Track 80 – Guilty

“You have a choice.” Anyone who knew my parents when we were kids most certainly heard at least one of them utter this phrase. My brother and I certainly did. Almost daily in fact. These four words seemed to be their mantra to us growing up. For some time, I seem to remember every conversation either starting or finishing with, “You have a choice.”

Now that I am a bit older, I feel comfortable in admitting that there was a period in which this phrase annoyed the hell out of me. Honestly. Okay, going to Dairy Queen and deciding between a chocolate or strawberry sundae – that was a choice. Getting to stay up late on a Friday night to watch TV and choosing between Wonder Woman or The Muppets – that was a choice. Cleaning up my Star Wars action figures and putting them away or having them thrown out – what the heck. I’m sorry, but that was NOT a choice. Sure, my parents said the words, but in the eyes of an eight-year-old boy whose whole life revolved around Luke, Han and Leah, there was no choice. How could there be a choice?

As I grew up, I began to understand more deeply the meaning behind those words. “You have a choice.” As annoying as the phrase may have been, it still empowered that eight-year-old boy and allowed him to save the universe, or at the very least Luke, Han and Leah from being demolished in the abyss of a real-life trash compactor. Those four words had tangible meaning even if I wasn’t fond of the choice.

And now, as a parent, I have come to understand that the sense of control I got came not from those words, but from something else. “You have a choice” would have been meaningless had it not been for one key ingredient. An intangible act that put tangibility into the phrase – follow through.

As an eight-year-old boy, I knew that if I hadn’t picked up my action figures, they would have been tossed out with the rest of the trash. No hesitation. No second chances. They would have been lost. Both Scott and I knew that my parents said what they meant and meant what they said. About this, there was never a question. We knew that with every choice we made, we would be held accountable. We knew that our parents would follow through on what they said.

And how did they become so committed to follow through? So tenacious when it came to providing us with the rewards and consequences of our choices. One might assume that it started from countless hours spent studying the works of Freud, Skinner and Adler. Through years of working with children and adults in various school-boards, halfway homes and developmental centers. Through continued education and professional development. One would assume that all of this helped them understand how important it is to follow through. One would assume. And one would be wrong.

I believe that their understanding of choices and follow through had little to do with their schooling, training or counselling. Their commitment to follow through came from something much more significant than all of that. Something so surprisingly simple that most people seem to overlook it. It evolved from the first, most important choice that they ever made together. A choice that they have followed through on and lived every day since. Their choice to say, ‘I do.’

When one looks at the two of them and who they have become together, it becomes glaringly clear that they are and always have been true to their words. They ‘did’ and they continue to ‘do’. This is a truth that will exist until death do they part, of that I am sure. Our parents have lived a life of nearly fifty years together. They have shared more good times than most could ever imagine, weathered enough bad times to keep their bond strong, suffered through sickness and flourished in health. And all of that, they have done together, thus following through on a promise they made so many years ago. The promise to be one.

While perusing my parents’ photo albums in preparation for their 50th anniversary party, I came across an old newspaper clipping entitled “Kaufmans Cook up a Storm.” It was an interview done by a reporter working for the Standard Freeholder, celebrating my parents and their 25th wedding anniversary. In the reporter’s words, their relationship was an accomplishment to be admired. However, in my parents’ opinion, it had been easy. They were both quoted as having married their best friends. The longevity and follow through on their promise to be together was simple they said. “Cook together, walk together and talk together.” And this is what they have done over the years. Although their cookbooks have been replaced with take-out pamphlets, and walking has evolved into cruising, their conversation has never stopped. It continues to keep their relationship alive and well. Twenty-five years later, they remain the same best friends that they have always been.

In these twenty-five years, Scott and I have grown up and started families of our own. Respectively, we and our loves have learned our parents’ lessons well. To be together, to grow together, and most importantly to stay together ‘til death do we part. I remember, 16 years ago, when Rachel and I got married standing before our wedding party and thanking my parents for teaching us the meaning of truth, love and commitment. For giving us choices and most importantly for following through. Their example was an inspiration that helped us build relationships with our brides. I promised them that we would work to build relationships that would at the very least match the beauty of theirs. I was right. And I know that as the years continue, the vows that we made, the same as those that were made by them, will be honored. For, as my parents always said, “We made a choice.”

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for being the couple that you have always been. For teaching us, guiding us and most importantly for giving us the choice. We promise to follow in the loving footprints that you have left in the wake of your fifty years together. We promise that we will be part of the legacy that you leave. For as you have always done, we will continue to do. Cook together. Walk together. Talk together. Love each other. And as always, we will  continue to follow through.

Guilty is one of my parents’ many anthems. It brings me back to my youth. To them getting ready for their weekend get-togethers. To the many Friday nights we all spent curled up on beanbags in front of the fireplace. To the Saturday night dinner marathons. To them dancing in the living room. To them and the love they have always exuded. To them.

Happy 50th!

 

Guilty Youtube link

 

 

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Track 72 – Angel of Mine

My love,

When I first met you…

…I was sitting on my motorcycle outside of Nepal. You came out of the bar a little left of sober and I wished you a happy birthday. Our introduction was brief and uneventful. I doubt whether you even remember it. Why would you. I was just another foreigner on the prowl. Just know that I remember you.

I remember looking at you more closely a couple of months later when a friend of mine commented on what a good looking ‘bird’ you were. He was right. You were pretty hot. Jet black hair gelled up the sky; deep brown eyes full of mischief and excitement; a smile that filled the room. Everything about you seemed to draw me in.

From that moment

I already knew,
There was something inside of you…

… and I spent the better part of a year trying my best to get you to notice the same thing in me. This didn’t come without a struggle. Nothing worthwhile ever does. But in the end you heard my words, trusted my intentions and felt my love. You gratefully accepted everything that I had to offer and in return blessed me with a look of depth and purity that spoke of forever. In the end, you said I do.

Although our wedding day seemed to pass by in a blur, I will always carry with me brief moments and mental pictures of the day when we two became one: the sharp echo of firecrackers that awakened the world to our becoming; tears of happiness that were shed outside your parents’ home; prayers that were chanted for a future full of health and happiness; and the love from our friends and family that welcomed our union. It was and will forever remain a day to be remembered.

My love,

If you were to ask me why I think our marriage is so strong, I wouldn’t have a clue what to tell you. If you were to ask me why I still look upon you with the same sense of passion that I did when we first started dating, I would shrug my shoulders and tell you ‘because’. If you were to ask me how I know I will love you forever, I would kiss you and just tell you I do.

But you won’t ask me.

Instead, you will carry on squeezing my hand as you did on the day we were married; you will never stop caressing me with the tenderness of a young newlywed; and you will forever continue whispering ‘I love you’ into my ear.

How do I know this?

As I said before, twelve years ago, ‘My love, I just do.’

Angel, by Eternal, was the first song we danced to as husband and wife. As the music started playing, my head began buzzing and my ears started ringing. For a moment the world was empty except you and I. Time, for that second, stood still.

I look(ed) at you, looking at me
I know why they said the best things are free,
Gonna love you ’til the end of time,
Angel of mine.

Happy anniversary, my love.

You are my eternal!

Angel of Mine youtube link

Track 49 – I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)

Peaty. Smooth. Complex. Warming. Nice legs and a long finish. As long as ‘peaty’ is a cultured way for saying down to earth, one might think that I am trying to describe Rachel. Alas, my beautiful bride is not at all what I am referring to in this little preamble. Rather, I am trying to paint a rough portrait of the generous dram of single malt (Laphroaig Quarter Cask) that I have sitting by my side. Although it is a little less intoxicating than my gorgeous wife, it never gives me shit for acting like a fool when I am under its influence.

My love for whisky was cultivated in university. Nevertheless, I can honestly say that my single malt education didn’t begin until about a decade ago when a good friend of mine said to me, “I was thinking…”

Many conversations with this friend began that way. He has a contemplative soul which is blessed with the depth of a bearded philosopher and the imagination of a six year old boy. His creativity has led to possibly one of the greatest movies filmed on Taiwanese soil, Christmas in Formosa, (A must see if ever you get the chance.) and hands down the best menu item that has ever been created, The Ray (A bacon cheeseburger with a side of poutine.).

Despite the brilliance of these two creations, neither one has shared the longevity nor the lasting impact as that of his conception of The S.E.A. I remember the night that he first voiced his idea of The Society of Esteemed Aficionados with some clarity. A couple pints of San Miguel might have blurred the lines a little so bear with me.

He and I were sitting at the bar of Savannah chatting away as he finished off his namesake. He took a quick swig of beer, gulped down the last bite of his burger and introduced the idea of starting a whisky/cigar club at Savannah. I figured that he wanted to emulate An Quaich, a whisky club that I had talked about before. I was wrong. His dream was to take whatever An Quaich was and bring it to the next level.

He envisioned a small group of individuals interested in broadening their understanding and appreciation of single malt whisky. Membership would be limited to ten individuals in order to better facilitate discussion. Each month, a different member would take on the role as teacher and guide the rest of The S.E.A. through an in depth description of the history, distillation and tasting notes of the particular whisky that she or he had brought to our table that night. My friend’s dream was that as a group we would eventually be able to decipher the subtle nuances and differences behind different labels and distilleries. He wanted the members of The S.E.A. to become active participants in a quest to truly understand what whisky was and is all about. In short his hope was that we could evolve from a group of whisky enthusiasts to a group of whisky connoisseurs.

My friend, however, did not stop there. According to him, in order to truly enjoy a bottle of whisky, The S.E.A. must also embrace the deep, philosophical understanding of love, life and the universe that seems to come naturally to anyone who has enjoyed a dram or two of whisky. So, after an hour of tasting, the group would be led by a different member into a discussion/debate on a topic of their choosing. The idea was to bring opposing thoughts, beliefs and opinions to the table in order to broaden our minds. Also it would be fun to watch drunk people argue. To my friend, the pleasure of a good dram was the heat that it brought to any conversation.

It is now more than a decade later and The S.E.A. is still growing strong. Although we no longer sip our whisky huddled under a cloud of cigar smoke, we continue to enjoy at least one new bottle of single malt a month. Since The S.E.A.’s inception, we have tasted and rated over three hundred different single malts from around the world. Our table still fits only ten however our membership has grown to almost triple that and we have become a global phenomenon…in my mind anyways.

I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles), by the Proclaimers, is a song that spans over half of my life. It is a tune that I sing along to no matter where I am. I have been known to belt it out at parties, floor crawls, road trips, bars, in the shower, and at KTVs. Throughout the years it has helped me to perfect my Scottish accent to the point that I might have Robbie Burns convinced that I hail from Scotland. I am sure that if he were alive today, he would stand tall and proud as we chanted a few words from his poem Scotch Drink in dedication to each bottle of whisky we crack.

Oh thou my muse! Guid auld scotch drink,

Whether thro’ wimplin’ worms thou jink,

Or richly brown, ream ower the brink,

In glorious faem,

Inspire me, til I lisp an’ wink,

To sing thy name.

Together we stand with Scotch as our link,

Here’s to The S.E.A. and here’s to our drink!

To the men and women of The S.E.A. and to anyone else who enjoys a tipple now and again, “Uisge beatha!”

 (As a tribute to Mr. Burns, we have had a few Robbie Burns whisky nights where we wrote poetry to honor our drink. This was my offering in 2007.

 Sauced

 

The end I fear is near indeed,

My winter years seem bleak,

Waters rise, and islands fall,

Our outer layer’s growing weak.

 

We fight for fossil fuels unneeded,

Forests now enrich our homes,

We’ve made the need for bottled water,

Goodbye to pastures, hello Superdomes,

 

The truth is brilliant. It’s glaring real,

We’re helpful pawns, who take no stand.

We whisper words of discontentment,

All the while hold out our hands.

 

And those in power hold up their arms,

“We’ll stop the terror, lose no more sleep,

Just give us four more years to help,

Make sure we line our pocket’s deep.”

 

Is there no help to save our souls?

Redeem us from our greed and lust,

Surely there’s some sort of savior,

Better than “In god we Trust”

 

But wait,

        This cynic has a dr’am

To make his finish long and neat,

Just bring the leaders to our table,

Let them taste some malt and peat.

 

For if some reason were to grace,

The minds of those who bring us hell,

I’m sure it comes from just one source,

It rises from a Scottish well.

 

The spicy isle, the creamy Spey,

Any Glen to let their pallet tingle,

It matters not which scotch they sample,

The answer though is clear and single.

 

Though stubborn minded fools they are,

Retarded by power, greed and birth,

One thing they’ll toast, they can’t deny,

Vitae requires water, air and earth.

 

First they’ll talk, they’ll all agree,

The need for marshes, springs and malts,

We need a salty, sea fresh breeze,

Free from all chemicals and Exxon’s faults.

 

And too will follow a drive for peace,

Who cares of lines or wealth within?

What matters is the peaceful passage,

Of life’s sweet nectar to make us kin.

 

The common good, it will prevail,

It must; else all be lost,

Alas my dr’am is empty, outlandish,

Bartender, another. At least I’ll go out sauced.

 

Uisge beatha!)

 

(I’m Gonna Be) 500 Miles youtube link