Track 76 – Someone Like You

Last night I found myself in front of the computer fighting with my fingertips (again) , trying desperately to find the words to express what was going on inside. I guess the gap between tracks has been too long. One o’clock came and went and I had written nothing worth posting. At about one thirty, Rachel finally came out into the living room and asked me to go to bed. Five thirty was going to come around way too quickly. It was time to catch some z’s.

Without argument, I closed up my laptop, padded off to the bathroom, brushed my teeth and quickly slipped under the covers next to Rachel. As I snuggled up close against her bulging belly, I concentrated on the gentle movements coming from deep within her womb. I looked at her and smiled. Our little one seemed to know that it was finally time for us to meet. His day had arrived.

And what a blur of a day it was.

It is now one fifteen in the morning of January 5th and I cannot help but wonder where the hours have gone. Our baby boy, Onan Aaron Kaufman, was born in the wee early hours of January 4th, 2014. He was brought out from the delivery room, face scrunched up in discomfort, by one of the nurses. We were told his weight (3.6 kilograms), his time of birth (7:44 a.m), the status of his mother (healthy) and were allowed to take a few pictures before he was whisked back inside to be cleaned up and swaddled.

The rest of the day was a series of visits, texts, snuggles and pictures. Somehow, through all of the excitement, time, the elusive demon that it can be, managed to slip away. The early hours of tomorrow became today, and here I am, once again, perched at my computer searching for something to say.

Fortunately, tonight I have found my words.

Kind of.

I have actually borrowed some words. Two to be exact. A short sentiment that was passed to me through the lips of my other brother. Something that he said to me after I thanked him and a group of friends and family for all they had done to give Rachel and I such an amazing baby sprinkle. His words were nothing special. Nevertheless, they were something very profound. They gave me an outlook that I hope (and pray) I can pass on to my children. What he said was,

‘Thank you.’

At first I thought it was a rather odd response to my words of appreciation. After all, he (and everyone else) had put so much time and effort into making little Onan’s baby sprinkle such an extravagant success. He had no reason to be thanking me.

Or did he?

My ‘brother’ replied that the anticipation of Onan’s arrival had given us all a reason to celebrate. It was an act of love that provided a group of friends with an excuse to let love’s beauty shine. He continued by saying that we live in a world where love must be cherished, nurtured and spread. Any reason to celebrate it is something to be thankful for.

As I sit here in the faint light of my computer, looking over my wife and daughter and thinking of my newborn son snuggled peacefully below, I am struck with the wisdom and insight of his words. All I can do is to respond with nothing less than the same sentiment.

‘Thank you!’

(Someone Like you, by Adele, is the background music for Onan’s birth announcement. (http://magis.to/fX9xAwMHRQkfDnIGAw) It was the song that seemed to fit the moment and for me it will forever be ‘his’. Welcome to the world, my son. Thank you for the love that you have brought with you!)

Someone Like You Youtube link

Track 75 — This is the One; Hidden Track — Seasons of Love

I sat down tonight with a mission; a mission to finally complete this post; a post which I had every intention of publishing three weeks ago; three weeks ago, of course, being my forty-first birthday and the intended finale to my 365 day blog; a blog which somehow never reached its conclusion.

Sigh.

Trust me when I say that I tried. I wrote, scratched, typed and deleted so many introductions and ideas that I almost forgot what it was I that I had hoped to say. I struggled so much, in fact, that I felt as though I was playing a game that my brother and I used enjoy as kids. (Actually, it is not so much a game as it is a psychological phenomenon. But I digress.) He and I would repeat ‘giraffe’ over and over again until the word completely lost its meaning. It was somehow amusing for us to disassociate the word ‘giraffe’ from the long necked animal that roams the Savannah. What can I say? We were easily entertained. Now. Not so much. Now. This game of semantic saturation has lost all of its appeal. Now. All I want to do is get to track 76.

Unfortunately, in order to do that that, I must first open the door to track 75. And as I have said, that has not been an easy task. I am not sure why, however, as I had chosen the song about two months before I really began thinking about what I wanted to say. Come to think of it, maybe that was the problem.

The song I had originally chosen was Seasons of Love from Rent. The selection seemed appropriate for the occasion. (To me anyway.) How do I measure a year? From the words I have written over the past 365 days, I hope that the answer is obvious. In love. For my family. My friends. My past. And of course, my future. The answer should be nothing but – love.

The snag came as I tried to relate the song to my life. Rent was the last musical that I saw before coming to Taiwan. My parents purchased four tickets; two for themselves, and two for me and my fiancée at the time. Life worked out, however, that I needed to find another date for the performance. (see track 54 Closer To Fine) Although it might not have seemed true at the time, I know now that I was sitting next to the perfect person as the final number faded and the curtains came down.

As I write this post, it seems to me that Seasons of Love was the perfect choice. The song was a prelude to what became be the next chapter of my life; the chapter which eventually brought me to where I am today. If only the last three weeks had been so easy.

I am not sure why, but any thoughts that I had put down onto the paper or screen in front of me did not seem to fit. Possibly I was trying too hard. Maybe I was looking for a bit of poignancy that was not there. It could be that I was striving for a depth that could not be reached. Or maybe I just did not know what to say. Nevertheless, for whatever the reason, I abandoned Seasons of Love. The post was not going anywhere and I decided that I needed a new song.

When I sat down today, I had no idea what track 75 would be. All I knew was that I had to relax. (The three-finger shot of single malt that sits next to me as I type is my failsafe guarantee to success.) It was not until I started writing that I began to hear the music. I guess that I needed to first understand that this post was neither a conclusion nor a finale. It was just a post; a rambling like any other. Not written to be deep. Not told to be meaningful. Just published as a means to tell my story.

My blog is nothing more than a compilation of musings that give insight into how I lived, what I have done, what I have hoped for and what I strive to achieve. As I tap closer to track 76, I have finally realized that this post was nothing to be planned or forced. It was simply the one.

This is the One, by the Stone Roses, was a song that was introduced to me in university by the same woman who sat next to me at Rent. (See track 71 Faithfully) It is a song that has been with me for all of my adult life. Although I have no idea what the lead singer is singing about, (I assume it’s about a girl, but his accent is just too strong for me!) the chorus sings out to me with every heavy strum of the guitar. This is the one. There is only one. I am in love with it and look forward to every moment of it. I pray for a future filled with the same love and happiness with which I have been blessed. To my family and friends, nothing but love.

Now, let’s hit track 76.

This is the One youtube link

Seasons of Love youtube link

Track 73 – Faith

My father, forever the optimist, has always been a firm believer in the adage, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Having heard it enough times as a child, I began to understand the worth in these words. Now, as an adult, I do my best to live my life in much the same way. Things always seem to work out better when I face the world with a positive attitude.

Most of the time anyways.

I have to admit that I didn’t taste anything but the sour tang of disappointment when I woke up a couple of weeks ago to a downpour. Normally, I don’t mind a little precipitation in the morning. I actually find the pitter patter of raindrops to be quite relaxing. However, on that particular morning we were not at home. We were on the island of Koh Chang about to enjoy the first day of our vacation. Or so we had thought.

Upon hearing the rainfall, I rolled over to Rachel and let out a groan of displeasure. I then reached for my smart phone and began to check the long range weather forecast for that area of Thailand. As soon as I did, the foul tasting bitterness that had filled my mouth slipped heavily into my gut. Grey skies, mild rain, thundershowers and nothing but for the next ten days at least. My disappointment only grew as I checked a number of other weather websites. They were all the same. Not one would give me the forecast to which I had been looking forward for so long. It soon became apparent that any lemonade I would taste would have to be drunk from underneath an umbrella.

And so, I did what any fool in that situation would do. I put down my Samsung, stepped out onto our balcony and defiantly thrust my finger into the sky. I poked at the dark clouds looming overhead and willed the rain to stop. I would not allow the holiday that I had waited so long to enjoy to be washed away in a torrent of wind and rain. I would see the sun.

And I did.

By mid-afternoon that day, the rain had subsided and Siaya and I were swimming in the ocean. The next morning, we woke up to the beauty of a cloudless sky. That night, I went to sleep satisfied with a tender redness on my skin that came from a full day in the sun. And for the rest of our holiday, save the last day, we enjoyed the beauty of Thailand ‘sans’ precipitation. (During the times that we were out anyways.) It seemed as though my finger worked. I, at least, take it on faith that it did

I remember the first time that I got it into my head that I had the power to stop the rain. It was in Bali during the summer of 1999. My brother and I had bought our parents tickets to the island as an anniversary present and then met them there for a family vacation. As I was laying out by the pool on our last day, I noticed a cluster of menacing rain clouds rolling in. For some reason (I think I had seen my father do it before.), I pointed my finger at the clouds and wished them away. I don’t know if it was a freak of nature, a spirit in the sky or my will, but within ten minutes the clouds had all but disappeared. I was blessed with a couple extra hours of sunshine. That was all it took for me to believe in the power of my finger. That was enough to give me faith.

Now, every time there is a chance of bad weather ruining our plans for a party, outing or adventure, I jab my index finger into the sky and attempt to work my magic. If you ask me, I will tell you that it works eighty to ninety percent of the time. I will tell you with some conviction that I have the power to stop the rain. Or at least delay the onslaught of precipitation for a time. Am I crazy? Probably. Just a little. Peculiar at the very least. But I am ok with that. With the present state of the world around us, I believe that having faith in anything at all is a good thing. It’s needed.

Any time I turn on a newscast or read a news-report I am drowned with stories of political corruption, deception and self-serving ambition. It is difficult for me to have faith in our governments.

The same stations and reporters that provide me with those stories also try to convince me that it is important to be aware of how JAY Z now spells his name or that the Queen has just visited the baby prince. It is difficult for me to have faith in our media.

I read about teachers being mistreated, students being mislead, and an entire system being mislabeled. It is difficult for me to have faith in our so-called education.

Criminals are let go while victims are abused. Truth, justice equality have been replaced by dishonesty, power and greed. It is difficult for me to have faith in the law.

I read of, bees, bats and birds dying, polar ices melting and waters rising. It is difficult for me to have faith in our future.

The world, it seems to me, is full of lemons and not enough sugar. I need a little faith in something to sweeten my drink. And so, I cling to whatever beliefs I have no matter how far fetched they may seem. After all, if something as wildly unbelievable as the ability to stop the rain could be true then maybe (just maybe) everything else in which I have lost faith has the potential to get better.

Faith, by George Michael, brings me back to grade thirteen, a road trip to North Bay, and the woman who drove me there. Throughout our long friendship, we have shared in a number of rather unique experiences that I know will keep us bonded for life. I hate to be a broken record (Something else that was taught to me by my father!) but there is nothing more reassuring than the certainty of a true friend. It is a wonderful thing to know that someone will always have my back no matter what. I can only hope that my friend has the same amount of faith in me.

Faith is the belief in something without proof. Although it is often a step made blind, it provides us with the confidence and light to make the journey possible. As Rachel, Siaya and I get ready to welcome the newest member of our family, I force myself to keep my faith and belief that things will continue to work out for the best. However, if they don’t, the next time it I see the dark clouds rolling in, I will just lay off of my finger a little and allow the cool rain to water down the sour taste of lemons.

Faith youtube link

Track 68 – Better Man

Although my brother and I first arrived in Taiwan on the eve of Dragon Boat Festival, neither of us paid the occasion any mind. I guess at the time it wasn’t a big deal for the foreign community in Hsinchu. At least it wasn’t for my boss and buddy who picked us up at the airport. They didn’t mention anything about the holiday on the drive back to our new home or as we drank beers at Nepal that night. The only thing that was mentioned was the fact that we should try to balance an egg on its end at noon the following day. Apparently any individual who is able to succeed in such a feat is promised a prosperous year filled with luck and good fortune. I unfortunately forgot to raise my egg the next day and have neglected to give it a go every year since. If only intention and retention meant the same thing I might be a very rich man today.

As Dragon Boat Festival approached the following year, I asked my students to explain the significance of the holiday. In fact, I must admit (with embarrassment) that I needed to have it explained to me once a year for the next few years. For some reason my Canadian brain just couldn’t hold on to these new Taiwanese traditions. (What was I saying about retention?) Nevertheless, slowly but surely I have learned that the holiday falls on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese calendar. I also know that the festival originated as a means to commemorate a famous martyr poet who committed suicide thousands of years ago in opposition of the ruling emperor. My students taught me that zongzi (rice dumplings) are eaten and dragon boat races are held to honor his death. It, along with Full Moon Festival and Chinese New Year, is one of the three most celebrated of all Taiwanese festivals.

Or so I was told. I’m not so sure that I believe the hype. Of the fifteen years that I have lived in Taiwan, I have only celebrated Dragon Boat festival four times. Sure I have eaten my mother-in-law’s rice dumplings every year for the past fourteen; however, peeling bamboo leaves away from these sticky delicacies doesn’t carry the same weight as a Passover feast of brisket, potato kugel and matzo ball soup or a Christmas banquet of turkey, potatoes and stuffing. I just can’t seem to get excited over rice and an egg yolk. But that’s just me.

I was, however, brewing with enthusiasm over the prospect of taking part in a dragon boat race. The first time I joined a team was in 1999 – my Nepal days. Looking back on the experience it might be fair to say that our team was a little ill-prepared for the competition. I most definitely was. The first time I had ever seen a dragon boat was on the morning of the race. I left Nepal at about 6:30 after a night of drinking and dancing and rode straight to the harbor to meet my teammates. By 7:30, the first signs of my impending hangover started scratching at my brain. When we finally entered the dragon at about 9:00 the drumbeats seemed to be coming from the inside of my skull rather than the front of the boat. Nevertheless our team won our first race and finished the day by taking home the gold. Our first race was also our last. There were only two teams in the competition. As I said, back then Dragon Boat Festival didn’t have the fanfare that it does today.

After celebrating such a hard fought victory, I took an eleven year hiatus from the sport and didn’t venture back into the belly of the beast until 2010 when a good friend of mine organized her own dragon boat team. By this time, Dragon Boat Festival had become a widely recognized competition attracting many more teams and spectators. It had become a true holiday in which I was ready to participate again.

This time, our team, The Talladega Dragons, had a little more training. We practiced our technique for about an hour on the Saturday before race day; however, our oars didn’t seem to match the rhythm of the drums and we only won a heat or two. The next year, the same woman enlisted a group of eager foreigners to have another reach for the flag. In 2011, The Bamboo Warriors, moved up in ranks and managed to place third.

This year, we were led by the captain of The Foreign Devils. This team seemed to train a bit harder and want the gold a bit more. Unfortunately, however, our dreams of standing highest on the podium were thwarted by our long time nemesis. After a rather controversial call and a number of hard fought races, they proudly took first and we were left standing tall with second.

I was not at all bothered by our defeat in the dragon boat lanes. As I said, our team rowed with the heart of champions. We were just outmatched this time out. What left me choking on a bitter taste of something more than the salty waters of NanLiao Harbor was the fact that the rules of the competition seemed to have been altered to suit the needs of the winning team. Whether or not this was the case, it led me into a couple of rather heated debates with a friend of mine on the opposing team. My argument was that his team shouldn’t have been in the finals at all because their flagman had fallen into the water during a preliminary race. His was that technicalities shouldn’t matter – the better team won. This was a point I just couldn’t concede.

Did the better team win? Is there really such a thing as a better team? I don’t know. And really, I shouldn’t care. My buddy’s team beat us three out of four races and deserved kudos for their accomplishment. I should have let it go at that. Further reflection has allowed me to realize that there is no better team. Only a better man. And the better man wouldn’t have taken part in this debate. I guess I lost again.

Better Man, by Pearl Jam, brings me back to my last years of university. Although the memories and people I have attached to this song have absolutely nothing to do with dragon boating, competition or even Taiwan, the chorus, ‘can’t find a better man’ kept pounding through my mind as I paddled my fingers along my keyboard and anyone who has ever been dragon boating knows that you need to follow the beat of the drums.

Better Man youtube link

Track 66 – Give Me One Reason

Growing up, my parents were always consistent and fair when it came to my brother and me. My mom and dad both made a point of letting us know that there were no favorites. In their eyes, we were and always would be uniquely equal. Choices, consequences and privileges were the same for us both. This, without a doubt in my mind, is the only effective method to parent a family. Nevertheless, being the younger of two brothers, I was quick to notice the drawback to their parenting style. Equality meant me waiting an extra year and a half before receiving most privileges. (Oddly enough, this wasn’t true for most consequences.) Therefore, I had to stand back and jealously watch as my brother earned an allowance before me, mowed the lawn before me (Only my brother could have convinced me that that was a privilege.) and of course got a job before me.

I can still remember the day my mom, dad and I drove my brother to his first shift as a fuel jockey. I was so green as I watched him walk towards the gas pumps and the freedom they represented that I could have shit leaves. A few months later, when he graduated up the part-time ladder to flipping pizzas at Fat Albert’s, I think I actually did. Not only was my brother taking on new responsibility and making money, but he was also gorging himself on free pizza and subs every weekend. Equality had never tasted so bitter!

And then came the day when I was finally allowed to work. I proudly followed in my brother’s footsteps and donned the same purple Fat Albert’s uniform as him. For a few weeks, I basked in the glory of another step towards manhood and gloated about the cheese it put in my mouth and pockets. I had arrived. I was of age. I was free.

Or so I thought.

Two weeks after serving my first pizza, I realized that this was another of my brother’s footsteps in which I should have been a little more patient to step. As he did with mowing the lawn, my brother somewhat deceived me on the pleasures of part-time work. Sure there was cash, responsibility and a belly full of free food. But there was also obligation, responsibility and an extreme loss of free time. (It didn’t take long for me to understand the biting pleasure of responsibility – one of childhood’s true double-edged swords.) Nevertheless, for better or worse, I had entered the world of employment and there was no stepping back.

And I never did. I eventually gave up my fast food career and finished high school working part-time at Woolco giving fashion, sports and hardware advice to those who knew no better – Shane Kaufman, Woolco floor representative and bullshitter extraordinaire; I spent all but my first of seven university years reprimanding frosh for the same stupidity that I was given shit for during my first year – Shane Kaufman, campus security, desk clerk and hypocrite especial; and I spent my summers earning money any way I could – Shane Kaufman, camp counselor, group facilitator, and Walmart construction worker meraviglioso.

It was during my years of doing part-time and summer work where I learned that job satisfaction rests with the people more than the position. Put the wrong person in the right position and a dream job suddenly becomes a nightmare; likewise, give the right person the right position and a job in the sewers smells of roses. I’m sure this is why I settled so smoothly into a career with kids – they are far more genuine, upfront and fun to work with than most adults. Although it is never enjoyable dealing with the drama and angst of pre-pubescent students (of which I have many), I can at least relate to where they are coming from. As I have said before, I am still very much kid myself. It’s walking into a staffroom at work and being confronted by the same sort of teenaged anxiety amongst my peers that gets my teeth gritting in disgust and my hand reaching for the door. Drama works well on TV, not in my life.

One of the most interesting jobs I have had as it relates to this was at Open Hands, a group home (Actually there were five homes scattered around the city.) for the developmentally challenged. I had a love-hate relationship with that job from the moment I stepped through the front door at one of the five houses. The clients (This is what the residents were called.) varied in abilities, disabilities, age and need. Some residents were in a vegetative state and required complete and utter care, while others were extremely high functioning individuals who went to school and even worked. The diversity of the people at the homes brought something new to every shift.

Some days were shaded with chaos, violence and rooms full of feces and others were colored with laughter, fun and hours of innocent joy. Nevertheless, whatever excitement the shift had in store for me, I was never really caught off guard. The residents didn’t know of drama or hidden agendas. They were and always would be true to who they were. There was no reason for them not to be.

At one house, I knew that the little girl who sat quietly in the corner grinning at me through her mischievous black eyes, was waiting for me to turn my back on her so she could spring up, wrap her tiny fingers in my hair and pull with all of her might until a nice thick lock was ripped from my skull. (She caught me. Once.) Likewise, I knew that behind the angelic eyes of one little boy at another residence lied the spirit of true wickedness. He was very honest and open about wanting to push my buttons until I was ready to explode. (I only worked the night shift at his house.)

I was only ever caught off guard once. But even then, I wasn’t all that surprised. I was told from the very start that one female resident often got aggressive towards the male staff and clients at the house. She wasn’t violent though. Just extremely horny. I was told to send her to her room whenever she started acting up so that she could calm herself down. As it turned out, this was a very regular occurrence and the whole ritual became a hazy shade of normal. At least it was until along came the day when I heard her gravelly voice call out from her room, “Shane. Shane. Come touch my pillows. Shane….” That was the last shift I worked at that house.

Despite how difficult it was dealing with some of the clients, I always found their honesty to be quite endearing. Believe it or not, they were one of the things I loved the most about that job. What I disliked about Open Hands, however, were my co-workers. I couldn’t stand how gossip, rumors and insults seemed to work their ugly fingers into almost every conversation that I had with them. As I said before, I don’t do drama well. This is why I opted for the night shift every chance I got.

Give Me One Reason, by Tracy Chapman, brings me back to the second summer that I worked at Open Hands; particularly, to a man who was possibly one of the most imposing individuals I had ever seen. He was a giant of a man who carried himself with the weight of a bull, the eye of a beast and the quietness of a mouse. The only time I ever heard him speak was when he asked to watch Speed (Apparently it helped to keep him calm which (trust me) was a good thing.) and when he heard this song. The staff members knew he loved it and played it every time they took a drive in the van. I couldn’t contain myself the first time I heard this guy belt out the chorus. “Gimmi one reason to stay here, and I’ll turn this car around…” I was grateful to hear him giggling along with me as things might not have fared well had he thought I was mocking him. I guess he saw the humor in what he was saying and was tickled. Simple and very pure.

Open Hands helped to teach me that work becomes less of a job when you enjoy what you are doing. It also showed me that the people with whom you share your day have a lot to do with how much enjoyment you get. I feel that I have payed my employment dues and am currently blessed with the opportunity to work for myself. At our school, I have had the pleasure of working alongside teachers with whom I call friends. Fate and friendship spared me office drama. And now, as I anticipate starting the new semester working with my brother, I am excited for what the future brings. I relish in the thought and belief that I have found the right man for the right job.

Give Me One Reason youtube link

Track 64 – Name

The other day, I was flipping through my library of CDs and came across Dizzy Up the Girl, by the Goo Goo Dolls. I hadn’t listened to the entire CD in years and decided to give it a spin. After skipping through most of the tracks, I realized two interesting tidbits about the album as it relates to me. Number one, I am not all that goo-goo about the Dolls. As I just said, I had to skip through most of the album. I couldn’t even get through ten of the fourteen songs due to irreconcilable differences. Basically, I thought they sucked. The only redeeming factor was that of the four songs I liked, two could be placed in my list of top one hundred tunes. Nevertheless, as a whole, the band just isn’t my flavor.

The second bit of trivia (Am I really so vain as to call this trivia?) is that three of the four palatable songs on the album remind me of the importance of friendship and more significantly of how fleeting it sometimes is. As I listened to Black Balloon, Iris, and Name, I found myself drifting back to four distant friends whom for one reason or another have become mere shadows of my past.

Black Balloon fills my mouth with the sweet taste of Jack Daniels and my mind with the memories of an old engineering friend. This was the song that he would request as we shared a drink from the bottle he kept stowed behind the bar at Nepal. Although his face was constantly adorned with a warm and inviting smile and his mood was always light and upbeat, his shoulders seemed weighted by a sadness that he just couldn’t shake. We lost contact soon after his contract on the island ended. A few emails were passed back and forth, and he received an invite to Rachel’s and my wedding; however, truth be told our friendship had ended when his last bottle of JD ran dry. Sadly, as he walked out of the bar that night he also walked out of our lives.

Iris brings me back to two women my brother and I befriended during our first month on the island. Like one of the sparklers that my daughter waves through the air every Chinese New Year, this friendship started with a spark, blazed for a short time and then with no warning simply stopped. Work, play and everything that drew us to this foreign country seemed to tear us apart as easily as it had brought us together. The intimacy that we shared went cold by summer’s end and none of us tried to rekindle what we once had. Despite the memories we shared, our friendship was simply tossed aside like the remnants of one of my daughter’s used sparklers.

Although these two songs remind me of friends lost, Name actually fills my heart with a touch of loneliness and a spot of regret. The face that has become attached to this ballad belongs to one of the first friends I made in law school. We met in a bowling alley a few days before classes began at a class mixer set up by some second year students. As everyone stood nervously around making awkward small talk, a voice behind me asked, “Who wants to get a beer?” It took me less than a heartbeat to jump on that offer and from there our bro-mance was born. We were like brothers for the rest of the year; two kindred spirits, studying, drinking, road tripping and partying together. The best formal I have ever been to was with him and another buddy. A bottle of whiskey, Scottish kilts and three unabashed idiots. What could make for a better party?

Unfortunately, during the summer between our first and second year, we began to drift apart. In four words, ‘I met a girl.’ I began to make selfish choices and put my love life far ahead of our friendship. Before second year classes had even started, I had done enough to plant a seed of resentment that over the course of the next few months grew into a bitter weed of anger. I regret not have done anything to try and mend the rift that my actions had created, but at the time I was blinded by love. No excuses. Just the truth.

During my first year of law school, I was taught a great deal by this friend. Among other things, he showed me how to be vocal in class (although I rarely was), how to take better notes (although I preferred to borrow his) and most importantly how to make small talk with acquaintances. He schooled me on the importance of remembering details about these individuals such as how many siblings they had or the names of their parents. This way if I met them again, I could give off a false sense of intimacy and avoid any awkward moments of silence. Halfway through our second year, I met this same friend at a bar for drinks. We hadn’t talked much in the weeks previous, but the very first thing he asked me, before anything else was said, was, “How’s David doing?” I looked at him, smiled sadly and realized that we had reached the end. “My dad’s doing well.” I replied, “How about your fiancé?”

I bought Dizzy Up the Girl during my first year of law school because I fell in love with Name. (I somehow feel a little less manly by writing that.) I remember having a conversation with my buddy over a few drinks about the line “And re-runs all become our history.” His take on the words, like many things he believed, were a little ‘off’; that is one of the things I miss most about him. In losing this friend I have learned to always give of myself a little more than I hope to receive. This simple lesson has somehow allowed me to surround myself with friends who accept me, love me, and do for me everything that I would do for them.

Unfortunately, it cost me a great friend to truly understand what a blessing friendship is. However, at forty, I think I have reached the point in my life where the friends I have are here to stay. I know that no matter how far or for how long we stray from each others’ lives, I won’t have any trouble remembering their names.

Name youtube link

Track 63 – Summer of ’69

During the week, from the moment my phone goes off in the morning until the second I close my eyes for the night, my days are full. During the day, I am either on the computer preparing for class, at the gym working out or in the classroom trying to engage my students. I have breakfast with my little one, lunch on the run and my dinner while I am teaching. I don’t get home from work before nine thirty and sometimes not until ten o’clock. This leaves little time for me to chill with Rachel, mark homework, and work on my blog before calling it a night. Likewise, my weekends are full with family outings, parties, gatherings and activities. It often seems that Monday has arrived before Friday has even finished and I am back in the throes of another non-stop week. As it is, my schedule simply leaves no room (or breath) for me to utter the words, “I’m bored.”

This, however, was not always the case.

There was a time, not so long ago (Oh, who am I kidding? It was two decades ago.) when I found myself declaring that exact sentiment almost nightly. This was a period in my life when most of my free time was spent hanging out with my brother and our two friends. (A.K.A. our other brothers.)

Nights usually began with the same round of banter.

“What do you wanna do?”
“I don’t know. What do you wanna do?”

This conversation (if that’s what you want to call it) continued until one of two things happened. Either:

a) We drove to the local 7-11, bought a hotdog fully loaded with chili and that yellow goo they pawned off as nacho cheese, and hung out by our cars singing senseless songs and discussing senseless topics. (O..O..O..an ice cold drink and an Oreo cookie…)

or

b) We did something senseless.

(Actually, there was a ‘c’ in there too. We sometimes did both.)

Although we often complained about having nothing to do, in reality we were never bored. The endless back and forth of ‘What do you wanna do?’ was more of a challenge than a question. We used the words as an incentive to think up new ways in which to amuse ourselves. As we were (are?) blessed with the mentality of six year olds, this was never a challenge.

A lot of the time we ended up searching for new things to climb or scale. Of course living in a small city, there was no shortage of parks with tall, branchy trees. However, to us these seemed a little passé. We were strapping lads after all and required a little more zest than the average oak had to offer. We preferred larger, more imposing platforms from which to pee. (Oh yea. That was another one of our things – urinating from new heights. Did I say six year olds? I might have meant four.) You see we weren’t vandals or thieves (Well, my buddies did once reallocate a shopping cart and put in on the roof of another friend’s house. They were just playing, though.); we were ‘bored’ kids who enjoyed the challenge of a good climb and a nice view while we peed.

Our evenings, however, were not only spent scaling ladders, hydro towers and tennis bubbles. Thinking back now, we did so much more. It was as if we saw the entire city as a playground in stasis. All that was needed was our imagination to bring it alive. Cornfields became battlegrounds, monuments became dodge ball arenas, car trunks became amusement rides, and playground structures became obstacle courses. The city was quite literally one huge amusement area.

The only unfortunate thing was that the Cornwall police force had no idea what to make of us. After all, four kids in their late teens/early twenties couldn’t possibly be playing squares in a school yard at three in the morning. And certainly no university student would be caught sober in a park playing Frisbee tag with his friends after dark. The only logical explanation could have been that these young punks were up to no good. Or so you would think. They did, anyways. And they were wrong. Most of the time.

Summer of ’69, by Brian Adams, brings me back to the summers with my boys. It was one of the most carefree times of my life simply because we had no expectations: not on life, not on the future, and most importantly, not on each other. We allowed ourselves to view the world through the eyes of children and taught each other that life is too fun to be taken seriously.

Although two decades have passed since those times, I know for a fact that all four of us have held on to our gift of perception. We still hang out in trees, climb scaffolding and pee from the top of buildings. I am proud to say that despite having grown up, we have all refused to let go of the child within. For in this world where our children are pushed to be adults before they are in their teens, maybe a little more foolish immaturity is in order.

Summer of ’69 youtube link