things i wish i had said, part 71

You and I have memories
Longer than the road
That stretches out ahead

— the evil paul mccartney

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morning observations, part 1

■ As it turns out, you do NOT have to add water to the oatmeal before cooking. It’s merely a suggestion.

■ I am always vaguely disappointed when I wake up with a hangover and there’s not a baby and a tiger in the apartment. I must not be doing it right.

■ When the cat and I are alone, she gives me that look like “don’t you realize I’m not listening to you?” I pretend not to notice it’s the same look Mo gives me.

■ If you type “Beatles” into spotify with an n instead of a b, you end end listening to Jennifer Nettles by mistake and hoping for nuclear holocaust so wi-fi will be compromised and this song will end. No offense, Jennifer Nettles.

■ When Mo says as she’s leaving, “The coffee’s a little strong today,” you should put on your bike helmet before sampling.

That’s all.

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the greatest person on the planet. period.

so i’m walking with my brother in his neighborhood. He points to a house and says that the guy who lives there was the kid in the original Boris Karloff Frankenstein movie AND was the voice of Bambi in the movie of the same name. Possibly the greatest obit lede ever. I will be glad to organize a celebrity tour if you give me advance notice.

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things i wish i had said, part 70

“You know, I didn’t consider myself an artist for a long time. I think I was thinking of it as art is just really, really good entertainment, and when you get really good at entertaining people, all of a sudden you’re an artist. But that’s not exactly true I don’t think. I feel like art exists because it is needed.”

— jason isbell

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The Dancing Bananas, part 1

Back in a previous incarnation, Char and I were a vaudeville act, a largely overlooked duo playing the Milwaukee circuit for cheap beer and free Packers tickets.

So the formation of The Dancing Bananas should come as no surprise. I must dress as a piece of fruit, a veggie or a squash (like anyone would ever dress as a squash) for a mile run. Char was urged by her doctor to wear a costume for her next round of chemo. The obvious solution: bananas.

Comedy isn’t easy. The banana costumes are much more difficult to master than you would think. There are three holes for your head and your arms, and apparently it makes a difference which one you choose for your head. But after several tries and running into each other constantly, we were ready.

The only question left was the appropriate show tune. We settled on the old showstopper from our former Vaudeville show, “Yes, He Drives Us Bananas,” an homage to the president.

Char, being a longtime radio darling, totally choked her TV appearance as she tried to dance, move her arms, sing and avoid me running into her at the same time. I, of course, was brilliant.

Still ahead: The Great Halloween Dash of 2017, and the Banana Chemo Extravaganza. Mayo has a piano player in the lobby. I’m guessing all we need is a good accompanist for this to come together.

You never know where life’s roads will take you. The important this is that go down them in a banana costume. Curtains up. Bring on the Packers tickets.

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just a few more miles

Just a few more miles, you tell yourself. You can do it.

How did you get here? It was such a beautiful day. Miles flying by, the sun setting over the mountains.  That feeling you could do this forever. Running on autopilot as the world rolls by.

But then.

You start feeling a little bit off. Nothing major, just a foreboding that something isn’t quite right. You go through the mental checklist you’ve done so many times. You’ve been fueling regularly. Plenty of liquids. It’s not too hot out, so you’re not overheating. Everything feels OK. But something isn’t right. Still, you’re almost there. Just a few miles away.

You think back to a week ago. You did the same course with no problems. You’ve had a lot of rest since. This isn’t a big deal. You can do this. Just a few more miles.

You envision the finish line just a few miles ahead. A long home stretch, a left turn, another left, and you’re there. But things are getting worse. The warning light just went off in your head. You’re officially in trouble.

You dig into the book of tricks. Slow down a little. Take it easy. Stop everything not necessary to moving forward. Relentless forward motion. Keep moving. Just a few more miles. You can do it.

But it’s not working. You start to wobble a bit, then you slow down drastically. Everything is shutting down. JUST A FEW MORE MILES, DAMMIT. You limp along slowly as others pass you by. Running turns to crawling. You go as far as you possibly can, and then … all you can do is stop.

You sit on the curb and watch the others go by. So fast, so easy. That was you earlier. Why isn’t it you now? Who knows. Some days just aren’t your day. You sit quietly in the dark.

DNF. You hate those letters. But it happens. The important thing is that you tried.

The guy who is driving you calls AAA. You wait for the sag wagon to take you home.

Once there, you go to sleep and dream of shiny new alternators and finish lines. Just a few more miles. You can do it …



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We’re out for a walk. Left foot, right foot. Repeat as necessary.

We’re hanging out for the week while June is at a conference. It’s a good visit, that sort of stay with no agenda, no expectations. Beer and M&Ms and dogs of all sizes.

We should go on an another adventure sometime, he says. What about Big Bend, I suggest. He asks where it is. I tell him it’s a national park on the Mexico border. He says he’s never been. I want to tell him, yes, we’ve been there a million times. You showed it to me. We’ve been to the top, and to the bottom. It’s our favorite place. But I don’t. Sounds like I’d like it, he says. Yeah, I know you would, I agree.

The silences are growing longer. He forgets words, has a hard time expressing his thoughts. We’re brothers, so it’s no big deal. We just shrug and go on to the next subject. But his bottomless pit of stories is vanishing. The pun derbies aren’t there anymore. 

Eating breakfast at Bobo’s we get mismatched coffee mugs. He points out that while his is quite manly, mine would be great (pause) if I were a girl. There he is! And then he’s gone again.

As he becomes more unsure these days, I worry about what we can do to stay in his comfort zone. We can’t do a lot. 

But we can walk. We love to walk. 

When you walk, you don’t need words. We fall into our familiar stride, Smith Boy legs perfectly in synch. The silence is comfortable, the sound of the breeze in the trees and footsteps on the trail. 

We threw bluebonnet seeds along a stretch of the trail a couple days ago. Hopefully it will be our little legacy, a half mile to remember in coming years. He was always the world’s biggest bluebonnet fan. Maybe they’ll outlive us both.

It’s a hot day. I remember that I forgot sunscreen. And water. And how great it is to spend an afternoon with someone whose friendship you cherish.

We come across a plaque next to the spot where we planted the bluebonnets. It’s something about the artists who created the sculpture nearby. “We should make a ‘Rick and Gary’s Bluebonnet Field’ plaque and stick it on top of this,” he says. Still an anarchist. I love it. And he remembered my name, a quiet joy these days.

We get a coke at the Sonic and drink it at the park next to the mosaic pickup. I ask where the water from the river comes from, and he has no idea, even though he was always an authority. But then he sees a TV reporter shooting remote a couple hundred yards away and tells me his name. Used to be a reporter at the paper. Nice guy. How is this the thing he still remembers? WHY NOT FORGET THIS GUY AND REMEMBER BIG BEND??? I hate Alzheimer’s.

But what can you do?

 You can walk. 

We go out again in the evening, on his neighborhood out and back course. He tells me about houses, the people who live in them, the history of the neighborhood. We debate whether the pit bull on the other side of the fence can jump high enough to clear it on the way back. He says we should do something with his brothers. Have I met them? I smile while my heart breaks.

Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience, Emerson said. He’s wrong. I have no time for patience. This is the guy who gave me Thoreau’s “Walden” as a pup because he knew I needed it. Who’s going to look out for me now?

There’s nothing I can do. Embrace the silence, pack away the memories of the moments. Enjoy every sandwich. 

And walk. 

So that’s what we do. A quiet time with a friend. Miles in the bank. Start the taper. left foot, right foot. Repeat as necessary …


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