Brickworks

It was a tense time in Egypt. But then, when hasn’t it been? Anwar Sadat ruled with a velvet fist and things seemed secure, though every bridge and important building was guarded by the military or heavily armed national police. The Brotherhood was deemed a constant threat, along with other more militant religious groups, plus a fear that radical Palestinians could mount attacks. In fact, it would not be many years before Sadat was assassinated by one of those groups of militants.

I was interested, of course, intently so, at the history I knew was unfolding around me. I couldn’t know though the details, or the lasting impact these times would have.

I made my way upriver from Cairo, primarily by train in 3rd class, getting off wherever the urge beckoned. My adventuresome spirit returned for a short interval and I made sure to stay only in minus 2-star hotels. I remember writing  Kate from one of those hotels. We had been together the last time I had visited the Arab world, and I spilled out to her what I was seeing, mixing in those thoughts with the adventures we had had. I reveled in the sights, the culture, the way the Nile was the basis for all.

It was not that far north of Aswan that I ran into Michel and Andy. They were a gay couple, but obviously, given the times and the location, they were circumspect about it. Michel was a Lebanese architect, and Andy was an American psychologist. Apparently they had met at the Sorbonne, and had been together 5 or 6 years when I met them.

Led by Michel, they were intent on improving the life of Egyptians through better use of traditional building methods for houses. This meant improving mud brick construction. That was their dream anyway. When I met them they were erecting several significant sized structures, using manual labor, and only mud bricks. They were working on methods to improve cupolas, and each of their buildings would feature several.

Nearby was the “brick works” … the flat area where the actual mud bricks were made by hand, then left to bake in the 130+ degree F sun. Michel described the process to me. He emphasized how the mud had to be mixed with straw and some camel dung to make sure the bricks were strong and would hold together and last.

I was carried back to these memories a few days ago. It struck me that it’s really only strands of the common and mundane, mixed with little pieces of shit that are what keeps it all together.

August … Die She Must

A comment I made on another blog earlier today got my small brain working.  September has arrived. And soon, Autumn. I capitalize it, because Autumn is very prevalent in my mind.

September always adds a subtle seasonal shade to the calendar. It can be a new beginning.  In many places, schools restart after the summer break, new programs recommence everywhere.  But it’s not a hard date like January 1st. Nor does it suggest rebirth and youth like Spring connotes. Autumn’s initial gentle focus is very different.

Here in the northern climes it reminds us that the seasons do change. Time and life move on. And there is an ending. Perhaps yes, on the distant horizon, but there, nonetheless. And if you do not move as well, you will be left behind. September is a gentle prodding with its chilly evenings, that becomes more intense as we move into Indian Summer, then into October. It is a reminder that the warm halcyon days of summer have moved on, and so must we. Latter September is, of course, halfway between the June and December solstices, the autumn equinox, and prime harvest time. When things need to be accomplished.

For the ultimate procrastinator such as yours truly Autumn is the final warning to stop the squander of that most precious of commodities, time.

Pardon me won’t you, while I finally get my ass in gear? I hate being left behind.

 Hard too believe, but this concert took place 35 years ago this month

 

Lament For A Friend – Red Sky In The Morning

Video

large_lament1I didn’t sleep well last night. My aches and pains kept me tossing and turning. Pushing too hard again. And for some reason, Matt, I couldn’t stop thinking of you. All those times we have shared.

Wisdom is not the result of losing something you had. That is but simple regret. Rather wisdom derives from the knowledge and appreciation of what you do have and know someday you will lose.

I have my health. Yours creeps away from you every day, a silent seepage you do not know or realize. How foreign that would be for you if you knew … you, who never did things in increments. You always charged in a massive frontal assault.

The interesting thing I understood is I can isolate when you were at your very prime. No, not those high school days, nor even when you were king of the hill in college. We were what?, in our late 20s when I visited you on the Island Paradise? There you were on top of the world, too. More than the world was your oyster; you were the biggest rooster in the henyard. How you juggled the women!

I marveled how you kept your two not only from cutting each other’s throat, but you actually made them happy. It couldn’t have been easy. But you were always the master politician, playing bravado off of guilt and feigned humility.

How you owned that town. The bars we graced in our light, slim suits and Panama hats! Every night until 5am. There still is no one I’ve met who can out drink you. And then you’d go to work for 9. I at least could sleep until noon before heading to the beach.

And oh, every evening in the bar where you were “Honorary Owner”!  Do you remember how the Entertainer and I were the only ones who had even heard of Jimmy Buffet back then? That was when I knew stuff.  But I was good in that Jimmy set I did with the Entertainer, wasn’t I? At least Maggie thought so …

Maggie.  Yep, I’m sighing. A more perfect goddess I have never ever encountered. How her athletic figure fit so comfortably around my engorged erection as she sat on my lap in the bar all those nights! Her soft kisses smothered me in sensuality as my hands groped wherever the temptation led. And you know, Matt, how Temptation and I have always been the best and fastest friends. We never go anywhere without each other. Even today. Such a pity that her live-in was around that much and managed to interrupt and discover us at so many inopportune times.

That was a magic time for you. I only hope you will always remember it. And I wish I were able to bring back some of that magic. I so wish Robert were still here. He could always make you laugh and took good care of you. He’d be there for you now; he would know how to handle everything. Unlike me. Who feels helpless, useless. Another of my miserable fatal failings come to the fore.

Yes, of course, life was simpler then. But were our castles really made out of such baseless sand? God, I wish I knew

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCyQCNojpQI

Remembering How To Count – ONE

ali1-sized[1]He was 21. He had met her on day one that he was on the island. But she wasn’t the first woman he dated there. In fact, she was the fourth.  Yes he had met her shortly after his arrival. She was more than pretty enough, and had a body straight out of Hollywood casting with those dazzling breasts and her long, strong muscular legs that an Olympic high jumper would covet. And her eyes were hazel hued, so tantalizing. But he had also met the cutie from North Carolina. And North Carolina was more his usual type, fairly short with shoulder length dark hair. One’s hair was cut short, too short for his liking, just below her ear. And North Carolina’s accent! Who wouldn’t fall off his chair watching a girl that looked like North Carolina, with every word out of her mouth dripping honeyed tones that reverberated like raw lust in the ears.

But in less than a month North Carolina had to go home. The Brat Girl fell into his lap next. It wasn’t too long until she grated him enough that he actually traded her for a roommate’s girl. That lasted a couple of weeks.

All this time One hovered. Not front and center, but peripherally. Around. Part of the group, but clearly her mind was set on him. It wasn’t that long until he knew it.

One wasn’t the first woman who seriously pursued him; 2 years prior he had had significant relationships with two older women. But she was the first younger woman who had wanted him badly … so badly he could see it now in every sinew of her legend-making figure. Her hunger. It was strange … to see it in her … the just below the surface craving … a girl … no, a young gorgeous woman … but still. He could almost smell it. She was making him want to taste it.

He just knew, if he wanted, he would be the first to fuck this 19-year old filly. She was prepared to give it to him. Surrender the cherished virginity she famously flaunted. And a young filly she was.  That slight, tiny awkwardness when she walked … but with all the hints of the gracefulness that was soon to come, stealing your breath like the young Ali McGraw with her movements. One was the first to have that kind of effect on him.

The sex would become extraordinary. One was the first he could teach and show what he knew. And she learned quickly. And well.

And he learned, as well. He learned how to share his soul. For the first time.

He began, too, to learn how to fully appreciate a woman. To drink in and completely immerse himself in all her gifts. How to recognize the starlight in all her features. The beauty in her whole, physical, intellectual, and emotional. One taught him that.

He would use those skills when Five came along.

Contact Info (5) … Looking For The Past

Past-Street-Sign-Featured[1]This is a followup to my post about receiving the contact info of a very long ago girlfriend, Amy. You can read the first post here , the second can be found here , the third is located here, and the most recent is right here.

I stopped in my tracks and opened my arms. Amy slid between them, and reached up and hugged me … hard … like she had always done those so many years ago. I held her close. Then kissed her cheek. At last!

I’m fairly tall. And Amy is very short, but solid. Nothing had changed over the years. As a teenager and young woman, her dark hair had been long down her back. Now, still dark as promised, it extended only to her shoulders. She hugged me tightly.

“It’s so wonderful to see you, Marty.”

“Amy, you look great!” I replied.

“Oh Marty! So do you.”

“Come, let’s get a drink,” I said.

We strolled into the bar, and the hostess found us a table near the tall windows. Amy ordered white wine and I chose a beer. We just looked at each other for a few minutes, both smiling. Amy rested her head on my shoulder.

“Where do we begin?” Amy asked.

“How about when we last saw each other?” (I had asked her in an email if she remembered that. Sadly, she did not).

I said “It may be you won’t want to remember. I was staying at Paul and Mary’s when you and Tom came over.” Paul and Mary were married friends of ours who lived close to where Amy was living at the time. Tom would become Amy’s first husband.

“Oh,” she said. “I tend to block out anything to do with that time with Tom”. She had married Tom, but that had ended in a very adversarial divorce not too many years later.

Then she told me how she had been the “other woman” for 13 years to her next door neighbor in the little town she then lived in. This fascinated me because, when I knew her, she was anything but the radical. Fairly prim and proper. I admitted to being very surprised.

Eventually she married that man and they’re still together. But he has serious illnesses. She then told me of their dream property they had bought, and invested heavily in with some overseas contacts. How the contacts had cheated them, and now she and her husband had lost everything. They had no financial security, no retirement savings. And a devastating fire a year ago had eliminated most of their remaining personal assets.

I looked into her green eyes that so sparkled those many years ago. Maybe it was the dimness of the light … but I saw no sparkle. Still, she smiled weakly and invoked the Buddha.

“Life is difficult. When we accept that life is difficult, it becomes less so.”

I looked at her and could tell that truthfully there was no sadness, but neither was there much joy. I held her hands as she opened up more about her life, and what she felt she was missing. We chatted a bit about old friends. She was surprised at how many I was in contact with still.  She regretted not keeping up.

She started to get excited as she said ” … and I’m going to touch base with Andy and catch up on all the things he has been up to over the years. I heard how well he had done in business. We were so close for so long!”

Andy, our age, had been a neighbor of hers growing up. They were always in the same class all through school, and had been the closest of friends.

“I’m sorry, Amy. Andy died 4 years ago. From cancer.”

I watched the tears quickly rise in her green orbs, then overflow, and creep ever slowly then to crawl downward in rivers on both sides of her still stunning face.

“I didn’t know,” she whispered. “It’s all too late now.”

I changed the conversation and talked about about some of the activities I’m involved in. Amy surprised me … she confessed she periodically googles my name, and was even aware of my Twitter account. I was shocked.

“But you never contacted me?”

“No,” she said sheepishly. “I don’t know why not. I should have.”

We reminisced some more, and she made me laugh.

“Oh Marty! I so love your smile. I’m so happy to see that hasn’t changed.”

It was my turn to be sheepish.

Then she said, “I know I was so shallow as a teenager. I was all about being popular.”

“Yes, Amy you were very popular. I was so timid, despite being so crazy about you, I could never take that next step. And all teenagers are shallow, that’s what a teenager does.”

“No, you were never shallow, Marty. I always admired that in you.”

I’m sure I smiled to that. And I wondered if she knew how much I appreciated that little compliment.

We talked on. For 3 more hours and a few additional drinks. Nothing was awkward. Nothing was sacred. It felt so comfortable. Close, touching.

Yet something was not right. Not as I would have expected. I was feeling a little confused. Confused with myself.

Where was the fire in my loins for Amy? Was there even a spark? The Marty, who is so used to his thoughts of lust around attractive women was missing. But yes, there was a spark. And I could feel an eagerness in return from Amy. I’m certain I could have had her. Or at least gone to her room for a nightcap.  And then seen what would have happened.

But I didn’t. I didn’t feel the need. The wont was absent.  As the clock approached midnite I begged off, mentioning that I had a morning out of town appointment the next day which required my early rising.  Clearly disappointed, Amy said she understood. We clasped hands and she kissed my cheek.

After the tab was paid, we inched our way back to the front desk and then a final embrace.

And promised to stay in touch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contact Info (4) … It All Comes Together

This is a followup to my post about receiving the contact info of a very long ago girlfriend, Amy. You can read the first post here , the second can be found here and the third located here.

Amy and I arrange to meet at her hotel …

We exchanged several emails back and forth while she made her way towards my town on the train. Mostly some quick catch up on the missing 40 years since we had seen each other. She asked who I was still in contact with from our high school days, and she was amazed at the list.

“I have tremendous regret for losing touch with all the amazing friends I had then.  Huge mistake,” was her response. In essence, she had walled herself off from her past for these many decades.

I asked her if she remembered the last time we were in each other’s presence. Amy confessed she did not. Now that was a bit crushing, since I remember it so vividly.

“When was it?” Amy asked me.

“I’ll tell you about it when I see you,” I said.

We laughed back and forth wondering how well we’d recognize each other. She claimed to really have no grey hair yet. Even she was surprised. I chuckled and told her I was now “arctic blonde.”

“My train is arriving!” Amy wrote back. “I’ll be out of communication for a while. I have to check into the hotel and then head right out for my gathering.”

With that, I got back to work. Soon enough it was time for me to leave for my evening appointment.

It would be far from incorrect to say I didn’t obsess about meeting Amy in the past. I had wanted to see her again for so many years. Those so many decades ago when I was wandering, I had often thought of her nonstop. And as she reminded me, I had written her many letters. And now we would see each other.  Strangely, I was already feeling a little “let down”. Let down, because I was disappointed in my lack of overwhelming enthusiasm.

“What’s wrong with me?” I wondered. “Why am I not over the moon right now?”  I bewildered myself. Why was I not nervous at all? Sure, I was looking forward to this. But damn I was being calm!

Pretty much on schedule, my activity was done … Hi there. I’m just finishing up. What’s up with you? … I texted.

… I’m all done – a very few people left here. I’ll head to the bar in a few minutes. What works for you? … she texted back.

… I’ll be there in 15 or 20 minutes. Meet you in the bar? … I responded.

… Sounds good …

15 minutes later I was at the hotel’s front door.  The bar was on the immediate right. I headed in.  I searched all the faces in the bar. Clearly, Amy wasn’t there  … or did I just not recognize her? No, she wasn’t there.

I exited the room and headed toward the front desk. Maybe there was another bar? Then, as I strode around the corner, there she was! She saw me the same instant I saw her. She ran towards me.

I stopped in my tracks and opened my arms. Amy slid between them, and reached up and hugged me … hard … like she had always done those so many years ago. I held her close. Then kissed her cheek. At last!

To be continued …

 

 

 

 

Contact Info (3) … Message from the Universe

This is a followup to my post about receiving the contact info of a very long ago girlfriend, Amy. You can read the first post here and the second is here

Then I relaxed a bit. And wondered how long I would wait for a response. If even there would be one.

After I sent the email, I went back about my tasks, and didn’t really think much more about Amy.  Well, that’s a small fib. She did cross my mind, and I was curious what she would think when she read my note. And how long it would take her to answer, if she did.

14 minutes later, this arrived

“Holy smoke!  Huge flashbacks!!
I could never forget you, Marty!!”

Ah, well that was quick! And dare I say, somewhat positive at least. I read further …

“This is awesome because I was recently going through a box from long ago and I found old letters from you when you were in Europe.  I was back to that time in an instant!  Such fond memories of you.”

Whoa! Hold on here. She has letters from me from this time when I was traveling? And she recently reread them? Isn’t that something! These “letters” would actually be aerograms. I know most of you won’t know what these were, but think of the flimsiest  paper imaginable (to save on air transportation costs), colored a light blue, and prestamped. As I recall there were 4 sides you could write your “letter” on, then they would be folded up, a tab licked and sealed. She still has these flimsy pieces of paper from over 4 decades ago? This is becoming very interesting.

“Right now I’m sitting in the train station heading to a conference. I’ll email you later this evening when I’m finished with the stuff I have to do.  We’ll catch up.  Is that OK?”

My mind went numb. I have eliminated from her  words the town where her conference would be happening. That’s because it’s MY town! Amy is ready to board a train headed for where I live. But she doesn’t know that because in my emails I have not mentioned where I reside.

I swallowed hard. Now I’m excited. And very unsettled. Because this is now at a place where I have no control. And that makes me uncomfortable. We exchange several more emails. I tell her my location, and that coincidentally I too have an event to attend this evening downtown. Less than 5 minutes from Amy’s hotel. And I shall be finishing about the same time as her initial gathering will break up.

Ponder this for a moment faithful Reader. Amy is one of those “who got away”. A girl who occupied my thoughts fairly significantly until I met Kate. A girl I last saw on a date perhaps 45+ years ago and whom I hadn’t seen and heard from in 40 years. Who recently had a chance meeting with one of my best friends in an emergency ward in a rural hospital, and gave him her contact info. Who on the day I decide to write her is boarding a train to my town and will arrive in several hours. Where our evening schedules overlap not 5 minutes apart.

I feel helpless. There are no choices to make here. Only instructions from some invisible force to follow.

Amy and I arrange to meet at her hotel …

Contact Info (2) … Should I?

This is a followup to my post about receiving the contact info of a very long ago girlfriend, Amy. You can read the first post here.

You knew, of course, thoughtful Reader that I would contact her. But how would I open it? We are talking 4 decades since any type of contact.  Rachel asked in the last post if I had tried to find her on Facebook. I had, of course, many years ago. Google searches in the past revealed a bit of her professional life, but nothing significant on a personal level.

And let’s remember, she had never tried to contact me, and my online profile while not outlandlishly extensive, is not hidden either.  So she obviously had never felt the need to initiate any sort of contact.

I stared at the sheet with all the contact information.

I thought.

I tried to be logical.

Did I WANT to contact her?

Yes.

What was I expecting in response?

Unknown. At minimum a friendly “hello” and perhaps a brief email catching up after all these years. At maximum? BIG unknown. I’d just go with the flow.

What if she doesn’t answer?

Well, that would be an answer, wouldn’t it?

If I heard nothing back within a week or 10 days, would I try again?

No!

I started writing the email. The first line was extremely lame.

“Hello Amy! Perhaps you might remember me. But then again, perhaps not.”

Lame in so many ways … most glaringly in the fact that I knew full well she would remember me.  But I hoped she would take it in the vein it was intended … jocularly.

The rest of the email was rather nondescript … mentioning that her contact info had been given me by my friend who encountered her by chance in a hospital emergency ward. And I hoped the years had been kind.

I sent it off.

Then I relaxed a bit. And wondered how long I would wait for a response. If even there would be one.

 

 

 

Contact Info

I’ve been staring at it for 10 days. Off and on. And not every day. But sometimes for an unusually long time. The paper sits mixed among the scattered piles of paper on my (to the untrained eye) very messy desk.  Right there underneath a recent P&L statement I was looking at, next to an outline of a project I am grappling with, and shielding me from some invoices I need to pay.

When I first saw it, I recognized the penmanship of course, even though I haven’t seen it in almost 50 years. Neat, tight, and clear, as I imagine it always has been. Name (including nickname back then) in block letters. Home telephone number. Mobile number. Email address with a ” * ” beside it. Then another email contact point. Finally, a long rural home address printed neatly in block letters.

“It” was given to me by one of my closest friends after we had said our final goodbyes to another. He filled me in on the chance encounter. They both had been in the emergency department of a rural hospital, and despite the travails causing each of them to be there, the serendipity of their crossing paths didn’t escape them. Our home town was hundreds of miles away and eons in the past.

I was so different then. I often chuckle at the innocence and most surprisingly at the timidity I exhibited as a teenager. I know we all mature and grow, but we do so in various ways and to different degrees.  There is much of me that is vastly different to when I was 17. I’m certain we all can say that, of course,

We dated. Quite a bit. But Amy was one of the most popular girls in her year. Beautiful and tiny. Long dark hair down her back, with sparkling green eyes. She and her two siblings were near-certified geniuses, too. She had a long line of suitors from not only our school, but several other schools throughout the city. All better looking than me I felt, most more athletic. She liked me, of course. Heck she wouldn’t have spent so much time with me, given all her choices, if she didn’t. But I wasn’t confident enough then to push and pursue.  And I dated several others, too. We saw each other a few times while we attended different colleges, 500 miles apart. But that never works and it didn’t.

I’m still staring. What will I do? Well, dear Reader, you and I both know what I will do. But when? What will I say? And will she answer?

 

Robert

He was a gentle man. You might not guess that at first meeting. But he was. And a gentleman to boot. A gentle man, who took no bullshit. But he’d laugh it off without a lingering thought, and just move on, whereas my grumblings would linger.

He taught me much in our short times together over the years. We were young men when we met in the midwest that October day. It struck me recently that I do, indeed, miss him. We weren’t that close, except when we were together. Then we were inseparable, almost identical roguish twins from different mothers. The rogue part I mean. We didn’t look at all alike, even in our younger days. Robert had wild, longish hair and a bushy mustache. Me, clean shaven, short hair, more buttoned-down looking.

But he was the sophisticated rogue. Six fluent European languages and a good European education meant he was unmatched. I was the junior, more inept one. He was a classical music fanatic. Me? Well I was pretty good at British Invasion musical trivia. He taught me so much.  Mostly, he gave me an example of how to approach, and appreciate life.

And he showed me his easy sophistication. He taught me how to buy jewelry from a private Swiss jeweler in Bern.  The best quiet bars in Zermatt.  The just perfect French phrasing to use on a snotty Paris hotel doorman. But I got even when they mistook me for a French count for that whole week at the Palace in St. Moritz. It was moi who got us the prime table every evening in the discotheque, bypassing the long lineup of mere multimillionaires.

We used to get into trouble. Robert always had the perfect plan for our evening fun. Luckily I was always that one beer behind at 3am, to have the wits to be able to get us out of that perfect plan when something went wrong.

And then would come the laugh. From deep inside of him. That moved all the way up to the squinting, laughing brown eyes. It was forever there when we sped back to the hotel when we inevitably managed to escape whatever fix we were in. Or when we met at the bar waiting for the other’s long flight to arrive.

He lived his life to the fullest measure I could ever imagine. He was his own man to the end. Wouldn’t let his condition get him down, interfere with the full measure.

I miss you Robert. I have yet much to learn.