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A. Lawrence G.

just thinking

Let’s write about something important today.

I left Atlanta to visit my daughter in Pittsburgh last weekend. Actually we went there together to move her into her new house for her last year, and then I came home. I left from work and met her at the airport. We checked her three heavy bags, just under the limit, and ate at the sky club. I had jambalaya and a Sweetwater IPA with pineapple. The jambalaya was good. She had some mac and cheese and a little salad.

Our Lyft driver in Pittsburgh was less than a year younger than me. I know because he graduated high school in ‘83, and I was always one of the youngest in my class. He also told us that Pittsburgh was as upset when the Falcon’s lost the superbowl as if it had been the Steelers. They hate Tom Brady that much.

The new house had personality, and a great location. I got to meet one of her best friends who had already moved in. She made her room choice which was up another flight of narrow switchbacking stairs. Then we walked up “the hill” to her old place where we stayed the night. Her old place was nice, I had never been. It was well kept and clean, it had multiple bathrooms and a nice well stocked kitchen (there were many containers of gum in the drawer underneath the microwave). She showed me the bed and the chest of drawers that had to be moved, and the desk and the containers in the basement, and I decided to explore what it cost to get help. I found Big James through the U-haul website that I had rented our truck from, and decided to go for it. Best decision I ever made in my life.

We went out to dinner that night, took Lyft downtown to a thai restaurant she really liked, had dumplings and soup and shared a shrimp curry dish. Then we went to Hemingway’s, a bar back near the university where she once tried to get in with a fake ID which they pocketed telling her to, get out.  “Ok” she had said, and then called her friends who were already in there. This time they examined her out of state license for a long time before finally giving it back and letting us in. Despite being named after Hemingway it wasn’t at all like the Twains, or Steinbeck’s or James Joyce bars we have in her home town. We looked for homage to the writer but the closest thing we found was a picture of the guy that does the commercials for Dos Equis. The most interesting man in the world. They had a DJ and it was loud, but I wasn’t the oldest person in the place.  We had two Bell’s two hearted IPA’s which were on special, and yelled at each other for awhile. Then we walked up the hill to her old place. It was 1:30AM. We weren’t sure if anyone else was there (there wasn’t) so we were quiet. I slept on the floor on her sleeping bag. In the middle of the night I realized I needed a pillow and grabbed one from nearby that wasn’t hers (she was just storing it for a friend).

The sun woke us early, though we lied around for a bit. Our plan was to pick up the U haul at 12:30 run around and pick up a desk chair, end table and air conditioner that were for sale, and then meet Big James at 2. We took the bed apart and packed any loose items and were ready for the next step around 10:30. So we called the U-haul, moved our pick up time to 11, got there and waited in line for half an hour, took the truck, bought the used items made it back to the old place, backed ourselves perpendicular to the street into a spot that wasn’t big enough for the van and drove it up onto the sidewalk, and figured we still had time to make a first run, if we hurried and only took the easy stuff.

We loaded quickly, drove to the new place, and moved the stuff only to the first floor living room. We still hadn’t eaten lunch, but we were going to be late, when Big James called to say they were running late, we grabbed a couple of tacos from the stand across the street from her new place. Then headed back to the old place.

I was having trouble parking the van. I had to move a cinderblock while I was struggling to get the van up on the sidewalk. The owner of the house came out to ask me what I was doing.

“I don’t want to get a flat. I can put it back where it was when I’m done, if you want.”

“I’d appreciate it if you put it back when  you’re done.”

“So it’s there for a reason?”

“Yeah, so people don’t do what you’re doing.”

“Ah.”

Then we collided with a car that tried to scoot around me while I was trying to park. I told him it was his fault, he asked me about insurance and whether I had any damage, muttered something about Maaco and seemed relieved that I didn’t want to go to insurance, and left.

That’s when James appeared outside the window. It was a good thing we made a trip because the rest of my daughter’s stuff barely fit.

Within two hours we had loaded everything into the new place, even arranged the room a bit and most importantly, got the air conditioner in the window. Then I built the bed while she put things away. Then we went to eat again. We ate at a place I had been before that had perogies and $5 Mules, my 21 year old had the dark and stormy, and I had a long island mule.  Had soup, again, and shared a french dip sandwich.

Then we took the bus downtown and walked across a bridge to the incline, which we took up to the top of Mount Washington for a couple of selfies.

In the morning we ate at a local diner, had some “hotcakes,” that one reviewer gave only one star because they were, in his view, crepes, not hotcakes. But they were good, so who cares what you call them? We also had eggs, and toast and coffee and potatoes. All good.

Had some keys made, and I just had enough time to make it to the airport for my flight.

Everything was going my way. I was the last one on the flight, it was first in line to take off and I even got my pretzels and a club soda before things went south.

So now a flight attendant started looking out the window one row in front of me and across the aisle. Another flight attendant came and they all seemed like they were trying to look out the window. Then they pulled the cart back. I asked the guy sitting there what he saw. He said he didn’t see anything. Then the pilot comes on and says that they have some indication of a mechanical problem with the plane and will be diverting to Knoxville, and the next thing you know we are descending fast. We landed hard and there were fire trucks outside. They told us to stay put while the fire personnel did a once around, found nothing and we pulled up to the gate. A mechanic came on board and this is when we found out that the flight attendants weren’t looking out the window but they were leaning in because they thought they smelled smoke.

The woman in the row blamed it on her husband’s new french cologne. He asked her to stop saying that.

We deplaned and were told they would check out the plane and either we’d leave on the same plane, or they’d send us a “rescue” plane.

After a couple of  hours we got on the same plane and headed home. The couple that had been sitting in that row had apparently rented a car and finished their trip that way. Meanwhile I found out that they had examined the plane top to bottom, had removed all of the panels for multiple rows, found nothing, but had talked to the couple that sat in the only row where anyone thought they smelled anything and the couple admitted that they had been to a bonfire the night before, and had “changed their clothes,” (I guess that implies that they had not showered), but that everything they had still smelled like smoke.

How about that?

So, good weekend, and an exciting finish.

The voices in your head

This is not who I am

This Old Man

I can make you see me

 

I always have

existed

I’m sure of it

 

the Voices in your head

Ok don’t

Listen to them

 

But that’s who you are

They are.

Not this name

 

Those who named you

Their expectations

Are only guesses

 

But keep faking

We have ways of speaking

and smiling through

An Optimist

I’m an optimist, though my wife thinks she’s the optimist. Now, it’s true that I often seem dissatisfied, with my career, my accomplishments, even who I am. I’ve wished I was someone else for most of my life, honestly, except when I was pretending to be someone else as an actor. When I was playing a role, I was someone else and I liked that. She accepts her lot, says she is happy, has much of what she wants and can live without the rest. It is what it is, to her, at least she says so, and I have no reason to disbelieve her. So she may be happy. But happiness and optimism are not the same thing. I may be unhappy, but I believe things will get better, despite all of the evidence to the contrary, despite years of trying, despite regrets and failures. That’s optimism. I’ve been learning Spanish for 40 years! A pessimist would have given up by now. 

I’m also a romantic. My wife would probably laugh at that, I’m guessing, but she doesn’t know me as well as she thinks she does. I don’t think we have the kind of relationship where it feels safe to be romantic, to tell you the truth. It’s my fault (of course). In seriousness, I don’t know who’s fault it is. Blame it on the cow. But neither one of us is particularly romantic with the other, at least not the way that I define it. She may think that a nice dinner out is romantic, or a trip. She may think that the time she packed a bag for me, and surprised me at work and swept me away to a bed and breakfast for my 30th birthday was romantic. Most people would probably agree with her. In fact, writing it down, it does sound like that.

But the kind of romance I wish I had isn’t defined by anything she’s done or I’ve done or even think to do. I consider myself a romantic because I want that fantasy kind of love that people who don’t have it say doesn’t exist, that honeymoon that lasts forever. I want to feel like I can’t live without her, that she makes me happy, all by herself, and that I want to be like her. And I want her to feel the same about me. I want to love her so much that I believe in her when she doesn’t even believe in herself, that I can convince her how great she is, and help her to be her best. And I want it back. I’m not saying I’m a romantic just because I want to do romantic things. I want to feel it.

Now, maybe they’re right, maybe this doesn’t exist. Being romantic may be like having faith in something that has no scientific support. I’m not saying that it’s rational. I’m just saying it’s what I am.

I don’t think that she has that kind of faith. But I could be wrong, Maybe she’s just given up. Maybe we just haven’t found that niche with each other.

We have good times. We laugh together. We have, over many years grown towards each other, become a bit more like each other, whether we originally wanted to or not. But after all these years I still feel like she doesn’t really know who I am, or doesn’t appreciate who I want to be, or doesn’t believe in me. She shouldn’t have to. I don’t want her to lie. I should believe in myself. Maybe I convince her. Or maybe I test her love by being who she doesn’t think I am, who she may think that she doesn’t want me to be, and give her the opportunity to love that… or not.

Now there’s an interesting standard, a way to measure love? Why not? Not all love is the same. Maybe the gold standard of love, the highest level, so to speak, is when you want to be the other person. If you really appreciate what it would feel like to be her, then when you’re with her, you would take it on, empathetically, like it’s contagious. Or him. And if you like how it feels, who you have become in that moment, then you want to spend more time together. And the other side of that is when she does that to you, you get to appreciate yourself through the eyes of another. She, or he, helps you to appreciate your own self. But you need to get each other right too. You don’t want someone appreciating you for something you aren’t, and don’t want to be. That’s expectation to be something you’re not and pressure to change. He needs to appreciate her for what she wants to be, and vice versa. She needs to show him who she really is, and vice versa. That’s our part. Two people who feel like that about each other will grow stronger individually and as a team. They would learn from each other’s strengths, and leave the weaknesses to stagnate. Oh, and they would love each other. A lot.

What Scares Us

Something happened

A long time ago

To make me feel unsafe

 

Probably

A very minor thing

I can’t remember

 

Maybe it was when

The other boys

Told me I looked like a girl

 

And laughed at me

Though it was

Just the truth

 

Sometimes I think

It would be easier

To have been a girl

 

Because I wouldn’t be afraid

Of laughter

Or of  being masculine

 

Tell Me

I am not honest with people. It bothers me. I think that it is what makes me feel like people don’t know me. It’s not because I have some big secret (I always wondered why I always feel like this; what am I even hiding?)

It’s because I don’t tell people what I really think. And then I feel like I’m pretending. Would they still like me if I did? I don’t give them the good advice that friends deserve, even when they ask for it.

It’s because I’m scared I’ll do more harm than good, and I might. I’m scared that the way I ran it through in my head won’t be the way it goes. Or that I didn’t even run it through.

“He came to my office and started complaining about someone. So I told him it was his fault,”

No preparation.

Do this badly, and you can hurt your relationship, at least. Maybe I am better off keeping it to myself. So, I do. After all I don’t have a good track record of convincing people I’m right about anything, even when I am. Or maybe it’s just my wife.

“I must have said it wrong.”

You have to tell the truth. But you also have to do it well.

This is something I have to learn. I can’t be satisfied with lying. I want to help people. I may not be good at this, but it’s important as a

  • Parent
  • Husband
  • Friend
  • Manager

to try your best, if you have any chance.

Interesting, this came up primarily in regards to work, but notice that I put “manager” last in the list.

This all makes me feel conceited. Probably another reason I don’t have these conversations, because I think it’s conceited to presume to know better than someone else. But maybe I do. More often I probably just see something they don’t, because I have a different vantage point. It’s not even like advice is unsolicited. People ask your opinion, either explicitly or they call for it some other way by what they do, and it’s important to give it to them.

You may give bad advice, but if you don’t tell people what you really think, there’s no chance that it can be good.

Hell, how can I be a writer and I’m scared to tell the truth? That’s just stupid. I should have put “writer” up there in that list. But where do I put it? First? Or second?

Why I Write

Look at me

I am an American

You know what that means

But in this Turkish coffee house

In Decatur, Georgia

Women wear the hijab

They sit in a circle

And lean in

Talking and laughing

The owner’s family is here too

With coffee colored babies

Yes I noticed

It makes me

Glad

That they can feel at home

And that I am welcome

Because that’s what they sell here

They sell welcome

Maybe I can cross my legs

And be less American

And maybe they wouldn’t judge me

Even the one

With the burka

Would she?

Stylish

Comfortable

Something to be said for headscarfs

And modest

Maybe they don’t want from men

What men are like

You know what that means

Don’t try to tell me

That American men are not

But the burka bothers me

If only because it reminds me too much

Of myself

I Pretend to Hate My Job

I don’t know how I feel about work. Sometimes I like it, but I seem to try hard not to admit that, as if I don’t want to like it. It’s because I’ve always dreamt of doing something else. I originally intended it to be temporary, this career, I told myself that. And then it went on and on and I have always felt trapped, like I just couldn’t get out. Maybe I lied to myself. Maybe I always intended it to be permanent. I mean, there’s got to be a reason I didn’t do enough about changing anything.

This is the best place I ever worked now. People actually do enjoy it. I enjoy it. I work with nice funny people. They are like friends. 

Do I feel completely comfortable there, like it is home to me? Am I relaxed enough to just be myself? No, but I rarely feel like that anywhere I am among people. What would happen if I did? I’m not even sure I’d act any different, I just usually feel guarded. What is it I would admit, or show people about me that they don’t already know? Would it get me fired? I’m sure they’d give me a warning first.

“A. Lawrence.  You’d better start pretending again. We don’t like this new you.”

“Yeah, you’re right. Sorry.”

But really, I’m already an open book. I probably admit way too much shit about myself, and yet I feel guarded. Like I’m scared they’ll see something I didn’t tell them.  What?

It’s probably worth it to think about this stuff. What do I really like about my career, job, life, and what could be better. I could like it if I admitted that I liked it, and that I don’t have to be scared of anybody.  What’s the worst that can happen? I could lose my job. But that’s pretty unlikely.  And if it happened, particularly because I was being myself, then it’s probably for the best.

I think I’ll try to like it. I want to like it. This is the best opportunity I’ve ever had to like it. It will help me to do a better job, which will in turn help me like the job even more.

Yup.  

I Don’t Want to Talk About Work

I wrote a poem this morning, inspired by the movie Paterson.  Ron Padgett, who actually wrote the poems for the movie anticipated this. In an interview with the PBS newshour he said,

“Maybe a film like Paterson will help some people say, huh, maybe I could write something like this too.”

But I didn’t know that when I wrote it.

 
It’s 7AM.
Time to start the routine
The same routine every day

I take a shower
Shave
Brush my teeth

Put work clothes on
And torment myself
Over whether to eat breakfast

But I don’t want to talk about work
I get up at 5
Or 6

I stretch
Or write

Who do I blame?
That’s what I want to know
That’s what I write about

Lately I’ve been having breakfast
And drinking coffee
And liking it

But I’m behind
Always behind
In my tasks

Maybe when I retire
I’ll keep a blog
And ride a bicycle

I’m Not Lazy (it just seems that way)

I didn’t go out much. I remember the few times I did hang out late in the city. Jr. High School prom night, for example. After the prom was over, a group of us just wandered the city. My date and I were ignoring each other. She didn’t really want to go with me, it was a long dance that led up to that night, complicated by the involvement of others to put us together, and an older guy that she was interested in, at least that’s what she said. She wrote in my yearbook, “sorry about all those broken dates” to immortalize it forever. I ended up talking with another girl at a swingset somewhere that we all stopped at along the way. She was someone that actually liked me, and we ended up dating for about four months.

There was a night much later when I was at Hunter College that I hung out with Raul Dennis and the Envoy newspaper entourage, they liked to call themselves that, on the roof of my apartment building before they put an alarm on the door to keep people from going there anymore. We climbed up and hung out by the chimney, and I played rhythms on the metal ladder, and Dennis was impressed. So was I, I was impressed with myself. I’m not very consistent, at anything, but I have my moments.

I thought that the roof of my building was one of the coolest places. I took people there a lot. The view was unique, if not the empire state building, or top of the rock, or the world trade center. I have pictures somewhere. I took them in 360 degrees because I wanted to blow them all up, stitch them together, and make a roundabout, where you could stick your head in it and look around and see what it was like. I had this idea that I could turn it into wallpaper and make my bathroom look like I was on the roof. Except for the notion of actually taking a shit on the roof, it was a cool idea.

I hadn’t realized there was slide film in the camera when I did this, so I never even stitched together a prototype. I’m not sure I even know where those slides are. I would never have thrown them out, but I swear it seems like I used to have a lot more slides and negatives.

But I was more of a homebody. I didn’t really like going out, at least that’s what I told myself. Either I was shy, or I really didn’t like the music most people were going to listen to, or the volume, or the crowds, or dancing. But I see now that it would have been good for me to get out, to watch life, the lives my peers lived, even if I didn’t participate. I might have understood the context in which we lived, and who we pretended to be. I imagine that it would have made it easier to be something different, or even influence what it was that defined our generation. We’ll be happier, in my opinion, if we know what we are expected to be. And also if we come to understand how much variety there is even among our peer group, then that can help us find the confidence to be unique.

My one and only reader (not really, but the others don’t SHOW  YOURSELVES) wrote recently that when you travel to where no one knows you, you can be anyone, even yourself. I’ve always embraced this idea, that you almost have to pretend to be someone else in order to shed the expectations of people who know you. To be yourself, you have to be free to be anything. But the opposite is also true. If  you know what you’re expected to be, by whatever group you belong to, that makes it easier to willfully divert from it. You need to know what society expects, if you are to rebel.  

I never really had the strength to rebel. I don’t feel like I ever really took charge of my life. I had an argument with my wife this morning on our way to the airport, she’s taking a trip. We were talking abstractly about people who are unhappy, because, perhaps, they just don’t take charge of their own lives. She said that they’re lazy. I was like, “I think that’s judgmental to call them ‘lazy’.” Then we got into a fight. I’m like, “I feel like you’re calling me lazy.”

“I wasn’t even thinking of you,”

“But you’re describing me to a T,” I said. “I’ve never taken charge of my life, I haven’t even learned Spanish, and I’ve been trying for 40 years, I have a career I always say I never wanted. Everything I’ve ever said I wanted to achieve in life, with writing, music, or political activism, I have not. I’ve never taken charge.”

Honestly. I’ve got issues. I lack courage. I’m shy. I lack confidence. I have trouble choosing between multiple interests. I may be over-analytical. These things affect my motivation. But it’s not just laziness.

I hate it when people call other people lazy.  I feel like, more often than not, the accusers are a certain type of person, it comes natural to them, and they expect everyone else to find it just as easy. They’re results oriented, direct. They make decisions and never look back. This is merely a particular personality type that certainly has value. But there are other personality types, which also contribute different talents.  Like the kind that triple check their answers, are more focused on getting things right than getting things done. Like those who want to bring teams together, get people to do the work collaboratively who may not really do the work themselves, but do facilitate the outcome. Diversity is grand, and needs to be understood and not judged. Calling people lazy is like saying there is no hope for them. Actually calling people lazy is lazy. Cause it’s just not that simple.

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