With Love and Testing

On the subway going home this week, there was a man seated on the row ahead of me. He was dressed in a black tux, bowler hat, pink silk tie with a pink corsage of roses and baby breath. Every hair on his face and head was perfectly styled. What was missing from the ensemble was an ivory cane. A freshly minted husband-to-be if there ever was one. I knew it because he got off at the courthouse station, with his face like flint, facing his execution. I could only imagine what his bride would look like. Was she just as resigned? What a pitiful way to start a married life, gritting your teeth and hoping for the best, even though in your heart you know it will only go downhill from here. Jacqueline Osborn

We all know marriage has fallen on hard times, and yet everybody wants to get married. Go figure. Last time I looked the divorce rate was on par with the marriage rate, maybe even surpassed it. Nobody can get along anymore. Expectations are too high, thanks Hollywood and social media, and nobody wants to work that much in a relationship. And yet these same people are willing to put themselves through endless hours of agony learning a sport, or getting an MBA, or changing careers in mid-stream. Somehow working at being a better husband or wife seems mundane. I think the real reason it’s because it’s really impossible. Becoming a doctor is easier. We want results. Now. But end up disappointed and convinced it’s not worth the investment.

I like the attitude about marriage that a few of the greats had.

Let the wife make the husband glad to come home, and let him make her sorry to see him leave. – Martin Luther

When a man opens a car door for his wife, it’s either a new car or a new wife. – Prince Philip

They say marriages are made in heaven. But so is thunder and lightning. – Clint Eastwood

Calvin says, “Thank goodness beagles don’t marry. They just frolic and mate at will.”

beagle

Spicy Tea

I lunched with an old friend of many years. She looked broody, not her typical self. So I asked her what was troubling her, and the floodgates opened.

“Elliott and I have stuck out 40 years of incompatibilities. A recent vacation is a good example. He wanted a quiet hotel room. I enjoy hearing people’s voices on the street, the dumpsters being filled with crashing bottles, it anchors me to a place,” she said demolishing her cucumber sandwich.

“He likes hiking. My hike is riding the escalator at Nordstrom’s. He’s anxious if a plan doesn’t go well, although he hates planning anything. I plan things out weeks in advance so it’s clearly my fault,” she continued with a furrowed brow.

I wanted to say something but she wasn’t listening.

“He likes hot, spicy food. You’ve seen that. He douses everything with hot sauce. I like a steak and fries. He’s a clutter bug, books and magazines everywhere, and throws nothing away. I dream of minimalist spaces, preferably in a condo with zero maintenance,” she said knocking back her shot of espresso.

“He watches his favorite movies over and over. Once I’ve seen a movie I’m over it,” she said. “Just the other night he watched Bottle Shock for the trillionth time and I sat there trying to find something I hadn’t caught before. You know what?”

Finally. “What?” I said.

“I watched for timing of the scenes like I was some professional director or something,” she said.

She went on. “He must do the driving. Months go by and I haven’t been behind the wheel, but I’ve become an expert passenger. He drives too fast. He hates traffic and being stuck behind a car. He maneuvers and strategizes so he can be out ahead. For me driving relaxes me. I daydream to my destination. Driving for him is mastering the road and eliminating the competition.” minimal

“Oh, also going for a walk is impossible. He walks too fast and I lag behind like women do from other cultures. It’s so frustrating. I hate it,” she said raising her voice. Everyone in the restaurant was looking at us. She didn’t notice.

“I love flying. He refuses to step on a plane because he’s sure he’d battle with security and they’d throw him out of the airport. We can’t take a trip anywhere. Talk about selfish.”

She finally stopped and took a breath.

Did she want a response or was this a vent session?

The waitress approached our table. She looked like Lucille Ball with 50’s glasses. “Dessert?”

My friend said almost in a growl, “Is it soaking in whiskey?”

Calvin says, “Holy cow. She’s one angry dude.” beagle

 

 

Whatever It Takes

cropped-photo143.jpgA colleague at work decided to host an English tea party for all the women in the office. She draped the common room with streamers in pinks, yellows, soft greens, and lavender. The tablecloths were pink with white polka dots. Her finger foods included an English trifle, thumbprint cookies with a cherry jam center, cucumber and butter sandwiches without the crust, caramel pecan brownies, and lemon bars. Toward the end of the party, one woman disappeared and returned with a strawberry shortcake and candle in it. It turned out it was the organizer’s birthday.

“Oh, we had no idea,” said one co-worker with a furrowed brow.

“That’s okay. This way I got you all to come,” said the organizer.

Calvin says, “Clever. For my next birthday, I’ll invite all the neighborhood dogs for a bone barbecue. Tell me if they wouldn’t all come, well maybe not that boor Nigel, with a stomach that drags on the ground, who stays up barking all night believing he’s the neighborhood ninja defender.” beagle

New Digs

El gato has a new home. One of my co-workers and his wife wanted him, so we put him in a carrier and drove him to his new owners last night. He meowed, scratched and complained the whole way. When I lifted him out of the carrier and placed him in the wife’s arms, he scrambled up her arm and nestled into her neck.

A heart-warming scene if there ever was one.

What I didn’t know was that there was a dog in the picture, too. He was shut out in the garage while we did the handover in the living room. I asked what kind of dog they had because the racket he was making at the garage door sounding like he was the size of a bear and I was afraid we’d be taking el gato back home with us.

“He’s a Chihuahua mix,” my co-worker said. IMG_0471

“With that noise?” I said.

“He knows something’s up,” he said.

I’ll say. It sounded like he was throwing himself against the door with all the force of a hurricane.

I had visions of fur flying and hissing and booing the instant the dog was allowed inside the house.

“Don’t worry, they’ll grow up to be friends,” my co-worker said with confidence.

I hope so, otherwise el gato I didn’t want will be back in our lives and we’ll have to give it a name. I’m thinking something like Recurring Rico.

Calvin says, “Quit threatening my peace, will you?” beagle

Over Here

Last week I read the simplest formula for how to tell a good story.

It goes like this:

A character has a problem.

He meets a mentor who (1) helps him with a plan and (2) inspires him to act.

The resulting actions turn into a comedy or a tragedy.

The end. Edward Hopper

I like that.

It’s simple and straight to the point.

If you think about it, most movies and novels are written that way.

Hollywood demands a problem within the first 10 minutes of the movie or TV show. Books are now doing the same.

Then the main character spends the rest of his time acting on a plan somebody he trusts has given him. That’s his first mistake.

Of course he spends more time failing than succeeding because he has to keep you in your seat eating popcorn. That’s what he gets paid the big bucks for.

Eventually she solves her problem and everything gets resolved. Or maybe not. If you’re building suspense for the next sequel she’s hanging from a zip-line that’s stuck over a whitewater river in a forest populated with cannibals.

I’ve always wanted to write a novel with a fellow writer. I believe two heads are more creative than one. Plus I always get stuck in the middle of a story when everything is coming undone and I need help figuring a way out.

Like life.

Calvin says, “That’s what you have me for except you’re a terrible follower.” beagle

 

 

 

 

 

 

Equidae

My son spent a morning with two donkeys on a ranch in the hills.

He knew nothing about donkeys. He’d never met any before so he didn’t know what to expect. They were not used for anything other than ornamentation on the property, like trees.

They were in a corral. My son went inside softly and stood there to gauge their reaction. He didn’t want to frighten them as is so often the case with horses that don’t know you.  donkey

“Go up and pet them,” said the ranch manager.

And he did. They came up immediately to his side and allowed him to pet them, talk to them, and feed them a treat. They were happy to stay there all day with him.

“They’re like children, actually worse. They’ll eat themselves to death, they have no sense of when to stop. And these two like to wander. If you let them out, they’ll take off and won’t come back,” the manager said.

The property manager was hoping to find them a new home.  I guess he was tired of chasing them all over the hills. They had become a nuisance.

What did he expect from ornaments?

They had no purpose in life.

We’d be traipsing all over the place, too if we didn’t have things to do.

At the end of the visit, my son declined them. He already had two dogs to take care of, he didn’t need two bigger ones.

Calvin says, “You’re close to hurting my feelings. Am I a nuisance like that? I thought you adored me.” beagle

 

 

 

Not Yet, Maybe Later

One of my favorite authors is coming out with a new book.

It’s called Scary Close by Donald Miller.

Apparently it’s about intimacy.

I find that comical. Don is single, or was. He recently married at 42. And his book is about what it’s like to live with another person after so many years of being a self-proclaimed hermit. Well, writers are hermits. That’s part of their DNA. You can’t write while you’re carrying on at a party, or watching a movie, or attending church. You can’t write while having a conversation with your spouse either.

I’ll bet his wife is an extrovert dragging him into public places with friends and family and ruining his writing time.

I think he should have waited at least 7 years to write it. He’s still in the honeymoon stage of married life. Nothing he says now is going to be true later. But it’s too late. He didn’t consult me.
Jacqueline Osborn

I loved his Author’s Note:

“Somebody told me we will never feel loved until we drop the act, until we’re willing to show our true selves to the people around us.

“When I heard that I knew it was true. I’d spent a good bit of my life as an actor, getting people to clap—but the applause only made me want more applause. I didn’t act in a theater or anything. I’m talking about real life.

“The thought of not acting pressed on me like a terror. Can we really trust people to love us just as we are?

“Nobody steps onto a stage and gets a standing ovation for being human. You have to sing or dance or something.

“I think that’s the difference between being loved and making people clap, though. Love can’t be earned, it can only be given. And it can only be exchanged by people who are completely true with each other. I shouldn’t pretend to be an expert, though. I didn’t get married until I was forty-two, which is how long it took me to risk being myself with another human being.

“Here are two things I found taking the long road, though:

“Applause is a quick fix. And love is an acquired taste.”

Calvin says, “Oh no, why can’t he leave well enough alone. Intimacy is a well loved bone by the fire.”beagle