Sunday, September 29, 2013

Bears! Lions! The World!

The Bears are playing the Lions at Ford Field.  As a native Detroiter, once might think I have sentimental allegiance to the Lions.  Not just no, but hell no.  Go, Bears!

Last week we talked about being a new friend.  Today I want to tip my hat to a co-worker who is a also friend and the kind, generous, wonderful thing he did for me.

My younger niece came to visit a few months back and brought along her boyfriend.  He described going into a bar to meet someone and suddenly all the lights went low, the crowd got quiet, and all the TVs were turned to AMC.  It was "Walking Dead" night at the bar and from how his description, it was a good time.

I don't watch that particular zombie apocalypse offering but I do have a cable show I like.  I don't subscribe to cable.  I am strictly a network-TV person and would never be able to afford the amount of money premium cable demands.  (I have friends who are "Game of Thrones" fans and my eyes about bulged from my head when they shared how much they paid each month just so they can watch their favorite when it is on.) However, Netflix got me hooked on "Breaking Bad."

As almost everyone knows, "Breaking Bad" is the story of Walter White, an easygoing chemistry teacher with a pregnant wife, a high-school-age son with cerebral palsy, and no savings.  When the series begins, it's Walt's 50th birthday and he has found out he has a particularly virulent form of lung cancer.  He decides to cook meth to amass a nest egg for his family and it changes him.  I watched seasons 1-4 on Netflix.  AMC split season 5 into two parts.  The first half was last year -- and viewed by me on rented Netflix discs as soon as they came out -- and the second half is this year with the season finale airing tonight.

At the suggestion of my niece's boyfriend, I tried to find a "Breaking Bad" viewing party in my town.  There are a few, all in restaurants and when I called to ask, the employees advised you need to get there early.  In other towns, I've heard they have viewing parties in small auditoriums, light armories, or theatres and they charge admission.  Apparently no one thought of it here.  Then again bars already have cable installed and other venues probably would not.

I have a co-worker who is the most lovely person.  I lamented to him how much I wanted to watch the final episodes of "Breaking Bad" without waiting nine months.  He has fancy cable and has two roommates with whom he splits an AT&T package that also includes a landline and cable TV (and I think cell phones).  My friend told me he would see if he could tape it.

Remember tapes?  A few months ago, I was considering ditching my VCR-DVD combo because I didn't think I'd ever use the VCR portion again, the combo was hooked up to an analog TV, and I could not watch regular TV on it because those damn conversion boxes like to not work for me.  It's true.  They worked fine for several weeks and then just stopped.  I had a couple as backup and revolved them around, each working anew and then not working at all, until I surrendered, got a small HD TV for the bedroom, and gave up watching the analog TV except for DVDs because my living room chairs are comfortable.

My friend had a severely sprained ankle and he hopped all around his furniture, hooking up the VCR, test taping, moving wires, test taping some more, all so I could watch "Breaking Bad."  He decided he had to be home to turn it on to make sure it would tape.  He started it early and let it run longer "just in case."  The next day he brought the tape to me at work and I watched it that Monday night right after I watched "How I Met Your Mother."  And so it has gone all season.

I've struggled to adequately describe how much this has meant to me.  I have said to him, "I can't tell you how much this has meant to me."  My friend made the commitment to me and he stuck to it.  I get the satisfaction of knowing what happens to Walter White before the media spills it and before Netflix offers it on disc.  There's not a reason in the world I couldn't have waited for it but I didn't want suspense for nine months, I wanted satisfaction.  If it was out there and could be had, I wanted it.

Here's what it's meant to me:  the world.  My friend gave me the world.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Bears Play Tonight but this is better

Before I go on, let me say, "Believe in Monsters."  Go Bears!

I had a friend whom we will call William and he was one of those people whose looks were so unusual and intriguing that he was catapulted into the category of handsome.  He was naturally thin and had white hair which he made whiter by using a shampoo with a bleaching agent.  He started going white when he was just 16 and decided not to fight it.  It was what added him to the handsome category.

He had a very strong personality.  All his friends had strong personalities, including me.  The personalities were all different which made for rollicking discussions, laughs, and performances, since most of us were in theater at the time.  His personality and his looks attracted a lot of people.

This is not about any of those friends.  This is about a new friend who came on the scene and decided she was the head friend and her friends were, therefore, his friends, and the rest of us were just background noise.

Here's something about being friends with the friends of new friends:  Hold back, get to know them slowly, don't act like you've saved that person from insanity, don't talk down to the old friends, be at least a little grateful to be included.  Don't reject or dismiss the old friends.  Chances are if someone's been friends with someone for a while, the friendship will continue.  Your new friendship might not last.  Relax about it.  There is no new-friend crown.

William and his partner, whom we will call Z, lived in a building in a marginal neighborhood.  It was a huge apartment, the rent was low, and they weren't too far from public transportation.  At least once a year, units were vacated and new tenants moved in.  This one particular year a woman whom we will call Sarah moved in.  She was quite pretty and had a huge personality.  She thought she was the head new friend.

William enjoyed having people over to play games, listen to music, and talk.  Sarah and another new tenant -- let's call him Carl -- were invited, as were all of William's usual old friend subjects.

William happened upon Sarah one day in the hall and after coffee together, he thought she was a great person and that they'd be friends.  He was not so keen on Carl although Sarah and Carl had been fast friends and confidants.  Because she was fond of Carl, she thought William would be, too.

Sarah swept into the party and totally dominated William.  The rest of us had known each other for a long time so we talked and caught up.  When William toured around the party, Sarah was right there to make us feel like we were all now minor players in his life.

At the time of the arrival of Sarah and Carl in the building, William had been diagnosed with full-blow AIDS and could no longer work.  He was spending his days at home doing not much of anything until he decided to have a garden.  His parents came from Peoria and brought small trees and plants and garden tools.  William happily spent his days tending the flowers and making sure there were no weeds creeping in.  He never knew he'd like gardening so he was pleased that something so simple yet so pretty could come from him.  He was a natural landscape architect and put together a lovely plot.

Carl was a nice guy but thought he knew it all and often said so.  He was friendly but not the sharpest knife in the drawer.  Not being the sharpest knife in the drawer but thinking you know it all is not a good combination in life even though being nice and friendly lessens the blow.

Sarah was functionally nice.  She was quite bright and had terrible taste in men.  She was friendly only as it suited her.  She liked to be first in the hearts and minds of those she thought of first.  That she would not be first didn't occur to her.  Sarah thought if she was in someone's life then all others before her had to step aside and she treated William's other friends curtly.  She was all passive-aggressive shyness but mostly, Sarah was arrogant.

We'd all come across people like Sarah.  We just mentally hunkered down and waited for her to make some sort of misstep that would send her packing.  We didn't have to discuss it because we knew.

William and I had long phone chats almost every day and he asked if I like her.  I was forced to say that I didn't.  I found her kind of overbearing in how she treated those of us who'd know him longest which surprised him.  He hadn't noticed.  Sarah was between boyfriends, worked strange hours, and had lots of time to spend with William when he wanted company.  He liked her, he said.  I told him good because she was company for him when Z was working.  I left it alone.  I knew he'd figure it out for himself eventually.

Sarah was very fond of Carl probably because Carl mostly flattered her.  William told her he really didn't like Carl at all.  He said he found it difficult to be civil to him and Sarah agreed that, yes, knowing William as she did -- which she didn't -- there was no way he'd be able to get on with Carl.  William differed, saying he could do it for money.  Sarah suggested they make it interesting and they made a bet.  They wagered $10 -- huge for someone who wasn't working because he was too sick.  If William could be nice to Carl for 3 months, he would win the $10.  If he couldn't Sarah, would claim the prize.

When William told me about this, it was the end of May and his gardening was going into full swing.  "How you gonna do that?" I asked.  William didn't suffer fools gladly.  "I can do it for three months.  It's just three months."  "You're right," I said.  "I hope you win."  Of course I hoped he'd win.  It was winning over that Sarah person and I could not stand her.

So, William turned on his charm.  He invited Carl to his apartment for afternoon coffee with himself and Sarah.  Then he invited Carl to just come over on his own then told him to stop over any time.  They took short walks together.  Carl listened to William's beloved music collection.  Carl would watch William do his gardening, blabbing happily to William.

One day William told me Carl had said to him, "Our friendship just keeps getting better and better."  Carl meant it and William laughed because he was on his way to winning the bet and because Carl was too dumb to recognize insincerity.  William was an actor and this was his final great performance.  (No, he wasn't the nicest guy either but he never tried to be.  He was what he was and we loved him and all his faults.)

In early July, William stepped out onto his back porch one morning and found Carl weeding the garden.  He had the hoe William's parents had brought from Peoria and was really having at the weeds.  Except they weren't weeds.  These were actually plants that he was ripping out.

Before I went to work that evening, William called me.

"I just lost the bet," he said.

"Oh!  What happened?" I asked.

After watching William at his gardening, Carl decided to help him out and get rid of the nasty weeds so William could relax that day.  Remember -- Carl thought he knew it all but was also a dope.  He didn't know a weed from a dusty miller which is what he was removing.  He was about to smack the shit out of the begonias when William stopped him as William did best.

William ripped him a new one.  He screamed at him up one side and down the other.  He called him as many names as he could come up with that are associated with being a dunce.  He let Carl have it.  Carl finally blurted out that he was sorry, dropped the hoe, and fled.

William surveyed the damage and took a deep breath to calmly assess the situation.  He regarded the  scene and slowly walked up the back steps to Carl's apartment and gently knocked at the door.

When Carl answered, William went off on him again.  He plumbed the depths of his vocabulary to find new descriptions for Carl's knuckleheadedness.  He felt like he burned a hole into the porch with his anger.  His parting shot was telling Carl to stay away from him and his garden.  Carl had the good sense to listen.

He paid Sarah the ten bucks and she, too self-centered to see that this amount of money was a hardship for him, took it.  He continued to be friends with her although he talked of her less and when their leases were up, Carl and Sarah each moved out.  Sarah and William continued to be friends but then they were acquaintances and then she was someone who used to live in the building.  When William passed away, no one thought to call Sarah to come and celebrate his life at his memorial gathering.

No one missed her.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Maybe the Bears will win again!

Thin, lanky, looks-like-he-does-yoga, ex-CFL coach and now NFL Bears coach Marc Trestman started off the season with a win at Soldier Field.  The Bears are at home again this week against the Minnesota Vikings.  It's raining today.  It will be raining at kickoff, half time, and when people leave the stadium to go home.  Fingers crossed for another win.

Meanwhile, I am feeling super bla today.  So let's look at this funky picture I took last weekend at a baby shower.

The happy parents-to-be were given a tiki-themed party on the rooftop of a condo building on the Near South side.  The views were tremendous.  Soldier Field, the lake, downtown, even the western skies and some seriously wonderful clouds -- all were in view and this was just the 5th floor.  There weren't a lot of high rises too terribly nearby which made for the great view.  The tiki-themed food was tasty but most amazing was the entire roasted pig.  This had to be 50 pounds of oink and, yes, it was delicious.  The head, the trotters, the skin, all were intact for the presentation.  After the party had been going for a while, the photographers had managed to find each other -- me and my iPod Touch included -- and after discussing equipment, where to buy equipment, how much equipment is carried, storage for the equipment, equipment cases, and vacation pictures, we looked at the head of the pig.  "Look at the teeth," someone said.  Out came the equipment.

I tell you this picture is pretty damn unsettling.  I have put in several lines of warning so you can change your mind at any time and decide to not look at the picture of the head of the roasted porker.

You have been warned.

You have been warned.

You have been warned.

You have been warned.

You have been warned.

You have been warned.

Vegetarian curious?  This picture could send you over the meat cliff.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

STILL ON VACATION!!!

Do you think it'll rain?  London, February, 2013
I am still on vacation and am so enjoying vacation that I've not given a single thought to my beloved blog and its loyal readers.  I think said readers will forgive my taking another day to loaf before heading back to what we will call "the salt mines" as it plunges my sanity into the depths.

Bears season opens today, y'all!  Maybe Jay will finally be a real NFL QB.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

VACATION!!!

I am on it.  Please come back next week.

Here's a picture of a stack of pictures:

Can you find the porno pic?  Hong Kong, February, 2012