Benbino and the Bureaucrat

3 Oct

The Benbino is not a particularly rebellious or adventurous child. Though he is blessed with better than average motor skills for someone his age, he also has a cautious core that has thus far spared us the thrill of getting a call from school saying he has fallen off the top of the monkey bars, and he’s fine climbing about halfway up our Japanese maple. His taste in clothes and haircut are moderate and he remains rather clueless as to the signals a given “look” transmits.

We have taken an incremental approach to encouraging his independence. Neither Ali nor I are particularly fond of video games (for entirely different reasons, I think) but his grandfather bestows enough largess on him that he could have bought five or six Wii systems by now if he so chose – we told him he could buy one with his own money, and thus far it hasn’t been a priority. His household chore list is very short.

So when he asked, just before school opened, if he could walk the half-mile home by himself, we offered a compromise. He could leave the school grounds by himself, cross busy Buckingham Street where the crossing guard can monitor him, and walk down a very lightly traveled road into our neighborhood – and I would wait at the bottom of the hill. I try to be less than hyper-paranoid about ills that may befall him, but would feel better if he could find someone else to walk with before we let him go solo.

I told him the best way to get from the door he’s let out of to get to the crosswalk – the best sidewalk to take to avoid the bus driveway, mainly. And he said OK, sure, he’d do that. And things worked great the first week or so. Then, one day, he told us matter-of-factly that the new principal had met him and told him he was to leave from a different door in his route. We shrugged.

Then, one day, he said he had to cross the street by himself. The guard was too busy directing the traffic in the driveway where parents picked up their kids — the new principal was afraid kids would run out and get hit, though it had never happened, and had instituted a single-lane guard-assisted procedure that had the guard running between posts.

“But I was careful,” he said, and that was that.

So imagine my surprise the other day, when Ali and I were going to pick him up so we could get his passport renewed. There was no crossing guard, but there was a police sergeant at the crossing, and the Benbino and four or five other kids were clustered around him. He was directing them down to the next crossing, one which Ali and I don’t like because it empties onto a much narrower street with bad sightlines.

“It’s OK, Officer,” I said as I crossed the road. “That one’s mine. I’ll take him.”

“No, no,” the stalwart public servant replied. “He has to cross down there.”

At which point, I rather emphatically told him I was the Benbino’s father, was present, and was now in charge of him, and that the kid was NOT going a block down the road only to have to come back up on the side without a sidewalk. The cop then got all coppy, offering me an opportunity to “talk it over in his office,” and we were going at it pretty good when a lady with a clipboard appeared. I told her the principal had told my kid this was where he was to cross, and we had assumed this was the agreement, that the kid had had to cross one day without a guard being present, and that from all appearances, the school staff was not capable of the rather simple task of making sure my kid was gonna make it across the street safely. The lady said it wasn’t a matter of that, but rather that there were staffing issues. She and the cop then proceeded to discuss things, and I took my kid’s hand and left.

This little exhibition ingrained in my child I don’t know what, other than that he was not terribly impressed with the policeman’s demeanor. Then he told me the lady with the clipboard was indeed the principal herself. We drove downtown, filled out the passport paperwork, and came home. I got on the Cannondale for a cool-down ride, and when I got back, Ali said the principal had called to apologize.

I was rather unmoved, and with good reason. I told the Benbino that, try as his mother and I might to give him more freedom, the school administration was showing itself unable to deliver him across the street, and that we would go back to the old way, of me walking him to the sidewalk in front of the school and picking him up there in the afternoon. The nanny state, conceived in fear and bred in incompetence, starts early in Watertown.

Monday morning, I briefly relaxed that and let him go down the wheelchair ramp to the crosswalk in the bus driveway by himself. When I turned around the teacher on duty outside was talking to him at length and pointing down the sidewalk. Uh oh. I went back. The principal came out again with her clipboard.

“After our last encounter I thought we had things straight,” I said. “Obviously, I have to bring him all the way to this sidewalk.”

Interestingly enough, the teacher told me she had not told him he had to cross the road at a different spot, but that she told him she just wanted him to be safe. That afternoon, Ben told me she told him he had to go in a different door than the one he went in, which worked fine for the kids getting off buses and walking from the other direction, and since I saw her pointing that way, I am sure he was telling the truth. It was orders for the sake of orders.

So now we walk across the bus driveway crosswalk every day together and I drop him off only after he’s safely directly in front of the school doors. I tell him I’ll see him at 3, and out of the corner of my eye I notice whatever teacher is on duty avert her eyes, and he goes in to the penitential delight public school continues to be.

A freelance pastoral: All things being equinox

22 Sep

We were driving back from a wedding in Springfield when the missus expressed the whole thing very succinctly: “My business model doesn’t work without the bank, and your business model isn’t enough to drive the household.”

So the great experiment in self-sufficiency comes to an end for us, after eight years. She is going back to an office. She is already extremely well thought of there. She is very good at what she does. She will be well compensated. In a stagnant economy, we are grateful.

Yet I also feel a mixed sense of accomplishment and failure on my part. I retain enough of the template of my parents’ generation, of Dad going to the office and Mom staying home, that I am not entirely sure I did all I could to allow her to continue to enjoy the freelance life. Which, rationally, I don’t think is true. We both realized we needed a plan that included boosting the freelance bookings as well as seeking full-time work.

In boosting my own freelance bookings, I was successful. In fact, it got to the point that my schedule was so full I asked myself more than once if going it alone – and paying full freight for health insurance – was really worth the semantic difference in nomenclature. And, ironically, now that she is going back to work full-time, I have had to undo much of the work I did. I will be responsible for the Benbino every afternoon after school now, and have discovered that, in all practicality, I can realistically work a half-time schedule – and just before Alison reached agreement with her workplace, I agreed to a half-time deal with a health technology magazine that was launching a new web site and needed someone with experience to supply content for it on a regular basis. So, I’ve had to tell clients with whom I’ve worked for several years I need to take a break. Yet I still somehow feel as though I did not do enough.

In reality, though, I’ve been in the writing market for 30 years, and I know what a writer of my experience and skill should make – and I make it. I’ve been able to build a national clientele within the narrow publishing niche I found myself in. It’s just not a very well-compensated craft. I know lots of very, very good writers who have moved into better-paying fields. I’ve never been given a serendipitous opportunity to leave journalism and never pursued an exit. I did leave daily newspapers just about in time to escape the industry’s implosion, and have been, for the most part, very well rewarded intellectually since, which is important to me.

But the whole idea that people who communicate, to the best of their ability, the unvarnished facts of daily life are among the worst-paid for those considered erudite and educated is still something I can’t quite figure. Maybe it’s a supply and demand thing. Maybe it’s a perception problem: a couple weeks ago, we went out for ice cream and saw some people we know. We hadn’t seen them in quite a while.

“So, how are you?” our acquaintance asked me. “Still writing?”

Do we ask lawyers if they are still lawyers or physicians if they are still doctors?

She caught herself before I answered.

“Of course you are.”

Of course, but I am placing less importance on it these days. The ski hill will beckon shortly and I bought the Benbino a season pass to accompany mine. I’ve long said the secret to freelance life was not to covet the week in Aspen but to truly enjoy the midweek special at the local lodge. That part of the life I’m not giving up. Or the Indian lunch buffet, and I will be sure the missus can accompany me now and then. I owe her more than that but a nice big plate of tikka masala and some Indian rice pudding makes any day better no matter how one’s salt mine is organized for tax purposes.

Childish things

15 Aug

Until a couple months ago, I hadn’t been to a batting cage since sometime in 1990 or 1991, when the Gannettoid cretins who had taken over the Poughkeepsie Journal newsroom committed another one of their bonehead moves. I was so frustrated I got up from my desk, and said to my editor, “Jesus H. Christ; I gotta hit something. Might as well go to the batting cage and make it useful.”

She just nodded. As I stormed out, the features clerk asked me where I was going.

“To the batting cage.”

“You have the greatest job,” she said. When I moved to Syracuse she got my job, but I don’t know if she ever hit the cage. She didn’t have that tightly-wound makeup of old infielders and goaltenders and I think her career path was smoother than mine has been.

And in the ensuing two decades I rarely thought about hitting a baseball, until I found myself teaching the Benbino the proper method of wielding a bat – stay comfortably crouched, most the weight on your back leg, front foot about halfway back along the plate, and back elbow at a good 45-degree angle. Then, short timing step, bring the knob of the bat down and point it at the ball…keep the wrists cocked and the right elbow in close to your body, then, BLAM! Snap the wrists and follow through.

It seems to have worked OK for him. He really knocked the snot out of the ball a couple times this year – one game he had a sure triple, maybe even a dinger going, but he was so excited he hit it so far that he missed first base by a foot and I yelled at him when he was most the way to second: “Get back here! You missed the base!” So he ended up with the farthest-hit single of the season for any Dodger.

He’s not playing Fall Ball, but says he still loves the game and wants to play next spring. So I signed him up for one week of formal baseball camp this summer and one week of town rec sandlot camp, which is the next best thing to the way we did back in the day, everybody riding their bikes to the junior high diamond and spending the afternoon on the field.

But he also has some weeks where he just hangs with the ‘rents, and we split the work day and the Benbino-watching. I try to get him out to swim or play catch or golf most days, and suggested we do BP at the local school recently. He briefly sagged but rallied, and we hit two buckets of 25 each, alternating pitching duties. We had an hour or so left to kill and I said, “We’re going down to the batting cages in Shelton,” because the only fence at the school is an impenetrable patch of poison ivy about 150 feet out in left field, and I had my juices flowing. I wanted to pound some baseballs, and already had one minor bout with the ivy this year.

“Awwwww.” Damn, that’s a long, whiny sound. Hate it.

He picked that up from PBS’s Arthur, the anthropomorphic aardvark, but off we went, anyway.

I had visited that cage earlier in the spring, in the middle of his season, just to make sure I wasn’t giving him bad advice, like those idiots who scream “Get your elbow up!” And I found I was still OK on the 54-mph pitches but just tipped the 72’s. At the time I couldn’t figure out if I had lost some reflexes or if the machine was hard to hit because there’s no discernible release point – the ball just drops from a hamper and out of sight momentarily, then shoots out of this dark hole.

The same thing happened last week, and even the 9-year-old had trouble.

“This batting cage stinks,” he said. “We’re not coming back.”

I think he has a point. And rationally, I also wonder if a man my age has any business trying to hit fastballs, anyway. But I always think better of such self-limiting balderdash. Are we ever too old to try to be quick, to be sharp, to hit the fastballs and curveballs life throws at us? Is it too much to demand that we be able to see that release point, or is the “foof” of a yellow range ball shooting at me out of the dark at 72 mph a reminder that we better accept the whole inscrutable package with more grace than I can muster most days?

Free parking

25 Jul

I’m not one to wax sentimental over having had cancer. I don’t join in prostate cancer online forums, I tell the poor schmucks who call from the Cancer Society that I never got any outreach from them when I needed something other than a solicitation call, and I fail to get choked up over the Relay for Life. I’ve had relatives die from various forms of cancer, one from childhood leukemia, and when I look at the Benbino I can only begin to imagine what his parents went through. On the other hand, my grandmother and Dad both outlived aggressive malignancies by many years.

So I didn’t know what to expect when the University of Connecticut Health Center sent me a postcard last month inviting me and a guest to a New Britain Rock Cats game in the hospital’s annual cancer survivors’ day celebration. But far be it from me to turn down a free ball game. So I called the number on the postcard to say hell, yeah, I’ll come to your ball game.

“And you’re the survivor?” the nice woman who answered the phone asked.

For some reason, I felt as though I had been placed in a special category by the tone of her inquiry. And I began to ponder what, if anything, I “owed” other people who’ve had cancer, or who may be diagnosed with it some time down the line.

The one thing I’ve really become passionate about since I went through the diagnosis and testing stages was the absolute paucity of any sort of efficient online resource for men who have received the basic data with their diagnosis but no real road map of how to proceed. I remain convinced to this day that the only reason I ended up being very satisfied with my care at UConn was because my professional skills include the ability to get very granular with online search. I even approached two of the leading online “patient advocacy” sites offering my professional services as a curator of information…but there’s no money in that stuff, except for a very few people, and one of the first lessons you learn as a cancer survivor is that surviving means you still have to make a living. So I’m not going to offer that skill set for free to people who have a revenue model that doesn’t include me. I’ll be happy to help friends who might need help, but that’s a whole different story.

So I went to the ball game. The invitation said I could participate in holding the giant American flag in the pre-game ceremonies, but I already marched out on the field at the Watertown Little League outing, so I didn’t plan on that. I was prepared to pay extra for a “premium” parking space near the gate, though…but the parking money lady asked me if I was with the UConn group and told me parking was free for us. It was also very far from the stadium, but you know, you just keep following the guys’ motions until they tell you to stop. And a 400-yard walk is not a big deal at this point in my life. It was delicious closure, too. One of the ancillary salient selling points of going to UConn rather than Sloan-Kettering was the easy drive and free parking for my wife, and the chance to look out at the Farmington hills rather than a brick wall from my hospital bed.

At the gate, they gave me a ticket and a wristband that entitled me to a lukewarm burger and as much free soda as I could hold, some of it even cold. I went to my assigned seat and moved after three innings to an aisle because I don’t like being hemmed in in a ballpark any more than I do in a city. It started to rain the fifth inning and I opted to leave rather than risk hanging out in the concourse for an extended period of time with 4,000 strangers. I trudged the 400 yards back to the car and drove home, awaiting the return of Ali and the Benbino from their week at the Jersey Shore. They got home about three hours after I did, having spent the afternoon with the cousins in Red Bank, playing 70’s arcade games. I helped Ali unpack the car. We all went up to bed. The dog was overjoyed the whole pack was together again.

At my last annual visit with my surgeon, I told him that, other than one pronounced biological change, I very rarely thought of myself as a “cancer survivor.” He said he was “delighted” to hear that, that that was exactly what he aimed for.

I know I was lucky, and I wonder how much of that luck stemmed from my usual efforts to avoid procrastination, to build in redundancy, and to be honest, but not brutally honest, with people. Just as I tried not to get too down during my treatment and recovery, I try not to get too giddy over “beating” cancer.

Some day I won’t beat something and that will be that. Until then, if you do a good job, I’ll tell you, if you make my day brighter I’ll tell you, and if you fall short I’ll tell you and try not to be too hardassed about it. I don’t always live up to my ideals but when I slip something usually comes along to remind me before too long; if I owe anything to anybody, I guess it’s the ability to recognize those reminders and thank the bearers in an appropriate fashion, whether it’s to thank somebody who makes me smile or to tell the unsolicited caller who’s selling “free” rug shampoos if I’ll let her demo her vacuum that I know all about the 3 square feet they clean and ask her to take me off the list, now. There’s no free rug shampoo and no free lunch, at least no free lunch worth eating, but there’s enough free parking to remind me things are pretty good.

Diamond triage

19 Jun

The Sandlot is one of the Benbino’s favorite movies — not only is it about one of his favorite pastimes, baseball, but the first and middle names of the hero match his. There’s just enough naughtiness to set his little 9-year-old heart aflutter, including a nifty insult exchange between the ragamuffin sandlot boys and the bourgeois Tigers, in which the foremost cut is “Oh, yeah? Well, you play ball like a GIRL!”

Truth be told, one of Ben’s teammates is named Lilly and is one of the top three or four players skillwise on the team, so even without benefit of all the legal knowledge behind Title IX, the Benbino knows that insult doesn’t ring true now, if it ever really did. To give the insult any credence, I told him, we’d have to change it to this:

“Oh, yeah? Well, you play ball with IMPROPER MECHANICS!”

He’s coming to the end of his second year of organized ball, and I don’t know whether or not he’ll continue next year when he should move up a division. If he doesn’t, it won’t be because he has improper mechanics. I started him early on the proper way to throw, the proper way to catch high pops and field grounders forehand and backhand, and the right way to swing the bat so his hands stay inside the ball and the wrists snap hard at impact. He’s displayed those skills well to the point that I would place him among the top dozen or so kids in the division. He can hit, he’s our starting pitcher and has yet to let a game get out of control for us, and he’s usually reliable in a fielding situation.

Don’t misconstrue my coaching to be that of a guy who’s obsessed with making his kid an all-star, win-at-all-costs prodigy. I’ve just always believed that one can take much greater enjoyment out of any activity if one exhibits a base amount of competence. Ben has displayed such competence in baseball. He’s also displayed a sense of empathy in an unusual place — though he’s fully capable of throwing as hard as the toughest pitcher in the league, he simply refuses to, “because I could hit those kids and hurt them!”

“Don’t worry about that,” I tell him. “Your job is to get those kids out, not to safeguard them from a wild pitch. They’ll get out of the way.”

Or maybe they won’t. When Ben was 6, we enrolled him in a town rec “sandlot” camp for a week, supervised by players from the high school team. I asked one of the high school kids if I should enroll Ben in tee ball.

“Nope, don’t do it,” he said, spitting out sunflower seed hulls every now and then as he dispensed advice to an old guy. “It screws ‘em up. They get bad swing ideas. The ball sits there and they all try to hit up. It takes at least a year to fix that once they get into live pitch.”

He was right. Ben’s team has three or four kids who moved from tee ball to live pitch this year — one of the little guys would put the ball on the tee in practice, close one eye and make like a logger lining up a good axe chonk into a big old tree trunk. After a couple practices, a couple of the newbies displayed a tenuous grasp of how to swing a baseball bat, but once we got into game situations, only one came within shouting distance of remembering. The rest stand there petrified. They freeze. They get hit by pitches and cry. Maybe they’ll come around next year and maybe they won’t.

And I found myself wondering why the hell we’re starting kids at age 5 and 6 in organized baseball when the vast majority at that age have neither the attention span nor motor skills to make the effort worthwhile. By the time a kid is 8 or 9, it doesn’t take a wizard to be able to tell, within a couple hours, who’s a ball player and who isn’t, who’s spent time in the back yard with Dad or an older sibling, and who’s just been showing up for eight or nine practices and a dozen games a year and hoping that somehow the ball will stick in the glove or hit that bat by magic.

And after watching the futility among those without the skills or attitude (or both) to improve, I’ve taken what some may consider a very callous attitude about coaching baseball for children: The earlier you start them, the earlier the winnowing process starts in terms of where I decide to spend energy coaching. When I was the Benbino’s age, I spent hours throwing into the outlines of a strike zone, trying to improve my accuracy. The Poughkeepsie Little League didn’t start kids until 8: that first year you had 11-year-olds throwing smoke past you, but you either learned or stayed a stiff. Those pitchers were old enough to have nourished the competitive fire within, and they didn’t think about not playing baseball because they might hurt some kid who really had no business standing in the batter’s box in the first place. And any 8- or 9-year old had a very demanding peer group of older kids which compelled him to improve. I don’t see that today; I see reassurance for mediocre effort.

I’m not going to push him next year if the magic’s gone out of baseball for him. It may come back, and he has some natural gifts that may simply be too strong for him to deny. But I would feel bad if he gives it up because we have created an atmosphere of bland participation to protect those who don’t belong in that particular competitive arena in the first place.

There’s no crying in baseball, and there are also far more appropriate spots to be cultivating a Franciscan sense of charity. I thought triage was supposed to separate the wheat from the chaff instead of creating some sort of covalent bond.

That Old House

14 May

My cousins just held an estate sale at their mom’s house, which also was the house in which my dad and his seven siblings grew up. I remember many a family gathering there, from the time I was old enough to have a memory in the early 1960s to a baby shower for my cousin’s daughter a couple years ago. I told Pop he should go over before the sale started to see if there was anything in the treasures the girls found that he might like. I also thought he might like to go because it’s unlikely he’ll get a chance to go back to his childhood home after this.

And he was more or less unmoved. He did go, but the only thing he thought that might still be there was some old Deutschmarks he brought back from his days in the army. He certainly didn’t express any wistfulness. Maybe I thought the place held more significance for him because of all the childhood memories I have. But when I thought about it all a little more, what really happened was that I was reminded how ambivalent I am about my own childhood home.

That little brick house doesn’t really hold any significance in and of itself for me. It’s small, originally a two-bedroom to which my folks added a bedroom and bath when I was 5, but there was no elbow room anywhere in the house, and it was laid out in such a way that I always felt hemmed in. The front yard hosted just about a football game a day from the time I was in third grade through sixth grade, but the house itself, no. When it comes time for my brother and me to sell it, I won’t have too many pangs. As I grew, I spent far more time over at Jimbo’s house. His dad was a builder and the house had a nice semi-open layout, with a big kitchen and big living room, a patio, and a pool. Truth be told, we spent a lot of time during our collegiate and immediate post-college years at the home-built bar in the basement, but the fact is that I always considered Jimbo’s place more of a refuge than my folks’ place.

I have much more attachment to the place we have now, the century-old, leaky-basement, unplumb floors, funky-pipe-and-wiring box colonial we moved into 11 years ago. I don’t feel hemmed in here. The living room is big enough to swing a short golf club in, or to teach the boy a good batting stroke or to have a rousing game of Stinky Goalie. There’s enough closet space, just about, for three, and the kitchen is laid out perfectly to move from counter to sink to counter and stove. Of course, if the time comes that we have to sell, we will and I doubt I’ll wax too sentimental.

My maternal grandmother nearly had a breakdown when she had to leave the house she had lived in for 68 years to go to a nursing home. My Mom, I don’t think, ever really got to think that she wouldn’t someday get home after she broke her pelvis, but three weeks later she was dead, the last 12 days unable to communicate except through short notes. That little house I felt crowded in was hers, one she had saved for for five years as a single career girl, as they called young women like her back in the day, but I never asked her if she felt quite as attached to it as her mom did to the farmhouse.

I don’t know if the boy will ever feel the itch I felt, which may be natural . . . no matter how cozy the abode, it must surely get on young nerves. But if he has to come back, and we have to take him, I hope he won’t feel too claustrophobic. It’ll still be his home and I would hope he would feel able to grow as fast and far as he needs to, or to retreat to regather his moxie, no matter what the circumstances. My folks did the same for me and I owe them that, small house or not.

Happy anniversary to us

4 May

No, it’s not our anniversary today. That’s coming up on the 16th, but since the Crown Prince’s birthday is the 19th, our anniversary has taken a back seat to birthday party prep or Little League or what have you for quite some time. We quietly celebrate; given the CP’s recent favorable opinion of his introduction to chicken tikka masala, maybe we’ll all three of us go to Middletown for Indian.

I know a lot of people who remember a lot of milestones about their relationship; as Eric so recently remembered the 25th anniversary of the day he and Marcia met I know lots of other folks who somehow commemorate their first date or some other romantically significant event with a certain amount of gravity.

You’d think that as a historian by training, I’d be all over all the significant dates between the missus and me like white on rice. But I’m not. I do remember the first time I saw her walk into the Journal newsroom, but I was married to somebody else at the time, and other than thinking the managers had hired another cute kid straight out of college, didn’t give her introduction to Poughkeepsie another second’s thought, and certainly couldn’t tell you which day it was. And by the time we had what might be considered an “official” first date, which consisted of dinner at Millie Riera’s Seafood Grotto in Redondo and a trip to Grauman’s Chinese in Hollywood with my old friend and roommate Bobby Dumas to see that movie where Gwyneth Paltrow’s head is implied to be in a box at the end, I think we already considered ourselves as more or less a couple. I can tell you that happened sometime late in September, 1995, but the exact day I’d have to look up.

Outwardly, I suppose we don’t exude a romance vibe. When we did decide to make our union official, I can’t even remember the impetus. I did not die of suspense about whether she loved me enough and buy a big rock and get down on one knee. And we were more or less settled on grabbing a couple people off a sidewalk in Santa Barbara to be witnesses until her Dad asked her to please make it a family affair; my Mom, bless her heart, who by that time was 72 and not a great airplane traveler, told us good luck, but she wasn’t flying from Poughkeepsie to LA to see us for three days.

Our gifts to each other are thoughtful but not achingly so; they’re certainly not extravagant. Valentine’s Day is but a blip. I do make her a humorous handmade birthday card every year; that seems to have become a tradition. We don’t write each other poetry even though we both make our living manipulating the English language with a fair amount of facility.

And yet, and yet…a couple weeks ago, right after the CP had drifted off to the deep slumber a busy 8-year-old settles into, I was casting about on the bed for reading material. Our semi-austerity budget has kept me from buying a new book lately, and I was at a loss as to which of my favorites to re-read. Ali reached into the pile on her side of the bed and tossed me a thick and well-thumbed old red volume.

“You haven’t read your Cheever in a while,” she said. “Read that.”

Of course, I figured she had read my Great Cheever’s Ghost post that had gone up just a day or two previous, but no. No. “No, I haven’t had time to get on Facebook,” she said. No, it’s simply that for an astonishingly high percentage of the days I have spent with her over the past 17 years, the universe has demonstrated that as much as two people can be in tune with each other, that is Ali and me, whether we remember the date something happened or not.

It is a gift from the Almighty that knocks me damn near speechless most the time, but for an anniversary that’s coming up, I think I owe it to said Almighty to let It know the profound depths of my appreciation. And if Ali gets some time on Facebook, maybe she’ll see the link — not that she needs to read it, really, any more than she needed to read that post to know it was time for me to brush up on the Chronicler of the Suburbs again. She just knows.

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