Saturday, September 01, 2007

Traffic safety

My pal La Simpatica has been having a tough time of it lately, so we went out to lunch together yesterday to discuss life's problems and get the hell away from the madness that is our place of work.

Our destination was on the other side of campus and you have to cross a couple of busy intersections to get there.

We had our lunch, mulled over our problems and got up from the table feeling a little better that we had had the opportunity to at least vent a little.

I am sure I have mentioned that La Simpatica is a very attractive woman. Guys kind of can't help drooling while they are talking to her and at one point an undergrad was making a serious attempt to get her out on a date. What I may not have mentioned is that she is also in possession of, for lack of a more elegant phrase, knockers. Whoever designs this womans bras deserves a Nobel prize for engineering. I'm impressed and I'm not even batting for her team.

At any rate. We got to the first of the very busy intersections which are now buzzing with lunch time traffic. Suddenly, SUV's being driven by straight guys who wouldn't touch the brakes if there was a brick wall in the middle of the road are slamming on the brakes, goggle eyed, grinning like idiots and wildly waving us across the street!

La Simpatica looks at me, smiles and says, "These big boobies will do it every time."

I think if the girl decides to change jobs she has a big future in traffic control.

Friday, August 31, 2007

They're back.....

I was running a little late this morning, so it wasn't till 6:30 that I was walking down Fenway on my way to take the train to the gym and there they were. An army of SUV's, mini vans and station wagons. The students are back and anyone with an ounce of sense will avoid any retail outlet or tourist venue for the weekend.

I arrived in this city myself as a student, but this was back at the dawn of time, so things were a bit different. Generally speaking, once you were out of your parents house, you were on your own. Some people were getting a bit of financial assistance, or pieces of furniture from various basements, attics or garages and maybe a few bucks pocket money to tide them over the first few weeks. Now, anxious parents are buying out big box stores, purchasing condos, depleting the stocks of supermarkets and arranging everything short of au pairs for their college student offspring. Wide screen TV's? My friends were lucky if their parents relinquished the old rec room black and white set with a coat hanger for an antennae.

I can only assume that these parents intentions are the best, but I don't think they are doing their children any service. College used to be a rite of passage into adulthood. Now it seems more like an extension of day camp. Institutions of higher learning are viewed as high end baby sitting services and it is somehow the universities fault if their kids are not doing their work, making decent grades or are getting into trouble. Working at a school I am fortunate in that I have very little contact with the undergraduates. I hear stories though. There are parents that are calling on a weekly basis to make sure that their little darling is dressing warmly and that angelcakes special requirements are being met and that no one is doing anything to upset those delicate sensibilities.

It's not just the freshmen either. One friend at work told me about a couple of cases where graduating seniors had their parents go with them on job interviews to negotiate salaries! In one case, after the kid started, he got yelled at by his boss and his mother called his place of work the next day, very upset, because her little darlings feelings had been hurt! Isn't that just so special? I personally would have fired the kid on the spot. If he doesn't have the maturity to fight his own battles or at least keep his mother shut up, he has no place in the work force.

Parents need to back off. Cut the umbilical. Push the kids out of the nest. Choose your metaphor. We wonder why the country is in the shape it's in? Maybe it's because we have decided that no one is capable of taking care of themselves and that it is the responsibility of education and employers to continue to hold the hands of peoples adult children. Does infantilizing young adults improve their ability to cope with the real world? More importantly what are these parents thinking?

Speaking as a middle aged man with a mother who still persists in trying to dictate to him, I can say that having a meddling parent is not even remotely helpful. The only lesson I took away from it was that when my daughter went off on her own I adopted a noninterference policy that has held me in good stead for the past several years. The daughters mistakes were hers to make and if it was painful to witness, it was also a bit gratifying to watch as she mustered up the maturity and courage to deal with her own problems and to feel as though I had played some small part in helping shape her ability to function as an adult. Of course, I am with rather limited means, so there has been very little I could do to smooth the path, but I didn't feel the need to call up her bosses and tell them to stop being meanies when my little angel was having troubles at work either.

So, all of these really special college kids are once again invading our fair city. They will congest the sidewalks, be rude and feckless and feel as though it is their right to behave as badly as they choose. That, yes as a matter of fact they do own the sidewalk and the amenities, that they have been assured by their doting parents that they are indeed entitled to do exactly as they please, that it is wrong for others to behave in exactly the same way if that will upset these little prodigies and everyone really should get out of their way and let them do what they want or they will throw a tantrum.

The first few weeks are always the worst, then classes and the New England winter weather drives them indoors and they are somewhat less underfoot. Oh well, there is always Memorial Day and the grand exodus to look forward to.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

One of those days

Going to the dentist this morning and finding out I need 4 teeth crowned was the best part of my day. I'm not joking.

By the time 2:00 rolled around I was ready to douse myself with gasoline set myself alight, jump from the roof onto a pile of sharp rocks. If I could have figured a way to arrange a convoy of semi's to then come barreling through, I would have done it.

I have been really busy lately with one big project, and a lot of little projects. The big project looked as though it was doomed to failure. I had been having to deal with a group of people, all of whom had opinions. All different. Decisions kept getting delayed, people kept changing their minds and the clock was running. Somehow, I managed to bring it in on time. This involved a certain amount of begging, pleading and groveling, but I did it.

That is when all the small projects decided to turn to shit.

You are probably asking, "Where's Monkey?" The answer is buried alive under the steaming pile of shit that has been dumped on him. The most that either of us have been able to do for each other has been to occasionally drag each other away from our respective desks, in order to prevent us from doing harm to ourselves or others.

So, imagine my surprise when I got a call from a florist asking for directions to my office. A short while later I was in possession of a big basket of cookies directed to me and the Monkey. RG having heard ALL about our recent travails decided we needed cheering up.

Yes, a glorious basket of sugar and carbohydrates! If you think I give a shit about my diet at this point, you are sadly mistaken. I don't think we are planning on sharing and since there are no asshole cookies, we won't be giving any to our oppressors either.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Back to school

I was reminded yesterday, by C., that next weekend is the Labor Day weekend. How the hell did that happen? While the past couple of weeks have, by virtue of the stifling weather, crawled by, the summer has pretty much flown. What ever happened to the long lazy summers of my childhood? What ever happened to the warning shot over the bow that summer is drawing to a close?

I sometimes have a hard time after 30 odd years of life in the city remembering what summer was like when I was a kid, though I can remember the signal to the end of summer as clearly as if it was yesterday even though the world of rural Vermont where I grew up is as far away and improbable as a fairy tale.

The true signal to the end of summer when I was a kid would be the day that Doris would announce that we would be going to Rutland to shop for school clothes. My father worked for the state, so payday arrived bi-weekly on Thursdays. When the fateful Thursday would arrive, we would get piled into the '53 Ford and head up Route 4 to Rutland. This was before the days that the highway had arrived and we would take the winding road, through Castleton, Hubbarton, Putney, Ira and West Rutland, traveling from the valley up through the foothills, past Birdseye Mt. Farms and isolated homes were the furniture of the landscape in the distance the mountains would loom green in the foreground and indeed going to purple in the distance. The cool days and cold nights not yet setting the mountains on fire with the colors of autumn.

Looking back now, I realize how dangerous some of these stretches of road were. Narrow roads cutting around properties and natural barriers, semi's barreling around sharp turns, but the sensation of traveling through the hills, in between them and sometimes, precipitously on the sides is not to be compared to the rather pedestrian experience of the safe, gently curving highways that would cut across natural barriers and through forest, farmland and the granite of the mountains themselves and would replace these old roads.

Eventually, the old Ford would pull into a parking space hot as an oven. Those were the days when air conditioned cars were a rarity for the wealthy, or at least the middle class who seemed wealthy to us. There were no rolled down windows on those days. The best we could hope for was that we would be allowed to open the wing vents to let some air circulate in that rolling steel oven. Doris would have done her hair put on a nice dress and heels and in my early childhood, gloves and a hat. In those days a woman would no more think about going grocery shopping without getting properly dressed first than she would contemplate leaving the house naked. Any woman foolish enough to go to the grocery store in curlers would be talked about for weeks over coffee in various kitchens.

After a final spray of Adorn, Doris was ready to face Rutland and was not about to be mussed by any refreshing air pouring through open windows. We had not escaped either. We had been scrubbed, combed and dressed and threatened with the direst of consequences if we dared to even think about getting dirty before we got in the car. Somehow, we managed to escape the fate of some of our friends and were not throttled by having to wear ties. I guess even Doris thought that was overkill.

For all of the dread that school shopping would bring, there was also the frisson of excitement. There was Woolworth's, Fishman's, Montgomery Ward's and Ames. There was the annual visit to the shoe store, where our feet would be measured and if we could beg the change off our mother, the florescope that let you see the bones in your feet! I don't remember any ritual order of shopping. The progress through the stores was ad hoc. Sometimes if we had been behaving and Doris was feeling generous, there would be an ice cream sundae or a banana split at the counter of Woolworth's with it's shining glass cases, the bright appealing colors of the desserts on display and the enticing smell of the nuts in the roaster at the counter.

Mostly though Doris was all business. Pastel button down shirts and perhaps the occasional plaid. Slacks. At St. Mary's, indeed even at the public school, jeans were forbidden. In hindsight the idea that blue jeans were forbidden as school wear in a farm district, where most kids were doing barn chores before school and stepped off the bus to do yet more work at the end of the school day seems more than a bit odd, but it was the case. Instead we wore slacks. Not chinos, slacks. Glenn plaid, herringbone, houndstooth, tweeds and flannels. Everything, to our howls of protest, was purchased with room to grow. Pants that would later be taken up in anticipation of being "let down" as the school year progressed. Cloths were held up, sweaters were forced over heads, arms stuffed forcefully into sleeves. A process to be repeated in each store we visited as childish patience was exhausted and maternal patience worn thin with the cry of "Do I have to?" Until finally the dreaded day was done, all parties tired out, the Ford pulled into the driveway and We were dressed like miniature adults, heading off to our offices. It wouldn't be until I was in my junior year of high school that the school systems would finally catch up to the flood of change that the 60's brought, but in 1963 the 50's of Ozzie and Harriet, Father Knows Best and residual McCarthyism was still hanging onto our little corner of the world with a death grip.

Within a few years, everything would change. My parents alcoholism would deepen, and my mother would pronounce that she was not going to waste that kind of money on clothes that we would only outgrow, cheap clothes and seconds would become the norm in order to save money wasted on children that could be better spent on beer and shopping would take place in outlet stores.

Viet Nam which was a strange place half way around the world and only existed in geography books would burn itself on the national conscience and a war would be watched on TV's across the nation and our country would find itself in a storm of change because of it.

The highway system would cut through mountains and farmland where the old country routes had skirted and meandered around properties and natural barriers and would both physically and metaphorically bring the rest of the world to our doorsteps.

But before that we lived in a brief window of time which looking back as an adult, only existed in my perception of the world as a child. Untroubled by a larger world, that made Burlington on the other end of Lake Champlain seem as distant and exotic as China had not yet broken the spell. Childhood still unaware of the ugly changes that were taking place in our own family. The biggest worry was changing from Sister Perpetua's class to that of Sister Grace Mary and the dread of being bathed within an inch of ones life and then sent off to the first day of school.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Happy Birthday RG

After a very quiet 3 days off, I took RG out for dinner for his birthday. Needless to say it was a very entertaining evening. I had intended to take him to my favorite neighborhood trattoria. I did not however have the foresight to check and they were closed for summer holidays. So it was off around the corner to another neighborhood spot for lots of carbohydrates in cream sauce.

2 glasses of wine later we were in fine spirits. I should point out that neither of us really drinks. You can imagine. We talked about families, men and general nonsense and I think RG had a good evening. As hard as it may be to imagine, the boy is even funnier in person than he is on his blog. Not that he doesn't have his serious side, but even when discussing serious matters he is one of those rare people that can keep his sense of humor about things.

It was a fine night after a rather oppressive weekend, so we ate outside and RG made sure to grab the chair facing the sidewalk so he could people watch. It was a great evening for sitting outside and watching the life of the city go by. Being old farts we also managed to reminisce about the bad old days when we were both much younger and gay life was, at least to our eyes, a bit more colorful. All the while people wandered past, presenting themselves for RG's appraisal. It's always nice when the world decides to cooperate.

Eventually the check came and fortunately there was no embarrassing moment with, oops, I don't have enough money and then RG suggested we head off for coffee to counteract the effects of the wine. We went to the Starbucks near the Landmark Center, a mall, office complex which back before the surface of the earth cooled had been a Sears. It is one of those post war buildings that while mass produced is actually quite handsome, and even if it wasn't, it made a great perch to watch all of the new college arrivals. We compared notes and came to much the same conclusions about everyone we saw pass by.

After a rather long period of brain deadening at work, the evening was a great remedy. After all what is better than sitting around with a friend and reviewing the past, checking out all of the new cuties and making a spirited attempt at digesting a big dinner.

Tomorrow it's back to the grind, but for tonight it was nice to have a summer evening like I remember good summer evenings being, back when I was younger and the world seemed greener.