Tag Archives: friends

The Dogwatchers

This week, Susanne and I are dog sitting. Somehow this entails dogs. And poop, and a lot of it. Actually, now that I think of it, much of these “sitting” endeavors involve poop, pooping, or conversations regarding same. It’s not so much sitting as poop management. Maybe we should have a public conversation about updating the use of “sitting” as a term because for me at least, reclining on one’s derriere to relax doesn’t happen often in these arrangements. Unless, I suppose, a toilet is involved.

Long time readers of this blog will recall my experience with a baby’s explosive offering. Nothing of the sort has transpired with these dogs, one of whom is an anxious herder, and one a saved puppy from a farm in Yakima whose entire body shakes when he wags his tail, which is constantly. Read More…

Four corners and three sheets to the wind

Weddings, I’ve discovered over the years, are as varied as anything—wildflowers, thumbprints, coffee stains. In my life, I’ve been to many, many weddings, including:

  • An actual shotgun wedding in which the bride’s father really had a rifle nearby
  • A last-minute wedding of two friends whose parents had discerned were about to elope
  • A wedding for a friend who had very recently converted to Jehovah’s Witness—still my personal record holder for longest sermon ever
  • A Minnesota wedding in which a few of the guests showed up in sweatpants
  • A wedding in which my siblings and I got so rip-roaring drunk the maitre’d asked if he could cut us off
  • A lesbian wedding held at the infamous Salahi’s Oasis vineyard in Virginia—yes, those Salahis

Then of course there’s my wedding, and we all know what happened there. In case we don’t know, it was a splendid, oppressively hot day and in the middle of the reception, I blew out my left ACL. Apparently, this is a common event, so don’t mock me too badly.

We received word that our friends were going to get married this summer and immediately, reflexively, my mind ran through all of my prior nuptials experiences, culminating, unsurprisingly, with the Why I No Longer Dance to Billie Jean moment. I was ready to move on, as I’m sure everyone else who knows me is, too.

These good friends fall solidly in the “hippie” category of person. What kind of wedding would we see?

We heard from the bride-to-be, who is, among other things, an interpretive dancer, that there would be interpretive dancing. I remarked that their wedding may be the gayest ever we’d seen, even gayer than the gay ones. But the dancing turned out to be lovely. Choreographed by the bride, it highlighted what we were about to experience from the ceremony itself, which also had an original song written by the bride’s father, burning sage and a pagan-lite blessing, a communal turning to the four corners, and a linked touching thing or other, in which we all put a hand on the person next to us, all the way to and including the couple. This would have been a sweeter activity were it not for the 97-degree daylight beating down on us and making the majority of our skin sweaty and damp. The bride and groom accepted our love and support even if it came with some measure of perspiration. We were touched by the sentiment, nonetheless.

The ceremony took only about 40 minutes, meaning that it failed to beat the time of the longest ceremony I’ve experienced, which went for more than 2 hours. People would have died of heat stroke if we’d had to sit out there that long. We made our way to a cocktail hour, sipped at some cool beer, and then seated ourselves for dinner, which was a tasty barbeque buffet. This meant that Susanne ate three pulled pork sandwiches in two days. Suffice it to say she won’t go anywhere near a pig product for a while.

One guest ran up to us, half-drunk, asking if we could locate any empty tin cans so she could attach them to the couple’s car. I looked over and saw that there were already six balloons taped to the windows. I smiled and made a note not to let intoxicated people decorate my car.

After the sun set it wasn’t long until Susanne noticed a bright light at the top of the Blue Ridge Mountains. How obnoxious, she exclaimed. Then we realized it was the moonrise. Score 2,000 points for this wedding, the first I’ve attended with its own moonfreakingrise. Our friends stood outside, watching it and feeling whatever overwhelming emotion they must have noticed at that moment.

Their friends who are in a zydeco band struck up a set and people danced and drank, danced and drank, until the guests, en masse, were snockered. There came a point at which my own level of sobriety became incompatible with theirs—I could see that they were having fun, but we were on different planes of existence. We hugged our friends and wished them well. They were getting ready to settle in for a few days at a resort in Mexico. We were headed back to our B&B and a nice bath with water jets. Same difference, I’m sure.

Potholes never move

On Tuesday I met an old friend for lunch. She’s also a life coach, and extremely new age, if one can say that spirituality comes in degrees. She’s said more than once that there’s a reason I found myself in a little town as isolated as Walla Walla, since my writing wasn’t really happening in the busy bustle of DC. Well, I have oodles of time to write now.

She’s from Nebraska, which I can only imagine, having never set foot in the state. In my mind it’s somewhere between the musicality of Oklahoma and whirling dervishes of Kansas, a state for whom I can only name three places: Omaha, Lincoln, and Platte, because my grandmother had relatives there. All the people I know from Nebraska, who also happen to number three, know farm life well, remember it fondly, and are the kind of folks who proudly announce, when they first meet someone, “I’m from Nebraska,” as if we’ll all have the same reference point. I’m quite sure none of us do. For easterners who only seldom cross the Mississippi, Nebraska is part of the “other” United States. We figure they’re flying the same Stars & Stripes, as us, but beyond that, it may as well be the surface of Mercury. Now that I live westward of ole Miss, I know this isn’t true. They’re just like easterners except quieter, often working with fewer resources, and ruggedly independent. They don’t need the east like we think they do.

What I’ve gathered from my friend is that she is a 21st Century person born nearer to the start of the 20th. She’s never more than nine inches from her PDA, and she handles it with an ease that I, a Generation Xer, never seem to manage, always cursing at a typo on my texting screen and feeling the urgent need to press BACK sixteen times to fix my mistake. She just hammers through on her iPod or whatever new device has just hit the market. She’ll have an Android sometime in the next hour, I’m sure. And for her it’s more than simple, or even amazing technology;  it’s the universe helping us feel more connected to each other, because there’s a positive force that comes with being proximate to our fellow life travelers.

She’s helped me beyond measure, as she helps everyone around her with her warm smiles, booming laughter, and occasional quick frowns that pop up when she wishes you’d behave differently. She tells me that I have one of the loudest interior critics she’s ever met, and that the next time it hovers over me I should just tell it to go away and retire. Such silliness, I have thought, at these kinds of declarations from her. And then the next time I think about writing and I castigate myself for thinking I have the right to waste my time like this, I hear her:

Oh, you again? You know, I am really so sick of you. It’s time for you to retire.

Could it really be that simple?

I look around. Nobody but me is in earshot. I speak her words into the air.

And then I start a new short piece. One that’s been kicking around for eight years or so, and that I’m positive I started writing a long time back. I can find no evidence of it, but I have sharp visions in my brain, scenes and characters and a plot surprise at the end of 3,500 words. I hate starting something all over when I know there’s even a piece out there, my wounded Marine on the battlefield that I’ve promised to retrieve.

I give up the ghost and start over, figuring that at least this way I won’t be burdened by past efforts.

I thank my friend for helping me with a sageless exorcism.

This trip has been good for pieces of me I’ve neglected since moving out west—the ones with unbridled optimism, the sanctuary for my bones by the old and familiar, the joy that comes with knowing how to avoid every pothole on a certain road you haven’t traveled in a long while. It shows me what I’m missing from Walla Walla, even though there are many things I enjoy and even love about that place. I’m missing the fullness of a boisterous life. I don’t know as many opinionated, brash people, have as many options, or have to tune out much noise. Even the frequent wailing of firetruck sirens has heartened me since we returned to the nation’s capitol, the only time Susanne has been here since President Obama took office. Walla Walla doesn’t have enough noise for me, although its springs come close to meeting my requirements for color, with the bright green, baby wheat, bold blue skies, and rainbow-infused balloons during the annual hot air stampede. I can relish Walla Walla for the quiet and agree with my Nebraskan friend that it’s given me—forced me, even, into—writing time, pushing me to reconsider what success means and who I am capable of being in this lifetime.

But while I’m here in DC, I can at least try to unite these selves—past and present—a little, and enjoy all of the good things in my life, which starting with Susanne, are plentiful.

How to meet friends and influence…anybody


DC building on a sunny day

DC building on a sunny day

So Susanne, for better or worse, has moved into a veritable community of faculty and staff, and of course, students. As I mentioned in the last post, we’ve gone to one staffer’s house for dinner, and we’ve also been over to another faculty member’s house for a chocolate tasting event which was, shall we say, very Walla Walla. To clarify–in DC, such an event would include a chocolate waterfall, set up next to a Melting Pot-like tray of pineapple, marshmallows, strawberries, cheesecake, and the like; a table of Brazilian and Peruvian or fill in your exotic country of choice dark chocolates, some European chocolate for comparison, and 6 people from the Commerce Department who would espouse on the history of chocolate, whether they actually knew anything about it or not. Out here, well, it was a bunch of folks sitting around a dining room table which barely had enough room for us and all of our host’s houseplants, eating little taster-sized chocolates that she got from a friend. Way more down to earth and simplified. And, I suppose, much less pretentious.


Walla Walla petunias

Walla Walla petunias

The ready-made crowd is nice, but I feel the need to meet some people on my own, as if meeting everyone through Susanne would doom me to a life apart from any decision-making I could do. Which I know isn’t true. But it appeared to me to be healthier to find avenues of my own toward friendship and comraderie. So I ventured down to the local, lonely Democratic headquarters for the county.

Boy, were they happy to see me! So happy! Happy happy joy joy! I thought I might get a Busby Berkeley musical number upon my entrance. Now just for kicks I may have to visit the GOP HQ to see what that experience is like. It also helps that it’s next door to the only Chinese lunch buffet in town. (And the all-you-can-eat buffet, by the way, is $6.49 — eat that, Baltimore former coworkers! So if you want to meet up next Friday, let me know.)

At first, they didn’t know what to do with me. I have hours and hours of free time right now. Should he canvass for us or do some phone bank work? Or be at the phones here? Immediately clear to me was that each person does in fact make a difference. As someone said to me last weekend, one person is the difference between a phone ringing endlessly at the HQ because nobody’s there to answer it, or a person to pick it up and respond.

I didn’t think the canvassing would work too well given the state of my knee rehabilitation, so I have opted for the phone bank. Oh boy. Can’t wait until I get my massively long list of numbers to call, so people can curse at me and hang up on me. But I’m sure I’ll make some new friends there — and they’ll be Democrats. Which means, I’m not sure.

Last Saturday Susanne and I went to a fundraiser event for the local HIV non-profit education and healthcare provider, Blue Mountain Heart to Heart. The idea is that over the course of a specific week, Walla2 residents host dinners at their homes and people come over to donate and eat, and then at the end of the week, the organization hosts another party with desserts to announce how much money was raised, and thank everyone for their work and donations. It’s along the lines of what Food & Friends does in DC to raise money, although for that effort folks go out to participating restaurants who donate a portion of the proceeds of their take for that night. So here I guess Heart to Heart gets more percentage of the donation, since the dinner hosts don’t hold anything back, but the number overall is a lot smaller. At any rate, we met a lot of nice people, and now I have a date for the first debate on September 26 — at Becky and Bob’s house. (I am not making this up.) Which brings me to another question — who the hell schedules a debate on a Friday? Do they think we’re going to watch on a tavern TV with the NBA pre-season games playing on the next screen over? That’ll be the day.

Anyway, the DC Democratic HQ and the bleeding-heart liberals’ fundraising event aside, how else to meet people in Walla Walla? Well, I have a couple more route here. One was supposed to be bowling. I mean, seriously, I love bowlers. They want activity but not too much activity. They want teammates but not too much competition. They typically enjoy beer and other light refreshment. They’re definitely on the dorky side, and generally not very pretentious. My kind of people! I think I have to wait until January, though, because Mr. Knee here had to get overexcited at the Billie Jean song at his wedding, and he’s still not ready to fling the strikes down the lane. So that means…

I hope to meet people at the orthopedic’s office tomorrow! Hurt people here I come!

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