FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS

Tunnel Vision - You’ve been given the ability to build a magical tunnel that will quickly and secretly connect your home with the location of your choice — anywhere on Earth. Where’s the other end of your tunnel?


Yesterday morning, I might have suggested an exotic destination … Tahiti maybe or even Paris, especially if I could move through time as well as space.

But now? Today is different. We got yet another call from a friend who has discovered metastasized cancer. By accident because he has no symptoms. If this were the first or second such call, maybe it would be different, but it isn’t. Far from it. These days, there is a bell tolling in the background of our lives. It never stops.

It’s a sad bell. Haunting. It counts the living and the dead. Those who have moved away, too far to travel. Those who have mentally moved, now unavailable. Those who died and failed to leave a forwarding address. Others, whose lives are too full of other stuff, too crowded for us.

Our world grows smaller, shrinking by degrees, day by day.

crown and eagle tunnel sun rays

Like potatoes being slowly grated, life strips away layers to force us to discover the exact minimum necessary to be a life. I am afraid when the phone rings. It makes my stomach knot.

To all of you who are putting off seeing people you care about for months and years because you’re too busy, or it’s too much trouble to rearrange your schedule? Life turns on a dime. Everything changes with head-spinning abruptness. People you intended to make time for — but never got around to it? They can, without prior notice, not be there. Gone forever. Regrets are not good companions.

My tunnel?

I want one that to connect me directly to our people. To friends in Arizona, Texas, and Florida. To the other end of Massachusetts, to Connecticut and Long Island. To Maine, Colorado, Switzerland, and Cornwall. I want to pop through the tunnel and spent a few hours sipping tea, laughing, and talking. Seeing friendly eyes, listening to voices unfiltered by electronics. Not just virtual friends, images flickering on a screen, but warm-blooded friends who I can touch and hug.

That would be my magic tunnel. It would be a tunnel worth having. And keeping.

72-Bridge-RI-River_50

John Donne
Meditation 17
Devotions upon Emergent Occasions

“No man is an iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee….”

THROUGH FAIR AND FOUL

On Bees and Efs

I’ve had the same best friend for more than 40 years. I hope we live forever, so we can always be friends. She’s the one who knows me. She makes the sun shine for me.

Cherrie and Marilyn

I know her. We make each other laugh. We put up with each other’s tantrums, sympathize — empathize — with one another’s illnesses, worries, pain. Family crises. Quirks and weird idiosyncrasies.

We’ve know each other so long and so well, and survived such long separations, we don’t need to explain stuff. We know. We get each other.

Sometimes we talk daily. And then, weeks may pass without a phone call or email. It doesn’t matter. We haven’t forgotten.

We could never forget. Not while there’s life in the body and electrical impulses in the brain.

A PHOTO A WEEK CHALLENGE: SUMMER MEMORIES, OR WHY IT’S GREAT BEING A KID

A Photo a Week Challenge: Summer Memories

I thought these might be a perfect entry for this challenge. Not me, but my granddaughter and friends when they were children. Before makeup and boys and drama.

Almost the definition of why it’s great to be a kid.

Summertime Ready

Summertime SET

Summertime - GO

Anyone want to do it again?

Anyone want to do it again?

A SMART USE OF TIME: CYBER FRIENDS ACROSS THE WORLD

What do you have time for?

Unlike my fictional character Harold (Soup and Sandwich), who I have brought by for a few visits, I’m not particularly well-organized. I wish my apartment could be as neat and clean as the one I attribute to the Commander of Clean, Director of Dishes and Lord of the Laundry. Instead I am King of Clutter. No matter how hard I fight, I am losing the battle against my possessions.

Even so, I try to effectively allocate my time. Certain times should be assigned to particular activities. Work and commuting take a big chunk of life. While I ride back and forth in my General Motors car which has miraculously escaped recall, I think about ways to fill the other hours including the topics I should let loose on Word Press. What adventure, or misadventure Harold should have next.

Entry to the College

When I sat down at the computer to coördinate all the thoughts running around in my head, I got a message on Skype.

“U there?”

It was a guy I’d never met in person, but had talked to often.

He lives in the middle east. I’d met him on the language learning site, Livemocha, when it was also a social site. Its members helped others learn the language they already knew by correcting exercises and chatting in text and voice.

During the past two years, we’ve become friends. Our talks have covered a wide range of topics. If you think you have it tough, talk with someone who lives where the power goes off each day at 6 am and stays off until 2 pm. Obviously, there is not enough power to go around in his homeland.

The differences of our personal circumstances is offset by the similarities of our ideas and concerns. We both can see futures we would like to have. It seems that when you have a computer and some power, no matter how fleeting, you can dream as big as cyberspace itself.

So instead of spending my Saturday evening creating great thoughts for this site, I spent more than two hours helping my friend study for his English competency exam. He sent me pages of text to read and questions to ask. He sent audio passages to go with the text. He reported to me in his timed responses what the text and audio where telling us. We moved past grammar, on to reading comprehension, then conversation. He has a week until his exam. That week contains his hopes of moving on as a language student.

Why would I give up my Saturday evening for this? Why would I spend hours reading passages and questions out loud to this young man? He is a nice person and I have enjoyed our talks, but I’ve never met him, maybe never will.  And I really wanted to do something else.  My mind was set on a particular activity, and it was not English grammar.

Yet, he is a friend. He reaches across cyberspace to ask me to lend a hand. Nice to know I can contribute to someone’s education. Education is the most valuable thing we can ever have. Even if you win the lottery tomorrow, your knowledge will remain your most precious possession.

If my friend benefited at all from the few intense English sessions we had recently, I think I got the better of the deal. He showed me what life is like in a culture different from mine. I am patient as he goes through his exercises. He is patient with me as I ask questions about his life. Some of my questions are no doubt naïve, but I’ve learned so much by asking them.

If he’s successful and becomes a language student, I hope we get to meet. He has taught me an enormous amount by asking me to read aloud and pose questions from an English textbook.

So, how did you spend your Saturday evening?

WE’RE ON OUR WAY!

Pick Me Up

What is the one word or phrase that immediately cheers you up when you hear it?

 


“Friends are coming to visit!”

That does it every time. Since I’ve been out of the hospital, now more than a month, visits from friends and family have totaled zero. Lots of promises, but I haven’t seen anyone in the flesh. No smiles or hugs except electronically. A few phone calls, a handful of emails, a couple of cards.

I guess everyone is busy.

If anyone out there feels like dropping by, hey, I’d love to see a smile on a face I love!

WHY CAN’T WE BE FRIENDS?

Daily Prompt: Why Can’t We Be Friends?

- – – – -

We can’t be friends because you won’t like me. Really. Count on it.

Marilyn as photographer

Even if I like you, more than likely won’t return the feeling. I talk too much. My tongue is sharp. If you say dumb things, I will snort derisively. I will not take you seriously if you don’t know any history and don’t read books.

If you take photographs with trash cans in the background, I will not admire them, even if the subject is your most beloved grandchild. She/he would look better — guaranteed — without the trash cans. Unless you are making some kind of artistic statement about grandchildren and trash and I sincerely hope you are not.

I am not everyone’s cuppa tea. Sometimes, I’m not even my own cuppa tea. Actually, I’m not all that fond of tea, except for green tea ordered with Japanese food.

This probably makes me a bad person. Screw it.

Coffee anyone?

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  19. Daily Prompt: Making New Friends | A Day In The Life
  20. Daily Prompt: Why Can’t We Be Friends | Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss

Let the Fun Begin: Williamsburg, Virginia – Marilyn Armstrong

Friends are here and today we shall emerge and go forth to enjoy! It turns out that Colonial Williamsburg doesn’t exactly have an entrance fee. There are things in there that if you want to see them, have entry fees, but it’s free to go to the town and just enjoy it. Which hopefully is what we’ll do today.

Adding Yorktown and Jamestown costs very little. For the historical stuff, time is more the issue than is money. We have to pace ourselves, see as much as we can without getting exhausted. Young at heart? Yes, absolutely. But our bones know the truth and we can’t ignore them.

Tomorrow will be some combination of fun activities … and I’m betting it will be Busch Gardens.

Pricey, but  they have all those roller coasters and I am simply NOT going to pass up the opportunity. I’m not going to miss it.

I didn’t drive all these miles to say “Oops, can’t afford it.” That’s stupid. So I’m doing it, and that it. Even if I have to pay more than I imagined in my nightmares I would need to pay!

The hotel which isn’t a hotel, but a condo time share, is MUCH nicer than I expected.

Living room and dining area lead to a balcony facing the woods.

Aside from our quarters being huge and very nicely appointed, there are many more activities and I expected and just overall, a really lovely place.

The kitchen. There’s a huge amount of storage space … much more than I have at home and there’s also a compact washer and dryer in a closet across from the fridge.

The balcony off the living room has a peaceful view of the woods and trails. Which is what we see out our windows at home, but it’s a big improvement from the many views of parking lots I’ve had over the years from where I was staying!

View from the balcony.

If only it weren’t so godawful far away from home!

We’re pretty much recovered from the drive and now, I WANT TO HAVE SOME FUN!!!

Tune in for updates!

Editor’s Note:  The above was originally posted August 5, 2012.  In the next two days you will get more from this trip.

Neighbors and Old Friends – Marilyn Armstrong

Friends come in many sizes and shapes. Horses, dogs, cats and other warm fuzzy creatures give our lives texture and joy … and old things holding memories of other times and places … these too become friends, holding our memories and reminding us of the lives we have lived and things we have done.

Old Number 2 is one of Uxbridge‘s oldest fire trucks. Long out of service, he still has his own place, standing through the years and seasons in a field across from the post office. He’s become my old friend, put out to pasture but like me, remembering his glory days.

Old Number 2 in summer … with some special effects just because.

Seasons come and go, but Number 2 waits patiently. I visit him. He has many stories to tell and I listen so he will be less lonely and know no everyone has forgotten him.

Horses in the pasture, friendly and hoping for snack, an apple or a carrot maybe …

Retired now, she grazes in a pleasant pasture in the company of her friends and the goats in the adjacent pasture. Do they share their memories?

With a shake of her mane, the pony companion enjoys the autumn weather with an old pal.

Still beautiful, she poses with her good side, elegant in her peaceful paddock.

It’s a fine day to be a horse. Or a human.

Tinker, one of our two PBGVs romps now at the Bridge, but here, her big black nose pokes through the picket fence of our front yard. Just saying hello!

Tinker’s big black nose — a perfect nose for such a hound as this Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen hound nose — pokes through our pickets. She’s gone to the Bridge, but lives on in our hearts and her tooth marks remain forever embedded in our furniture, shoes, remote controls and paranoid nightmares of destruction.

Griffin, our big boy PBGV died last winter, as did Tinker. He was my personal cuddle puppy, full of joy and humor. He always made me laugh and the more I laughed, the more he would act the clown. Never has a dog enjoyed making people laugh more than Griffin. A marathon barker, entertainer par excellence, he was the best.

Many of our fur children have gone to the bridge, but they are never forgotten. More of them  on other days, I promise.

One autumn day, in a rare family project, we made a couple of friends of our own … classic New England symbols of Autumn and the harvest. We made them from yard sale clothing, two bales of hay, and their painted faces on old pillow cases were created by Kaity and Stefania … at that brief period as they were transitioning from girls to young women.

Some friends we made ourselves to celebrate the harvest and the season, sitting on a bench, backed by flowering bushes and shaded by oaks.

Finally, we meet the farmer’s old truck. He stands in a field around the corner, behind the fire station … an old friend put out to pasture, holding too many fond memories to send him to a junk yard. Instead, he stands ever waiting if he should  be called back to duty.

Just this, no more, all within a mile of home. It IS home.

AND STILL WE ARE STRONG

Something So Strong

Tell us the origin story of your best friend. How did you become friends? What is it that keeps your friendship rockin’ after all these years?

- – – – -

We knew each other from across a room. She had dreamed of me. I recognized her. We were friends pretty much instantly. Through 40 years, our lives, even when we were out of touch and on different continents, have followed parallel paths. Our husbands are friends and sometimes similar enough to be startling. We wear the same size clothing, even the same size shoes. Like most of the same music, movies, books.

friends - all of us

Yet we come from completely different backgrounds — ethnically, religiously, culturally. It has never mattered. Not way back when we met or now.

We have seen each other through so many crises, so many rough times and we’ve always managed to be there and banish the gloom. I think the thing we have most in common is a weird, ironic humor … a sense that the only real power we have over a malign fate is our laughter.

Friendships that last a lifetime and remain active and alive, not “memories” of what were, are rare. That two lives could follow such similar paths for so long is almost unheard of, but it happened for us and all I can say is how grateful I am. It is a saving grace when the world is unkind. I know there is one person who can make me laugh no matter how horribly wrong everything is going.

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STATS AND STATS

Good intentions

I meant to write a little something on stats when my followers passed the 2000 mark and certainly when the number of posts exceeded 2000. I meant to, but I forgot. There’s been a lot of stuff going on lately. So much so that by Tuesday of this week, I thought it was Friday. Busy, busy, busy. 72-stats-stats My best month ever was November 2012 with a total of 12,067 views. Between hurricane Sandy and the presidential election, the Internet was a very exciting place. The most hits I’ve ever gotten on a single post was The FBI can’t do a simple Google search? on which I got 10,143 hits. I wrote it during the commercial break.

The posts in second through fifth place in my best-ever list are an old Internet joke and three re-blogs.

I have personally answered nearly all 20,000+ comments. If I didn’t answer yours, it was because I missed it (it happens occasionally) or I ran out of levels to continue the conversation. I am a compulsive comment answerer.

What’s the Secret?

After a lot of careful consideration, the secret to success — such as it is — is to write a lot of stuff people want to read. And publish good photographs. With a few notable exceptions, hits on my pictures exceed hits on my writing.

Size matters. No matter what anyone says, if you post more good stuff, whether you write it yourself, reblog it, have guest bloggers or share the spotlight other writers and/or artists, publishing more gets more hits. There’s a direct correlation between the number of posts and bigger hit counts.

What does it all mean?

I don’t know. I stopped obsessing over statistics. These days, I take a look when I think of it. I like to see how my best work does in “the ratings.” Sometimes stuff I like best does well and I’m pleased.

If a good post (in my opinion) gets overlooked, I scheduled it to for republication. I re-post photos, rework writing. I rerun favorite posts, but I will republish anything. I don’t reblog because I don’t like the way it looks and most people don’t like having to jump link to read the rest of the story.

None of us needs to apologize or explain why we republish our own work. If NBC can do it, so can Serendipity. And so can you.

With more than 2000 published posts, it’s too much material to not reuse at least some of it. There are, of course, posts I’d just as soon forget I ever wrote in the first place — a subject for another day.

Often, an under-appreciated post finds its audience the second or third time around. If you’re prolific, you can be sure not all your readers read every post the first time it was published. And if they did? Well I watch reruns of NCIS often enough to do dialogue with them. Reruns make the world go round.

The most important thing to come out of my blogging experience?

Friends. So many of you have become my friends. You are loyal, caring and I love you. You have been kind, supportive, encouraging … all the things that friends are supposed to be. I cannot begin to thank you. So … thank you. All of you. You make my world a better place every single day.

NED, THE BIKER WHO PLUMBED

When we moved to this town, Garry was the first person of color, and I was as far as I know, the first (only?) Jew. People said stuff like “Gee, I’ve never known a Jewish person before.” Garry just got stares. Hard to tell if they were staring because they’d seen him on TV or because he’s brown. Both?

Neighbor in winter

Our situation was complicated by our neighbor Ned. A big guy. Rode a Harley. I love Harleys, but there are Harleys and then there are Harleys. This one was chopped and really loud. When Ned started his bike, the vibration alone could knock me out of bed. Ned was massive. Tattooed. He hung with a bunch of skin-head friends. They had raucous parties with lots of beer. We didn’t expect to be invited, nor did these seem to be our kind of party.

Ned flew a Confederate flag over his house. Prominently. We learned he’d always done this. It was part of some family roots thing tying him to his original home state of Georgia. Me? I think it’s time the south moved on. The war ended a more than a century ago. Time to get over it. But I’m from New York so I probably don’t understand.

It was ironic that our neighbor’s house was the only one in the Valley flying a confederate flag. We were the only mixed-race couple in town. It made us twitch. We were a poster couple for hate groups — an ex-New Yorker man of color who worked in media, married to a white Jewish woman, also from New York.

black jockey racist statue

Garry is pragmatic. And feisty. He didn’t survive 40-years as a reporter without having grit. One fine summer’s day, music blaring from Ned’s boombox, Garry looked at me and murmured his fighting words: “This is ridiculous!”

He marched down the driveway, through the woods joining our two houses, to Ned’s front door. Garry knocked. Loudly. When Ned finally answered, Garry said: “Hi. I’m your neighbor. Garry Armstrong. Do we have a problem?”

Shortly the flag disappeared along with a noxious black jockey statue. Turned out, Ned was a plumber. He fixed our bathroom pipes. The whole skinhead thing dissolved in the face of a brown-skinned guy who did news on Boston TV. Seemed it was less important who Ned was than who Ned, with a little help from friends, was willing to become.

Eventually Ned got into drugs or something. We were never sure what. His wife left. His life fell apart. One day, he vanished. Fortunately, he returned our extension ladder before going.

New folks live there now. They are neither friendly nor actively hostile. They object to our dogs barking so much. Hard to argue with that. I also wish they’d shut up. But hey, they’ve got big dogs who do their own share of barking.

I miss Ned. No one fixed pipes like Ned and he always gave us a huge discount. He turned out to be a funny guy and a pretty good neighbor. Who’d have thunk it.

Daily Prompt: Good Fences?

SNOWBOUND, RICH PASCHALL

By Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

As far as Ralph was concerned this was the worst winter ever.  There were years with more snow, that’s for sure.  There were years that brought colder days.  There was never a winter that brought one snow after another followed by one arctic blast after another. Memory had no recollection of this many days below zero.  There were several days pipes were frozen at Ralph’s house, leaving him without water to the kitchen.  After that, every sub-zero day meant water would be left running to prevent from freezing.  Towels and throw rugs were tossed against the bottoms of exterior doors to prevent drafts.  Humidifiers were used to make the house more comfortable and the gas bill…  Well, Ralph did not want to think about that.

75-BigSnowHPCR-7While he hated every day of it, the neighbors might have thought otherwise.  Ralph was always out shoveling the snow that fell or that drifted across the sidewalk in high winds.  Even when the temperature fell below zero, he was out doing something for a little while.  For some years, there were teenagers to be bribed, but this year there were none around so Ralph was resigned to doing the work himself.  When he finished the walks, he would shovel around his car and brush the snow from the windows.  Sometimes a snow plow would push a ridge of snow against the car and then it was time to dig some more.  This winter, Ralph was a busy man.

After he finished the work by his house, he frequently walked down the street about 5 houses and shoveled around an old brown Pontiac.  Some days, he could not do it due to subzero temperature, but when he could he went down there.  No one else on the block seemed to know whose car it was that got so much attention.  Now and then it was moved and parked back in the same area, but when the brutal weather hit, it just stayed put.

And yet, Ralph walked down and cleaned it off, just in case.  It was not Ralph’s car.  He never drove it in his life.  A few on the block might have wondered why he shoveled around the car and cleaned it with great regularity.  It was just something that Ralph felt inside he had to do.

Certainly there were some that felt that a man of Ralph’s age should not be out shoveling snow in such extreme weather.  It was winters like this that made Ralph understand why people retired and moved to Florida or Arizona.  As a matter of fact, Ralph might have retired and moved to Florida on his last birthday when he turned 62, but the pension he paid into for decades lost most of its value 6 years earlier.  It was reduced to 25 per cent of what he had.  He knew he would never make that up in the short time left before he would have to retire.  He just hoped when he did, the meager pension and meager social security would be enough to live on.  It certainly would not be enough to send him to Florida.

One particularly frosty day, Ralph arrived home to some fresh snow on the ground, took his usual parking spot and went right to work. When he finished his walkways and parking area, he was tempted to go in, but decided to walk down to the brown Pontiac anyway.  It was weeks since the car last moved and no one had seen the driver.  Nevertheless, Ralph was on the job, cleaning off the car and all around it.  By the time he was satisfied with his work, his fingers and toes were numb and almost in pain.  As he started to walk away he noticed an old man come carefully down the stairs of a brick 2 flat house and walk toward the Pontiac.  He had a decidedly puzzled look upon his face.  Ralph tossed his brush and shovel aside.

“Hello, Mr. Schuman,” Ralph called out.  “How are you today?”

“Cold,” Mr. Schuman replied with an odd smile that he had acquired whenever he was unsure of what was going on.  “And who are you again, young man?”

“It’s Ralphie, sir.  Ralphie Combs.  I had you for Economics in Senior Year at the high school.”

“Oh,” Schuman said.  “What year was that?”

“I guess it was quite a few years ago, but I remember it well,” Ralphie beamed, as he recalled his senior year.

“Were you one of those boys that I put in the front of the class so I could keep an eye on you?  You look like one of those boys,” Mr. Schuman said with a suspicious glance.

Ralphie laughed.  “Yes, sir.  That was me, sir”  At that Mr. Schuman laughed too.

“Well I was expecting a lot of work on the car today, but all the snow is gone.  I am certain it was piled on there earlier when I looked out the window.”

“It must have been the winds, Mr. Schuman, sir.  The wind was very strong this afternoon and has blown a lot of it down the street.”

“It’s a good thing, because I have to run some errands and shoveling snow is too much for me.  I guess I was pretty lucky with that wind.”

“Yes, sir, I think you were.”

“Well, I have to go young man, it is too cold to stand and chat.  Now you be good.”

“Yes, sir, Mr. Schuman.  I will be good.”

The old teacher got in the old car and drove away.  That few minutes of conversation was the warmest Ralphie felt all winter.

FAMILY: APPLES, TREES, BRANCH AND TWIG

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Family

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WHERE DID IT GO?

It started when, the other day, I reached for my sandwich and discovered a frozen sirloin steak. On my desk. Next to my sandwich. I picked up the solidly frozen beef (it must have been recently taken out of the freezer) and carried it back to the kitchen.  I showed it to Garry.

“Why,” I asked him, “Do your think I might have brought a frozen steak to my office?”

“I have no idea,” he said, “But it sounds like a great post.”

96-MyGear_3

I’m still puzzled about the steak. Usually if I bring something odd to some place even odder, it’s because I meant to grab one thing but instead grabbed the other. However, in this case, I also had brought my drink and my sandwich, so I had brought an extra thing, the frozen sirloin. I put it in the fridge to defrost. The mystery remains unsolved.

Tomorrow, we are going away for a few days to visit friends, a long overdue visit to which we are looking forward. In preparation, I needed to do some sorting. Among the many things I’m taking with us — the gifts I bought for them that needed to be wrapped — I’m giving my buddy my oldest, favorite camera, the Olympus PEN PL-1. It was the first of my mirrorless cameras and I love it. It’s been replaced by newer Olympus PENs — the PM2 and E-P3, both of which are faster but not necessarily better. The PL-1 is the camera on which I took many of my favorite pictures. It came with a great little lens and handles beautifully. It also produces the best color balance of all my cameras.

That’s just background information. Here is where it starts getting complicated. Try to follow along.

On Black Friday or Cyber Monday or maybe during one of the gazillion sales events of the past month, I bought two very fast SD 8 GB memory chips for my cameras, replacing the older slower chips. The camera I’m giving Cherrie has a good, premium chip in it, but when I took the older slower chip out of my camera and put the new one in, I was left with one more chip than I had places or containers to store it.  (Are you still with me? Good.) I thought “Okay, I’ll give the chip to Cherrie as a spare since I don’t need it anyhow. It’s not super fast, but neither is the PL-1.”

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I put the chip down on my desk in front of the monitor and proceeded to search my I-don’t-know-how-many camera bags to see if I had any of those little plastic cases to put the chip in. All chips used to come with a little case, but not anymore. Now you have to buy them — talk about a rip-off. I mean really, how much do they save by not giving you a case? Anyhow, at some point, I found a couple of empty chip cases. I turned around to get the chip to put into one of the cases, then realized I needed to take cases out of the bag. I wheeled my chair around again, but couldn’t remember in which bag I’d found the empty cases. I looked where I thought I’d seen them, but they weren’t there. I rotated again. The chip was gone.

During this exercise, my butt never left my desk chair. I never stood up. But I had lost (again) the cases and somehow misplaced the chip too. On one level, it solved a problem. I didn’t need the case anymore because I had no chip to put in it.

Someday, somehow, I’m sure that chip will show up. And maybe so will the cases because they are in one of the bags. But what about the frozen steak?

DRIVING ALL NIGHT, THEN ALL DAY

Back in college, my housemate Micki had a tall boyfriend and a VW bug. Her boyfriend’s best friend had rich parents and a hunting lodge on a lake in the Adirondacks. One Friday evening, Micki and her beau grabbed me and said “We’re going to the lake. Come on.”

I didn’t have any plans, so we climbed into the bug and headed north. No one had any money. I don’t mean we didn’t have a lot of money. We didn’t have any money. I didn’t own a wallet or a driver’s license. Or an official ID. You didn’t need it in those days. Hard to believe, but it was normal to walk around with no money or ID. No cell phones (what’s a cell phone?). I suppose some women carried makeup and stuff, but not me.

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Odd girl out, I sat in the back behind the very tall driver folded like a pretzel. Along the way, we got hungry but lacking money, we didn’t eat. It was a long drive from Long Island to the top of the Adirondacks. The car got hungry too and unlike people, it couldn’t wait. So we saved fuel by coasting down mountains, restarting the engine to go uphill.

We got to the house on the lake just after dawn. It was beautiful, mist rising on the lake. We were exhausted. So was the bug having made the journey on fumes. No rest for the weary. The sun was up. We had to be sociable.

It was some house. Huge, more like a hotel. I wondered what their regular house looked like. Wooden steps led down to a dock and boat. I met Micki’s boyfriend’s friend. We sort of hung out. He made a half-hearted attempt to neck with me, but my disinterest was obvious and he gave up.

After sex was taken off our dance card, he walked me to the lake for a swim. I had borrowed someone’s bathing suit. He dove off the dock. When he surfaced, I called to him. “How is it?”

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“Not bad,” he said. So I dove in too and my heart almost stopped. That water was as close to ice as I’ve ever experienced. I thought I was going to die, and porpoise-like leapt back onto the dock, a feat I’ve never matched since.

“What do you mean by ‘not bad'” I squawked.

“It can be a lot colder,” he assured me. We sat for a while on the dock. There were a lot of round holes in the wood.

“What are those holes?”

“Bullet holes,” he said.

“Bullet holes?”

“I shoot the spiders,” he said. “With the rifle.” I hadn’t noticed it, but there it was. Probably for target shooting. But … shoot at spiders? That’s when the biggest spider I’ve ever seen ambled onto the dock. It was the size of my hand … maybe bigger. Black. Furry.

He grabbed the rifle and shot it.

That did it for me. I found Micki, told her to saddle up. We were going home. The two of us begged and borrowed gasoline money and leaving her boyfriend at the lake, headed home. We hadn’t slept in days. I didn’t drive, but Micki was okay as long as I kept poking her to keep her awake.

It was most spontaneous life would ever be for me. Living with Micki was full of surprises. She was a terrible roomie. Never had the rent, ate all my food, borrowed my stuff, never returned anything. And she was the most fun of anyone with whom I ever shared space.