I Rode in the Rain

It may be the reason I have struggled with depression much of my life. Could it be that simple? That I didn’t ride my bike enough?

It might be a little bit too early to come to that conclusion, I only just recommitted myself to riding, but I’m going with it.

I hated myself early, too early to know exactly when, but I remember saying it into the mirror. “I hate myself.” Probably 4th or 5th grade. Jr High School had it’s ups and downs, the last year of it, 9th grade, was my favorite year of school. I made friends I still have (or again, thanks Facebook). I played drums. I smoked pot. High school was tough though, which I often attributed to my own choice of schools, In NYC we had some choices. I chose Music over Drama (Music and Art over Performing Arts – two schools which later merged into one. The latter was the subject of the movie Fame). I chose distance over proximity to home, so, sometimes I’ve blamed the commute, 45 minutes each way by subway. Sometimes I’ve just blamed myself, and my own insecurities.

But in the summers when I was dragged to Connecticut by my parents, someplace I didn’t want to go, my brothers and I rode our bikes all day every day. We would start with 6 miles to a park and rec program in the town, where we would play softball and soccer and other games until noon, then we would ride back, more often than not taking the “scenic” route. We explored, we discovered.  We knew our way around better than our parents, every road. We would re-appear to take a dip in the Long Island sound when we got hot, and then back on our bikes. One year we decided to ride to an annual family weekend trip to Shelter Island. The rest of the family drove, but my brothers and I rode to New London, took a ferry, crossed long island, and took another ferry to Shelter Island. On the way back we averaged 20 mph for 20 miles  to catch the ferry back to New London which left only once an hour. My older brother led the way, I was next as our younger brother disappeared from view. I tried to catch up to tell our older brother we needed to wait, but I couldn’t. So we arrived on time, and as the ferry was about to leave without us, here comes our younger brother around the curve. He rode right onto the boat, as we walked on to the applause from other passengers. I’m remembering it accurately.  We were famous. And we were in really good shape.

I’d end those summers excited to return to school, a feeling which would last a week until I fell back into my more typical funk. I sometimes attributed my happiness during those summers to pot smoking, wondering if I would have been happy if I had smoked more consistently throughout my life, but now I see it was a combination of the two, with much more credit due to the exercise than I have typically ascribed.

I dreampt, back then, of biking across Europe or the US. I wanted to bike everywhere. I didn’t think that through, never made a plan, how I would climb the Rockies, or carry supplies, like a tent, a change of clothes, for example. But I believed. In those days I believed in possibilities.

So now I’m back, easing into a daily routine. I biked 10 miles today, not like the old days, but hell, that’s ok. I am also content to get through one Spanish lesson on duolingo and one on Mango each day and it’s doable. It will take me 2 years to get through them all, but what’s two years when I’ve spent decades in failure?

Even just that feels great. And I’m beginning to lose weight. Well, muscle weighs more than fat, but my stomach is shrinking. I even feel overmedicated for my thyroid, so I cut my dose. Regular exercise of one hour per day significantly improves thyroid function according to a study in India.

Was this all I needed to do to be my best self? All this time? Crazy right?

I don’t want to obsess about lost opportunities. Yes, it might have been nice to be happy for most of my life, but whatever. What else would have been different that I don’t want to be changed at this point? More importantly, it’s not too late. Does this mean I can actually be happy? Have I finally figured it all out?

I knew it would seem simple once it came to me.

So I checked the weather last night and it didn’t look like rain but you can’t believe weather people. I check every night, but I sometimes feel that when I start into a good routine, God throws obstacles in my way. It’s as if I’m not supposed to be happy, or maybe I’m supposed to learn to persevere, I don’t know. But I keep waking up, stretching, getting my water bottle ready, dressing up in my t shirt and shorts (I don’t wear “the uniform”) and socks and sneakers. I tie my shoes (I’m just trying to make this sound like a lot). And then I step outside to discover it’s raining. Today was one of those days. Once before I ran instead of biking, because I was scared to bike in the rain, but I hate running. I need to bike.

So, I did some internet research. Turns, out, you can ride in the rain. The skinny tires of road bikes actually don’t hydroplane. You just have to a little careful to brake slowly and not take turns too fast. So I went anyway!

It’s a little bit of an exaggeration to say it was raining. When I first stepped outside it was drizzling. Once I hit the road, it was wet, but it didn’t rain anymore. When I rode beneath trees, they dropped a little bit of rain they had been saving just for me, to reward me for my efforts (thank you, that was sweet), but other than that it’s not raining on me anymore.

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 Fame School

I auditioned for the fame school. I’ve always told people that I actually went to the fame school.  That’s because, at the time, there were two divisions of the same school, and I went to the other one, the one that wasn’t in the movie. But we had the same principal. And they used our students as extras. That was just maybe a year or two before I got there. My older brother was in the movie, and on the soundtrack, in one particular scene in the lunchroom where, like, a thousand musicians are playing at once. For awhile there he would receive royalty checks for, like,19 cents.

Used to be people knew what I was talking about when I said the fame school. But the movie may not be in the common domain of cultural literacy anymore. I’m dating myself. Young people never heard of this movie.  They made it before I was even there. That was over 35 years ago. I know there’s been a television series and a remake that was a flop and nothing like the original, which wasn’t ever my favorite movie anyway. I didn’t think it was really like that, but then again, I wasn’t really there, was I?

They both had music. But that was the only art they had in common. The one that was in the movie also had drama and dance, and ours had Art.

I went to Music and Art, for music. I also auditioned at Performing Arts for drama. It was competitive, like only 10% got in. And I got in.

I really should have gone. I’ve done well making the best of life after regrets, we all make mistakes, and I wouldn’t change anything, because I don’t want to give back what I have earned. But I loved it, acting. I didn’t choose it because I guess I didn’t fully realize how much it was the thing that engaged me. I truly believe that I would be a completely different person if I had gone there. It would have been the difference between being drawn out of my shell, or driven into it. That stark.

I didn’t trust myself. Maybe if I had a therapist then, I’d have been self aware enough to know what was good for me. I always wanted one. I still do. If I were rich, I’d go to therapy, like, a few times a week. If he/she were good, or even not. It helps just to have an excuse to say what you think out loud (that’s also what this is for). I don’t want to be sexist. In most cases, I’m not like this, but I think I’d need a he. I doubt I could  be completely honest with a stherapist.  She’d have to be particularly good. What I mean by that is non-judgmental. And I would have to be able to see it.

The audition was great. My Jr High school had a drama program, but I was in music. I acted in a community theatre outside of school.  I worked privately with one of my acting instructors to prepare for the audition. I was late, because I also had an audition for the music department, which I botched, and then I showed up, like, 4 hours late for the drama audition.

“Are you A. Lawrence?” Some girl asked.  A student volunteer. Most everyone there was a student in the acting department. They had been looking for me. I explained the other audition. She said, “yeah, I play the drums too,” and she air drummed. I didn’t believe her at the time, but it was probably true. Everyone has played the drums at some point in their lives.

They took me to a room, where I waited. They wanted me to write an essay about some shit, sounded made up.. Another student came in and did a spontaneous skit with the proctor. I was getting the feeling that this was part of the audition, so I got up and complained about my pencil.

“Huh?” the guy said. The girl helped me out.

“You heard the man,” she said.. “Get him a new pencil.”

I went back to my desk and another girl came in and asked if this was the place to audition for the drama department.

“Yes it is, surely is. You’ve come to the right place. Now we’re going to need you to do a bedroom scene with, um, that fellow over there.” he pointed at me. I smiled.

Shit like that kept happening.

I auditioned, with two solo scenes. One was an adaptation of something old into something new, and I don’t know. It was a long time ago.

Then they wanted to do something else, but it was late and they needed more students, so they asked me if I could come back the next day, Sunday. I still thought that everything they said was an act, and a test, and so I told them I had to go to Church. If you knew me and my family, you’d think that was really funny. Well, my mom actually went to this school, and this teacher knew my mom, and was like, “Church?”

“No, not really. I’m just kidding,” I said.

So I came back and they filmed us, a bunch of us, acting like animals. I wish I could see that film. I had just seen some performers on a variety show of sorts, can’t remember their names, acting like apes and I thought it was cool, so I chose an ape. I had some good play with this other kid who was a monkey. I bet he went there. We could have been friends. We could have remembered the audition together forever.

You know what else? I told them no, but they thought I said yes, somehow. I went to M&A and a friend of mine who went to PA told me they called my name in his homeroom.

I could have changed my mind, even after school started. But that would have taken guts I didn’t have.

I actually flipped a coin, I’ve always told people that’s how I decided, and it may be true. Seriously, I was leaning towards Drama, and I flipped a coin on a fluke, not expecting to take it seriously, but when it came up drums, I felt strangely compelled. I liked the drums too. And my brother was at Music and Art, and I wanted that to be the answer in some ways because of that. The coin toss allowed me to consider it, and I thought it felt like maybe I should to it. I felt a little relieved with the idea. But really, I think it was just the path of least resistance. I had my own thing.

Oh, this is such a sad story.

I’m Not Prejudiced, I Hate Everybody

I was in a team building event for work recently and the facilitator asked us whether we like people more or technology more.  Only one person was brave enough to raise his hand for technology.  When asked why he liked technology more, he said, “I hate people.”

I’ve been in a funk lately and the longer it lasts the more I hate people too. Earlier this week my daughter had a chorus concert, the second of three this month (don’t ask me why), and I arrived straight from work and a friend of mine took a picture of me sleeping and posted it on whatsapp.

She did the same thing at the last concert, and I got mad. So when she did it again, I got madder. I told her I was mad, and that it was disrespectful to the chorus and it made me look like I was the one being disrespectful. I know I used the word “fucking” somewhere and I heard her ten year old daughter say, “ooh.”

Anyway she apologized and said she didn’t realize it would make me so mad and she wouldn’t do it anymore, which is good because I’m pretty sure I’m going to fall asleep at the third concert.

End of story? No. My wife is mad at me, because she thinks I shouldn’t have talked to her like that in front of the rest of us. She thinks I should apologize, probably because whenever she does me wrong, I always end up apologizing to her.

I hate people.

OK, maybe it was good-natured fun, and maybe I’m overreacting, and maybe I’m overreacting because there’s something else going on with me. The question I have is, does anyone care about me? Does anyone care that this pisses me off, whether you understand why or not? Does anyone stop to think, Is A.Lawrence ok? What else might be going on with A. Lawrence?

Is it even such a big deal? It lasted two seconds. I said my piece. I got it off my chest. I’m not holding a grudge. For God’s sake, I had just woken up. Is that worse than making fun of people? She didn’t kill my dog, no (as my wife felt compelled to point out). But I didn’t kill her dog either.

Right now, as far as I’m concerned, I would be fine not being friends with anybody. I’m as angry, more so actually, at my wife. She encouraged it and laughed at it and now she’s giving me shit and telling me to apologize. We had an exchange over text about it, which I ended with, “when I get home tonight, don’t talk to me.”

I hope she doesn’t talk to me for days. Maybe if people weren’t in my life I could live the way I want to live, for once. I’m in a mood, I know. Maybe it’s me. Maybe it will wear off, but I don’t know if I want it to.

Reinvention

Once I reinvent myself I’m going to be better than all of y’all.

There are always things I want to do, like read more books, write a novel, learn Spanish, eat better, exercise, lose weight.

I’d like to be skinny. I think I’d feel better, physically. And look better. 

Still, I’m not talking about defining reinvention by some measurement of goal completion. I’m talking whether I can become a different person. Someone who doesn’t care what people think, has courage, and confidence. Can a person change what they believe?

For example, I can’t choose to believe something that just didn’t make sense to me, like that stuff about Jesus. 

But can you be young again when you are old? Can you effectively travel through time and reinvent, not just who you are, but who you were? Can you create this fiction about your past, if you want to?

What if you can turn yourself from a person who failed a lot to someone who always succeeds, from one who regrets to someone who has always been grateful for the  miraculous good fortune, that has always befallen him.  Maybe it isn’t fiction.What if yo remembering more of your successes than your (supposed) failures. We all have them. Can the narrative you tell about yourself redefine you in the present?

And even if it were fiction, even if I made up the fact that I had a wonderful life and it wasn’t even true, does that matter? Does it matter if it helps to reinvent who I am today?

I had a friend in 1984 named Larry Wachowski. He was a fanatic Cubs fan. He won a bet I made with him at the beginning of the season that the Mets, who had the year before finished poorly, I don’t remember where the Cubs had finished in 1983, would finish better than the Cubs. The Cubs ended up in first, and the Mets in second. When the Cubs clinched the division, even though it was at that point, already, a foregone conclusion, he came to my dorm room with a bottle of Jack Daniels, our drink – in that he had introduced it to me – to celebrate.  I said, “oh, you fucking asshole,” and then we drank it.

I liked who I was then, in that moment, even though my team had lost. And then I rooted for the cubs in the Series.

That’s a moment I can be proud of. Just being who I was then was a success. When the cubs lost, Larry put his hand through a window pane.

He reinvented himself. I only know this because he’s kind of famous, not because I’ve kept in touch.  He reinvented himself and he’s a girl now.  Maybe he would say he was always a girl. Semantics. I thought about him just this week because the Cubs have finally won a World Series. And I wonder if she, is as happy about it as he would have been. Would she have put her hand through a window pane if they had lost, again? I hope so. Because you gotta like a girl like that.