Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. And why not? It is probably the lowest stress holiday there is for me. I show up someplace, people feed me and there are pies and football games and no one has to worry about maxing out their credit cards buying gifts.

But yeah, I can see where it might be a little more stressful for the people feeding me and such, but I have made it this far without having to worry about stovetops and burners and lumpy vs. smooth mashed potatoes.

Ethan seems to be doing his damndest to change that.

Last night at dinner he asks me if I'm cooking a turkey. As near as I can remember, this is the conversation that followed:

Me: We're going to Kaileigh's for Thanksgiving.

E: But you are going to make a turkey?

Me: You realize it's Thanksgiving, I'm pretty sure Aunt Pauline will have a turkey.

E: But you're going to make a turkey, too?

Me: I think we will only need one turkey.

E: I mean at your house, are you going to make a turkey?

Me: Oh, you mean a different day, like when I made a chicken in the crockpot?

E: But with a turkey

Me: You've seen my stove and crockpot, I don't have room to cook a turkey.

E: How about a little turkey?

Me: They don't really have little turkeys. I think you are thinking of a chicken.

E: Not a chicken, a little turkey!

Me: Okay, okay, I will work on the little turkey.

So, I guess we are never too old to establish new holiday traditions. And if anyone knows where I can get a little turkey that I can cram into my crockpot, let me know.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Love is a many splendored sword

"You are the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me."

My first reaction on hearing this was absolute amazement and love on my end, that someone would feel that deeply about little ol' me.

Of course, the second reaction was pure fear. Not fear that I wasn't ready to hear those words, or didn't believe them, or didn't feel the same way myself. No, fear that ultimately I will find a way to screw it up.

That's a lot of pressure, being the most amazing thing that has happened to a person who you also happen to be head over heels in love with. My mind immediately flashed to a laundry list of dozens of things I've managed to screw up in my life, my amazing life.

I need to act quick ... let this amazing woman know all, or some, or okay, at least a few things from the past that have notched well below the amazing category.

"You do know that I ...

Have had one car repossessed

Another car that should have been repossessed if anyone knew where I lived at the time

May not have filed my taxes one or two years, but I'm pretty sure the statute of limitations is passed on that one

Had my car towed for failing to pay some kind of ticket

Let maintenance go on my car once until the brakes fell off (you know sweetheart, it may be best we move someplace that has public transportation and keep me away from the whole car thing)

Have been laid off/lost more jobs than I probably care to admit

Will always have a constant, low-level anxiety that I will end up losing  whatever job I have at the moment

Find it easy to avoid problems by avoiding problems

Tend to retreat into my own private cocoon where I do not use words. Or expressions

Once tried to cook an egg in a toaster oven

Constantly think of noble, good things I could be doing only to find my time better suited to drinking beer and watching the Rockford Files

Need to shave my shoulders on a regular basis

Once went to a Phish concert. But promise I didn't enjoy it too much."

And many, many more things that I'm sure I'll remember in the middle of the night, waking up screaming to tell you.

But it's okay. This time I will take the pressure. I will look toward the challenges ahead. And try not to avoid them. Too much. And use my words, even when I want to retreat to my fortress of Rockford solitude. At least most of the time.

And I will try to live up to being amazing. And maybe someday reach your level.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thank you for your honesty, now please step away from the car and buy some Thunderbird

I have no issue giving money to the homeless. I make no demands on what they spend it on, whether it's buying a pint of the ripple or food. It's my choice to give to whom I want to give to, and it is the choice of those who receive to do what they will with it.

Call me a softy, liberal, commie (waiting for comment below from Dad), but one thing I do try to do when I'm giving out a couple bucks to those less fortunate than me is to, at the very least, look them in the eyes and acknowledge their existence. More than that, I usually stop to share a few words with them. I fully accept that what they may have to tell me is bullshit. I willingly accept that.

Once again, it part of the bargain I make with myself in these situations.

The idealistic and compassionate part of me believes that one of the few things you cannot take away from people are their stories. Humans are creatures defined by their stories, whether they are true or a created personal myth. By acknowledging the stories of those who have fallen on hard times, we are acknowledging what we all have in common. We accept that there are tragedies, happy endings, and mostly, ongoing struggles.

The part of me that is slightly more cynical figures that listening to the stories of others will give me more stories.

More than anything, more than giving money, listening is an activity that shows you care about another human being. Looking someone in the eyes and truly paying attention is a great gift, and it is one you can give to anyone at anytime.

But sometimes it can be hard to control when these great, life-affirming gifts for the homeless take place. And Sunday was one of those times.

Sunday after church ...

Okay, I'll let that part sink in for a minute. Yes, I do occasionally go to church, but it is a Unitarian Church, so I've heard the words of Bob Dylan about twice as often as I've heard the words of the Lord.

And we're back. Sunday after church I made a stop at the Dollar Variety store on Main Street in Haverhill. Now, the Dollar Variety is firmly within the middle tier of dollar stores, well below the ritzy heights of the Dollar Tree, the gold dollar standard of the competition, but safely above the likes of Uncle Junior's Discount Dollar Delirium. I needed some ibuprofen, but apparently not so badly that I was willing to pay more than a dollar for it.

It is also a well-known fact that any trip to the Dollar Variety will also include me standing slack-jawed at the big ol' display of off-brand, discontinued, not-quite right candies. This trip so me add some pretzel M&Ms and Swedish Fish jellybeans to my score. It's kinda like where the ugly step-children of Big Candy go to fuel potheads who have lots of time to shop during the middle of the day.

I take my bag of cut-rate painkillers and misfit candy back to my car, wash down some ibuprofen with some surprisingly not untasty, if perhaps slightly stale, pretzel M&Ms.

As I consider how much I want to try the Swedish Fish jellybeans (unsurprisingly, they taste just like Swedish Fish, yet in a convenient bean-like shape), I get a knock on the window of my car.

Before I can completely focus on the white, bearded middle-aged guy who, quite frankly, looked like anyone else who might have been wandering around the Dollar Variety in Haverhill on a Sunday afternoon, said gentleman begins to converse with me. Very loudly.


Well thank God and Robert Zimmerman, I think, because criminals are, by law, required to tell you if they are in fact criminals.


Well, then, maybe there is something to this honesty thing after all. I consider telling him that approaching people who buy off-brand pain relievers with spare change might not be the best bet for finding the riches to purchase Courvoisier and Grey Goose Extra Smug. Instead I pull two quarters out of my ashtray and slide them through a very narrow opening in my window. Judging from the vinyl signs in the front windows of every convenience store in town, I know my new friend is now halfway to purchasing a 24-oz can of ice cold Natty Light. I wish him luck.


but not a criminal.

I decide that this is the exception to the rule about listening meaningful to the stories of the homeless. I gave him a good start on his story with the whole honesty thing.

I go home and am thankful that I have a roof over my head where I can enjoy Swedish Fish Jellybeans.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

New Year's Resolution extremely late or slightly early

Carrie and I used to have this New Year's Day tradition wherein she would write 10 New Year's resolutions, and then ask me to write 10 New Year's resolutions. This was followed by the traditional grumpy look on my face, and the traditional mini-tantrum of me never being able to think of more than six or seven things to resolve to, which resolve would be broken by Jan. 23 anyway. The longer this tradition this went on, the easier it actually became, since I would be able to recycle the 10 resolutions from the year before that I hadn't been able to keep for more than 22 days.

These days, I don't give much truck to making New Year's resolutions. However, I will occasionally grumble that if someone wants to make resolutions, why even bother doing than on a date prescribed by the man, you dig? Then I will grumble a little bit more, and still not make resolutions, unless I am resolved to grumble, which is not out of the realm of possibility.

But today, I made a resolution, call it early, late, or right on time. Or more likely, ready to be kicked to the curb by the time I hit publish.

I, Adam Robert Swift, being of relatively sound mind and only moderately creaky body, resolve to spend at least one waking hour per day free of all electronic devices, computers, tablets, phones, and televisions.

Technology is great, technology is wonderful. And I do keep a healthy dose of anachronism in my life. I love my record player. I love my books. I've dumped two kindles on craigslist, and only partly because I've needed the money. I love the physicality of an actual book in my hands. I love to see a slab of vinyl spinning on my stereo. My decorative motif is basically books and records everywhere, and I love it.

But still, I have found that when I do escape into a book, there are still those screens tugging at the outer edge of consciousness. Finish a chapter. Check my smartphone for email or facebook updates. Flip the record over, check the latest articles on the Onion. Eventually, I would be checking the updates every page or two, surfing on the computer and barely remembering what I was listening to.

So today, I piled up all the pluggy in things in one room that I was not going to be in for the next hour, grabbed a book, hid the remote controls, and truly got lost in my book for a solid hour. No pictures of cats. No email alerts from congressional aides about how the co-sponsored a bill to make Russett potatoes the official state potato. And it was good. And I remembered that this was kind of how it used to be, a quiet place alone without 18 kinds of stimulus to scramble my brain.

This is my November 12 resolution. It is only one. And who knows how it will look on November 13. But I'll give it a shot and try not to grumble about it too much.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Top of the Hub

Sometimes, falling in love requires a little help from a rather large bag, the desire to try perfectly acceptable and not very earth-shattering coffee from the region's largest chain of coffee shops, the second tallest building in the city, and a rather incredulous employee who works on the observation deck at the second largest building in the city.

Leslie had come to Boston for the first time ever, and as the person who wrote "Boston?" on her Facebook status when she had asked for trip ideas a few weeks previously, I'd undertaken the role as her tour guide, host, and general Boy Friday for her stay. Let's just say I was looking forward to this, no matter how many times we ended up taking the elevator to the Top of the Prudential. I did have some anxiety about being a tour guide, given as most my time in the city these days is spent touring record stores or just kind of staring at people near subway stations. I mean, I'm sure Leslie would have loved looking for rare Art Pepper albums and bartering cigarettes with homeless people as much as I do, but I figured we should hit some of the more traditional tourist spots before going that route. Maybe something with a lobster or a tri-corner hat or two.

So we had got up early, and before we even made it into the city we had breakfast. With grilled English muffins. And I had never seen someone so amazed and joyous at the sight and taste of a buttered, grilled bread product. My heart began to melt a little right then. Like the butter on the English muffin. Was also a reminder that I should get my cholesterol checked soon.

Old State House. Boston Massacre that may or may not have been an actual "massacre." Subways. Clam Chowder.  MMMMMM... clam chowder was even more magical than grilled English muffins, if you can believe that. I mean, I imagine it might be. I'm not a clam chowder guy. But most reasonable people seem to enjoy it more than English muffins. 

Along the way, we walked. We took the subway. At some point, we had to cross a street. I held Leslie's hand as we crossed. For safety reasons only, of course. Eventually, the sidewalks themselves must have become more unsafe, and we were holding hands more than we weren't holding hands. There was no discussion, it just happened. A hand held here, arm around back there, head on the shoulder on the train. 

As we continued our tour of touristy type things Boston tourists should tour, we made our way to the Prudential Center. At the top, we saw all the wonderful sites of the city, and Leslie was suitably amazed, and I was suitably amazed that seeing things through such wonderful, pure eyes could increase my appreciation for things I might have taken for granted. 

We took the elevator down and walked down Boylston Street, and it being Boston, and Leslie having never been to a Dunkin Donuts, we made our way to the nearest Dunkin Donuts. And it being Boston, the nearest Dunkin Donuts was all of 97 steps away. In pretty much any direction we chose. I promised Leslie that the coffee there would be perfectly adequate and not awful, as it is at every one of the other 2,039 Dunkin Donuts in Massachusetts. We went it, warmed up, because the temperature was hovering near a chilly 60 degrees, which is apparently a temperature which is considered chilly when you are from California by way of Colombia. 

Leslie orders the coffee and begins fishing through her enormous bag for her wallet. I assume she must have her wallet in the bag, because the thing is the size of a hockey equipment bag, is bursting at the seams, and have no idea what else could be in it besides her wallet. At the register. No wallet. Submerges head to bottom of the bag. No wallet. I pay for coffees, we go to table and take next 10 minutes unpacking bag. Find complete works of Shakespeare en Espanol. No wallet. Find forgotten souvenirs  from Leslie's last vacation to Chicago sometime earlier in the century. No wallet. Damn, we figure Leslie must have left her wallet at the Prudential, which luckily is the last stop we made.

I spring into action. And by springing into action, I really mean looking up the telephone number for the Top of the Pru on my phone. This heroic action takes all of 13 seconds. Still, I am a dashing man of action. Next step, call the number I found with my advanced investigatory skills of yelling "Top of Pru!!!" into my phone while standing outside on Boylston Street.

Honestly, I have little faith that anyone will actually pick up the phone when I call. After all, what kind of questions would people typically be calling about?

"Are you open?"


"Where are you located?"

"See that really tall building in the middle of the city? Top of it."

But by some stroke of tourist luck, someone picks up the phone on one of the first rings. Maybe the people who work at the Top of the Pru get bored spending every day not taking things for granted.

I explain to the woman who answers the phone that my friend and I had just been on the observation deck and that my friend believes she left her wallet there.

She asks me for the color of the wallet.

I poke my head back into the Dunkin Donuts and ask Leslie for the color of her wallet. She tells me it is beige. I tell the woman on the phone it is beige.


"Excuse me?" I answer.

"Beige aaannnnnnd?"

"Beige and it's a wallet. It has money and cards and things in it. She has her license in it with a little picture of her on it. Do you actually have the wallet? Or any wallets?"

"Oh, okay.... yes."

"Yes, you have that wallet or you just have wallets in general?"

After a few more minutes, I make the assumption that the wallet is most likely there, although the woman never actually made a 100 percent confirmation on that. We walk back to the Pru, holding hands, Leslie being overly thankful that I am the hero who is bold enough and quick enough to find a phone number and make a phone call. We cross the street holding hands. We walk to the elevator holding hands. We go to the top of the Pru for the second time within the past 30 minutes.

We go to the woman selling tickets, and I immediately recognize her voice as the woman I talked to on the phone. I explain to her that I just called and my friend thinks she left her wallet here and by the time I got off the phone I was pretty sure, yet not actually 100 percent positive, that the wallet was here.

"What color was the wallet?" she asks.

"Ummm, still beige," says Leslie.


"It has a clasp! It's a wallet! It has a little picture of me in it!"

Amazingly enough, they do in fact have the wallet. Apparently the wonder of not taking everything for granted every day gets boring enough that the only other fun for the employees is to devise increasingly complex quizzes for people who have left their possessions behind.

We take the elevator down one more time, holding hands, holding hands as we walk back out into the city, the beautiful city. And maybe it wasn't the bravest or most impressive way to be a hero, but it meant something that I was there, and it meant something to me to be there for someone.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

There was no Smiths song title that seemed appropriate for this post. Football.

I preface this by saying that by the time Stephen Gostkowski kicks the ball past Mercury Morris Jr. or whatever guy is standing in the Dolphins end zone next Monday night, I'll probably be watching the game.
Hell, by the time Iona plays the University of Franklin State College tonight on FoxSports 7, there's a chance I'll be watching.
But it's getting harder and harder to watch football, especially professional football, each week. The ghost of the undead Steve Grogan have mercy on my soul.
And this has been coming about for some time. I mean, a bunch of braindead steroid cases down in Miami sticking up for their buddy and explaining away when it is and not okay to laugh about calling a co-worker a half-nigger doesn't help. But it has been coming for some time.
Every time a player gets carted off the field, every concussion, every torn ACL and separated body part I failed to study in Biology brings me a little closer to thinking a Sunday spent watching Househunters, International would be a better use of my time.
It's a little too simplistic to compare Football to all that fancy Gladitorial stuff that some folks like to do, but the fact remains that watching football requires a healthy suspension of humanization.
We tell ourselves its okay because Football players choose to play Football, and make a shit-ton of money to do it. Like there is some bell curve where increased fortune makes it okay for us to enjoy the pain of others.
And I know I'll still watch, and enjoy it, then enjoy it a little less with every third-stringer who comes in to replace the second-stringer who replaced the starter who is doing just fine, thank you very much, and will be rehabbing and back in four to six weeks, until the point when he retires, and we forget about him until we realize the average life expectancy for a professional Football player is about a year or two older than I am right now.
I get it, it's a violent sport. And while I'm torn, there will be a part of me that still enjoys it. And I really have no problem with anyone else that enjoys watching Football.
And there will be a part of me that appreciates the irony that my two favorite athletes are Muhammad Ali and Marvin Hagler.
But I get the feeling there is going to be a part of me that enjoys Football a little less with every game and every hit.
And those houses in Cancun sure look sweet.