Thursday, August 27, 2015

I wanted to see something new today, so I drove up Mount Mitchill. I heard rumors of an impressive overlook that turned out to be true. I pushed my zoom lens to its max and took a picture of Manhattan with Sandy Hook, New Jersey underneath it. Then I checked the boaters in Sandy Hook to make sure they all had their clothes on. (They did.) Before I left, I gave a gallon of water to a hiker I met in the woods.

The energy I put into spontaneous exploration today tells me that I am on my way back to good health. I’d been sharing a cold with my girlfriend for weeks, often finding that our symptoms and their severity were oscillating at exactly the same pace. Romantic, eh? It was so long-lasting that we got into a habit of just asking for a percentage.

“I’m 90% today. You?”

“73% and rising.”

After a few weeks of prepping, promoting, and discussing my art show, I was starting to get fatigued by all the time I was spending in the past. This Monday, I jumped - like a six-year-old jumping into a puddle while wearing his dad’s work boots - back into the present.

I went to my girlfriend’s thesis defense at Princeton University and then immediately met her whole family at the after party. By the evening, I was mildly drunk and serving as her family’s portrait photographer in a restaurant on Nassau Street.

Eras overlap. Tuesdays in New Hope used to be a time for Marcella and I to connect with Aunt Donna after the death of Uncle Joe, but at some point, it became a new ritual. A new set of memories that I now treasure.

Sometimes a whole week disappears from your memory, but a fifteen-second exchange sticks with you forever. I’ll never forget the brief moment next to Love Saves The Day when Donna and Joe happened to be on the same block as Marcella and I. "Joe and I both thought that Marcella was cute and round and Italian. If you remember, I gave her a big squishy hug and Joe beamed."

It’s a few days later now and I’m at Indian Rock in Bucks County. Some of the lovers’ initials are in Wite-Out and some of them are carved in stone.

I honk at bad driving, especially when I’m forced to slam on my brakes. Hell, I honk at cigarette litterers if I’m feeling like a jerk that day. This particular guy stopped his box truck in the middle of the road and got out a bat. I’m pretty good under pressure. I didn’t back away from him; I just started filming him. It could be that I’d be playing in The Great Jam Session In The Sky right now if I’d pulled out a gun. Because I was pulled out a camera, I was able to describe him and his truck with detail, and relay his license plate to the local police. I shot pictures, not bullets.

I got pretty calm after laying low at Pam’s and Scott’s house, playing Marcella’s old guitar for a little while. I needed to burn off more of the stress, though, so I spent a while making Nolan’s first music video; footage I shot in New Hope that day with some music that Shawn Kilroy passed along to me. It is delightfully insane.

The next day, though, I found that I hadn’t quite emerged from this new fog. I got myself into a funk thinking about the various friends - and even one grandma - that dropped out of my life when Marcella was sick, and another who’s flaked out more recently. In the end, my girlfriend and my pal Jenni both helped me realize that there’s no upside to wanting things from people who are not capable of giving them. It’s better to focus on the people who showed up to the party than to worry about the ones who didn’t.

Everyone has reasons to be bitter, Bertrice, but bitter is basically boring, Barb. Better, Betty, to look for the sweet…

Biff.

I wonder how many of my peers are afraid to deal with death. All I know is that the bulk of the great conversations I’ve had since Marcella died have been with people older than me. With notable exceptions.

I welcome this growth. This very hard, very valuable growth.

Once again, they’ve painted over the art and graffiti at Tyler State Park’s Walking Bridge Of Truth. They replaced a public art piece (hard to find in Bucks County) with the color brown and probably spent a lot of money to do it. Meanwhile, somebody - can’t be sure who - wrote on the freshly painted bridge, “THANKS FOR THE BROWN. NOW WE WILL ADD MORE ART. AND PROBABLY SOME CARTOON PENISES.”

Having been in a time warp for parts of this month, it had barely crossed my mind that I will be in Nashville this time next week. Nashville is the place where I have some of the best memories with my dad, having explored it with him five years ago. I also can’t say enough about how sweet Marcella was to take me there as one of my MANY Christmas presents in 2013. She didn’t know it would be our last Christmas together, but she knew it might’ve been. I found that out later.

She was by my side when I explored the Everly Brothers’ hometown while talking to their cousin on the phone. She was by my side when I woke up on Music Row in an Airbnb apartment that belonged to a music publisher and the son of George Harrison’s steel guitarist from All Things Must Pass, Pete Drake. She walked through a cold winter night with me in search of Johnny Cash’s and June Carter’s grave site. She won the race to find Chet Atkins’ site out in the massive Harpeth Hills Memorial Garden. She drank boozy coffee with me at Loveless Cafe. She even tolerated me drunkenly searching a Nashville supermarket (and a bar) (and two Starbucks) for Don Everly.

Dad and I have a nice collection of Nashville memories, too. The time Neil Young walked past us at Jack’s BBQ. Neil’s unique solo acoustic/electric show that same night at the Ryman. The time we entered the room where almost every Everly Brothers hit was recorded and played Floyd Cramer’s old piano.

Now, we get to make new memories.

Meanwhile, I will keep my expectations reasonable. I will party with the people who showed up to the party. I won’t respond to the bastards by becoming the bastard.

And I will try not to aggravate men with baseball bats. Try.