Category Archives: friendship

chain letter …

I received an internet “chain letter” tonight via Facebook. At first glance I cringed … then I sighed heavily and cringed again. But, since I was sitting on the pot’, I read through it.

It is important to note that this was sent to me by someone who I suspect never sends superfluous things like this to others. I questioned for a moment whether or not her account was hacked, or maybe she was feeling glum or blue, and I was intrigued. So … I read it.

While reading the message, I was flooded with memories of my youth. Memories of opening the squeaky lid to our mailbox on Antonio Lane and reaching in to find an envelope addressed to me. It reminded me of that important and giddy feeling I had on the inside while carefully carrying it to the roll-top desk in my bedroom. Not seeing a return address, I would inspect the cancellation stamp.

“Ooo! From Arizona? Who is this from?”

It could be from Colorado, or somewhere else in California, or somewhere nearby like Cupertino or Campbell. It didn’t matter; it was a mystery that needed to be solved. I slowly would break the envelope’s seal and remove and unfold the letter.

And there it was — a message.

Letters like this always included directions about how many letters the receiver needed to send and by when. Some even contained a list of addresses to send it to. The frantic feeling of having to do what was required within the deadline would build. I would have to do this! Otherwise, the unspeakable could happen — bad luck, sadness, or something else to avoid. If I were to send them in time following the exact directions outlined, something magical could happen. Something like good luck, granted wishes, or some other mystical occurrence.

It was exciting. It was mysterious. It was entertaining. The wonder of it all. IT WAS FUN!

I could see my towheaded-self open the second drawer down on the right side of my roll-top desk to retrieve fresh and clean ruled paper, carefully counting out the number of sheets I needed to complete the task at hand. God forbid I didn’t have enough! I’d search my school binder (a Star Wars Trapper-Keeper) and other drawers in the house until my supply needs were met. I would grab a pencil, sharpen it into a point, and start the task of carefully copying the directions.

If I used a pen, I would be quickly reminded that pencil was a better option, especially considering how I deemed mistakes as a definite reversal of fortune if left uncorrected; or worse, scratched out. If my Eraser-Mate had a good eraser on it, I might use it. But, pencil was safer … it was good decision making.

If all went well, I would be able to complete the letters, fold them neatly in thirds, insert them into envelopes, carefully address them, and seal them – an act that seemed like I was sealing my fate inside each and every envelope. The sealing gum tasted like the misery and doom that would overcome me if I didn’t get them in the mailbox by the deadline.

Then, the hardest task of all had to happen … asking Mom for stamps.

“What on earth do you need twenty-two stamps for?”

She would ask this while at the kitchen counter cutting carrots, or while sitting at her sewing machine, or while unloading groceries.

“For a chain letter.”

“For what?! A chain letter? Do you know how much stamps cost?”

She would be clearly irritated and then follow up with:

“I don’t even know if I have that many stamps. Go get my purse.”

It was a good sign if the stamps were in there; or if some were found in her purse, and some in the catch-all cupboard, or some in the wall basket by the kitchen phone that held mail, address books, and coupons.

Once the stamps were adhered, and the squeaky mailbox lid was closed over the letters that were dropped in, there was a sense of relief. Then a sense of dread. Over the next few days, knowing the letters were out among the thousands of other letters floating through the US Postal Service, there was this sense of expectation.

“I sent them three days ago. That means there are seven more days until I can ask for three wishes. So then, that means that in twenty days, I will get those wishes granted. Wait! No…. Twenty minus three is …”

I count on fingers. Math never was my strong suit.

“… seventeen, so in seventeen days I will get those wishes granted. Awesome!”

Then it gets blurry. Time goes by. The letters would be forgotten along with the anticipation and the hope for whatever the chain letter promised. It would be replaced by other childhood antics, or rehearsals, or playing with friends, or reading, or anything and everything else.

Only to be remembered when, surprisingly, some random day as the squeaky lid to our mailbox on Antonio Lane would be opened to reveal an envelope addressed to me, and that important and giddy feeling would fill my insides while I carried it carefully to the roll-top desk in my bedroom.

So … I thought about it for a minute. And then I did it. I held down my finger on the text bubble in the Facebook message, selected copy, started a new message, held my finger down again, and pasted the message in it. I chose fourteen people as directed (with a sound methodology in an attempt to ensure those who receive it wouldn’t be targets by others in my list), and I clicked send.

As far as the wishes and promises it made, I highly doubt those will ever come to fruition. But I must acknowledge this: if I hadn’t received that cringe and heavy-sigh inducing chain letter, I wouldn’t have had those lovely memories, and I wouldn’t have been inspired to put them into  words that others may read – something I love and enjoy, and something I have deprived myself of.

To those who received my chain letter: my hope is that it inspires you to do something you love. Just for you.

five years … a memorium

Five years has passed since Dion C Wade, my partner, lost his courageous battle.

Today I reflect on how much has changed in my life since that day and how it is so radically different. I feel guilty about that, even though I know I shouldn’t. I think about the memorial service that we held for him one month later, on September 12. A ballroom dance studio was turned into a chic event space where family and friends gathered to share their love for him and their grief for the loss of him. I recall how the service started late because we waited and waited for one person (an ex-boyfriend) to arrive who never did; how we left behind platters of catered food that we were unable to eat because of that. I remember that we had a toast at the end of the service, and that the servers popped every bottle from three cases of champagne, and two and half cases of bubbly was wasted.

I remember that the room was filled with people who loved him, lost him, and were still reeling in the fact that he was gone, how we had to do a blitz set up of the space after the last dance class and how I couldn’t wear shoes because my legs had swollen up like tree trunks from a case of edema whose cause was never determined.

I was simultaneously emotionally raw and emotionally numb. I was running on adrenaline. I was angry. I was angry at him for not taking care of his health and for ultimately leaving us all behind to wonder why. I was angry at myself for all the things I said, did, should have said, and should have done. I hated the life I was living and I was in desperate need to escape it all. I was in control, but on the brink of completely losing control of life.

Today, I remember standing in that hot room delivering his eulogy and looking out at those who came to share in the moment, feeling an amazing sense of responsibility for him and his memory. I remember when he was still in the hospital and his brother asked me, “Why are you doing all of this?” And I responded, “Because if I don’t, who will?” And that is how I felt on that day five years ago. If I didn’t do what I did for him, who would have?

I still miss him.

*     *     *     *     *

Eulogy Opening Comments

Hello. My name is Scott Pfeiffer. Thank you for being here to celebrate the life of Dion Wade. Please take a seat wherever you like.

This room is filled with so many people who loved and cared about Dion: Family, lifelong friends, work friends, new friends, Facebook friends, and maybe even some folks who just wandered in off the street. It’s so great to see you all here. I know for some, being here meant traveling a great distance. I chose this date without thinking that you would have to travel on September 11. Whoops! And for those of you who came in on a red eye … thank you. Find an ‘elbow buddy’ just in case you nod off.

I want to be sure that you all meet his parents and brother. This is Dion’s mother, Nancy Wade; his father, Bill Wade; and his brother, Travis Wade. Dion’s extended family is here, too: his cousin Nikki, her husband Mike, and their kids, Brendon and Dillon; his Aunt Jannie, Auntie Em, and Aunt Ola.

Another extended family of Dion’s is also in this room: his family and support system of friends from New York and beyond.

As far as what happens today, the most important thing is being here to celebrate Dion’s life. This is more of a “roast” than a memorial service. It’s what Dion wanted … laughter, fun, music, and stories. Everyone who wants to will have the chance to share thoughts, feelings, and stories about Dion.

I need to do a disclaimer for his immediate family. Be prepared to laugh, blush, cry, gasp, sigh, and take in what Dion’s “New York and beyond” family says about him. There are so many fun — and probably inappropriate — moments to share. This will be a great moment for you to learn about Dion because there is much to tell about the man who we loved; the boy who you raised.

So … I am going start this by sharing with you a story about Dion’s impact on my life.

Eulogy

We met at a bar (believe it or not) in the middle of a March snowstorm. We had both been making googoly eyes at each other all night and we finally talked outside at closing. I lived on 43rd and he lived on 46th and we walked the 20 blocks together back to our neighborhood. During that walk we talked about where we grew up, our family, how long we’ve been in New York, what we did for work, and things like that. The conversation flowed freely, we laughed, and at one point, I said something about how romantic the walk was and he just looked at me, did his little sexy smile, and said “Yeah. It is romantic.”

And then yadda, yadda, yadda, we had breakfast together the next day and talked even more. I phoned my cousin, Shannon, and told her I met this great guy and I think he’s major relationship material. It was like a bunch of butterflies in my heart when I thought of him.

A few days later, we went on our first ‘real’ date. I walked to his house and he was waiting downstairs. He always waited downstairs. I think we were together two years before he let me up to his apartment. As we walked, we asked each other where to go to dinner and we both responded, “I don’t know; where do you want to go?” I said, “There’s something you need to know about me. I don’t eat seafood or mushrooms.” He responded, “Me neither.”

I thought to myself, “This is it. This is the guy!”

That date turned into several dates and soon it was clear that we were ‘together’. He was spending nights at my house and weekends at my house; I started introducing him to my friends. We would cook, go out, or just hang out. He would walk my dog, Victor. WHAT?! He would walk my dog?!

“This is it! This is the guy!”

Although … he would call Victor “The Giant White Rodent” and tell him that he was going to take him the glue factory. But he loved this dog and Victor loved him.

Dion was so stylish. I loved when he’d come over directly from work so I could see what outfit he wore. Always a sport coat and a pocket square. Always the third piece — those in retail should know what this means. And always some kind of cap. There was always Dion in his jaunty cap. I don’t know how many blue with white stripes shirts he owned, but it was a lot! He referred to his outfits as his “costumes.”

His personal style was impeccable. Talk about polish! You would never know that this guy cleaned his shower maybe every three months, ordered meals in most of the time when at home, and rarely cut his toenails. His “day off wardrobe” was very different; beat up t-shirts (some of which I think he had when he lived in Farmington), jeans (always a little tight to show off the package), and cowboy boots. You knew he was dressing for himself, but he was also dressing for others to say, “Mmmm …. Hot!”

Our first two years together were filled with dinners out, cocktails, hosting TONS of dinner parties and other celebrations, and picnics in Central Park with the gang. Dion was in charge of decorations and flower arrangements and I was in charge of cooking.

He loved to travel and loved everything about airports and air travel. He and Stephen flew on the Concorde before she was retired. He traveled to Russia, Greece, the UK, Italy, Germany, Chile, France, Costa Rica, and Mexico to name a few.

Each fall we would drive to Vermont to see the fall foliage. On the way, we would stop in Saratoga and stay at the Saratoga Inn. One time we sat in the bar and chatted up the bartender. After a few cocktails, Dion had her and the other couples in the bar in stitches – he owned the bar that night. He had the bartender invent this cocktail with banana liqueur, which we all drank and were all equally disgusted by. Dion had this way of pulling people into his realm. He could just smile and laugh and capture their attention. From there it was ‘anything goes’ but Dion knew how to be the life of the party.

He loved art and architecture and interior design. He put his talent to work designing window displays for Brooks Brothers. This creative outlet was enjoyable to him, especially because he got to work alongside his best friends, Thomas and Marie. This creative side was expressed in everything he did, from furnishing his apartment, to decorating for parties, arranging flowers, helping others decorate, and hanging pictures for those who just moved into new apartments.

His cousin Nikki and her then fiancé Mike came to town to get married. We decided to surprise them with a wedding dinner. We told them to come over for a quick bite to eat; you know pizza and a movie kind of thing. Well … they had no idea what was in store for them. We planned a fantastic dinner and Dion decorated the apartment and table to look just perfect – blue, sliver, and white was the theme. I made a three-layer cake and topped it with a little bride and groom. While I was frosting the cake, the doorman buzzed to tell us they were on their way up, but I had run out of frosting and the very bottom of the cake was light on frosting. I was freaking out, but Dion calmly had of a creative way out. He pulled some leaves off the greenery in the flower arrangements and laid them around the base of the cake. It was just perfect! The surprise was complete and we had such a wonderful evening. We used to talk about it a lot – how we pulled it off in an afternoon – and it always brought a smile to his face.

cake

Nikki and Mike’s wedding cake.

That brilliant white big smile. Personally, I feel that Dion loved his teeth. If he were a girl, his smile would be his tits. Huge, out there, and you can’t help but stare at them. I nicknamed him Chompers as a joke, but he hated that, so I switched to “Little Sweet D”. And to prove how little he was, he actually fit into these skivvies. But that’s another topic.

underwear

I actually held these up during the eulogy! It was hysterical!

Off and on Dion was sick with something or another or had some other type of ailment. He sprained his ankle on a business trip once and a bellman bought him to the hospital and to the airport. The crutches he was given were for someone 5’10 or taller; he walked in them kind of like this …. It was hysterical to watch. He had pink eye once and had to wear an eye patch. Arg! He was a pirate. It was kinda sexy until you thought about why he had to wear it. Ewwww.

For his 40th birthday party, I rented a house in Mexico for a week. Along with several friends, we celebrated this milestone. We laughed, drank, ate great food, hung out at the beach, went to see ruins, had dinner in a cave where the music was so loud we could hardly hear each other talk, and took a day trip to Cozumel. It was such a fun celebration. Dion and I ended our trip in Cancun, just the two of us at a resort hotel. We found many shells on the beach and we sat by the pool while a storm came in. We spent the next day and half in the hotel room reading magazines, eating room service, and watching TV. It was lovely.

When we came home, it was time for him to address the growths that were getting bigger on his arm and side. He found out that it was Kaposi Sarcoma and started chemotherapy treatments. This is when our relationship started to hit a bumpy stage. Dion was not one to over-share information but I am one who wants to know what is going on, what the doctors said, what’s next, how’re you feeling, when’s your next appointment, etc. He didn’t share details and I wanted them. That made me a nag in his eyes and it made him a brick wall in my eyes.

For both of us resentments grew until being home together was near torture. Although I argued that this was “the ‘worse’ in ‘for better or worse’”, it was clear that this was something we could not overcome. We broke up in September of 2008. In October of 2008, instead of celebrating my 40th birthday (dinner with the boys aside), I moved into a new apartment.

There were a few rough months there. We didn’t talk to each other often and I resented that he was spending so much time with the friends I introduced him to. When we did talk, we would mention ever so briefly that we missed being together, but never talked about reconciliation. He came over to the new apartment for dinner and movies a few times. I missed him and I missed us; the GOOD us, the FUN us, the loving us.

On March 11, he called to tell me he was in St. Vincent’s hospital with a case of pneumonia and that Thomas called 911 to get him there. From that day forward I was at the hospital every day; sometimes going on my lunch break and then again after work. It seemed like his room was always filled with guests. At one point, I think there were 8 of us behind the curtain laughing and talking. On March 19, the hospital called me to tell me they had to sedate Dion and put him on the ventilator.

What?! What does this mean?! OMG. I had no idea how to process that.

The vigil during his sedation was hard and emotional. Talking to him and telling him to fight and be strong, rubbing lotion on his hands and feet and stretching his arms and legs. It was a foreign and scary process to go through and I was charting new territory for myself and for him. I learned a lot in those months … mainly how to decipher Doctor Speak into regular English (no offense to Dr. Bungay and Dr. Rashmani!).

I began a new life routine that revolved completely around Dion. I would wake, feed and walk the dog, get ready for work, go to work; talk with the hospital about procedures, medications, next steps; go to the hospital at lunch if I had no afternoon meetings; talk with the hospital about procedures, medications, next steps; go to the hospital after work, talk with the hospital about procedures, medications, next steps; come home, feed and walk the dog, eat dinner, and go to bed. Then do it all again the next day. I was also in constant contact with friends and family, sending text messages, calling, sending emails.

Finally, a friend told me about the CaringBridge website, which helped provide better and consistent communication; and save my sanity. These updates and the guest books postings were wonderful to write and to read.

Shannon and I went to read them to Dion while he was sedated. I had underestimated how difficult it would be. I think I got four words out before I was crying with Shannon. We composed ourselves, held hands, and started reading the pages. Those days of uncertainty were challenging, especially when it came to trying to figure out how to get control of his finances. Does anyone here work for Bank of America? Ok, well, don’t tell anyone, but I had to forge two rent checks for him. Yikes.

When he started to come out of sedation it was like a miracle. I could not believe it. He was regaining his personality, his smile, his bright eyes. Since he had the trach, he could not talk. He communicated by forming silent words. I cannot read lips. Shannon is much better at it and did a great job translating what he was trying to say. One time she was convinced he was saying ‘thirsty, thirsty’; I was convinced he was saying ‘help me, help me’. He confirmed later that he was saying he was ‘thirsty’. My lip reading was so bad that once he tried so hard to tell me something and I kept saying, “I don’t get it. I don’t see it. What are you saying?” He finally got so frustrated that I wasn’t able to understand him that he mouthed what I was able to make out exactly: “Go home”. So I did. The only other time it was clear was when I told him how long he’d been in the hospital. He mouthed “Fuck!”

Then he moved to writing in a notebook. One night he wrote the sweetest note. I have it pinned to the corkboard above my desk at home. He wrote: “I love you. With all my heart and soul. You make me want to live on.” And then he wrote, “Bring me my computer.”

One night I walked into the room and he actually said, “Hi!” I nearly fell out. He could talk! It was a completely different world then. Talking and laughing and telling stories. And his progress just kept going. Every day he showed signs of improvement.

It was planned that he would come to my house for his recovery and be there as long as it took him to be independent. As we waiting for his release, an orderly brought his lunch and said, “Ok Mr. Wade, tonight for dinner, your choices are ….” Dion interrupted her and said very strongly, “Oh no! I am not having dinner here tonight. I am being released!”

When we got outside and into the cab, Dion said, “Fresh air. I haven’t smelled fresh air in so long.” Then started crying. He was so happy to be out of the hospital. Then he said, “Everything is moving so fast. The cars, the people, the noise.” It was as if he was experiencing New York for the first time again.

His recovery was going very well. His physical therapist, Michelle, was a godsend and he loved the time that he had with her. Afterward, he would say that she worked him really hard, but he loved her voice and her approach. She was kind, gentle, and genuinely cared about his condition and his improvement. The night before she would come, he would get all prepared and say “Michelle is coming tomorrow!” with a big smile. It was a bright spot in his day.

I was laid off from work one week after his release. What a blessing in disguise! He was at my house – what we started calling our house – for 6 weeks and I was there with him 24 / 7. It was the most fantastic 6 weeks of my life.

We talked about our relationship and why we let it fall apart and reached new heights of communication. We went for walks to Riverside Park to sit on a park bench and watch the world go by, we had a picnic with Thomas one Sunday afternoon, we went to the movies, we went to dinner. He went to lunch on his own, he went shopping on his own. We went to his old apartment to get more clothes and bring some of his things to help make my place his.

Mainly we talked about fears, about wants, and needs, about each other, about how we truly loved each other. One day he came home after a doctor’s appointment with a little gift box and a card. Inside the box was this beautiful orange glass bowl. The card reads …

card from dion

There was true beauty like that in every moment we spent together. Then, he had his downturn. It was fast, and quick, and unreal, and unexpected. Before I called 911, Dion had to get dressed. He was very specific about what he wanted to wear. He wanted his lightweight blue shirt (and he buttoned it up and rolled up the sleeves), his orange paid shorts and a brown belt (not that brown belt the other brown belt), white booty sox, and his tennis shoes. That was his ER costume. In the room in which we were placed, he looked down at his nails and said, “I should have cut my nails.” Then later, “I should have shaved.” And then later, “I wish I took a shower.”

While we sat in the ER room for 15 hours, it became clear that Dion’s body was not responding to the treatments he was being given. The doctor pulled me aside and in hushed tones told me that the KS had continued to grow and was now filling his lungs along with several different bacteria. It was critical, he said, to sedate Dion and put him back on a ventilator. My fear turned into reality. I knew this was something that Dion would not survive. He was tired and weak.

We had – what I can only call — the most amazing and frank discussion I have ever had. We talked about what could happen in real terms, not skirting the issue at all. I told him that that it is clear that he may not make it through this. He said to me, “Ok. I understand. Either way, I’m not scared.” He was so strong and accepting of what was about to happen to him. I was so proud of him. We talked about what he wanted to have happen to him if he died (resuscitation, cremation, this celebration). He had a few specific things of his that he wanted to ensure others received.

His approach to this conversation really put me at peace. It was clear he was ready to go. I had the honor and privilege to thank him for what he meant to me, to tell him I love him more than I could really express, and to say goodbye. He also thanked me for everything that I had done for him and we held hands. When the doctor’s came in, I gave him a kiss on his forehead and said goodbye again. As I was leaving the room, I turned around and he was sitting upright in bed, looked at me, said “thank you” and then “goodbye” and waved a little sweet wave.

That was the last time I saw him alert. I would not trade that Monday for anything in the world. It is a day I will never forget.

But … the point is this. He was ready. He was prepared. And he was not scared. He was very specific about today, too. He said, “I don’t want some priest I don’t know talking about me and I don’t want everyone crying in pews.” He wants us to celebrate his life with smiles, laughter, music and love and stories. It is my hope that today we can accomplish that for him.

For me Dion was smiles, laughter, music, and love. I miss him, and I know I will miss him forever. But … I know he is here with us. He is watching us, critiquing the decorations I am sure, and loving the fact that we are all here for him.

Dion Wade was so much more than the last seven months. He was a lifetime of experiences shared with all of us. From his childhood in Farmington, to his other adventures in cities he lived and countries he visited, to his life here in New York — a city he loved with great passion.

He was a fully realized man, whose talents were great, faults were few, and friends were many.

*     *     *     *     *

Click here to see a slide show that was shown at Dion’s Celebration of His Life that was loving put together and includes a song sung by Dion’s friend and my cousin Shannon Darin and Dion’s friend Patrick Barnes.

Click here to see images from the Celebration

Love Letter to 401 WEA

I write this from the dining room of my Upper West Side apartment, the one where I have lived for nearly five years; the one that brought me from Hell’s Kitchen, where I lived for six years. The one where I felt I was providing a better life for my dog, Victor, by being steps away from Riverside Park. The one where I cried in the hallway the day I moved in, a lump of heaves and snorts, a wet mess from tears and snot, sitting on the floor with my back against its cream wall, feeling completely alone after breaking up with my boyfriend of four years. This was the apartment I did not want the broker to show me.

*      *       *       *      *

My relationship with Dion crumbled due to mutual infidelity fueled by anger and resentments, insecurities and self-doubts, booze and drugs. I met with a broker and asked him to show me apartments in Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, and the Lower East Side. I wanted to be where the men were since I was single again. He asked what I wanted in an apartment: one bedroom, character, near transport, not too noisy, elevator, doorman, dishwasher, large kitchen, etc. The list went on. I wanted to treat myself after living one year in a 300 square foot studio on the fifth-floor of a walk up building. A studio where the shower was next to the refrigerator in the almost non-existent kitchen where two men and a large dog tripped over one another while getting ready for work, dinner, or to go out.

“You’ve said that you often walk to Central Park with your dog. Why not look in the Upper West Side?” he asked.

“Not interested,” I replied while thinking he was insane.

Why would I ever want to live in the Upper West Side?! It’s the ‘burbs of Manhattan. Strollers everywhere. Kids. Parents. Entitled mothers with their five children in polo shirts and crocs. Ick.

He took me to several places in the neighborhoods that interested me. None of them fit my “wants”. They were too small, too dark, too low, too creepy, too smelly, too boring. Too … too … too … too. They were too little and I was too much.

*      *      *      *      *

This was the apartment where I spent nine hours fastidiously measuring and taping the hallway in order to paint vertical stripes. The smell of blue painter’s tape lingered on my hands, in my hair, on my clothes; the taste of it in my mouth. A once cream and overly bright hallway became a rich and luxurious walk from the living room to the kitchen. The dark green stripes with a base of a deep brick red evoked a masculine men’s club. This was the apartment where I explained to guests that the stripes were not black, but a deep green, secretly relishing in the fact that the stripes were so rich and dark they were almost an enigma.

*      *      *      *      *

“There are some great properties in the Upper West Side and there is a lot of inventory right now,” my broker mentioned. “And you’ll be closer to Central Park where you go every weekend.”

I sighed.

“Let me just show you three and if you don’t like them, we’ll come back to Hell’s Kitchen and continue your search,” he continued.

I reluctantly agreed and resented him for even thinking I would be interested in that neighborhood. We looked at two apartments near Central Park. Both were awkward and interior apartments with no light.

He does not get it. He has no idea what I want and cannot deliver. This is not going to work. I need a new broker.

“This isn’t working for me,” I said as we looked around an apartment where you took three steps down inside the door to get to the living; where you took three steps up to the closet-kitchen outfitted with a dorm-sized fridge and two-burner hot plate; where four steps up and a turn took you to the windowless bedroom. “Let’s go back to Hell’s Kitchen.”

“I have one more place to show you near Riverside Park,” he smiled. “It’s a little more than your budget, but I think you can make it work. Take a look at this one – humor me – and then we’ll go back to Hell’s Kitchen.”

We entered the building and we were greeted by the doorman. We went up the elevator to the fourth floor. On either side of the landing were sets of closed double doors, something I judged as creepy and strange. We passed through one set, walked a short carpeted hallway (This must smell rank in wintertime!) and he unlocked and opened the door.

*      *      *      *      *

This was the apartment where I bought “grown up” furniture. Metal and glass bookcases from Room and Board that held books that I read, and aspired to read. Books of architecture and art. Books to laugh through and cry through held tight by interesting bookends or stacked in a pleasing way. A dining table with a leaf and six chairs, where dinner parties were held, board games played, and Thanksgiving feasts enjoyed. A nice wooden desk, where I would write letters in order to keep the US Post Office from going bankrupt and ensure that letters did not become a dying breed. A Crate&Barrel bar replete with all types of barware and liquors. A six-drawer dresser housing funky socks, American Apparel T-Shirts, and Tom of Finland Toile pajama bottoms. A wooden credenza that held my new 54″ flat panel television, bought after a drunken brunch, and where I was surprised by its size when it was delivered.

This was the apartment where I could host visitors for extended stays. My mom, my sister, friends in for business and friends in for pleasure. Where I would have work team meetings to brainstorm, away from the office’s chaos. Where I would know my neighbors and their dogs, but only remember their dog’s names. Where I would see the adjacent apartments turn over three times in the course of four years, feeling pleased that I had stayed put and was the “long-term tenant. This was the apartment where I felt comfortable leaving my door unlocked when I left, whether for an hour or the day.

*      *      *      *      *

The door opened and I saw sunlight bouncing off the gleaming hardwood floors. I saw a large living room flanked by what could be a dining area accentuated by a trio of windows in a rounded turret. I saw a large bedroom with two large windows and a door into the bathroom. The bathroom also had a door into the hallway, the long hallway that led from the living room at the front of the apartment to the kitchen in the back. I saw the kitchen with a large window, a dishwasher, double ovens, cupboards and more cupboards. I saw counter space. Lots of counter space.

I saw charm, character, and pre-war details. I saw history and felt memories of lives lived in this building and these rooms since its opening in 1900. I saw ghosts of the past and I saw my future. I would be happy here.

“I have to have this place,” I told my broker, not knowing what was in store for me.

One week later, I moved in and I was on the hallway floor crying in rage that I made the wrong decision, that my life was going nowhere, that I was alone. My relationship ended, my life was once again in flux, and I wondered why the hell I was now living in the Upper West Side. Was I crazy? I knew I would never see a gay man again. Not here. Not in the ‘burbs. The smell of H&H onion bagels wafted through the open windows and Victor licked my face.

*      *      *      *      *

This was the apartment on the fourth floor corner of a pre-war building in the Upper West Side of Manhattan on West End Avenue. This was the apartment from where I sent cleaver change of address cards that cryptically told where to find me.

USA – NYC – UWS – WEA – SCP

This was the apartment where Christmas dinners and Thanksgiving dinners were held. Where brunches were enjoyed with much champagne. Where I would come after a long workday, be greeted by my ever-loving dog, walk to Riverside Park, and watch the mighty Hudson flowing. Where I would take long baths in the big and deep tub, immersed to my chin in hot water. Where I would read books before going to bed. Where I would shower in the morning and dress in the bedroom with the curtains open, not caring if the neighbors could see, since that is what you do in New York. This was the apartment where I caught two neighbor girls, no older than 10, watching “The Incredibles” on my giant TV with me, as they perched themselves in their neighboring window. This was the apartment where I would sit by the windows that faced West End Avenue to watch thunderstorms of lighting and pouring rain, where first snows would fall and quiet all traffic and gently whisper onto the tree branches below.

This was the apartment where Dion came to recuperate after his three-month hospitalization. This was where “The Last Supper” was held, a hindsight reference to a dinner party held three days before he went back into the hospital. This was the apartment where he lived the last six weeks of his life before succumbing to AIDS. This was that apartment.

Eventually, this was the apartment where I came to hide from my emotions and seek escape from the madness that was my life. This was where I built a facade of a perfect life, with the perfect job and the perfect dog, and the perfect clothes, and the perfect perfection of a perfectly clean and orderly perfect apartment. This was where I would run after work to seek safety from its CEO’s daily torture. This was where I would run to hide from my self-doubts, low self-esteem, my loneliness, and fear. This was where I was seeking solitude in order to get clarity, without realizing that I was isolating into a lonelier and smaller life. The bar became less useful for cocktail parties than for my own personal binge drinking. The desk I thought I would write from became most useful for doing lines of drugs. The bed became more a place to sleep with many than a place to sleep peacefully alone. My life unraveled before my eyes, and by my hands, within this apartment.

*     *     *     *     *

This was the apartment where I had a vision. A vision that the life I was living was not worth it. Where I backed myself into an emotional corner and had a breakdown. This was where I came after rehab to put the pieces of my life back together. This was that apartment. This was where I learned how to have fun sober while playing board games with sober friends. This was the apartment that I left each morning to attend meetings and outpatient care; where I would return filled with feelings that I could now work through. This was the apartment where I could now look in the mirror, into my reflected eyes, and feel proud of me. This was that apartment.

This was the apartment where a friend and I organized and packed bags of freeze-dried food in preparation to backpack a portion of the Appalachian Trail. This was the apartment where that friend became my boyfriend, and where that boyfriend eventually moved. This was where we set up Christmas early and where our parents met for the first time during a Thanksgiving feast. This was where I left to see a Broadway show and have an anniversary dinner with my boyfriend, and came home with my fiancé. This was the apartment where a puppy, Rhoda, was brought to keep Victor company and to round-out our family. This was the apartment where we decided to move to Charleston, South Carolina.

*      *      *      *      *

“I have to have this place,” I told my broker, not knowing what was in store for me.

This was that apartment.

*      *      *      *      *

things i love …

My friend, RoiAnn, and I met when I was twelve years old when we were in a production of Tom Sawyer at the Santa Clara Junior Theatre. We did several shows together during our youth, but we grew up, moved along our lives, and grew apart.

Through the wonder that is Facebook, she and I reconnected. Since then, I learned that she has come out of the closet, lives in Chicago with her partner, her stepdaughter, and her adopted daughter. She writes a blog called “Are You the Babysitter”. In her words, she is a “queer mama co-parenting by love, step, adoption and the skin of my teeth.”

She asked a few other bloggers to post “Things I Love” and link to her blog and vice-versa. This request has had me thinking about the word love. Those who know me well know that thinking about things gets me in trouble. I over-think things, deconstruct and dissect them, analyze them, and then re-build them into something that doesn’t even resemble what I started thinking about. And then, I get flustered and start thinking some more.

So … before I get to my list of “Things I Love,” here are some things that crossed my mind when thinking about the words “things” and “love.”

I believe that “words mean things” and they are powerful, whether used correctly or incorrectly. What one says or writes is powerful and the correct words can change perceptions, thoughts, and points of view. They can incite positive thought and action or destructive fanaticism and behavior. words have the power to lift one up or take one down. Words mean things.

Things:  Should I focus my list of topics on inanimate objects, items you can touch or hold, or should I also include people, places, thoughts, and concept?

Love: Should I focus on the deep meaning of this word or the over-used, conditioned response as in, “I love cherry pie?”

*     *      *      *      *

Waitaminit. Here I go again. I am over thinking it. So, really, who the hell cares? I’ll just get to it … here’s my list:

  • I love cherry pie and I love everything cherry flavored
  • Pumpkin pie … oh yeah! Pumpkin pie!
  • My dog, Victor; he is my little angel and is the best dog in the world
  • The ocean and the beach
  • Cereal, any kind of cereal — it’s my favorite food group
  • Sleeping with the windows open on cool summer nights
  • My bookshelves, except for when they need to be dusted
  • The smell of Pledge and the smell of Pine-Sol
  • The change of each season, especially when summer turns to autumn
  • The hush that comes over New York City during the first big snow storm
  • My own chicken stir-fry because I like the way I cook it
  • Noticing architectural details of buildings like the cornices and the inlaid detailing many stories high
  • The sound of rain on roofs or windows and thunder stores
  • Sitting in Riverside Park and watching the Hudson River run by
  • The varying colors of sunsets
  • The smell of campfires, bonfires, fireplace fires
  • Watching the fog roll in over Twin Peaks in San Francisco
  • Having a sense of humor and finding the funny in everything
  • Laughing so hard that I cry
  • Figs picked from the tree
  • Beefsteak tomatoes sliced and sprinkled with sugar
  • Gummy Bears eaten in this color order: yellow, white, green, orange, red
  • Lemonade, lemon drops, lemon pound cake, lemon candies, lemon slices, lemon, lemon, lemon
  • Cooking for friends or for just one special someone
  • The smell of gardenias
  • Pomegranates … the actual fruit, not the juice (although the juice is good, too)
  • Mexican Food … anytime … anywhere (except London – yuck!)
  • Watching TV … but not reality shows, unless they are talent- / contest-based programs
  • Being sober and learning to live life on life’s terms
  • My family and friends, who have supported me unconditionally and with love and laughter
  • Marzipan and Baklava and lots of almond extract in raw cookie dough
  • The musty smell of old books and the way the pages feel in your hand
  • Window seats on airplanes
  • Telling stories and spinning yarns
  • Facebook for bringing me back into contact with old friends and for bringing new friends into my life

And … while you are at it, take a look at RoiAnn’s list and read and sign up for her blog.

Feel free to include your “loves” in comments below …

*     *      *      *      *

one more river to cross …

With the first day of our hike behind us, we were ready to take on our second day. The night’s rest was shaken by the sounds of the nighttime forest. It seemed as if it rained all night, but it didn’t … the ground was dry.

This day we would hike 2,600 feet in elevation on the Eagle Creek Trail. We would starting at our current elevation of 2,300 feet and hike up to the Appalachian Trail to our second sleepover location, a shelter called Spence Field, at 4,950 feet.

We knew we had a hard day ahead. When we were planning our hike, we looked over maps and did our homework. We learned that this trail crisscrossed Eagle Creek several times. The exact number of times was hard to determine by looking at the map, but from our count, we would have maybe twelve water crossings. Since we had crossed through water a few times on our first day, we were ready for this.

We met our planned mileage per day on our first day and we used that same plan for the Eagle Creek Trail. We accounted for a slight reduction in miles per hour based on the elevation gains. We assumed we would be at the shelter at 7:00 PM, and well before sunset.

We were sleepy, so we took our time getting ready to start our second day. After re-organizing and re-packing our backpacks, we said goodbye to our first campsite. We started out in our shorts and our water shoes to avoid having to change shoes each time we crossed the creek. We tied our boots to the backs of our backpacks and set out on this day’s trek.

It was noon when we started walking and the heat of the day was making itself known. The trail started out pleasant enough. The creek stayed on our right for a good hour. The trail was all dirt and rocks. Our water crossing shoes made us notice every rock, stick, root, and bump in the ground. I knew now why my hiking boots had such solid soles. At first, it was like walking barefoot, but soon I was used to the natural feel and the intense sense of the earth beneath my feet.

My shoulder blades were sore from the day before. It was as if I never took off my backpack. The weight was noticeable with every step, and my hips – especially my left – felt the weight shift. Back and forth. Back and forth. Pressure and ease. Pressure and ease. Every step gave knowledge of soreness, weight, imbalance, weight, rocky earth, twigs, pressure, and … weight.

We came to our first water crossing of the day, which looked simple, but there were no large rocks to hop on to get across. Some rocks jutted out of the water, but we would have to also wade through the water to get to the other side.

“It’s cold,” Kirk said, as he stepped into the water and deftly navigated his way across Eagle Creek.

I watched him as he made his way across. I looked at the rocks he stepped to, how the water was up just over his calves, and up to his knees in some spots. I watched to see where he found footing. Before I knew it, he was on the other side waving at me.

I stepped into the water. It was cold … very cold. It felt good on my feet. I instantly felt vulnerable. I felt the unsteady rocks beneath my feet. The pack on my back changed my center of gravity and my balance was precarious. I was looking into the water to see which rocks were less mossy and I poked them with my walking stick to see which ones were stable. I took slow and cautious steps while I tried to step on the same “above water rocks” that Kirk did.

In the middle of the creek, I stopped to take in the moment. Mainly because I was trying to find my balance on the rocks, find a good footing and think. I was taken by the majesty of the rushing water.

Being in the middle of it was overpowering. There were falls upstream. It was a stunning moment: green, wet, clear, brown, sunshine, and the sound of the water flowing all around. I continued to wobble my way to the creek’s bank and Kirk and I took in the beauty.

“One down … eleven more to go!”

*     *     *     *     *

We continued to walk on the rocky and bumpy trail. The creek was now on our left. About twenty minutes later, the trail dead-ended into the creek. It was a little wider than the last crossing. Kirk crossed first and I crossed last.

Minimal rocks were above water so this crossing was completely in the water. The water was a deeper and the rocks were slipperier. As I made my way to the middle of the creek, the power of the water and the current was fully noticeable.

My thoughts went immediately too slipping and falling and I created a bit of a personal panic. I stopped in the middle of the creek and froze. The water was pushing its way past me and testing my balance. It was just above my knees.

“How the hell did he get across so quickly?” I thought.

Kirk seemed so confident and sure of his steps that it appeared that he easily glided across the water to the other side. I could not find the rocks that his feet had nimbly sought out.

“What rock did you step on from here?” I shouted above the water.

“It gets a little slippery right there, so be careful,” he responded. “There’s a good pebbly area right ahead of you.”

A pebbly area. Of course! Stop stepping on the rocks and look for the places between the rocks that are flat and filled with pebbles. He’s a genius!
I stepped into the pebbly area and looked for the next. I was feeling more confident crossing the creek now and Kirk stepped back into the water and extended a hand to help guide me to the bank.

“That’s ok. I can do this.” I said.

And I did. I was proud of this accomplishment. I overcame my fear of failing and my fear of making a fool of myself. My self-esteem was getting good boosts on this hike so far.

Every thirty minutes or so, I would stop to let my shoulders and back rest. I would lean forward with my hands on my knees and let the weight of my backpack rest on the middle of my back. My shoulders would instantly breathe a sigh of relief. My lower back would stretch and relax.

“Goddamn fucking packs. Can you imagine how awesome this would be if we didn’t have to carry them?” I complained.

“It’s pretty awesome now,” Kirk said.

He was right. It was pretty awesome. We continued to walk and made a point to talk about what we saw that excited us, fed our souls, and made us appreciate the experience. There were mossy rocks at the creek side. The sound of the water was pure natural power. The trees were dense and the bushes were lush. The bugs were also out in force, but this time the DEET didn’t burn my face.

We felt we were making good time as we continued to cross and re-cross Eagle Creek. I began counting the times so that we could compare that to the map and get a better idea our location. The incline and elevation gain was starting to increase, but it was steady and we kept a good pace.

A few hours passed and we came across a little clearing near the creek’s edge. Hikers must have devised it as a pit stop. There was a tall, almost cylindrical rock placed against a tree with a smaller, flatter stone in front of it. I stepped up on the flat stone, eased onto the taller rock, and sat back against the tree. It was the perfect place to remove a backpack!

We took off our backpacks and ate a snack. We checked the map and rinsed small pebbles and river sand from our shoes. We talked about how many river crossings we had done, which was already at seven, and the amazing foliage. It was dense and thick and all shades of green. You could smell the earth and the water, and the heat of the day created a rich, humid, fresh air.

“It’s like it is its own terrarium,” Kirk said.

We both laughed at this, since the forest is its own terrarium. It was true nature at its finest.

*     *     *     *      *

We prepared to put on our backpacks again. I hated this part. Once I took my pack off, I did not want to put it back on. It was a known and necessary torture. During our break, I had been thinking about how my pack was not fitting right. It hurt. It did not fit right in the shoulders, it seemed small, and I was convinced it was a woman’s backpack. It just did not fall where it should and was causing me real pain.

I thought back to when we were shopping for backpacks. I should have bought the one that the sales associate at Paragon Sports fitted for me. Instead, I bought one that Kirk found on Craigslist. He saved me money, though … it was only $80! I was starting to think that I got what I paid for. The only redeeming quality of this pack was the internal water bladder. I hated my backpack.

It was easier to put the backpack on with the rock to assist. While I was buckling the waist strap, I thought again about Paragon. The salesperson explained something about the pack resting high on the waist and above the hipbone.

“Oh my God, Kirk. I think I figured out what we’ve been doing wrong with our packs.”

I explained what I remembered learning at Paragon and he recalled it as well. He re-fit his backpack and instantly felt the difference. We celebrated with laughs and a high five. Once again, we had figured something out. It made me feel like I was actually getting the swing of this thing called backpacking. I wished I remembered this on our first day, but at this point, it did not matter.

To ensure I knew how to don my backpack, I took it off and rested it on the tall rock one last time. (OK, maybe it was an excuse to rest a little bit longer.) I hitched myself into my backpack, tightened the waist belt, and lifted myself up from the rock.

We continued walking. What a difference! The change in how my backpack rested on my body changed my center of gravity. It took awhile to get used to the difference.

Along the dirt trail and through the trees, we would come to the creek eventually. We crossed the creek a few more times and it was a new experience with the backpack change. The weight rested differently, walking was different, and balance was different. With each crossing, the creek got a little wider and a little rougher.

*     *     *     *      *

About three hours into our hike, and a few more river crossings, we came to the banks of the creek where the other side was about sixty feet away. There weren’t many rocks above the water’s surface. The large rocks under the surface created a very strong-looking current. The water rushed over them. It was not clear where we were to cross to pick up the trail. It was not directly across the river.

We looked upstream and downstream. It seemed as if we had to cross diagonally to our left and then climb up the embankment to the trail. Just before that embankment, there appeared to be a shallower area with a semi-circle of stones that shielded it from the swiftly moving current.

“Are you kidding me? Who made this trail? This is ridiculous,” Kirk said.

 “This isn’t a creek. This is a river. This is crazy,” I said.

Again, he went first and I watched him cross. The water was up over his knees and lapped at the bottom of his shorts. It was clear that the current was strong; he struggled with finding footing, but made it across rather quickly.

I watched him reach the other side of the river. He seemed far away. The water seemed too deep and rough. He was encouraging me and was shouting something from across the river. The water was so loud I could not hear him. I stepped into the river and immediately started to panic. I wasn’t used to the change in my backpack placement. I was scared of slipping and falling into the water. I stepped on unsteady and slippery rocks, my balance was faulty, I was nervous. I stopped, again, in the middle of the river.

The river was so strong that every time I raised my legs to take a step, the current pushed it downstream. I felt like I was limping through the water and being pushed downstream. I leaned on my walking stick for balance, but I was convinced I would fall. I slowly made my way towards the shallow area, a destination that seemed very far away. I stepped closer and closer to it. My heart was racing and my mind was racing. I could not get it out of my head that if I fell, I could be swept away with the current.

I stepped on a rock and slipped. I stumbled. I caught my balance and then lost it completely. I saw myself falling into the water. I put my arms out. I thought about dropping my walking stick but held onto it. My right arm was deep into the water and my left arm found a rock to keep my body from slipping deeper into the water. The river was sloshing all around me. My right leg was bent into the water and my left was trying its’ hardest to stay straight. My head and back bent forward and closer to the water as my pack slipped and moved its weight towards my head. I was convinced I was going in.

Dammit! My brand new fucking iPhone is in my fucking pocket. It’s probably ruined. Soaking wet and no rice to put it in. Dammit!

Somehow, I pushed myself up and found my balance. After righting myself, I stepped into the shallow area. I immediately pulled out my iPhone and was elated to see it was dry. Kirk was on the riverbank waving and shouting at me.

I was laughing when I held it up to show Kirk. Crisis averted! My iPhone was fine. My ego was a little bruised, and I was a little embarrassed, but my iPhone was not drenched! Hooray!

He was pointing and yelling. I held up my iPhone again and yelled back.

“It’s fine! It’s not wet!” I laughed, thinking about how close I came to a face plant in the river.

He came down the embankment and I was able to make out his words.

“Your boot! Scott! Your boot is in the water!”

I turned my back to Kirk and looked behind me. There in the shallow swirling water was one of my boots. It was floating on its sole and circling around and around and around.

“Holy shit! Oh my God!” I yelled.

I reached down and picked up my boot. I turned back to Kirk, held it up triumphantly, and made my way to the riverbank. I climbed up the embankment and saw Kirk’s concern.

“Where is your other one?” he asked.

When I turned to grab my floating boot, he saw that no boots were tied to my backpack. I ripped off my backpack and looked in disbelief.

“Fucking shit. I have no idea. Oh my God. Where is my other boot?” I said as I glanced in the bushes near the shallow area.

Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. Where the fuck is my boot? Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God.

We stepped into the river to look downstream. There was nothing to see except coursing water, lush bushes, and tree roots. None of them showed signs of holding an errant boot captive.

“We have to go back and look for it,” Kirk said.

“It’s gone! There is no way we are going to find my boot, Kirk! Look at how fast that water is moving. It’s so far downstream by now. Fuck!” I was exasperated and tears started to well up in my eyes.

“We have to go back and look,” he said again and he started back across the river.

“Oh my God! I am not going back through that river! This is insane! My boot is gone. And here I was … excited that my fucking iPhone wasn’t wet … but my fucking boot is gone!” I shouted.

“We have to go back across, Scott. It might be on the trail. We have to go look. You can’t do the rest of this hike in your water shoes.”

He had a point. I could not. Six more days hiking in water shoes was unthinkable. I took a deep breath and thanked God for Kirk and his calm demeanor. I crossed the river again.

We started backtracking down the trail. We walked fast, looking left and right, into the river, and into the bushes.

Where is my boot?! What if we don’t find it?!

I started to realize that we might have to walk all the way back to the Fontana Dam and call Nancy to pick us up. Our hike was over. I tied my boots to the back of my backpack as if tying shoelaces, with a nice “bunny goes through the hole” bow.

What an idiot. I just ruined our hike. It’s over.

“Ok. Here’s what we’ll do,” Kirk said, calm as can be, “We’ll find a nice little spot where you can sit and rest. You’ll watch our packs and I’ll run down the trail to look for it.”

“No,” I said stubbornly, filled with guilt over my lame action. “I’ll go. It’s my boot.”

“Scott, let me do this for you … please,” Kirk said. “I want to.”

I stopped thinking for a moment. My head cleared. I nodded in agreement, as my eyes welled up again. He was willing to go to this length to help me. It was an amazing feeling knowing that he would do that for me. How selfless of him, how caring of him, how … nice.

We stopped at a place where an island divided the river in two and where rocks in the middle of the creek made a nice sitting area.

“You rest here and enjoy the forest. I’ll be back soon.”

Kirk took off his backpack and ran down the trail. I dropped mine next to his and waded out to the rocks in the middle of the creek. There I sat, thinking about how amazing he was to offer to try to find my boot.

Scott, let me do this for you … please. I want to.

I listened to the water. I looked at the trees. I looked down at my feet and wondered if I could do the hike in my water shoes. I breathed deeply and started to relax.

Then, one million questions ran through my mind because we did not set a “give-up time,” a time that he would stop looking, such as thirty minutes.

When will he be back? What if he doesn’t come back for an hour … or longer? Should I get worried? Should I go looking for him? I can’t possibly carry two packs. What if it starts to get dark? Should I set up camp near here? Where? Holy shit. What if a bear comes? Those packs are just sitting there, thirty feet away. A bear could come and snatch them. What if he sees me as a threat? What am I going to do?

I barked. Ferociously. I was a huge deadly, bloodthirsty dog-beast in the middle of the creek guarding backpacks and waiting to feast on invading bears.

Stay the fuck away bears. Woof! Not on my watch. I might lose a boot on my watch, but I will not lose our packs. I will cut you. Oh, wait. My knife is in my backpack. Still … stay the fuck away from this area. Woof! Woof! Woof! Woofwoofwoofwoof!

I stopped. I took a deep breath. I looked up into the sky and I said the serenity prayer.

“God. Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

I relaxed. I stretched. I cracked my shoulders and neck. I looked around. I realized I was in this gorgeous part of the forest and I started to laugh. I laughed and then I cried. Then, I laughed again.

I recorded my foible and the nature that surrounded me. I took some pictures. I settled into the restful break that Kirk graciously gave me. I needed this. I needed to stop the insanity in my head. I needed to laugh. I needed to cry. I needed to just sit and breathe. I just needed to sit and be.

Sitting in the middle of the creek, I could not help but believe that I just ended our hike. My boot was long gone down the river. Kirk would be gone a few hours, he’d come back shaking his head, we’d walk back to our prior night’s campsite, stay the night there, and then walk out of the woods the same way we came in.

Breathe. Close your eyes. Listen to the water and the wind.

“God. Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

“God? … Will he find my boot?”

*     *     *     *     *

facebook and friendship …

The recent IPO of Facebook has me thinking about friendships. Facebook has revolutionized how people stay connected, get connected, communicate with others.

I absolutely, one hundred percent, LOVE Facebook. It’s awesome. I spend a lot of time on it and I enjoy it. When Timeline came out, I did not hesitate. I was an early adopter, watched the provided tutorials, learned the new security and privacy features, and learned how to best navigate the new set up.

I love Facebook’s “connection factor.” I have reconnected with lost friends, those missing in action, their whereabouts unknown. I am able to stay in immediate contact with close friends, those who I speak to on the phone, email often, text frequently, and even see in person.

WHAT?! See people in person?! That is strange.

*     *     *     *     *

Facebook gave me several friendship surprises and brought new and interesting people into my life.

For example, there’s a group called The Upstart Crow (a coffee shop / cafe / bookstore in Campbell where the “alternative” kids hung out during my high school heyday in the 1980s). I loved “The Crow.” You could buy one cup of tea or coffee and sit with friends for five … six … eight … or ten hours … and talk, play cards, gossip, fall in love, find out where the night’s party was. The best part was that I could be a freaky, hyper, nerdy, new wave, gay kid without question. They also had awesome apricot pie.

Anyhow, I joined this group and began reconnecting with kids — now adults with their own kids — from my past. Names that existed only in my journals, until Facebook came around.

Fast forward to a few years ago: Darcy, who I met back in those days and reconnected with via this group, Facebook-messaged me that someone she worked with was moving to New York. She asked if I could friend him so he could ask me questions about living here.

Of course, I said yes.

Brian and I connected on Facebook on a Wednesday. The email conversation went like this:

SCOTT: Hi Brian! Darcy told me that you are planning to move to NYC. How exciting! She mentioned that you have some questions. I would be pleased to answer them for you.

BRIAN: Hi Scott! That’s awesome! I can’t wait to move there!

SCOTT: When do you plan on moving here?
(This was asked since I assumed he wanted to know about neighborhoods to move to, rent prices, transportation, weather patterns for the time he was planning to move, etc.)

BRIAN: FRIDAY!!!!!

Two days later, we met, bar hopped, and became fast friends. He comes to Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, house sits my dog Victor while I travel, and has integrated into my existing group of friends perfectly. His friend Jeff, who lives here, is now a good friend. Chances of meeting either of them without Facebook are slim to none.

*     *     *     *     *

Another surprise is that I have met “friends of friends” who I now consider my friends … people that I look forward to reading up on, who laugh at my status updates and enjoy my comments, and who I appreciate. I tried to retrace the degrees of separation to determine how I came to know them. Most times, I can’t tell or remember. I review friends we have in common and still can’t tell. We now have too many friends in common!

There’s Anne, Dan, Kal, Randy, Jeff, Robert, Steve, Cal, Eric, Greg, Levi — just to name a few. People I have “met” virtually, but never seen in person. They are funny, talented, smart, witty, deep, pensive, kind, supportive, and plain ol’ good people. They are also all a definite source of entertainment. I wonder about their days or their week. I like seeing their life through their photos (like Anne’s awesome red kitchen!). I am genuinely glad I have met them. I have met a few of them in person, gone to dinners and movies, and such. Maybe someday I’ll meet all of them in person.

*     *     *     *     *

Once, I saw an old high school friend posting on another friend’s page. He was now living in Canada. How great! What took him from California to Toronto? How long has he been there? Is he happy?

I was excited to reconnect and I sent a Facebook message with a lengthy update of the last twenty-something years of my life. I asked him to do the same. He responded, “I think you have me confused with someone else,” or something similar. (He’ll most likely correct me on the exact exchange.)

This guy was someone I didn’t know, but he did have the exact same name as someone I went to high school with. This guy was someone I didn’t know, but we started chatting on Facebook. This guy was someone I didn’t know, but we have become friends. We even were able to meet in person during one of trips to NYC. We comment on each other’s updates and posts and make each other laugh. He is an integral part of the award show commentary that goes on and we have a weekly battle for “R E V E N G E ! ! ! ! !” every Wednesday. We both like Turner Classic Movies and update each other on films that are programmed. And … most kindly … he has become my biggest blog fan. At least that’s what I call him.

This past Sunday he posted to my wall “Sunday is almost over. Just saying’ …” This was a nudge to get me to do what I set out to do: post something brilliant and life changing each Sunday. He likes to start his Monday at the office with my blog. Isn’t that nice? I love it.

I love his interest in what I have to say. I love that Facebook has brought us together as friends. I love that we live in an age where friendship can happen on this magical messaging machine known as the Internet. It’s totally awesome. It reminds me of having a pen pal.

So … Mark Zuckerburg … If you are reading this, you’re probably reading it from your magical mobile messaging machine, but I trust that you are not reading this. However, I want to thank you for making Facebook a place to connect. You deserve the money. If you want to throw a few shares my way ….

So … Mike Elliot … whether you are reading this at home or at the office, I trust that you are reading.

And … “You’re so vain. I bet you think this post is about you. Don’t you? Don’t you? Don’t you?”

*     *     *     *     *

writer’s block? maybe … maybe not …

I am stumped as to what to write today.

Maybe this is what is referred to as “writer’s block.” I am not sure. I do not feel blocked. I just do not feel inspired. Nothing has caught my attention long enough or affected me deep enough to capture my thoughts and compel me to write.

A few weeks ago, I planned to write this week’s a post on the topic of trust. I asked others their opinion about trust. However, to do the topic justice would require more time to delve into my personal point of view, to structure the content and flow, to define the arguments and agreements, and to create the hook. Then, of course, there is the necessary action … to write. I totally get that writing, whether a blog or novel, involves this very important action: writing. What I don’t know is what one does when one is not feeling up to it, or when not feeling inspired. What does one do when there is nothing interesting to say? That doesn’t seem right. There can’t be nothing to write about. Nothing? There should be something to write about.

It’s not as if my life has stopped being interesting in one week; it’s just that my life has been simple this past week. Nothing major happened. I read, ate, went to a few meetings and my weekly therapy session, and I hiked. I did nothing that amounts to good writing material.

Speaking of hiking, I went on one yesterday at Bear Mountain. It’s about forty-five minutes North West of New York City. After a quick drive I was literally climbing up into the trees and vistas. The sounds of the city far behind and the sounds of the breeze, birds, crunching pine needles and my own breath filling my eardrums. Amazing! The hike was challenging and fun. It was a bit exhausting to climb it, but by the end, my head felt clear and I was happy. Victor was very happy to be there and he easily climbed the mountain. This particular trail was part of several training hikes that my friend, Kirk, and I will do in preparation for a weeklong hike in the Smokey Mountains.

That hike, which will happen in May, will give me some good writing material. I intend to take lots of pictures and post about the daily activities, mostly how it felt, what I saw, heard, and ate; and what I learned and experienced along the trail. The purpose of this journey is to push myself physically, mentally, and spiritually. Hiking the Appalachian Trail, or a portion thereof, has not been a lifelong dream. I have never done anything like this before and I welcome the adventure. It will be hard, but that is the point. I look forward to taking on this challenge. This whole hike thing came about in a casual conversation.

“I’ve been thinking about hiking the Appalachian Trail. In the Smokey Mountains, near where I grew up.” Kirk said during a conversation.

“Cool,” I said, not really thinking much more about it. I am sure I was doing three other things at once, probably updating my Facebook status.

“I was looking into it and I think it would take about seven days to do the part of the trail I am considering. I really want to experience this; I think it will be a huge accomplishment,” he said, the excitement palpable over the phone line.

“Do you want to join me?”

In my head I thought, “Go on a seven day hike? Ummm … No.” 

I always say no. I never do adventurous things. Other people do. I am invited and then I say no. I see their pictures posted, their comments about their trip or excursion, and listen to them talk about the fun, the sights, what they learned, how great it was. And, then, I hate them. I get jealous.

Why do other people have lives? Why don’t I ever do anything like that?

I resent the fact that some people push themselves to be better or to experience life in ways that they aren’t used to. Pushing myself outside my comfort zone is something that I do not do. And have not done in a long time. A line from Carrie Fisher’s “Postcards from the Edge” has stuck with me since I read it in the mid-1990s: “Sometimes I feel like I have my nose pressed against the window of a bakery. Only I am the bread.”

It’s a fitting statement that really captures how I feel have I lived my life. Don’t get me wrong, I have had adventures of my own, but I really feel like a spectator most of the time. I used to blame my inability to really live life on work, because it always got in the way. It was a lame excuse, but it worked to cover up my fears about being seen as a failure. I used to believe that if I cannot do something perfectly, I would not do it. Let other people have a life. Let them fail. Then watch them live this “so called” life and resent them, or resent myself for not being adventurous.

Now I think more in terms of “What do I have to lose?” Nothing. What do I have to gain? I have no idea until I try.

It was either moment or a day later when I said to Kirk, “I’ve been thinking about this hike thing. I’d love to go.”

And the adventure began.

In the meantime, we have been preparing for this excursion by completing practice hikes. We purchased backpacks, boots, and several books. We’ve read what to do, what to bring and not to bring, what to expect, and how to prepare ourselves. We have spoken with experienced hikers and are acquiring a lot of helpful and useful information. They are encouraging.

We’ve also listened to countless people say they think we’re crazy for doing this without ever having done it before. Honestly, I am getting really tired of that. If one doesn’t do things one hasn’t done before, one would only do what one has always done. Boring! I’ve already lived my life that way. Besides, we are both adults. I feel that, as a 43-year-old man, I can handle myself on a trail. And, if I can’t, I think I am smart enough to know that I can always get off the trail. So, if you have an opinion on it, please keep it to yourself. And, no, I have not read “A Walk in The Woods.”

There is much to do to prepare. I get that. There is more to buy. I get that. There is more to learn. I get that. We leave one month from today. I get that. What more will I get? Life experience. Thinking on my feet. Blisters. A tan. Bug bites. Sore legs. Built up calves and thighs. An aching back. An appreciation for food that is not freeze-dried. The glow of self-awareness. A spiritual connection that I have been lacking. The stars, the moon, and the Milky Way. An appreciation for accomplishing something that I set out to accomplish. Mental clarity that I have been seeking. Many stories to tell. Rained on, perhaps. A new hobby (maybe).

Honestly, I have no idea exactly what I will get. That’s the point. What I do know is this: I am doing this hike for me. Me. No one else. This is mine and no one can take it away or diminish its importance to me. I get that. Get it? Got it? Good.

I guess I did have something to say today after all.