Tales from my Surfboard Part 7: Lake in Winter

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It wasn’t always me going back to Massachusetts. Sometimes Lily came to New York to see me. The biggest difference was that Massachusetts tends to be more accepting than New York. New York is extremely conservative in comparison to Mass. 

Many people may wonder why we didn’t just choose – Massachusetts or New York? Pick a location and move in together. We had that conversation many times over the years. In the end, I think we were both scared. Lily was afraid to give up her life and family in Mass to come to more conservative New York where we would both struggle and everything feels so precarious. I was in New York for a specific purpose – education – and it took me a lot longer to reach my goals than anticipated because life happens. In the end, it came down to fear and economics on my end. I could not afford to live in Mass and I didn’t want to be in a position of living with someone if I was not able to pull my own weight.

Probably our biggest experiment in this dilemma was the year when Lily rented a house on Cayuga Lake here in New York for 5 months of the winter. It was the off-season for Lily at work, so the only thing she was technically leaving behind was her family. She did travel back to see them. 

The house was a fully furnished rental that was someone’s lake house. The rental was reasonable in the off season. It was on a seasonal road that was never plowed and when not blocked by snow, was often blocked by trains passing. It was directly on the lake and had a gorgeous sliding glass door that opened directly onto the dock of the water.

There was a canoe and other boat apparatus at the cottage that we used on the water. Lily made sure to teach me that the water and the lake was beautiful, even in winter. 

Perhaps the water was even more beautiful then. Whenever a storm came up the coast, it produced good wake. We put on wet suits to help protect against the cold and even took our shortboards out on the waves. 

Cayuga Lake is inland, so the wake is not as good as the ocean. Winter waves move slow, small and lazy. We were were able to catch some. We also took the surfboards up to Great Lake Ontario. There the waves were better – more comparable to the ocean on a good day. 

Lily was able to find some temporary odd jobs to do while she was in the cottage in New York. I was working full time and going to school, so of course we could not spend every minute together. The experiment was to see if Lily would be interested in moving to New York to be with me permanently. 

Having Lily in Ithaca for 5 months allowed me to see the city through her eyes. It was like playing tourist in your own city. We went places and did things that I never would have seen or done alone. I remember we got to see Rusted Root in concert at The Haunt. Rusted Root was the band who did my graduation song. When I graduated from high school, we were the last graduating class allowed to have a song. When our song played, we all stood up, hugged each other, and shook hands. When the song ended, we sat back down. The administration said we were “disruptive,” so no graduating class has been able to have a song since unless it is an original song made by a member of the graduating class. 

Lily and I saw Rusted Root in concert. We visited the wineries and attended many plays of live theatre. We spent time together and Lily helped me to fall in love with the beautiful Finger Lakes region all over again. 

Sunday mornings we would wake up lazily. I remember sitting in an overstuffed recliner right by the sliding glass door with a good cup of coffee watching the snow fall gently on the lake. Lily helped to open my eyes to good coffee and taught me that life is too short to drink the cheap stuff. Go for the gourmet coffee, you will be happier for it. It is the small indulgences in life that matter the most.

Saturday evenings I would arrive at the cottage after work. We would walk the dog (Lily had a dog then), and play some flag football in the yard. Well, as much flag football as two people and a dog can play. 

At the end of the 5 month rental, I remember Lily saying that it was a beautiful area and that she loved it. New York was not for her. It is too conservative and stifling here. She went back to Massachusetts. 

Well, we can say we tried. 

On my end, I was even more in love with the natural beauty of the area despite all of the challenges of living here. Lily taught me to love the lake in winter. Sometimes the lake is more beautiful in winter than it is in summer. Winter is not something to be feared, but to be embraced. It has a beauty just as brilliant as the summer, even if in a different way.

Stay tuned for more Tales from my Surfboard … telling stories of lives of loved ones lost to COVID. 

My Quarantine Life: Week 102

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In a few weeks, I will be entering year 3 of shielding (as my friends across the pond call it). I am in the immune compromised / vulnerable group that the CDC and US President have both said “deserves to die” in the pandemic. The only time I am indoors with other humans is for medical.

While the government may say and think that my life is worthless, I am still here. I am still alive. I am very happy to be alive. My goal is to outlive the cats so that I can keep them together and take care of them.

Things here have been busy. In 2022, I have saved two lives. That’s a story for another blog post. However, even though I’ve saved two other lives in the first two months of 2022 alone (let’s not count the hundreds others I’ve saved previously), the US government still calls me “worthless.”

I digress.

Week 102 of my quarantine life, I am happy to announce that I finally replaced the vacuum cleaner that broke last year. I was unemployed for a few months, then trying to save money for a new vacuum, then waiting for the January home sales.

World, meet Frankie. Frankie is our robot vacuum that is now helping me clean. Purchasing a robot vacuum is one of the best purchases I have made in a very long time. 

The robot is incredibly smart. It goes around the cats when they refuse to move without bumping into them or running them over. It does an amazing job of cleaning. I can get all windows and surfaces clean while the robot is busy cleaning the floor.

I am so grateful for the robot vacuum, that I applaud it’s work every time it returns to its home docking station after it’s done working. Literally. I clap for the robot and thank it.

There was a news story a few weeks ago about a robot vacuum at a hotel in the UK that left the hotel. It went out the front door and just left. A gardener found it underneath a bush outside the hotel. I’m not sure if the robot got fed up with it’s job of vacuuming the hotel or if it just needed a change of scenery. However, I don’t want my robot to “escape,” so I applaud it’s work every time it’s done so that it knows I am grateful for the help.

The cats tolerate the robot vacuum much better than the traditional vacuum. Jolene is the only cat who is completely fine with any vacuum. Jude and Simon are both terrified of vacuums. Jude, however, tolerates Frankie. Simon does not hide when Frankie is working, which is a huge improvement. 

My life is going to be short. There is a very good possibility I will not survive the pandemic. With this in mind, I am so grateful for the luxury of having a robot vacuum to clean the floors for me in my final chapter of life. This robot is making my life so much easier, it is unbelievable.

I would highly recommend a robot vacuum to anyone who is able to afford one. Actually, when I was looking at purchasing a new vacuum, the robot vacuum was $20 cheaper than the traditional models. They are not too expensive if you get a basic or entry-level model. 

Approaching year 3 of quarantine, I am so grateful to still be alive and home with my cats. We are also thankful for our new robot vacuum, Frankie.

Tales from my Surfboard Part 6: The Game

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It was spring 2012 and it was Fenway Park’s 100th birthday. I was also turning 33 and hoping to finally see my favorite player, Jason Varitek # 33, at Fenway before he retired. Although I had made the pilgrimage “home” – to Fenway – many times, I had never been to a game. I just didn’t seem to have time or money.

I was in town for the weekend at the end of May for a race. I was scheduled to run Boston’s Run to Remember. I had contacted Lily to see if I could crash with her for race weekend. She was dating someone at the time, so we were “just friends.” I always asked if it was ok for me to show up when she was with someone so that I did not cause issues with her current relationship. If it was going to cause issues, I would just get a hotel room in Southie.

Lily said it was fine. She was working that weekend and they probably wouldn’t be home much that weekend anyways. I had a key to the house. I could crash on the couch and do my thing. Her current girlfriend wouldn’t mind.

On Saturday, I arrived about lunch time to drop off my stuff and park the car. I would take the T into the city to go to the race expo. The race was early Sunday morning. I went into the kitchen to drop my car keys on the table in case Lily needed to move it while I was in the city.

Sitting on the kitchen table was an envelope with my name on it. There was a single ticket to the day’s Red Sox game. I had definitely not been planning on going to a game. I was in town to race. The night before a race I am typically in bed super early. While the ticket was unexpected, I was also excited.

Lily knew I had never been to a game in-person. I was waiting until I turned 33 to see my favorite # 33 player. He had just retired that year, which completely took the wind out of my sails. However, Lily said in her note that she wanted me to be able to see a game at Fenway for the 100th birthday celebration and she did not know when I would be in town again to go. So she left me a ticket to go to the game.

I took the T into Boston and went to the race expo. After the race expo, I went to the game. It was a day long celebration. Before the game, I had lunch at the most amazing sportsbar just outside Fenway. This sportsbar even had TV sets in the restrooms. I could still watch ESPN even while going pee.

I had an amazing time at Fenway at my very first Red Sox game. I felt just like Jimmy Fallon in Fever Pitch with my own Fenway Family.  It would have been even more amazing if Lily could have been there with me. We would often meet at “home” – Fenway Park – in the city. Lily had to work, but we were able to facetime during the 7th inning when she was on a work break.

Of course the Red Sox won. I had the most amazing time of my life. I also had a little too much to drink, but it was Fenway and I was not driving. I rode the T back to the Cape and Lily picked me up at the T station.

I will admit I don’t remember a lot about that night, but Lily and her current girlfriend were still fine with me crashing on the couch the night before the race. They also had a bit of fun with me. When I woke up in th morning for the race, I had a bunch of Red Sox stuff written on me in red sharpie. I did not have enough time before the race to wash it all off. I had woken up late and needed to get to the start line. 

Waking up that morning before the race felt a lot like the scene in Garden State when he wakes up the next morning with stuff written all over him in sharpie. Lily and her current girlfriend took me in to the city and dropped me off near the start line for the race. It was one of the few times I actually had someone there to see me at the starting line for a race. Even though we were not “together” at the time, it was still nice.

That Red Sox game was one of the top highlights of my life. Even though we weren’t together at the time, she still knew me well. She gave me one of the best gifts ever. 

More than the game, thank you for the memories. 

Tales from my Surfboard is a series that remembers lives of people lost to COVID. Stay tuned for another installment … 

Tales from my Surfboard Part 5: Ren Faire

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Lily had a 3-day weekend off from work and decided to come out to New York to visit me. I only had the weekend, but that was ok. It was the early to mid-2000s, when I was still working in radio. One of the perks of working in radio was that we sometimes would do things in trade. 

Businesses would donate their product or service to us in exchange for radio spots. Of course, these were in addition to their paid spots. We could use the donated items for on-air giveaways, which gave more exposure to the business. Some of the items we could have as employees. We were limited to one item every 6 months. 

One item I chose every year was tickets to the Sterling Renaissance Faire. 

Lily arrived that Friday night once I was out of work. It could be a 7-8 hour drive from the Cape, depending on traffic. Of course, on a Friday, it seemed like she hit all the traffic from the Cape bridges to Boston to Albany to Syracuse. Still, she was generous with her time. Even after spending the day driving, she made dinner for me when I got home from work that night.

After dinner, we went into the backyard, where there was a firepit and some lawn chairs. Of course, there was radio too. I worked in traffic, which has absolutely nothing to do with traffic on the roadways, it is about traffic on the airwaves. I was the one responsible for programming my stations, telling it when to play music, when to play weather, and when to play commercials. If one of my stations was off-air, then it was either my fault in programming or some larger technological issue over which I had no control (like the transmitter tower being buried in snow). 

This was a hot August weekend, so Lily and I were in the yard and built a fire. We had the radio going. Not only so I could listen to be sure it was on the air, but also because I genuinely liked one of my stations.

We had a bottle of vodka to make gimlets. We stayed up late into the night drinking vodka gimlets by the fire with the radio playing. Sometimes we would talk, sometimes not. We didn’t need to always be talking to each other to enjoy one another’s company. We stayed up late into the night when we decided it was time for bed. 

We did not have any set time to get up in the morning. We just planned to get up whenever. It was about and hour and a half to two hour drive to Sterling. The faire did not start until 10 or maybe 11 am.

Saturday morning arrived bright and beautiful. We each packed an overnight bag. This time, we packed my corolla. We were in NY, and Lily already had a long drive to get here, so of course we would be taking my car and I would be driving to save her on driving. 

It was a gorgeous day for a drive. We listened to our driving music – typically Dave Matthews Band, as we headed northwest towards Great Lake Ontario. We made it to Sterling and parked in the grassy field as indicated. We spent the morning wandering the faire arm in arm. We loved how the people at the faire would stay in character and engage faire-goers “in the street.” We were all part of the show whether we intended to be or not. 

About lunch time, we had our time period lumch of turkey legs and mead. We watched the joust on the field. After the joust, we wandered once again, taking in the sights and the atmosphere. 

Lily and I ended up involved in a (staged) fight over some perceived slight. It had rained the night before in Sterling, so there was ample amounts of mud. It ended up being a fight in a mud pit and it was one of the best acts that both of us ever saw. We even ended up with mud on us too! There are little boundaries between act and spectator at the ren faire.

Lily happened to notice something new this year on the water. We made our way over to a small land-locked lake for the pirate show. Imagine being on a real boat in water, surrounded by pirates! It felt like we were on set for a movie scene. It was wonderful. 

The ren faire closed at dusk. We decided to head back to Oswego, where we had booked a hotel room on Great Lake Ontario to spend the night. Dinner was in order and we found this amazing sports bar on the pier called the Penalty Box.

It was only August, yet there was hockey on all the TVs inside the Penalty Box. Lily and I were in heaven! It was so great to be able to see hockey in August. After dinner, we took a walk on the pier and headed back to our hotel.

Our hotel room was right on the water. We sat on the balcony watching the ships in the harbor and the lights of bouys dancing in the dark. I remember telling Lily we had to get up early for breakfast. She did not quite understand why, but went along with it.

Sunday morning, we were up bright and early for breakfast. I hardly ever got up this early, but it was worth it. I was taking Lily to Charlie’s. 

Charlie’s has no phone, no address, and no sign. It’s one of those places that you have to just know where it is. Typically people find out about it because someone else took them there. We drove to the middle of town and I started counting streets to try to get there – that’s how I remembered where it was. 

When you arrive at the building, it doesn’t look like a restaurant. It doesn’t even look like a building. It looks like a large dumpster sitting there waiting to be picked up or an old boxcar that was left behind and is just sitting there forlorn.

You park on the street and walk into the boxcar. It opens at 6am. There is no set closing time. Closing time happens whenever they run out of food. Closing time could be 7am, 9am, 10am. 

You sit at a table and just wait. There is no menu. It is breakfast only and you eat what is served. 

The waitress brings coffee and orange juice. Then, she brings the breakfast of the day. The most amazing omletes that melt in your mouth, fill the whole plate, and taste better than any omelet you have ever had. I have also had French toast there that is the best French toast anywhere. Everything is served with hash browns, sausage and bacon, so it is a full American breakfast.

When you are done, there is one price for the breakfast you are served. There is a box up front for you to pay for your meal. No waitress is needed to check you out. You just put $10 per person in the box and you are done. Of course, you can put more or less than that in the box. It is an honor system. The place does a brisk business and always sells out of food well before noon each day, so I am sure they are doing fine. Remember to tip your waitress as well. 

When you stop to put your money in the box, you can see into the kitchen through the window. There is one man in there – Charlie, the owner. He cooks all the food every morning. There are two waitresses. 

After breakfast, we leave to go back to my apartment. Lily understands why we got up so early for breakfast. It’s just one of those places you either know about or you don’t.

Lily and I went to the ren faire together for a few years. It made for a fun summer outing in NY when we were not in MA on the Cape. 

Stay tuned for more memories of remembering those lost to COVID … 

Tales from my Surfboard Part 4: Contemplation Rock

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Lily had taken a week off from work and wanted to come out to New York to visit. I could only get a 4-day weekend off from work and was worried about her being bored the other days of her trip. When I was on the Cape, I had waves to ride and beaches to explore. Upstate New York has more cows than people. Quite frankly, it’s boring.

We decided to organize a reunion of college friends that same week. Instead of coming to my apartment, Lily did some research and chose a location in the Adirondacks that was about equidistant for everyone. Well, it was equidistant between me and our friends. Lily had a bit more of a trip from the Cape, but she said she didn’t mind.

There was a small grouping of about 5 campsites together in a loop on a lake in the most remote part of the Adirondack Park that we reserved for the week. Lily and I shared a tent on the water. The other four sites were occupied by friends we had gone to college with. People could set up their tent, come and go as they pleased. We spend nights by campfire playing cards. This was our reunion.

Everyone had arrived on Monday. The four days I had off meant I was there Wednesday through Saturday. I felt bad I was not there for camp set up or tear down, but those were the days I could get off from work. Lily had an old coleman tent from growing up that she set up on our site. I brought an extra cooler with me to replenish supplies of both ice and food. I remember that Lily had brought a whole watermelon to share with everyone. There was no room in the coolers for it, so we floated it in the water to keep it cool. She was able to place branches in a section of the water in a way that would keep the watermelon in one spot and prevent it from floating away into the rest of the lake, or sinking. 

Because we were on a land-locked lake, there would be no surfing this trip. Lily did use the roof rack on the car to bring the canoe. Before the Prius, there was the Subaru. During the day, we had great times with our college friends. We went off hiking in a group on the trails. We would hang out at one campsite for meals, everyone contributing something to the meal. There was music blaring, card games played, and memories made. 

The first day was cloudy, but dry. I remember that night it started raining. It rained the rest of the time we were there. No matter that we changed into dry clohes, it was like we could not escape the rain or the damp.

There was a lull in the rain the second night I was there. It was late – dark – and Lily and I were in the tent. We were changing into dry clothes and still felt damp after all the rain. Everyone else seemed to be asleep – it was into quiet hours for the campground, so if people were up, they were not making any noise that extended beyond their own campsite. 

The rain had stopped, or, at least, it was more of a fine mist. Lily looked at me with a grin and asked “how about a walk?” I grinned back and nodded. We did this a lot on the Cape. Late at night, in the wee hours of the morning, we would take off for a walk on the beach. We had some of our best conversations that way whether we said anything or not. You know how it is with that one person – how you can have a complete conversation with them without saying anything at all?

Lilly and I put some extra layers on, as it was chilly out. We left the tent and Lilly immediately headed towards the water. There was a giant rock on the lake, a little bit offshore. Lily insisted she wanted to go out and sit on the rock so we could be in the middle of the lake to look at the stars and the moon. I didn’t know how we could possibly get to the rock without getting in the water. With all the rain, we were pretty much wet all day anyway, so why not? 

Taking the canoe out would have been illegal without a light. I could tell that Lily just wanted to be in the moonlight. Somehow, in the dark and the fog, Lily managed to find smaller rocks to step on and use to get to the large rock safely without having to go into the water. We jumped from rock to rock like it was the lava game you play as a child.

When we got to the rock we sat cuddled together for warmth. I remember leaning back and just gazing at the stars. We were in the least inhabited part of the Adirondack Park. When you looked at the night sky, there were so many stars, it was like gazing into Heaven. You could see the entire universe from there, or at least, it felt that way. 

We could definitely see more stars than what we saw on Cape Cod. Even at night on the Cape, there was always lights. There were lighthouses and buoys providing guidance and safety to passing boats and ships in the night. 

In the middle of the Adirondacks, there was nothing but wilderness. We had camped in the middle of 14,000 acres of nothingness. It is the least inhabited area of New York State. The stars in the sky go on forever.

We gazed at the stars for I don’t know how long. It felt like forever, and it was a beautiful forever. It was one of those nights where you just didn’t want it to end, and it didn’t – until it did.

It felt like we were the only two people in the universe, sitting on a rock in the middle of a lake gazing at the stars. In an attempt to not break the magic of the moment, Lily spoke in a whisper, “we can do this, right?”

I knew what she was asking. We were in a long distance relationship. I had left Massachusetts to come back to New York for school. Lily had stayed in Massachusetts. I had wanted to stay with her, but I couldn’t. The small liberal arts college we had attended cut my major. I was there on scholarship. I needed to complete my education. Unfortunately, that meant coming back to New York where I still had residency and tuition was cheaper.

Even though I had absolutely no clue the answer – I had no idea if we could do it or not – I gave her the only answer I could – “yes” – because in that moment, I believed.

We whispered into the night, talking over the logistics of our situation. We both had goals we were trying to achieve. Life took unexpected twists and turns in our endeavor to reach those goals. We were up against some pretty daunting odds. The world at the time was a scary place. There were so many things to navigate.

Despite all the hurdles, we spoke of our hopes and dreams that night. I believed. I believed we would make them all come true. “Yes, Lily. We can do this. We’ve got to.”

Little did we both know what lay ahead of the two of us over the next 23 years. We didn’t know all the twists and turns life and society would take. 

In that moment, sitting there on Contemplation Rock, as we came to call it, we both believed that no matter what life would bring, we would always come back to each other, even if it was only as ships passing in the night. 

Stay tuned for another Tale from my Surfboard, honoring memories of loved ones lost to COVID. To be continued …

Tales from my Surfboard Part 3: The Drive-In

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It was one of those rare visits when we actually had the entire day to spend together. My visits were short due to my work schedule. I typically only had off from work from the time I got off Friday night until I went in for my next overnight shift Sunday night. 

Since Lily worked second shift, if I drove to the Cape Friday night, we would have Saturday morning together before she went to work. If I waited until Saturday morning to make the drive, we were like two ships passing in the night. Hello / goodbye / don’t forget the Red Sox are playing tonight.

On this particular visit, I made the drive Friday night and Lily had all day Saturday off. We did not have any set plan for the day other than traveling down Cape. We planned to drive the Old King’s Highway towards Provincetown. We did not actually expect to go to P-town on this visit. We were just going to load the surfboard on top of the Prius, throw the beach bags in the trunk and set out for the scenic drive to see where we ended up. 

That’s what we did.

Windows down, car CD player blaring, we enjoyed the lazy scenic drive. Traffic was light on 6A. We were not headed towards any tourist destinations. 

It was about mid-morning when we realized that in our excitement, we had headed out without breakfast. We had just wanted to get on the road to beat the heat of the day.

It was convenient then, when we saw a little sandwich board on the side of the road that had “Coffee Ahead!” written on it in chalk. The sun was shining, and there was a gentle breeze as we were close to the ocean. There were 3 signs for coffee ahead in total.

There was just a dirt parking lot near a small structure that looked a bit like a lemonade stand. It appeared to be staffed by a bunch of college kids on their summer break. This was their summer job in exchange for time on the Cape, we supposed. We both ordered delicious coffee and had muffins that were bigger than any muffin I’ve ever had. The muffins were so big, they could have been waffles in another life.

We enjoyed our stop in this little garden type area and carried on. Fortified with coffee and muffins, we decided to head to Truro and have a glass of wine before the weekend got busy with tasting.

The winery had just opened when we arrived. We had fun looking around the gift shop. We headed outside to the back veranda. There was a nice stone area with a beautiful garden and tables dotted about. We decided to forego tasting and just asked for one glass – a rose for Lily and the driest white on offer for me. We sat peacefully listening to music. There was a quartet of musicians in the garden playing music that made it feel like we were relaxing in a fairy place.

We stayed relaxing until just after lunch when it started to get busy with tasters coming in for the day. We had lunch at our little garden hideaway table. I remember it as one of the most delicious grilled sandwiches I had ever had. The sandwiches were grilled outside in the garden with us too. 

We purchased a case of wine, a few glasses and momentos, and loaded those in the trunk with our beach bags. I remember picking out some of the signature wines that were in glass bottles made like lighthouses. 

Lunch out of the way, we still had no agenda. Lily and I once again cruised down old 6A just to see what we could find. 

We found a little secluded beach just outside of Truro and set up a cozy little beach camp for a few hours. It was one of those perfect days. I remember it being a day full of sunshine, water, sand, and laughter. 

We just played on the beach until well into the evening when we were hungry again. That beach was almost like our own private oasis. Only a few other beachgoers were there that day. 

After a day in the sun, we headed down the Cape a little more looking for food again.

We did not have far to travel when we came across a little ice cream stand that also had food items – hot dogs and fries, things like that. We decided that worked and enjoyed our dinner surrounded by families with small children and groups of teens out for some summer fun. 

There was a bulletin board at the ice cream shop /hot dog stand where we happened to see the listing for the drive-in in Wellfleet. There wasn’t anything I really wanted to see, but one flick that Lily did. The drive-in offered two shows. The first show was some Godzilla-like thing followed by the picture that Lily wanted to see.

Of course, we headed to Wellfleet to the drive-in.

We tuned the radio to the station required to be able to hear the movie sound. I remember getting our beach blankets out of the trunk. We cuddled together in the backseat to watch the movies with our legs up on the headrests. It was cramped in the backseat of a Prius, but that was also what made it nice.

I don’t remember the movies much, although I do remember the movie that she had wanted to see. I made sure to buy the DVD of it and have seen it many times since. It was actually a book that had been made into a movie. I remember our only argument over seeing that particular movie was that I had said “but I haven’t read the book first.” Lily laughed and said it didn’t matter. We would watch it anyway and could read the book later. 

To this day, I think it’s the only time I’ve seen a movie before reading the book of something.

I remember how much fun we had at the drive-in that night. It was the most magical time.

I don’t even remember the drive home after. I remember we had the most perfect day. 

Of course, Sunday morning I had to leave for home so that I could go to work that day. 

The drive-in we went to is closed now. I will always remember that day as special.

To be continued with another Tale from My Surfboard.  

 

Tales from my Surfboard Part 2: The Window

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We did not set out to live a Melissa Etheridge song, it just kind of turned out that way. Of course, I had a key to the house. I arrived at Lily’s fairly late – it was about 2 am. I drove straight through to get there as soon as I got off work. 

I knew she was still up or had just gone to bed. She worked second shift and it takes time to wind down after work. That, and the Red Sox had won that night. I’m sure she had danced around the living room about that. 

Completely bypassing the front door, I went to the bedroom window, which was already partway open to let in the night air. It was August and the weather was hot. She lived a few blocks from the ocean, so the breeze was not as strong here, but there was enough to allow some relief from the summer heat. 

I opened the window the rest of the way and climbed through. I had been doing this for years. I used to use the door when I arrived, until the Big Commitment Fight. Since that, I always entered through the window when I first arrived.

We had been playing this game for about 6 years now. I had a key. I used to use the front door. Lily started talking about commitment and moving in together. We had been through this before. The last time she talked commitment, I moved out of state (there were other factors that went into that decision too). Yet, I still kept coming back. When someone is your soul mate, you are still drawn to them, no matter how scared you may be.

Well, the Big Commitment Fight, I stated that I would not move in. I didn’t have a reason, or at least, not a valid one. The reason was fear. I was young, I was broken, and I was terrified of commitment to something good. You see, I was much better at self-sabotage than I was at making things work.

Well, anyways, in the course of the Big Commitment Fight, Lily screamed at me “The next time you walk through that door, you better be prepared to stay.” Thus, the reason why I now climbed through the window when I first arrive. 

She knew I was coming. I always called or sent a text message ahead of time. Sometimes she had weeks notice. Sometimes I said “I’m at Trader Joe’s (in Hyannis) what do you want for dinner?” I always gave a heads up of my arrival. Even though I had a key and an open invitation, I didn’t want to abuse it. After all, I didn’t live there.

We were friends, first and foremost. We had this unspoken agreement. If one of us was with someone, we were just friends. The times when we were both “available,” we were with each other. I knew on this particular visit that Lily was alone.

I climbed through the window at 2 am. Lily stirred, so I whispered “hey it’s me,” and she went back to sleep. I crept to the kitchen and put my car keys on the table before settling in and getting ready for bed.

That was another part of our unspoken arrangement – the car keys. We always traded keys via the kitchen table. Lily’s Prius had the necessary roof rack and ties to transport my surfboard that my Corolla did not. Her Prius also had all the requisite stickers and tags that allowed me access to the beaches using a local vehicle. When I drove the Prius into beach parking, they never even checked my license to see I wasn’t a Massachusetts resident. They just noticed all the tags on the car checked out. Lily would take the keys to my New York Corolla so she had it for work and errands.

Keys on the table, I jumped in the shower quick before bed. I was careful not to get water all over the floor. One of Lily’s complaints every time I visit – “there is sand everywhere.” I didn’t want to make a bigger mess than necessary. 

Shower taken, I climbed into bed. Tomorrow was Saturday. I was going to get up and take my board to one of my favorite beaches. Lily had to work, but that was okay. We had the morning to spend together before she had to work. I fell asleep looking forward to tomorrow. 

To be continued …

Tales from my Surfboard Part 1: The End

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My surfboard is gone. No, it wasn’t stolen. No, I didn’t sell it. I’m not quite sure what happened to it, but it’s gone. I’m not delusional or amnesic.  I had the surfboard for over 20 years. I had bought it on the west coast in the late 90s. It came east in the back of a pickup truck. 

Living in a small New York apartment, there was no room for a surfboard where I was living. I am also in UPstate New York, which is landlocked. Of course, you can surf the Great Lakes during hurricane season when the wake is good and the water so cold you even freeze in a wet suit. However, it’s not good to do it with an ocean long board. The waves on the Great Lakes are nothing like the ocean. They are best handled by a short board.

The ocean long surfboard lived in the garage at my girlfriend’s house on Cape Cod. It was there for decades. Every time I went to the Cape, I would stop by, trade vehicles, and take my board out for some waves. I did some wind surfing too, depending on which beach I was at on the Cape.

So, what happened to it? Well, I’m pretty sure it’s been gone for over a year now. 

So you’re going to write a story about a missing surfboard? Sounds pretty boring to me. 

Wait! Don’t leave yet. It’s not just the surfboard. There’s a person too and a 20 year love affair. 

Sit back down. Stay with me here.

For this story, we need to start with the end. I know, stories usually start at the beginning. This one starts at the end. We will get to the beginning. The middle is pretty good too (the best, I think). Think of this as a surfer version of Pulp Fiction without guns.

April 2020

The phone rang at almost 3 am. My phone was set on night, so if it was ringing, then that meant it could only be one of two people. Suddenly, I was very awake.

“Are you ok?” I didn’t even say hello. I knew something was wrong.

Lily (*names have been changed to protect those living and dead) choked back a sob. “Mom’s in the hospital.”

It was very early in the COVID-19 pandemic. Lily’s mom, like mine, was in her 60s. With everything having shutdown in March 2020, Lily decided to leave Cape Cod and go to her mom’s house to help out. At the time, everyone was about helping the most vulnerable. Lily figured she could do the grocery shopping and errands for her mom. So she packed up her Prius and went back to Worchester to help her mom. 

At the time of the phone call, Lily had been at her mom’s house less than a week. This was before masks and before we fully realized that COVID is airborne.

I listened to Lily’s sobs and did the best I could to support her by phone. She was able to visit her mom in the hospital once before she passed. They had not yet stopped visitation of hospital patients. 

Her mom was only in the hospital for about 2 days before she died. Her dad died when she was little. So the only family she had left was a brother and his two young children. The four days after Lily’s mom’s death were so rough on her. We talked every day. We facetimed. She was also talking to her brother trying to make arrangements for her mom. Here she had come home to help, only to be too late.

It was about five days after Lily’s mom died that she didn’t feel well either. 

You know, this is hard to write. 

That’s why we are starting at the end of the story. We will get the hard stuff out of the way first so that we can get to the good stuff.

Well, Lily also died of COVID less than 2 weeks after her mom. Her brother called to tell me. I was one of the last people to speak to her. We facetimed while she was in ICU within 24 hours of her death. COVID is a painful way to die.

I just lost my best friend.

Lily was cremated. In August, her brother held a scattering of ashes ceremony. I “participated” by phone. This was August 2020. Her brother ended up having to take care of everything both for their mom and for Lily.

Lily’s house was sold. So, I’m pretty sure my surfboard was sold too. I’m not sure. I didn’t think about the surfboard until this year. I’m not going to ask. Without Lily there on the Cape, it’s inconsequential.

It’s the memories attached to that surfboard that need to keep living. 

I only thought about the surfboard this year because Lily’s brother kept in touch with me. He had two small children under age 10. He had a girl and a boy, ages 6 and 8. They both died of COVID this year. 

So, the ending is the hardest part. It’s not pretty and it’s not fun. 

You know what they say about the dates on a tombstone? The birth and death dates? It’s that dash in the middle that is the important part. It’s the life you lived in the middle of your birth and your death. 

Now that the hard part is over, part 2 will look at the beginning of the story. Or maybe the middle? That’s where the good stuff lies. When you just ride the waves. There is a love story in that dash. 

To be continued … 

My Quarantine Life: Week 75

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America is a sad place right now. People are dying and nobody cares. Apparently it is much too difficult for people to wear a mask on their face. Masks save lives, but the government refuses to mandate them to keep people safe. Instead, they are choosing to mandate a vaccine that not everyone can have and does not prevent the disease spreading from person to person.

I have come to realize that I am not going to survive the pandemic. Grim, yes, but reality. Last month, I had an in-person doctor appointment and was indoors with other people for the first time in a year. The medical person (I will not say professional because this was one of the most UNprofessional medical people I have encountered) not only demanded I remove my mask, but also exposed me to COVID.

It was the first time in over a year of isolation I had an actual COVID exposure. If doctors offices are not even safe places to go without being exposed to COVID, then what hope is there? We are not even safe in trying to obtain medical care. You better really be in a life or death situation to see a medical professional in this country right now. It is literally a risk to life to seek healthcare. Forget routine care or preventative medicine. At least in my area, the doctors’ offices are not even safe. In fact, our state has been saying for almost a year now that medical appointments are the second place people are most frequently catching COVID.

We are in the most dangerous part of the pandemic, as the vaccines are not working. With every other vaccine, you do not get the disease and you do not spread the disease. With the COVID vaccine, you can still get the disease and you can still spread the disease to others. Do not report me as fake news. That is scientific fact from multiple outlets in multiple countries. 

Yet, here in America, it is way too difficult for people to wear a mask. Americans are too selfish to wear a mask and would rather get a vaccine instead. Vaccines are good, but refusal to wear a mask is still killing people.

I am certain that my death will be the result of human stupidity. At this point, there is nothing else to blame.

I wear a mask if I go anywhere. The only places I come into contact with others is in seeking medical care and for car and house maintenance. 

As diligent as I am at wearing a mask, it is much more effective if everyone else wears a mask too. 

It appears that COVID is here to stay. At least, that is until all the people who refuse to wear a mask die. Even then, their negligence is also killing those of us who do wear a mask. 

In a country that experiences mass shootings almost every single day, I should not be surprised that no one cares about COVID deaths in this country. Yet, somehow, I still have faith in humanity and expect better of the world. Wear a mask.

Due to the COVID situation in this country, and in my area specifically, I do not expect to survive the pandemic. I am going to be killed by someone else’s stupidity.

I have started to do legal paperwork to try to have my cats looked after in the event of my death. It is not something anyone wants to think about, but arrangements need to be made before it is too late to do so. All I want is for my cats to be loved and to stay together.

It is extremely challenging finding people to designate to take care of my cats if I die. I have had so many of my friends and family die of COVID this past year, that I have barely 5 people still alive right now who I knew before the pandemic. It is kind of hard to meet new people when you are in isolation. 

I meet people online who I would trust to take the cats, but there is a geography barrier. 

My goal is to have all my “official death paperwork” completed this month so that I have peace of mind knowing I have a plan in place. I do not enjoy thinking about my death, but preparations must be made. I want to get my paperwork in order quickly so that I do not have to keep thinking about such a grim subject.

So that is my quarantine life this week. The medical person has extended my isolation for another year or until herd immunity has been reached. Such is the life of the immunocompromised.

The cats and I are doing well. We are all happy. I just need to get this paperwork out of the way so I can move onto happier things. 

I am happy and grateful to be safe at home with my cats. 

My Best Life Now

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There is a country song that talks about living like you are dying. Often, I think that only people with terminal illnesses fully appreciate this song. We do not tend to think about death in everyday life. We are too busy living to think about death.

This past year, I have not been able to avoid death. It has been front and center in my face for the past 15 months. I have lost so many people to COVID. If bad luck comes in 3’s, I have reached it. COVID deaths, job loss, and identity theft. The pandemic has been life changing.

A few months ago, I started a photo project to curate my photos into a collection of the greatest hits of my life. I now have one photo album of 200 photos of my happiest memories. Curating the collection was an amazing experience. I made the book in case I end up in a nursing home or for when I die, I can lay there and look at my happiest moments.

While that may sound sad, in reality, it is making me very happy. I am enjoying the book now. It beings me such joy to remember and relive happy times in my life. My photo album reminds me to be grateful of all the wonderful things that have happened to me in life. Even though this past year has been downright horrid, I have had a lot of positives in my life up until this point.

Looking back on my greatest hits photo collection, I also realize that I have a lot to look forward to. There have been a lot of huge changes in my life as the result of the pandemic. You don’t grow and change without a little pain.

As difficult as things may be right now, with no job and no unemployment due to identity theft, I realize that I am actually living my best life right now.

I am secure in who I am as a person. I have goals in life. My goals are simple – to keep my family together and to keep us all safe. When I do die, what I will remember and think about is my family. It won’t matter what jobs I had or what I did for a living.

Work is what you do to pay the bills so that you can live your best life.

My best life is being home with the cats and running. In order to meet both those goals, I have to keep us all housed and together. I have to keep us all COVID-free in a reckless world that mistakenly thinks the pandemic is over. (Far from it – in fact, this is the most dangerous phase of the pandemic yet.)

My future goals are to continue to work remote permanently. I want to be home with my cats so we are together and safe. As long as I am doing respectable work that pays the bills, it doesn’t really matter what I do. All that matters is that we are together.

I recently found two part-time jobs that both allow me to work remotely. I have started one job, and I love it! I have returned to teaching, which is truly my passion. The other part-time job is a remote office position that does not start until late June. I am confident that I can make it work, as it is a prestigious and professional company. They value my skills and my life by allowing me to work from home. In return, I will work very hard for them. I value the privilege that remote work bring in allowing me to realize my goals and dreams.

Losing my job was the biggest threat to my life, family, health and safety I have ever faced. However, it has resulted in great opportunity. I now have the opportunity to live my best life. 

Being able to keep the cats together and outlive them is my only goal. It’s pretty easy to be happy in life when you are happy about what you have and don’t want much. I just want to keep the cats and I together and take care of them.

I am doing my best to pick up the pieces of the worst situation and move on. 

No matter what the future may bring, I can confidently say that I am reaching for my dreams and achieving them. I am truly living my best life now.