Archive for October 2017

Mi Cumpleanos

So I approach another birthday, insignificant in terms of celebrated “zero” numerology, but it’s still there and has to be navigated.  I think these are “speed-bump” birthdays, but they’re becoming less disruptive, and more complicit in abetting my hurtling to dusty doom.

It’s like I’m cruising along, as we do in a comfortable car that befits our age, registering the occasional Mail Pouch barn painting, even perhaps a Burma Shave collection of signs (Sleepy?/Just remember, pard,/That marble slab/Is doggone hard.), when I check my speedometer and - shit! - see it says 68.  I was sure I had put it on cruise control at 50.

Even so, it’s just a blip.  When I hit this late October birthday, in recent years, I’ve been thinking that, Hey!, even if I get a diagnosis, I’ve got one more summer.  And since I mostly avoid my doctor, I’m unlikely to even have a diagnosis.

So here we go again, one more lap around the celestial wristwatch.  Look forward to my 69th.

Hello, Seattle, 43 Years Ago

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So I’ve been watching Mad Men fitfully for a couple years on Netflix, haven’t pushed into the last half of the last season just yet.

It beguiles and intrigues me because it’s set in the 1955-1965 time when my parents were reaching the apex of their youth and surfing, however timidly, the incredible surge of the post-war economy and culture.  Of course, there’s the costumes and props and maddening telephone technology in Mad Men that resonate, but also wisps of the urgent issues of the day, and how the writers ingeniously filtered them through office culture.

I worked at summer jobs at my dad’s manufacturing plant ( they made glass for General Motors) in the late 60s, and, although we weren’t working in a Manhattan high-rise, we were still firmly attached to the skeleton  that underlay the social and professional fabric of the country, so in so many ways my dad’s office in middle America was just a door or two away from Don Draper’s.

43 years ago, perhaps to the day, (I’ll close this loop in a moment), Mrs. Perils and I returned to our post-college digs in Bowling Green, Ohio, from a breathtaking trip to Seattle, took a look in the mirror, and decided that we were going to be those guys that, as Huck Finn said, lit out for the territory.  We hitched a 4×8 U-Haul to my ‘67 Pontiac Tempest and headed for Seattle.

In the Mad Men episode I just watched, Don has just walked out of a meeting in Manhattan and begun driving west, to a future as uncertain as we faced in 1974.  Somewhere around Cleveland, the ghost of Bert Cooper appears in the passenger seat and recites Kerouac: “Whither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car in the night?”

The question, of course, is existential and not merely geographical.  It was sufficiently laden with emotion in the Mad Men plot, but - and I’m not a crier - I found myself suddenly weeping (in a manly way), a late-summer squall exposing long-forgotten topology.  Where was I (we) going back in October, 1974, taking leave of family we knew would feel our absence and (probably) question our choice?  By all measures, we’ve had a wonderful life, and connected deeply with our families, but at the time it didn’t seem so certain.

I think “Whither goest thou” is a trenchant question for life’s next adventure.  And this car, this formerly shiny car, nonetheless seems up for another cycle around the odometer.


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Suddenly it’s October, my birth month, and there’s a bite in the air and a decidedly more severe angle to the sunlight, as if it’s beginning to ration itself, as opposed to its June - August profligacy.

In its honor, here’s one of the most gorgeous pieces I’ve ever played, Eric Whitacre’s October for concert band.  This recording is from the 2013 LGBA (Lesbian Gay Band Association) concert that Betsy and I traveled to Atlanta to participate in.

It’s a tone poem, and ingeniously imparts the possibility of warm, brilliant days in October, while constantly reminding that it’s a month of inexorable attrition, decay and loss, as its mood swings from  brilliant brass to minor-key woodwinds.

October - Eric Whitacre: