White bread

I am the captain of my ship–as well as the author of today’s note from 1979 or 1980.  And, as you’ll see, in 9th grade I was already on my way to becoming a master of race relations and cultural sensitivity.  (My former boss and friend, Kirk Koepsel, once told me, “Sarcasm doesn’t translate into writing.”  I have always hoped this isn’t true, but if it is, please know I was just now being sarcastic.)

I grew up on the east coast–elementary school in the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, area and intermediate and high school in a D.C. suburb–so, consequently, my formative years were blessed with a fair amount of racial and cultural diversity.  I had White friends, Black friends, and every shade of brown in between.  There were plenty of Latino, Indian, Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern kids at Herndon Intermediate and Herndon High School.  In 9th grade, I had an Iranian friend whom I asked to teach me some Persian (Farsi) words and phrases.  Sadly, all I can remember today is halet chetore, which means “How are you?”

However, my closest friends were White, and, if I think about it, I can only remember being at their homes, knowing their families and spending most of my one-on-one time with them.  Time spent with friends of color was always in school, or at school-related social events–rarely individually, and never at home.

What many of my peers probably don’t remember is that I attended our senior prom with my friend K., a Black football player whose family had moved to Herndon from Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo).  I am ashamed to confess that I told my parents I was going with a different (read “White”) friend because I didn’t think they would approve.  K. and I wore matching tuxedos, and double-dated with the mutual friend and his girlfriend, who deigned to join the three of us in our dapper finery and wore a dress instead.

It’s particularly fascinating to reflect on the scenario briefly referred to in my note–of which I have absolutely no recollection–at age 51, when I spend half of each workday in a community college diversity center.  I’m far from being the most culturally fluent person in the room, but in the past couple years, my horizons have expanded enormously thanks to my job.  My Latino boss–with whom I have almost daily conversations about some aspect of cultural competency–has brought both Tim Wise and Robin DiAngelo to our school to speak on White privilege.  I’ve read several of their books, I participated in a year-long Inclusion & Cultural Fluency leadership training series, and I’m learning to speak Spanish because my inability to communicate with so many folks has been driving me crazy for a long time.

In other words, I’ve made a personal choice to improve my cultural competency and increase my understanding of White privilege.  This is a priority I will work on throughout the rest of my life, whether or not I continue to pursue a career in higher ed.  I may not remember why the Korean boy made me nervous, nor why I thought I needed to “feel sorry for him,” but from the perspective of more than thirty years later, I now know to challenge myself when I have thoughts like these.


hey chic!

How’s life?  mine’s just boreamundo.  actually it’s pretty gross.  my life is in a rut.  it’s been there for the longest time.  but i’m planning on having a heap o’ fun this weekend.  Friday night I’m going to a party, Saturday night I’m going skating, now I have to find sompin’ to do sunday.

i told C. about ya not being allowed to go to Roanoke.  She’s really upset.  I think we could try and talk your parents back into letting you go.

I sit with this Vietnamese Korean guy in Bio & M. isn’t here.  He carries a Korean-American dictionary around with him.  I feel sorry for him but he makes me nervous.

This class is sorry.  I wish I could’ve gotten into Mr. S. 2nd period, because I’m pretty sure that’s where A. is now.

Mr. S. sez they need pitchers on the softball teams ‘round here.

Later!

Love moi

Do you feel spirited?

I know y’all have been waiting with bated breath for the next note.  And I also know I keep saying this, but I really should post more often.

So, at long last:  here’s a gem from 10th grade (1980-81).  While you enjoy it, ask yourself the following questions:

Would you appear in public wearing all white?
Do you remember being completely mortified in 10th grade biology by the chapter on reproduction?
Do your kids see you more often than once or twice a week?
Do you feel spirited?


How do, mademoiselle?

I hope you’re not so spastic today!  You ought to be in our biology class.  Mr. S. says things you wouldn’t believe.  And today I was looking through the book & discovered the chapter on reproduction—w/ illustrations!  There’s no way in the world I’m gonna do that chapter w/ J. as my partner!!

I have some good news.  Mr. H. ordered a couple more desks yesterday so there is a lot of room left for you—4 whole desks.  Pleeeaassse switch to 3rd pd!  Pleeze?

Do you feel spirited?  I honestly did have on all white this morning.  I took it off ’cuz it looked weird & ‘cuz I wouldn’t dare going into Hist. & Math in all white!  Juniors would murder me!

Have fun at the game.  I wish I could come, but I already promised D. I would sit tonite.  I hope she comes home super early ‘cuz I desparately need sleep.  I even have a 9:30 a.m. hockey scrimmage tomorrow.  Ho, boy—no sleep!

What are we gonna do ‘bout Sun.  I think C. said she could take us.  All we need is a ride home.  Maybe I can—I’ll have to check next time I see my mom.  I haven’t seen her since Mon. from 5-6 pm.  [I’m pretty sure this note was written on a Friday, so WTF?]

I just goofed on a Math test.

I have a Hist. test on Monday; a French dialog on Monday; & a biology Chapt. test on Wed.  Plus I have to read 1 English book & 2 history books.  Plus I have to make all those Christmas gifts.  Also, I have to dance, babysit, guitar lesson (when do I ever practice?), build a float, & do all this other crap.  I AM SO OVER MY HEAD!!  HELP ME, I’M DROWNING!

I feel like Frampton’s song:
I’m swimming in a circle
I feel I’m going down
There has to be a fool to play my part

Well, I better finish, it’s 1 minute ‘till the bell rings.

Luv,
C.

Stuff I’ve been thinking about lately

I mean, other than the fact that I haven’t posted since December.  I’ve been thinking about that a lot.

 1.  My gas mileage.  I just filled up last week, and got over 800 miles and 99 MPG on the last tank.  I drive a 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In.  It’s ridiculous.


2.  How much I love our yard, and the fact that we can finally say the front landscaping is 100% finished.  Check it out.


3.  On the other hand, after 3.5 years, I continue to feel the pain of buyer’s remorse.

4.  That 30 Rock has finally replaced Seinfeld as my favorite TV show ever.  Good god, Lemon!

5.  That I feel like the co-caretaker of a small petting zoo.  Five critters is too many, but they’re family now–for better or worse.

6.  That it may be time to start looking for a new job.  Like most career paths I’ve tried during my professional life, I’ve discovered working in higher ed isn’t as glamorous as I originally thought–especially not at a community college.  There’s a lot of truth in the way community college is portrayed in Community, but it’s like a gazillion times sexier on TV than it is in real life.  And the drama!  Dear god, the drama.

7.  Moving to the coast.

Photo of Haystack Rock at Cape Kiwanda at sunset

Any questions?

8.  That my life is, for all intents and purposes, half over–but in a good way.

9.  How exhausting it is to be an introvert in a world where extroversion is prized and expected.

10. How it mostly sucks to be a big person, except for the alcohol.

11. That literally almost every person I see anymore is glued to their smartphone, and that I’m expected to watch out for them.  Walking, cycling, driving–doesn’t matter.  No one watches where they’re going, and no one makes eye contact.  It’s just sad.  And how the hell can anyone see that tiny screen without reading glasses?

12. Todos en español.  After five terms, I should hope so.

13. That I really need to re-focus on the good and wonderful things about this world and the people living in it.  Because damn.

Sputnik 2.0

Let me be perfectly clear about this:  I believe my cat, Chai, is the reincarnation of my former cat, Sputnik.

I am completely serious.  I believe in the recycling of souls, also known as reincarnation.  Of course, billions of other people also believe this, but I suspect a significant number of these folks are Hindu or Buddhist.  I, on the other hand, was raised in a church-going Lutheran family.  I started questioning things pretty early on, however, and have not been a Lutheran–or even a Christian–for the majority of my life.  Though I believe very firmly in a higher power, I choose not to refer to it as “god,” since I associate this word with Christianity.  And pretty much everything about Christianity makes me intensely uncomfortable.  Instead, I think of it as Source, or Source Energy, the term used by the teachings of Abraham-Hicks.

The biggest shift in my worldview began in 2003 when I began attending classes at Creative Living Institute at the recommendation of a friend.  Mary Graham’s lessons opened up a whole new world for me that made more sense than anything I’d ever been exposed to before.  I learned about numerology, tarot cards, astrology, auras, chakras and meditation, among other things.  I knew what reincarnation was, of course, but Mary talked about it in a way I hadn’t considered before:  that souls travel together through time and have “contracts” with each other, and that everything comes from the same source energy and is thus connected.

With this abbreviated background in place, let me tell you about The Man.

Sputnik was my soulmate, my familiar.  We found each other at the Dumb Friends League in Denver, Colorado, in February 1991 when he was about six months old.  He was the first cat I adopted on my own, and for whom I was the sole caregiver.  I loved him with every fiber of my being.

photo of kitten in a window
Sputty in our Denver apartment, 1991

From the first moment I saw him in his kennel, I knew.  An adoption counselor placed him on my lap in a visiting room, and he immediately rolled over on his back, waving his paws in the air.  I named him Sputnik because I liked the sound of it, and because I liked the band Sigue Sigue Sputnik.

My friend David almost immediately dubbed him “Little Man,” and that nickname–along with several variations like “Little B” or “The Man”–stuck till the end of his life in 2010.  He was extremely naughty, with a penchant for blueberry muffins left out overnight on the stovetop.  He tipped the trashcan over and dug through the contents almost every day until I wised up and bungeed it shut.  One day I returned from work to find every piece of jewellry I owned strewn from one end of the apartment to the other.  Oh yes, he was naughty.  And I adored him.  He particularly loved playing stalk and chase, and being held above my head to be “flown” around the house, complete with airplane sounds.  David tied a rubber cockroach to a long piece of dental floss, creating a cat toy for Sput second only to “Mr. Purse Strap,” which we finally just threw out a few years ago.

photo of two cats curled up together
The Boys in 2008, age 17 and 18

I adopted a brown tabby kitten from the Dumb Friends League in 1993 and named him Biscuit.  “The Boys,” as they were known, provided my husband and I with many years of love and entertainment.  They left this world within a year of each other at the ripe old age of 19.

photo of two cats laying on blue carpeted stairs
Nemo & Sidra, 2012

We moved from South Dakota to Oregon in early 2012, and, though we had Sidra and Nemo, two female cats we’d adopted in Rapid City, I knew I had to find another male Himalayan mix like Sputnik.  In May 2013, I found him on Petfinder.com.  Actually, I found a brother-sister pair who had been rescued from the shoulder of Interstate 5 near Springfield, their mother having been killed on the highway.  I made a phone call, loaded a pet carrier in the car, and off we went.

photo of a kitten in a cat carrier
Chai, 5/26/2013

Though we were prepared to adopt both kittens, the rescue assured us that, based on their young age and personalities, they wouldn’t be the least bit traumatized by being separated.  So Chai came home with us on May 26, 2013.

Chai is very self-entertaining, as are many cats.  One day I noticed him playing alone in our guest room, and watched as he pawed at the rug (like he was digging a hole), then put his head down and did a front roll into the spot where he’d been “digging.”  Sputnik used to do the exact same thing.  I’ve never seen either of our girl cats do it.

photo of a cat in a sink
Chai 2015

Last week, I was in the bathroom flossing my teeth, and Chai joined me on the counter.  Then he did something he’d never done before:  he got into the sink and began pawing at the sides, curling himself up in the round space and looking up at me.  Nemo will sometimes get on the bathroom counter, but she has never once gotten into the sink.

 

photo of cat in a sink
Sputnik 1992

I took an almost identical photo of Spunik in our apartment sink in 1992.  I spent a lot more time in front of the mirror in those days, and he was right there with me, most of the time.  I think he even supervised the night I tried to pierce my own nose with a sewing needle.  (That didn’t end well.  I had to have it done professionally.)

photo of kitten meowing
Chai, 2013

 

If it’s true that souls can choose to travel through time together, it’s entirely plausible that the Little Man bided his time out there in the Nonphysical from 2010-2013, saw an opportunity to come back to me and took it.  This probably sounds pretty crazy to someone who doesn’t subscribe to this particular worldview, but that’s OK.  I don’t really care, because the truth of it resonates within my higher self.

photo of cat yawning
Sputnik 2006

It was only within the past five years or so I actually looked up the word “Sputnik” and discovered its literal meaning is “fellow traveller” or “travelling companion,” depending on which website you use.

There are so many reasons to feel connected to Source.

Sexual harassment – 80s style

Transcribing K’s note below made me wonder just how often this type of situation happened during my six years of intermediate school and high school, and to what extent it’s still happening.  I’m pretty sure if this occurred nowadays, the geometry teacher referenced would be suspended without pay–or possibly fired–and both he and Fairfax County Public Schools would be sued from here to eternity.

It is simply mortifiying to think about this happening to K or any girl around her age.  I can’t imagine how humiliating and embarrassing it must have been for her.  K was short and very amply endowed, even in seventh grade.  She was extremely self-conscious about her appearance:  she viewed herself as overweight and spent huge amounts of money, time and energy on losing weight, as well as her skin, makeup, hair and clothing.  Read more about her in If I had a bunny, I’d call it Led Zeppelin.


Hi Heather!
Geometry was embarassing! Mr. S. likes to make up stories about people in the class to help explain things.  So guess who was in his story today!  Me and P.D.!
He started out, “You all know K.D., don’t you?” and of course they didn’t because they were all sophomores, but one guy said, “She must be a freshman.”  Then Mr. S. said, “Have you ever seen her walk down the hall?  She’s no freshman!”
Embarassment!!!!!!!!!!!
Then he proceeds to tell this story of me and P. driving down the highway when he hears this thumping which he thinks is my heart but it turns out to be a flat tire which I have to change while he watches the traffic.  So embarassing!  Hey there’s cute little R.L. walking along the road in the rain!  Poor baby!  How was the Ortho man?  Fun I bet!  I have to go to Dr. B. at 3:30.  Fun-ness!
R. is on the bus looking very cute in his red, black & white shirt and gorgeous new white Adidas jacket.
Well, almost home!
Bye!

My arm is broke off.

2015 is kind of a big year for me.  This is the year I turn 50, as do all my girlfriends with whom I graduated high school.  We’re getting together for a week in October at a beach house in Oak Island, NC, to celebrate and/or commiserate.  By that time, only one of us will still be in her forties, but she’ll be the one who gets to have her birthday while we’re all together.  Maybe it’ll be less traumatizing for her that way.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I kind of lost focus on my memoir.  You’ve probably been wondering, “Geez, when is she going to post another one of those notes?”  Well, wonder no further.  Below is one of the oldest notes in my possession, written in seventh grade by the friend who most recently turned 50.  (You know who you are.)

It is now my goal to have every note transcribed and an agent procured by the time we get together in mid-October.  I’m going to need you to help hold me to that, since I am, at heart, an incredibly lazy person with the attention span of . . . well, Happy Dog.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

(Whose attention span, by the way, has not increased one iota in the past two years since we adopted her.)  I’m really good at starting things with the appropriate amounts of enthusiasm and focus, but not so great at finishing them.  Truly, this is one of my greatest and most crippling faults.  But publishing this book is incredibly important to me, and I fully intend to see it through.

So, without further introduction, I give you:


Oh merd!  Dallas just lost
MERDE & double merde!)

Superbowl Sunday 1/21/78
Heather,
High!  I will be when Dallas wins.  They’re behind now, they had better win.  If they don’t I’ll lost a whole 50¢!
Today would be 7 months.  In this one song on my Helen Reddy record it goes “love and I were strangers til you and I were friends.  Into the shadows of my life, you have brought sympathy and sunshine.  I wish that we could still be friends.”  They later it goes “Broken hearts will mend.”  Maybe, but it sure as hell takes long enough.  (excuse my Français)  Oh, great!  35 to 17.  Looks like I had better get my 50¢ out.  This just helps make all the other little events lately, even betterly worse!  That includes last night; I was going to Grand Visitation with D.G. and another girl, with a lady from our bethel.  We had to go to Alexandria.  As we got close to the off ramp the cute little decided it didn’t want to go.  So here we are all dressed up sitting in the car off the side of the Hiway.  We sat there for about 40 min.  There was another car behind us w/ problems.  We kept watching him get in & out of his car, hoping that if he got his car started he would help us, only if he was nice.  The lady that was driving us is about 25 & her mother had given her this scream thing to have in case someone was after her, so were safe.  (har har)  So finally a tow truck stopped & after about 10 minutes got the car started.  So now we go to Landmark Center & she calls her husband, now it’s about 8:15.  He says he’ll be there in a half hour.  So we’re sitting in the Sears automotive parking lot.  D. starts to read “Cruisin for a Bruisin’” then gets tired of it about 8:30.  So I start reading it.  About 9:20 the ladies husband get there, he’s going to follow us home.  So for starters we get on the wrong road.  I continue using the headlights behind us to see.  Finally we get here at 10:15, I stepped out of the car & into a cute little puddle about 20 (maybe 30) feet deep, in my good shoes and freeze my feet off, but the husband guy got out of his truck to tell his wife something and thought it’d be cool to just skate on over . . . so he crashed to the ground.  The End.
My arm is killing me to death.  I have to go to the dentist at 9:15 to get my teeth cleaned.  My dentist, Dr. Repole, is the foxyest (sp) guy!  Tall . . . Dark . . . &&&&& HANDSOME!!!!!!
I have to go.  My arm is broke off.
W/B/soon
C-ya round
C.
Now to fold this sucker!
K’s playing restaurant, Miklshakes are $10 & Chinese food is $50!!!!

Pacific City Needs EV Charging

The following piece was drafted by Loving Husband, then sliced and diced by Yours Truly. It’s posted at http://theoregoncoast.info/PacificCity/Pacific-City-EV-Electric-Vehicle-Station.html

Well-done, sweetie. I’m so proud of you!

Pacific City Needs EV Charging

by Curt Finnegan

My wife and I live in Albany and last June purchased a Nissan Leaf all-electric vehicle (EV). With our dog, Agate, in tow, we frequent Cape Kiwanda, the Pelican Brewery, Bob Straub State Park, and everywhere in between. We were thrilled to learn that many areas in Oregon and Washington are now accessible to electric cars thanks to the West Coast Electric Highway: http://www.westcoastgreenhighway.com/electrichighway.htm.

We think an EV charging station located near the Cape and the Pelican Brewery would be an enormous asset to Pacific City. Local businesses would benefit greatly. We typically spend an afternoon (and many dollars) in and around the Pelican. And we’re just one of many EV families.

We’ve talked to Pelican Brewery management and voiced how it would be great to have an EV charging station nearby. Knowing how tight parking is at Cape Kiwanda, we agree the designated charging spots must be away from the best (read “close-in”) parking and enforced with a time limit.

An EV charging station runs from $400 to $600. See http://www.clippercreek.com/ for some affordable options. The cost to install in a public use area would depend on where to tap into existing power, the type of outlet and local electrician rates and permits.

A variety of payment plans are available for current charging station companies. Some provide unlimited usage per month (like cell phones), some are time-based (how long you’re plugged in), and others are usage-based (number of kilowatt-hours drawn).

Even a NEMA 14-50 outlet or two would be beneficial. These are the most common outlets at an RV campground. This outlet would be the simplest and least expensive, possibly not even requiring special parking if placed smartly.

Our current solution is to pay Seascape RV Park (right across from the Pelican–ask for Bob) $5.00 for two hours’ use of a NEMA 14-50 outlet, if there is an open spot. More than two hours costs $10.00. It’s a bit spendy, but we’re glad to have that option available.

Electric vehicles are the future of automobile transportation. More and more drivers are looking for destinations where they can charge their cars and spend their money. The bottom line is, wherever we park and charge, we ultimately spend money at nearby businesses.

I can be reached at finman100@hotmail.com. I am also listed on http://www.plugshare.com, a very helpful website and smartphone app for locating charging stations nationally. Through Plugshare, I can share my home station with anyone needing a charge.

Electric vehicles really bring out the community in you. I think that’s a great thing. I don’t mind avoiding the gas stations, either.


Curt Finnegan is a rabid fan of electric vehicles and other environmentally friendly technologies. He lives in Albany, Oregon, with his wife, Heather (and their four-legged, furry children) and works as an online technical support specialist at Linn-Benton Community College.

The appeal of the posse

In the interest of doing pretty much anything rather than studying for my Spanish 101 class, a couple weekends ago I spent about ninety minutes on something I’ve been putting off for the past year.  Now that my personal statute of limitations has passed on this particular event, I think I’m ready to write about it.

If you’ve seen the ultra-cheesy 1997 sci-fi flick Starship Troopers, you’ve seen a movie on which my friend Darren Rydstrom worked as “loader, second unit.”  (Oddly enough, his first name is misspelled in the credits.)  Parts of this movie were filmed in Badlands National Park, just an hour east of where Darren and I lived, 30 years ago, in Rapid City, South Dakota.

photo0122

The urbane, golf-playing, cocktail-sipping, cigar-puffing camera operator/ director of photography Darren was known in the biz as “Daz” Rydstrom.  I didn’t know that Darren.  My Darren was a year younger than me, lived across the street and had a three-legged tabby named Tripod and a trampoline in the backyard.

young man holding video camera

Later on he had a motorcycle instead of a trampoline, but Tripod-lovin’ backyard trampoline Darren was the Darren I knew best.

man and motorcycle

My Darren and I did silly, fun stuff like flying a kite with a glow stick tied to it at dusk, so that neighbors who drove by and saw us looking up asked if there was a UFO in the sky.  We climbed Little Devil’s Tower with a friend visiting from the east coast, camped overnight and, the next morning, found our camp covered in ladybugs.

man and woman in forest

young man sitting atop rock looking through video camera

We spent college breaks together:  on summer nights, we laid on the trampoline, looking at the stars and talking for hours, scaring ourselves when we heard deer moving nearby in the dark.  Or, with a group of friends, we’d take blankets out to the middle of a horse pasture adjacent to our neighborhood, and do pretty much the same thing.  One time, the two of us were sitting in my driveway, watching lightning and sharing a clove cigarette–which is what you did in the 80s, right?–and my mom happened to come out of the house right when I was taking a drag.  And it was no big whoop–I was in college, and I knew that she knew that I wasn’t a real smoker.  Plus I was with Darren, who could do no wrong in my parents’ eyes.

During Christmas break, we’d bundle up and drive around Rapid City, stereo blasting Midnight Oil’s Diesel and Dust or whatever 80s cassette happened to be in the tape deck at the time, shooting whatever looked interesting:  him with his video camera, me with my 35mm.   When we were back at our respective schools, we wrote letters and called each other occasionally.

In July 1988, our families were evacuated from our neighborhood, caused by the locally famous Westberry Trails Fire, which burned within about a half-mile of our homes. Darren, of course, spent a significant amount of time before evacuation filming the blaze from the roof of his house, and then fought the fire with his mom, Jerie, as a Doty VFD volunteer.

Once when I was living in Reston, Virginia, we met up in Washington, DC and spent a day walking the National Mall and visiting the Smithsonian.

young man and woman in reflection

young man seated in front of fountain

It was around this time when we finally decided to kiss, just to see what would happen.  I’ll refer you to a specific scene in P.S. I Love You for the outcome of that ill-conceived experiment.

Darren’s Grandma Harriet lived in Denver the same time I did, so we got to see each other several times during the 1990s.  Grandma Harriet drove us around in her Audi sedan, and once took us to lunch at Denver Country Club.  (She was a classy lady in more ways than one.)  One time, Darren took me to the mansion in which his dad, Don, had grown up.  He walked right up and knocked on the door, introduced himself and asked if we could come in so he could show me the house.  And, because he was Darren, the current occupant was delighted to comply.

Over the years, we saw less and less of each other.  After moving around quite a bit, I eventually ended up back in Rapid City.  Darren would come back to the Hills for visits at Christmas and during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in August.  He’d call and leave a message, and I’d be busy or out of town (especially during the Rally!).  I kept meaning to visit him in SoCal, but never did.  Once in a while we’d e-mail each other.  Then Facebook came along, and I was at least able to stay more current on his adventures.  I was amazed at the places he wrote about visiting, the people he met and with whom he worked, and the way he was blossoming professionally.  I was so proud of who he’d become and what he was accomplishing.  He was living the dream, as far as I could tell.

One of the things he told me most consistently over the years was how much he wanted to be married and have a family someday.  In fact, some of our more contentious (for lack of a better word) discussions concerned my determination to never have children and how that could possibly be the case.  I always wanted so much for him to find the perfect woman–not a glamorous, superficial, affected wannabe.  But that never seemed to happen.

I should probably mention at this point that Darren was killed in a helicopter crash two years ago today, while filming a new Discovery Channel reality show.  Sadly, like the way I find out about so many things these days, I learned this devastating news on Facebook a day or two after the accident.

This was the second time in six years a close friend had died abruptly.  Both deaths occurred in early February.  Both friends were healthy, active men in their forties.  Both of them were world travelers who packed more living into less than fifty years than the majority of us could in twice that time.  One was married with a young daughter, and happened to be my boss, as well as my friend.  The other was Darren.

young man squatting on wall with pine trees in background

Back to what I spent those ninety minutes on.  I had a couple VHS tapes with footage from 1988 and 1989 that Darren had put together for me a long time ago, and, around this time last year, I asked Loving Husband if he’d record the content onto a DVD for me.

I finally it watched it, and now I can’t decide if I’m glad to have this access to the past.  I think, ultimately, I am–but it definitely comes with a price.  That price is to relive us–our friendship, our youth, our carefree banter and laughter, our total disregard for the inevitability of adulthood, old age, and eventual death.  To see a youthful Darren briefly and falsely brought back to life on a TV screen.  To see myself as a beautiful, young college student without a care in the world.  Maybe it’s better, as Death Cab For Cutie so eloquently puts it, to “depend on that faulty camera in our minds.”  I’ve forgotten much more than I remember about us and our friendship and the time we spent together.  But I’m grateful for every moment.

man and woman smiling together

This morning I looked at a text on my phone just as I was leaving for work.  The message was from my dear friend, Wayde, with whom I exchange random Seinfeld quotes several times a day.  My boss who died suddenly in 2007 was Wayde’s boss as well, and when Darren was killed, Wayde was one of the first people I called.  This morning’s text read, “With Darren’s help, we’ll get that chicken.”  The time stamp was 3:14 a.m.  (Wayde doesn’t sleep well.)  According to Los Angeles County officials, Darren’s death occurred at approximately 3:40 a.m.  I knew immediately who had really sent me that message and why.

I called Wayde on my way to work and, between sobs, told him what he’d inadvertently done–and how grateful I was that Darren had chosen to communicate with me through him.  And as sad as I was this morning, for the rest of the day, I was comforted by the knowledge that everyone and everything is connected, there is no death, and Darren is an integral part of my Nonphysical Posse, if not the ringleader.

Looking at the hundreds of pictures posted on Darren’s Facebook page by his friends around the world, it’s hard not to feel jealous and left out of all the places he’d been and good times he had with so many people who aren’t me.  But I also read messages from people who’d only met him once, for a few hours, and considered themselves fortunate.  They too were deeply affected by his death.  That’s the kind of person he was.  As with my brother, I always felt better for his physical presence with me.  I’m certain every one of his Facebook friends, his parents and his sisters would agree.

We all knew and loved a different Darren.  I loved my Black Hills Darren best.

And with his help, we’ll get that turkey.

Man stabbing at turkey with pitchfork
Darren Arthur Rydstrom        |       11/13/66 – 2/10/13