I've been accused of being a "Debbie Downer" many times in my life, but for the most part, I don't think I am.  I do think I'm a realist and try to look at things the way they are and not the way people fantasize them to be, so maybe that's where I get that bum wrap from.  I don't sit around thinking about death and dying and all that crap all the time.  Sure, I've spent a lot of time in the last two years thinking about death after my Mother passed away, but I think that's natural.  But I don't think about me dying or even contemplate it.

Today was a little different, though.  Not in that I sat at work all day thinking about what will happen when I die or how I'll die, but more about the fact that I'm getting older and I'm sitting comfortably in middle age.  I'm not a kid anymore, no matter how youthful (immature) I may feel or act.  My youth is long behind me, but I don't think I've ever really tried letting it go.  I'm forty-seven years old and maybe it's time I should own up to it.

The mother of one of my childhood best friends passed away early this morning.  I don't really have all the details, but I know she and her daughter were in a car accident back in October.  My friend went through the windshield, but remarkably made it through the accident without any major issues.  Her mother wasn't so lucky.  She's been in the hospital ever since, surgery after surgery, procedure after procedure.  It was all in vain as she passed away today.  It got me to thinking about back when I was a small boy.  We lived in Kinderhook, NY.  The family next door had a son my age and a daughter my brother's age.  The house next to them had a son my age and another my brother's.  We were all very good friends.  We lived there for maybe seven or eight years before my nomadic family packed up and started moving all over the northeast.  So Kinderhook is the place that I consider my hometown even though I wasn't born there.  That house is the first place I remember.  I spent most of my formative years there.  Whenever I'm in that part of the area, I always drive up my old street and just look at the houses and reminisce. Of the three families on that street (mine and the two families next to us), my Dad is the only parent still alive.  Of my immediate peer group, I'm the only one still alive.  The oldest sons of both the other families are long dead.  The youngest kids are all still alive and kicking though.  When I think about the parents, it makes me realize that I'm getting older.  When I think about my peers, it scares me because this is too young to be passed away.  It's a little hard for me to wrap my head around sometimes.

Last year, Mr. Kelly, the parent from two doors down passed away.  He was still living in the same house.  His son Eddie sold the house and was going to pack it up before it changed ownership.  Unfortunately this happened the same week I was away on vacation.  I was really anxious to try to get one last look at the house before it was too late.  I even told him that if I wasn't going to be away, I'd be more than happy to lend a hand with whatever needed to be done, just to get one final glimpse of my childhood.  At the very least, pictures were available on the real estate website and it made me smile to see how very little the house had changed in thirty-five years.

It's guess I'm just feeling a little sad today and a lot nostalgic.  I think I had just about the best childhood I could hope for before we started moving around.  I miss it.  But I'll always have memories and photographs.



Let's hope this comes out even slightly coherent. I'm still wiped out from my long weekend away and all I want to do is pass out, but I'm also afraid that the longer I wait to write so ethi g about the weekend, the better the chance that I'll write nothing. So here goes. Good luck trying to make heads or tails of this. 

I've been taking a lot of time off from work lately. I don't think I've worked a full five day week since sometime in October. It's been nice. Really nice. Between vacations and long weekends, I've been getting spoiled. This past weekend, for all intents and purposes, was the end of my vacationing. On Friday morning, I hopped a plane to Austin, Texas to celebrate the recent marriage of two of the best friends anyone could have the fortune to have. Back in October, my friends Freddy and Jed got married on a trip to New York. Since they were away from home, not many of their friends could join them. But they could for the reception and that's what the trip was all about. 

The reception was going to be held out at a far outside of town. Tents and tables and bonfires and all that jazz. The previous weekend, the temperatures were in the mid 80s. That's a foreign concept for me living in the northeast.  This time of year the temps are somewhere between 30 and 40. As the weekend approached, the forecast got less and less pleasant. Ultimately, Austin's weather became Albany's. Mid 30s with a chance for ice. Freddy did some scrambling and found a new indoor venue at the last minute. Thank baby Jesus!

The plan was for Ken and I to go. He's never been to Austin and this was finally his chance.  At e last minute he had to cancel because of his new job. He was crushed (and he still is). So I traveled alone.  What was different this time was (a) I wasn't staying with Freddy and Jed and I'd be driving in Austin, both new to me. I'm a fine driver and I've been to Austin enough to fake my way around, but I really learned that my sense of direction just isn't as strong as I think it is. The drive from the airport is about a half hour. Mine was an hour.  Yeah, I got lost.  I was relying on google maps to get me where I was going, but I lost my connection and for about 10-15 minutes had to rely on my instincts. I overshot my exit by about 12 minutes (which is when I got my connection reestablished.) but no big whoop. I planned on dropping my stuff and getting to Freddy's house by five.  I wasn't too far behind that schedule. 

Friday night was fun. Seeing Freddy and Jed and their kids, as well as my good friend Eric from NYC and Texas friends Heather and Amy Carr (my nemesis!).  I got to meet Freddy's brother-in-law, who also flew in from out of town that night. We hung out, had some awesome Mexican food and played Cards Against Humanity (on one of my turns to read, I ended up crying because the cards were too funny and I could barely read them.)  It was a fantastic night. Eric was staying about a mile or so from me and I brought him back to his place before heading back to mine. Freddy hooked me up with an airbnb owned by friends of his. I knew of them from his Facebook page, but I didn't know them. About five minutes after I got to my place, there was a knock on my door from Andy. He invited me over to the main house to hange out and to meet him and Ellen. I'm such and awkward person when I don't know someone (less  awkward than my usual awkward) and I hope I didn't come off too badly to them. I'm guessing I didn't because we hung out for nearly two hours getting to know each other. They're really great people. I didn't get to bed until a little after 1am, which i realized wasn't exactly true as I laid down to go to sleep. Because of the time zone change, my body thought it was 2am.  Considering I got up at 5:30 that morning, it was a long ass day. 

Saturday Eric and I were on our own for most of it. We slept in a bit and hooked up around 10 o'clock. I brought him to a restaurant near my place that is been to on a previous trip to town. The food was as good as I recalled. Because I'm a pig, I ordered the rocky road pancakes. Chocolate pancakes with mocha chips, nuts and topped with marshmallow fluff. Eric went healthy. What a putz! Just as we were leaving, I got a call from Freddy asking if we could help him bring some supplies down to the venue later that afternoon. In between, Eric and I did what any two nerds would do. We hit up a comic book store. Austin has some great shops. We planned on hitting two of them, but ran out of time. But the one store we hit was spectacular. Afterwards, we stopped for coffee (or hot chocolate for me) and a snack (this pig got a chocolate/peanut butter cupcake) and then to help out Freddy. We loaded my car with boxes and brought them down. We also helped out getting the place set up for the party before we were dismissed. Driving back to where we were staying, we tried to figure out if there was going to be enough time to hit another comic shop, but there really wasn't. Instead, we swung by Eric's for him to pick up clothes and then back to my place to get ready. Eric needed an iron. His place didn't have one, but mine did. We got ready and then got a lift down to the venue with Ellen. I mentioned to her that I was going to catch a cab so I could drink and she offered the ride instead. 

Man, that party was fun. Fun fun fun. I started drinking early.  I don't really think I had all that much to drink, but I felt it. I have a rather low tolerance for booze and I didn't eat anything all day after that cupcake, so I had nothing to soak up he alcohol. I wish I could learn to loosen up in sober life like I do when I have a little bit of booze in me.  From what I'm told and what I remember, I was really outgoing all night long. Really outgoing. I got to see a bunch of people I know already, like my friend Gregg, who I've know since waaaaaaaay before Freddy.  I got to see a bunch of people I know through Freddy like Kay and Darla and Leslie and Kevin and TJ. I got to meet in person a lot of new people who I feel like I already sort of know from Freddy's Facebook feed.  People like his co-worker Christy, who always cracks me up, and Elizabeth and Karissa and Julie and Shelli. And if that's not enough, there were people I wasn't all that familiar with from Facebook or previous trips who were just spectacular. One in particular was Stephen the bartender. I saw him when we went down to help set up the place earlier in the afternoon and thought he was fucking hot. But I'm not the type of person to say anything (because I'm awkward and repressed and uptight).  We'll, I'm not the type until you put some liquor in me and then I've got all the courage in the world to tell him to his face he makes me hard. Only, it's kind of embarrassing when his husband is standing there next to him when you spill the beans. Actually, it's only embarrassing the following day when you sober up. 

It kind of freaked me out at the party for people to come up to me and ask if I was Walt. It happened quite a few times and I felt like I was famous or something. It started with my new friend Karissa and kept on happening all night long. My favorite time was when Freddy's neighbor asked, "Are you THE Walt?"  That's not just any old Walt. I'm THE Walt!

I know I'm leaving out people, but it's not on purpose. There were so many people there and I don't feel like I got to spend enough time with any of them. I'm also pretty sure I was like a little boy constantly distracted by a shiny object, going person to person randomly. 

Sunday was both fun and sad.  Norman had to leave shortly before breakfast. Eric had to leave shortly after breakfast.  So did Amy Carr. There's something about saying goodbye in Texas that makes me emotional. The rest of Sunday was spent with the family. We hit up a big annual art fair.  I was really hoping to find something cool, but nothing really caught my eye. Dinner is something I still haven't lived down. Ken has been trying g to get me to go for Indian for dinner for years. We went once and it was not a good experience for me. Recently I told him I'm willing to try again, but not just yet. Sunday night, we all went out for Indian. It was posted online when we got to the restaurant and within minutes, I got an angry text message from Ken. I am now at his beck and call for when his next craving for Indian hits and I can't say no. 

Sunday was an early night. Everyone was exhausted and I had to be up at 4:30 on Monday to get showered and back to the airport in time. I'm happy I headed out as early as I did because it took forever to get through security. There was no traffic on the road that morning because I think everyone in Austin was in the security line. It didn't really occur to me that Monday morning would be a heavy travel time, but of course it is. It's a hell of a lot of business travel. 

But it's Wednesday now, I'm still exhausted and I've been nursing a sore throat since I got back. And I've been basking in the afterglow of this weekend, spending time with family and expanding my circle of amazing friends 



I can't believe it's December already.  I seriously don't know how 2013 flew by as quickly as it did.  It feels like it should only be about half over, not almost completely over.  It feels like I barely got much of anything done this year.  Hell, I was off from work all last week and I got next to nothing accomplished.  I thought about that on the drive in to work this morning.  I decided I was finally ready to get to that list of things I was going to do.  

I guess I got a little bit done, though.  I pulled out the Christmas trees and set them up.  Last year I never got around to doing that at all.  I cleaned the house, though to be honest, I didn't do that until this past weekend.  I got my teeth cleaned.  Whoopie.  And I have to go back in two weeks because I have a chipped filling with a little decay behind it.  I'm not looking forward to that.  When my teeth are good, they're really good.  When there's a problem, it always seems like it's a bigger problem than anticipated.  I'm going into the new filling with that in mind so that if something bigger is wrong, it won't come as a shock.  I intended on writing here more, but that didn't come to be.

On Thanksgiving Day, Ken and I traveled to Connecticut to have dinner with my Aunt and her wife.  I've been reconnecting with her lately and it's nice.  She's only about five years older than I am, so growing up she was more like my cousin and not my aunt.  She's the black sheep of the family, too.  Lives within a few miles of everyone else, yet has no contact with anyone.  So this visit was nice.  Seeing the area of Connecticut where she lives was nice, too.  We would travel there usually twice a year when I was growing up.  I don't know the area well, but I have some very strong and very fond memories of it.

My aunt lives about 40 minutes from a casino, so Ken, still feeling lucky from the cruise we were on a few weeks ago, wanted to swing by there on the way home.  He had a game plan, too.  We'd get there, walk around to see what was what, then set our timers for one hour.  We'd each play $100 and whoever had the most money at the end of the hour won.  I played for a little bit, but didn't win anything.  While searching for a machine about ten minutes in, I passed Ken who had already turned his $100 into $200.  Naturally.  I didn't see him again until time was up and we met at the pre-arranged spot.  He managed to get as high as about $225, he said, but ended up with $0.  He lost it all.  Me, on the other hand, didn't.  I turned my $100 into $100.09!  That's right.  I took nine cents from the Native Americans.  So I was the winner, but my prize sucked.

The drive home from Connecticut was kind of fun.  There was no traffic on the drive to my aunt's, but there was quite a bit on the drive home.  Every time we'd pass an exit with shopping visible from the highway, the traffic would automatically thin out.  Looking at the different shopping plazas we could see from the road was kind of sickening to me.  Lines and lines of people waiting for the stores to open.  Seriously, it's worth all that to save $5 on a piece of shit that you don't need anyway?  I did go out on Friday afternoon, but to the grocery store.  I didn't know before this year, but Black Friday is the ultimate day to buy groceries.  There was almost no one in the store.  It was glorious.  On Sunday afternoon, Ken needed to hit the grocery store because he wanted to try to make chicken noodle soup from scratch, so we ventured out to get his ingredients.  On the way home we stopped at Toys R Us to pick up a couple presents for these little bastards I love more than life itself.  The store wasn't busy at all.  I was a little freaked by the thought of shopping in a toy store on Black Friday weekend, but it felt like everyone had shopped themselves out by Sunday afternoon.

I need to find just a little time to get back to my year by year playlists.  The posts aren't quite coming out the way I'd hoped, but I'm still having fun writing them.  I just started 1998 at work today.  I should really be done with the 90s, but I took a little extra time off in between years.  My goal is to find do at least one this week, though I've got a lot going on again.  ::fingers crossed::