Thursday, October 28, 2010

Marilyn and Marty Redux

I blogged before about my cousins, Marilyn and Marty, who have as strong a relationship as any of my first cousins. I wrote that their foundation would be put to the test in October because The Giants were likely to play the Phillies in the NLCS. Marilyn is a serious San Francisco Giant fan. Marty is just as committed to the Phillies.

The Phillies did indeed play the Giants in the NLCS. The Giants won the first game 4-3. After that contest I sent a quick note to my cousin. The subject line was "4-3" The message was similarly concise. "Still married?" I inquired.

The response came back quickly. "Check back in a few days."

This was all tongue in cheek, of course. Love trumps all if it is real--even team allegiance which can be surprisingly strong. I do know of New York Ranger hockey fans who, and I am not kidding, would consider it a deal breaker if they discovered that their blind date was a fan of the Islanders. They'd hear that and just know the relationship could not launch.

The Giants prevailed over the Phillies last week. I had occasion to write to Marilyn and Marty about some other matter this week and in the course of my note I asked how they had fared during the 6 game series. Marilyn told me that Marty had been a good sport and that he was even rooting for the Giants during the World Series. No real surprise there. Not sure there was a lot of smooching going on when Juan Uribe hit the clinching homer in the 6th game of the NLCS, but when the dust settled love trumped even strong team allegiance. This, as only a true fan knows, is the acid test of a relationship.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

zigging and zagging

Last night I finished my workout and was about to leave the locker room. Just before I stepped out I spotted my friend John and for about 90 seconds I stopped and shot the breeze. I went downstairs to the club lobby and there was Margarett and Mayank, two regular tennis playing cronies. For about thirty seconds we traded good natured barbs as is our wont. I went to the parking lot to drive off. Another member was driving off at about the same time and the route I would have taken was blocked off. So, I circled around and it took me about 15 seconds longer than otherwise to drive off the premises.

It was rainy and miserable. Plus at 630 pm the traffic was heavy on the road I take to get home. About half way through the drive I saw a vehicle, two cars ahead of me stop suddenly. The car right in front of me either did not see the stopping car or could not brake on the slick roads. I said, whoa, because I knew this would be close. It was not close, the car in front of me smashed into the stopped car. I was only seconds behind him--so close that my car's forward motion after the crash had me by passing both the rammed vehicles.

What is the difference between a pleasant drive home and a horrific accident that at the very least will ruin a weekend and at worst could be physically debilitating? Spotting John in the locker room? Seeing Mayank and Margarett in the lobby. Spinning around in the parking lot spending fifteen seconds more exiting?

How many times in our lives do we zig instead of zag and the zigging is either life saving or sends us on a route that gets us lost.

At the reunion last weekend I spotted a couple who looked nearly exactly like they did when they dated in 1969. They had these genuine smiles on their kissers. Most people were smiling at the reunion, but these folks looked like they smiled as a matter of course. I remembered them when they were "going out" in college. When did they decide to zig and stay together when they might have been tempted to zag.

Zigging and zagging is what we all do. Each step can matter. Sometimes it is a matter of luck, like last night, stopping to talk to my friend in the locker room. I don't stop, I am likely ramming into the car in front of me.

But sometimes it is not luck. We have a choice to zig or zag. Zig and we are beaming forty years later, zag who knows? I think about this couple at the reunion and I imagine just who they might have been, how well preserved they might have been, and how they might have smiled had they taken a different route.

Friday, October 8, 2010

sand and trees

The brothers of old KB will be reuniting this weekend at our alma mater. Kappa Beta, blue and gold, was one of several local social fraternities at what is now called the University at Albany. Annually a group of about seven of us meet up to see a basketball game. This year, for the first time since 2002, an entire collection of erstwhile sophomoric cavorters are gathering. At last count 63 brothers will be in attendance, some foolish enough to bring their spouses to the event. (I don't understand this, having attended high school, camp, and college reunions in the past I am not sure there is a population that seems and feels more like a "what am I doing here" appendage than a spouse at a reunion).

I looked at the list of attendees and there are people coming that did not show for the 2002 shindig whom I have not seen in nearly forty years. Because of social networking sites like Facebook I have been in communication with some of these people and look forward to seeing them and sharing in-person tales of how we've fared.

The physical changes are always a little surprising. I think of Kurt and Eggs, for example, two cronies who I have not seen in decades, and all I think of is there 1971image. I don't know about those two, but I know that for others there will be more pounds, more gray, and less hair. But soon after the initial encounter, the old personalities merge with the new look.

Nearly everyone of us has a story. And I have found in former reunions that there is less posturing and more transparency during these affairs. It is as if the baloney that we might dispense in our daily lives is left at home and we can talk freely to people we knew before we began accruing our adult history, successes, and disappointments.

I, like many of those I will see this weekend, have developed a frightening loss of short term memory. I can and have poured myself a cup of coffee, gone to sit down with it, and seen a steaming cup already sitting where I typically park myself to sip. I have intended to check the cat litter and can't recall if I have already acted on these intentions seconds before. I look for my gym bag in the house, then give up and go to drive to work only to see the bag in my rear view mirror having, apparently, packed it in the backseat earlier.

But what has stayed with me is a very strong long term memory. I recall conversations I had with people from the 60s that are vivid and, I'll bet, are dead on accurate. I've startled relative strangers with recollections of things they have told me.

I also remember excerpts from stories I've read, even if I've read them decades earlier. And, subconsciously, these excerpts--sometimes lyrics of a song--rocket to my head and I start thinking of (or singing) them because of something that is occurring that makes the words apt. Even if I am not consciously thinking of the particular event at the moment, up pops--like an internet pop-up-- the novel or short story excerpt.

This week a line from the short story, The Open Boat, has kept surfacing. The story that most of us 60 somethings had to read in high school is about men in an open boat who need to be rescued. Often in the story one character or another says:

"If I am going to be drowned--if I am going to be drowned--if I am going to be drowned, why, in the name of the seven mad gods who rule the sea, was I allowed to come thus far and contemplate sand and trees?"

I read that story in Mrs. Brodkin's class in 1965 or 66 and it is still in my head.

All of we KB folks, all of all folks, have contemplated sand and trees when we have been adrift wondering if we will get out of a particular maelstrom. The 63 of us who reunite this week, no matter how successful we have been, know how painful it can be to contemplate sand and trees, to have experienced sand and trees, and be unable to access our dreams and the comforts of the harbor.

A wonderful thing about reunions is that they can remind us that we all have been there. I wonder how many times we will raise our mugs this weekend and sing the song that we, often beerily, crooned when we knew from nothing.

"Raise high your steins men, and drink a toast then, to the colors of blue and gold, and let your hearts sing, while foaming steins bring, golden memories of old, so be glad then, that you have drunk when hearts were gay and handclasps free, be glad that you have drunk as one of the men of old KB."

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Marilyn and Marty

Of my eleven first cousins, my cousin Marilyn and her husband Marty are among the strongest of tandems. They seem to get along effortlessly with natural love. This is not to imply that the rest of us are at screaming odds with our mates, but rather that they--like many of us--seem to enjoy spending loving time with each other.

This, soon, will be put to the test. My cousin Marilyn was reared north of San Francisco and since childhood has been a devoted fan of the San Francisco Giants. She listened to the Giants when the games were not televised and has a remarkable capacity for sports detail which I discovered when the two of us took a long drive to Lake Tahoe in the late 80s. Marty, her husband, was raised in Allentown, Pennsylvania and has every bit of the enthusiasm for his Phillies as Marilyn has for her Giants.

It seems apparent that the Giants and the Phillies are on a collision course to meet in the National League championship series. To my admittedly American League pay little attention to the National League lens, it sure seems as if the Giants and the Phillies are the premier teams. What will happen in October.

A few months back I spoke with Marilyn and Marty on the phone and they mentioned that they'd purchased the MLB television package so they can watch their respective teams' games all summer. My cousins are no casual fans. Maybe the first game of the seven game series there will be good wishes for their sweethearts' rooting interests. But what will happen with a game 7? Will all cheers be muted?

Love will trump all in the final analysis, but I don't see snuggling on the couch while watching the 7th game and I think a fly on the wall would hear, "Get your own beer" more than once.

I am glad their union is as strong as it is.