Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Fall has fell

1 October 2010, Washington, DC, USA

A beautiful day at last -- warm sunshine, a gentle breeze, leaves starting to turn their autumn colors -- sweater weather. A good day to visit my friend John at Arlington National Cemetery. I was living in DC when John died unexpectedly and returned to Minneapolis for the memorial and later attended his burial. Because John had served in combat, the interment at Arlington was complete with caissons. I remember John saying they didn’t ask him, they just told him to get to Vietnam. John was a well decorated Vietnam vet with the kind of accolades in his service record that others would’ve bragged about. Typical of John; none of us knew any of that until one of his brother’s obtained and shared a copy of the record. The reception after the burial was proscribed in John’s will -- lots of booze and all his favorite foods, like ham and deviled eggs.

I met John in fall 1987, about 18 months after I left my husband. A mutual friend of ours, Terry, who was also going through a divorce, introduced us the night she returned my mink coat. She’d borrowed it as part of a surprise for her new beau. John invited us to join a group that enjoyed weekly Sunday brunches together. It was started by two divorced women who knew what the self-help book I’d read said -- “Sundays are the hardest days” for divorced people. The women each invited a friend to the original brunch, and as time passed, those friends invited others, and it grew from there.

That first Sunday I went to brunch and wore the mink. I figured that if I didn’t recognize John, he would recognize the coat and he did. That was the start of a long and wonderful friendship not only with John but also a host of others who came and went from what I dubbed the Brunch Bunch. Over the years the Bunch frequented cafes, restaurants, bars and grills all over the Twin Cities in search of good cheap breakfast food, no buffets allowed but Bloody Marys a must.

John was a friend in the very best sense of that word. He was Will, with an occasional touch of Jack. We could laugh together and cry together. We supported each other through break ups and start ups. When I wanted to get dressed up and go to dinner and dancing, John dusted off his tux and off we went in a taxi so we could drink without worry. He loved Peter and “the boys,” as we called Peter’s supportive cadre of friends, almost as much as I. When I left for Uganda, John took over preparing the monthly family dinners that I started hosting when Peter was in high school, continued off and on later and started up regularly again after he died. And that morphed into a poker game, complete with cigars, for John and the boys.

I miss John, and I’m glad I had a chance to talk to him while I was in DC.

8 October, Minneapolis MN USA

I lost a friend today. No, she didn’t die, thank heavens. In some ways, that might be easier. She is gone nonetheless. When I returned from DC, I emailed her because I had seen mutual friends there and I hadn’t heard from her in a long time. Today I got her email reply -- a message that she said she should have said 17 years ago. At that time I did something that hurt her badly, she said now but not then. I was flabbergasted. I don’t go around hurting people on purpose but know I could have done that without realizing it. I didn’t know I’d hurt her or I would have apologized immediately. I remember she seemed withdrawn at the time, and I remember trying to talk to her. But she didn’t tell me then, so I couldn’t “fix it.” And she didn’t tell me when she came to visit me, and she didn’t tell me when I went to visit her a few years later, and she didn’t tell me in any of the many emails we shared over the years. She harbored her hurt silently for 17 years. So beyond apologizing, I didn’t see any point in trying to salvage the relationship. I emailed that apology and then I cried, mourning the loss from my life of someone I had thought of as a friend.

11 October

Yesterday friend Marilyn and I spent almost the whole day at the Guthrie Theatre seeing “The Great Game: Afghanistan.” (The term “the great game” comes from the rivalry between the British and Russian empires.) The three-part event, commissioned and premiered at London’s Tricycle Theater, consists of 12 one-act plays covering 150 years of Afghani history and culture. The Guthrie was one of a handful of US venues in which the London cast performed the event. You can see the parts individually over multiple days or all at once, as we did. Short intermissions within each part and very long ones between the parts made the long sitting time endurable. So did the superb acting and well paced, non-linear structure that required paying close attention. Short pieces called “Verbatim” (quotes from people like Hilary Clinton, Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid and General MacChrystal) introduced each part. A few messages were pretty clear -- nations continue to repeat the same mistakes, including ours right now; we, and the Brits and Russians before us, fail to comprehend the critical importance of tribe over individuals; the Afghanis don’t trust us with good reason, given their disappointing past experiences; and no simple solution exists.

30 October, San Francisco CA USA

The month has passed quickly ... as my first 65 years seem to have. It’s been a month of excellent theatre, “The Great Game” as blogged earlier, and later “My Name is Asher Lev” at the Minnesota Jewish Theatre (thank you, Sue, for sending me the reminder of this theatre company that I’ve enjoyed in years past) and “The House of Spirits” based on Isabel Allende’s book at Mixed Blood (thank you, Susan, for keeping me up to date on this outstanding theatre) and thank you Jan and Linda for sharing season tickets with me. Both were outstanding productions, reminding me yet again about the outstanding quality of theater here. Live theater is what I miss most when I’m overseas. But I am beginning to get back into the swing of things. Have been pretty faithful to an early morning water exercise class and an early evening Pilates class at the Y. I am determined to get back into shape and keep my joints and bones from creaking. Plus my new Medicare-supplement health insurer covers my Y dues if I go there at least eight times a month, which isn’t hard to do.

My middle niece Dyana’s birthday is right after mine, and we had planned a long weekend on a warm southern CA beach. Dyana’s stationed at Travis Air Force Base near Sacramento. But she got word of her deployment to the Middle East toward the end of the year, and the increased training cut into taking the time off. So our celebration’s a bit lower key.

I flew into San Francisco last Wednesday. Early-riser-even-in-retirement Janet took me to the airport at 7 am amidst the season’s first snow flurries. The airport had been closed part of the day on Tuesday because of extremely high (hurricane style) winds. Between the wind, weather and rush hour traffic, it was good that we got an early start. And although my flight left about 30 minutes late, the take off was reasonably smooth and the four-hour flight was uneventful -- whew!

Jean, my best friend from grad school, picked me up at the airport, and off we went to the Sierra Mountains, California “gold country” as well as a wine region. We stayed in a mid 19th Century bed-and-breakfast hotel in Amador City (with a population of 200 it’s definitely not city size). Weather was good so with the top down on Jean’s Beemer, we cruised the winding roads to the old mining towns of the Gold Rush -- Sutter Creek, Murphys, Jackson among others. We visited Sutter Gold Mine to get souvenir samples and Angels Camp where Mark Twain was inspired to write “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” We rummaged antique stores, sampled “penny candy” from our childhood in a candy shop, tasted wines from local wineries. One of the wineries that we visited is owned by a consultant from my Macedonia project. It was fun to see John again and to meet his wife and son, who is now running the family business, a 350-acre complex of vineyard, winery, and tasting and sales room. The winery is now producing vranac, a hearty red wine that’s indigenous to Macedonia (don’t ask how the vine cuttings got to the Sierra foothills). We sampled that -- an excellent vintage -- and bought some. And I ordered a case of vranac and John’s excellent white wines to be shipped to MN.

Today Lisa, Jean’s daughter, and I went to the DeYoung Museum to see the Impressionists that are on view while their space at the D’Orsay in Paris is renovated. Our tickets were for 2 pm and although there was no line to enter, the exhibit was mobbed as might be expected but well worth the effort.

Dyana got in late ... she didn’t have Jean’s zip code so the Super Shuttle wouldn’t let her board. She finally reached me, which was when I also realized I’d typo’d Jean’s zip in my address book. I fixed her a light, vegetarian dinner, and we sat up until midnight catching up. Tomorrow two old friends from different parts of my MN life (Terry and Rosalind) will join us for Sunday brunch at Jean’s. Terry, who introduced me to John (mentioned at the start of this month) and I bonded at a football game of our sons when we discovered we were both going through a divorce. Rosalind and I worked together at The St. Paul Companies.

Halloween, San Francisco CA USA

I miss this holiday as it was celebrated when I was a kid -- getting all dressed up in funny costumes and marching up and down the neighborhood streets trick or treating with friends, then home to count the catch, have Mom abscond with a big part of the candy so we didn’t OD on sugar (and be happy when we’d get a fresh apple). This year I celebrated with a few good friends at brunch at Jean’s and a relaxing drive into eastern CA to return Dyana to her home in Concord. The weather continued to be perfect autumn weather ... hope it’s like this when I return to MN tomorrow!

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