend Jason to a party being held at my house. Jason had just returned to Maine (where he grew up) from California and didn’t know too many people any longer. I of course agreed, saying ‘the more the merrier’.

I liked Jason instantly. He had a quick wit and an even quicker smile. He mentioned one of his ‘traits’ as being a Virgo thing, and I said, ‘Oh, me too…when’s your birthday?’ When he told me, I laughed. We were born on the very same day, two hours apart. I had met a birthday twin. We found in no time at all that we liked so many of the same things….old prime-time soap operas, Charlie’s Angels, Tom Jones, Barry Manilow, Melrose Place, and so much more.

We began planning our joint 30th birthday party that year. It was to be a grand extravaganza. Togas and karaoke. An unbeatable combination. Jason, a graphic design whiz, came up with the perfect party invite design and we collaborated on the content. I still have a copy of it as it’s such a fond memory for me. It said ‘On August 28th, 1998…Cities Will Crumble…Oceans Will Burn…and Cake And Ice Cream Will Be Served!’ The back of the tri-fold invitation contained directions to the party, and a ‘Q&A with the birthday boys’……it was such a treasure to me…now even more so. We had our party, me in a Minnie Mouse sheet with ears and bow tie, Jason in an Elvis tapestry. We drank, sang Sonny and Cher, opened presents, and celebrated turning 30 like no other people we’d ever known. It still is the birthday I talk about the most, reminiscing and laughing about it, and marveling at how some people are horrified to turn 30, but with such a party to then look forward to and now remember, I cannot imagine ever having any hesitation about it.

I owe Jason so much. He helped me get myself out of a bad relationship I had entered into with someone quickly after another relationship ended. I needed to move, on very short notice, and Jason told me he’d decided to have a roommate to save some money and asked if I’d want to find an apartment together to share. I readily agreed, and we moved into our swanky, two-bedroom open concept flat on Munjoy Hill that we shared for over a year until he moved in with his then partner, and I took the place over on my own for many months until I moved from there to the Boston area.

During our time as roommates, Jason and I indulged in many, many viewings of one of our favorite movies, Polyester, by the brilliant John Waters. It was shown on and off for a month on a t.v. station, including commercials, and no matter where we came in to the film at what time and how many times we’d seen it, we’d sit in the living room together and laugh as hard as if it was the first time we were seeing it. We discovered how much we both loved ‘9 to 5’ with Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, and Dolly Parton, and would watch that film over and over as well. We drank martinis and shared confidences and lamented past involvements that hadn’t worked out the way we’d hoped. We saw each other through disappointments, gave each other relationship advice, listened to endless hours of thumpa-thumpa dance remixes, and lived our lives to the fullest for two newly ‘gay over the hill’ (meaning over 30) studs on the prowl. We even held a slumber party one night, so that some of our non-mutual friends could come hang out and perhaps expand both our circles a little more. I recall watching a movie with everyone, laying on a sleeping bag on the living room floor laughing away with Jason sitting on the couch behind me, martini glass in one hand, the other hand rubbing my freshly-shorn hair on the back of my head because he liked the way it made him feel all squishy inside.

Jason introduced me to the wonders of ‘Strangers With Candy’ starring the brilliant Amy Sedaris. He produced for me an entire, complete set of Charlie’s Angels trading cards from the 70’s, put in plastic protector sleeves and with every sticker that ever came with the cards….and even a 20 years old piece of petrified bubble gum from one of the card packs.

One weekend, after I had been in Boston for a few years, Jason and I and our respective partners made one of our dreams come true. To attend a Tom Jones concert together. We made a pact that, like the women who threw their underwear up on the stage at Tom, we’d stuff jock straps into our pants, walk down to the barrier, and proudly declare our love for Tom and toss our hidden jock straps up at him.

We spent a weekend together, sans partners, at one of my apartments outside of Boston sharing laughs and movies we’d watched a hundred times already, chilling martinis and enjoying each other’s company. Jason was the kind of friend that no matter how much time passed, we were always friends, and nothing had diminished about it. He of course knew I became a father several years ago, and knew that was something that required a lot of time….time I used to give to friends. He never seemed to mind that our time became online instead of in person as the years passed. We still chatted, we still texted, we still made Alexis Colby (and other Dynasty characters) memes that we shared on one another’s Facebook timelines.

The last time I saw Jason in person he came to my sister’s funeral three years ago with our mutual friend Donna. I’d not seen him in a few years, but despite the passage of time, and all the funny stuff we’d shared, I knew once again that Jason was a friend through good times and bad, and not hesitant to show it.

Jason and I had, not long ago, started talking about making plans to celebrate our 50th birthday (jointly), and how we’d have to make it a ‘barn-burner’…..I hadn’t had the chance to share this with him yet; but I was thinking along the lines of a Dynasty party, where one of us dressed as Krystle, and one as Alexis. There would be no wondering who would be who. Jason was the #1 Alexis Colby fan of all time…I would never have dreamed of putting on the dark wig instead of him.

Most recently I shared a Strangers With Candy video clip with Jason that I knew would make him laugh, and we chatted about the availability of Seasons 1 – 8 of Dynasty on Amazon Prime, and Jason commented that we’d have to have a viewing party complete with ‘Moldavian Massacre Martinis’ – something we’d have to invent, as they don’t yet exist. This was a few weeks ago.

Today my friend died. He and his partner were at a Maine beach over the weekend, and became stranded on a sand dune. They were picked up from the water eventually, but sadly Jason’s injuries were grave. He was on life support, but his EEG flatlined last night and he was removed from life support today. He passed away shortly after 1pm. He was surrounded by his parents, his sister, and his partner, Michael, who is physically okay after the accident this weekend.

Emotionally, I cannot imagine anyone who knew and loved Jason being okay knowing that today his life ended.

I don’t wish to try to make my loss seem more substantial than anyone else’s. There are so many people who loved Jason and admired him and drew strength and happiness and comfort from his amazing ability to love. I imagine his family is in agony. I know our mutual friend is heartbroken, and I know that for all of us who loved Jason, this world will never quite be the same without him.

For myself personally, this isn’t just grief….this is shock, denial, amazement, and absolute heartbreak that Jason’s life, at least the physical one, has ended. I cannot imagine that in this world, despite the presence of billions of people, Jason is no longer in it.

Goodbye my friend…my birthday twin….my Dynasty Dynamic Duo Diva…..my confidante, my advisor, my muse, my savior, my d.j., my big bright shiny smile that always melted away any gloom. I will miss you terribly. This is a tragedy beyond imagining…beyond comprehension….and I am absolutely and utterly heartbroken to know you are gone.

As Alexis would say….’Ciao, Darling’.

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Parenting

Writing Prompts For Kids

If your kids are anything like mine, at age 8 and 9 when you ask them how their day was, you get a short and sweet answer.

‘Good’.

Kids this age aren’t terribly articulate unless you prompt them.

Either you can develop a list of questions to dig further such as:

  • What was good about it
  • Was anything bad about it
  • Did anything make you feel sad or disappointed
  • Did anything scare you
  • Did anyone hurt your feelings

One way to get kids a little more willing and able to express themselves and their feelings is to ask them to write about them. To sit them down with pencil and paper (two tools out of the stone age that we actually still use) or even with their tablet or pc, and give them a writing prompt.

There are several websites that have great writing prompts for kids. Topics range from ‘If I Were The President I Would….’ to ‘I Am Afraid Of……’

Or, if you have specific things you might like to have answered, you can choose your own writing prompt with nothing more than a piece of paper and a printer using a clever font and some clip art to disguise that it’s really just you asking the question. It might help kids talk more about a death in the family, incidents at school, how they feel about adoption, if any kids they know are using drugs, and just about anything else you might like to know. At a certain age they will get hip to it, of course, but it’s at least a way to get younger kids to express themselves and their feelings beyond the simple ‘good’ answer.

You can also prompt them to engage in creative (story) writing rather than expressive writing.

Some of the sites I’ve used to find some writing prompts for my more reluctant reader are below:

https://www.superteacherworksheets.com/journal-prompts.html

https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/story-starters/

http://journalbuddies.com/creative-writing-2/creative-writing-prompts-for-kids/

And lastly for those parents of technology-inclined kids, there’s even an iTunes writing prompt app for iPads:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/writing-prompts-for-kids/id533233202?mt=8

Happy Writing!

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Reading

What I’ve Been Reading Lately

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Over the past few months, I’ve read some really wonderful books. I’ve not posted anything in a while about what has captured my attention, so this is a list of several books that I’ve enjoyed recently.

James Rollins’ Sigma Force series continues to hold my interest. I have read two of the more ‘recent’ entries, The Devil Colony and Blood Line. To compare the two stories, Blood Line is stronger, and more ‘gripping’ of a read, involving a long-buried secret regarding the President Of The United States (in this fictional universe). Both books are entertaining, as the rest of the series has been, and I am continually grateful that my least favorite character of the series, that of ‘Omaha Dunn’ in the first novel Sandstorm, has never made a reappearance. A literary low-rent Indiana Jones (with a name mimicking Jones) came and went quickly, but the series continues to be highly enjoyable.

Simon Toyne’s ‘The Tower’ is the conclusion of the Sanctus Trilogy. All three books in the series, Sanctus, The Key, and The Tower were very clever and enticing to read. I chose to read The Tower (#3) not long after finishing The Key to round out the trilogy, and keep the events of book 2 fresh in my mind. Well worth a look.

Jeffrey Archer’s ‘Paths Of Glory’ was a more recent find in one of my favorite genres, that of isolation/exploration in frozen climates. Concerning early 20th century attempts to summit Everest, this story regards the Mallory expedition, and encompasses Mallory’s early life as a burgeoning explorer through his death. A wonderful read from a more recently (for me) discovered author that I look forward to investigating further.

Jules Verne’s ‘The Lighthouse At The End Of The World’ – One of Verne’s lesser known works that was published posthumously by his son Michael, and even revised and reworked by Michael received a 21st century restoration to Verne’s original tale. Regarding shipwrecks, pirates, and a fight to stay alive against all odds, this brief, fast-paced story ranks up with many of my favorite Verne tales.

The Amazing Absorbing Boy – Another author I’d not heard of, Rabindranath Maharaj, concerns a boy who, upon his mother’s death, is sent to live with his unknown and long decamped father in Canada. There he finds a man very reluctant to take up his duty to his son, and an even stranger cast of characters in this very foreign land. A very engrossing read as this young man strives to find himself in relation to his father, his adopted country, and the world itself.

The Map Of Chaos – Having read the first two books by Felix Palma in his trilogy that re-works well known tales of H.G. Wells, I couldn’t imagine where the story might go to reach its conclusion. Palma borrows ‘The Invisible Man’ as the main antagonist in this book, and works characters from the prior two books into the story as well. As Wells and his wife Jane leap through time trying to save humanity and avoid the Invisible Man who has come to life and intends to stop their attempts to save the world, the story itself leaps back and forth between multiple universes as Wells and Jane, watchers of an infinite number of ‘twins’ in parallel multiverses, attempt to stop the spread of a virus unleashed by Wells. Only a mathematical tome, authored by Wells, called ‘The Map Of Chaos’ can bring a halt to the destruction of life as we know it. A very satisfying conclusion to the trilogy.

Finally, ‘The Fall’ by Bethany Griffin. The third work by the author to expand upon a universe created by Edgar Allan Poe, this pastiche work tells the ‘backstory’ that leads up to The Fall Of The House Of Usher, examining and uncovering Madeline and Roderick’s family curse and how it plagues them, as well as ‘The House’ haunting them and breathing madness into Madeline as she grows to young womanhood. Billed as a ‘young adult’ novel, and a very easy read, there is still a lot to be found here for fans of Poe’s original wanting to know more about the Usher twins and what led to their demise in the original. Fascinating, and set up so that a sequel is entirely possible for the author to produce.

So there you have it, the past few months of what I’ve read. All very entertaining, none in the least bit disappointing.

Happy Reading.

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Miscellaneous

What Is It About Sunday Night?

For some reason the worst night for me to sleep is Sunday night. This is evidenced by my starting a blog post at 2:15 in the morning.

I don’t know what it is about Sunday nights. I don’t typically eat late at night, nor do I drink coffee later in the day, except on very rare occasion. I don’t have any particular trauma or angst around Mondays. I don’t lie awake all night worrying about something I must accomplish on Monday.

Incidentally, there is a specific phobia that is a ‘fear of Monday’ – it’s called lunaediesophobia.

It’s a real thing.

This would also make an interesting drag name. Luna Edeisophobia.

But I don’t suffer from that.

And I don’t do drag. I just make up names.

Moving along.

So, instead of tossing and turning in bed, I’m up and I’m reading up on insomnia, trying to learn more about it, and thought I’d share.

Some of the leading causes of insomnia are:

  • Depression (I don’t suffer from it, fortunately)
  • Anxiety (Something else I don’t have an ongoing issue with)
  • Stress (Welllllll….okay, you got me there….but stress isn’t a once a week thing, at least not for me)
  • Medical conditions such as arthritis, cancer, lung disease, overactive thyroid (nope, nope, nope, and nope)
  • Using back-lit electronic devices at night before bed (I read books, not eReaders, and don’t watch t.v. every night, so except for writing this post from a desktop computer….nope…not an issue.)

Some say that it’s an ‘internal clock’ issue – the body wishing a different sleep pattern like going to bed later at night and sleeping later in the morning. Again, not a ‘once a week’ kind of thing.

Some say it’s following a different sleep schedule on weekends. Stay up later and sleep later. Well, my kids make sure that sleeping in is just a fairy-tale for me. They wake me up for burning issues such as ‘I can’t find my Wii remote’ and ‘The dog farted’. This starts at roughly 6am. Even earlier than I am up during the week.

Some doctors say it can be medication related. I don’t take anything that isn’t over the counter. Scratch that off the list.

Yes, I have sleep apnea, but not just on Sundays. Another one bites the dust.

Menopause. Hmmmmmmm, NOPE!

There are, apparently, many different types of insomnia. There’s initial insomnia, where you can’t fall asleep no matter what. There’s also chronic insomnia, pregnancy insomnia, circadian rhythm insomnia, terminal insomnia, intermittent insomnia, and even something that appears to apply to me – middle insomnia.

Middle insomnia is when you fall asleep relatively easily but then wake up in the middle of the night, and can’t go back to sleep for hours.

DING DING DING….we have a winner!

But….it’s not just a once a week thing, apparently, such as I experience. It’s a multi-night event. Like a t.v. adaptation of a Stephen King book. Or Shark Week.

Back to the drawing board.

Strange facts about insomnia:

  1. It can be hereditary. DAMN IT, MOM!!!!! HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME????!!!!!
  2. Pets and bugs can suffer from it. Bug insomnia. Really? How can you even tell when a bug is sleeping? Do they snore? And what do you do for that? Get them tiny bug-sized CPAP masks? (Surprisingly this is the way my mind works all the time, not just during a bout of once a week insomnia.)
  3. In rare cases, people have died from insomnia. Great. That’s comforting to think about as I lie awake wondering why I can’t sleep.

There have been some famous people with sleep issues. Abe Lincoln, Bill Clinton, Groucho Marx, Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, Madonna.

And Tallulah Bankhead. She apparently hired gay men to sit and hold her hand until she fell asleep.

So….’gay’ helps with insomnia.

You’d think I could sleep, then.

But I can’t.

I call shenanigans!

Also, Alexandre Dumas had insomnia. He cured it by reading Herman Melville.

No, not really. I just have this issue with Moby Dick.

Boooooooooring.

Wait…I may be on to something…..I still have my copy of Moby Dick……

But….reading in bed is supposedly something that contributes to insomnia.

So, after an hour of research, I still don’t have an answer as to why I have trouble sleeping on Sunday nights. I know more about insomnia in general, insomnia in famous people, and insomnia in bugs.

Bugs.

And so…..I think I’ll close this post out and try to get some sleep.

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Miscellaneous

Have Social Media Websites Lessened Interest In Class Reunions?

In 2016 I will have graduated high school thirty years ago.

I have only attended one class reunion (10th) since I graduated. I believe there has been one every five years rather than every ten for my class. It was the first time I faced (In person) many of my former classmates being comfortable in my own skin. I took my (then) boyfriend, although we went with two women I graduated with as their significant others weren’t attending. I took some (albeit petty) delight in saying ‘And this is my boyfriend….’ to people that cringed at the words (there were a few), recalling years of cringing myself at hateful words and slurs that were tossed at me. What a difference ten years can make.

I also had the chance to see people who I always got along with and ten years separation did nothing to change that. I remember my friend Pam (who I am still connected with through social media) asking if anyone had given me a hard time bringing another man to the reunion, and my saying ‘not really’ – and her response was ‘Good…that’s exactly the way it should be.’  I had conversations with people I’d only really known in passing….and even people I’d historically not cared for very much. I know that for me it was a very cathartic experience…very healing to be with those people having ‘grown’ as a person myself…and seeing how much many of them had grown as well.

Being a graduate from the 1980’s, social media like Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and Pinterest and all the rest didn’t exist for us. For many/most it was pretty much the only time you saw and got to catch up with people. You didn’t have instant updates of peoples’ job changes and house purchases and see the pictures of their children and even grandchildren every single day. These were, in my mind, the topics of conversation at reunions.

Nowadays we just log on to our social media website and scroll through this information any time we feel like it. We don’t have to wait ten years, ten months, ten hours, or even ten seconds to get it. Catching up with dozens of people is almost like speed dating now….thanks to technology.

I am grateful to social media for helping me re-connect and stay connected to hundreds of people. I cannot even begin to imagine having the time to stay in touch with all the people I do via social media. I’ve made new acquaintances that I really like….I’ve at least seen photos of second and third cousins scattered about the country…and I’ve learned what became of people that I lost track of somehow before social media existed.

That said, at times I feel as though this instant access we have to our friends and loved ones is precluding the impetus to actually spend face to face time with people.  I think the last (25th) reunion that my class had there were roughly thirty people in attendance. Out of a graduating class of more than 100. I wondered at the time (and still do) if social media is contributing to the decline in interest in and attendance of class reunions for those who have social media accounts and use them frequently. In March I attended a concert with one of my closest friends and she was in the midst of making plans for her 30th class reunion this summer. When I asked her a few months later if it had happened or not yet, she informed me that the whole thing was cancelled due to lack of interest.

For myself I can say that part of what’s kept me from reunions since the 10th is timing and distance (as I’m sure is the case for others), not a lack of desire to see people. Facebook is great (it’s the only social media website I use), but Facebook doesn’t hug…doesn’t laugh…doesn’t ‘sparkle’ like the eyes of people I know and have known for many years when they talk about something they feel passionately about. Facebook updates don’t let you listen to the pride in a parent or grandparent’s voice when they discuss a major accomplishment a child has made. Facebook lets you experience someone’s memories, if they share them, but being face to face with someone, spending time in person with them, lets you make new ones.

Depending on the date (and if there even is one scheduled) I’d love to attend a reunion next year and spend some time with people that I’ve not seen for many years, irrespective of whether I know what they ate for breakfast all the prior week and what color they painted their front door the day before. I’d like to give some people a hug for things I know they had difficulty with or losses they suffered over time. I’d like to have a lengthy conversation with someone I’d not have given to/gotten from the time of day thirty years ago because we were different people at the time.

I don’t know if my ‘theory’ about social media lessening the interest in reunions is correct or not. There are ‘articles’ you can read about it. But for me, a guy who couldn’t WAIT to get out of high school and away from many people and now looks forward to seeing some of those same people in person, it comes down to one basic thing.

I’m young enough to enjoy social media. I’m also old enough to know it’s not the end-all and be-all of keeping in touch with people.

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