One Voice

… because one voice, armed with the truth, can help begin to heal the world.

With modern communications, nothing goes away

Nothing ever goes away anymore.

I can listen to just about any song I ever liked on satellite radio, and if it doesn’t show up I can buy it on iTunes. I can buy seasons of just about any TV show I ever liked — except, inexplicably, for “LA Law” — and I can find 99 percent of the movies I love on DVD.

But perhaps the strangest part of it all is people. When you spent 60-plus years on the planet, you find that a fairly large number of people seem to pass in and out of your life. Some of them, you make the effort to maintain contact. Others, you avoid. Still others avoid you.

The Internet has changed all that, and what it didn’t change, Facebook did. Over the last five years or so, I have re-established contact with people I hadn’t seen in more than 40 years. And within the last year or so with Facebook, I touched base with my wonderful friend Christine Miller, who I hadn’t seen since before I was married.

Married for the first time — in 1975.

There are three women on Facebook who are friends of mine that I actually thought at one time or another — long ago and far away — I might marry. For whatever reason, it didn’t happen, but I feel no bitterness toward any of them and I don’t think they feel bitterness toward me. Time may not heal all wounds, but I suppose the fact that I’m happily married and so are all three of them probably helped.

My oldest friend of all isn’t on Facebook, at least as far as I know, but he and I made contact again in 2007 at our 40th high school reunion, and I’m glad to know he’s got a good life and a happy family going for him. Gary and I became friends in 1963, and even though you could count our meetings in the last 30 years on one hand and have fingers left over, we always seem to pick up where we left off.

Pauline, Madison and little Gustav

Mostly what I appreciate all these additional forms of communication is how much they help me stay in touch with the people I love. My daughter Pauline and her family are on the other side of the world in Indonesia, but through Skype we talk nearly every week and through pictures she posts to her Facebook account, I get to see my little granddaughter Madison grow up. She’ll be 3 next month, and her little brother is expected to join the family in November.

Pauline won’t tell us what the new baby’s name will be, which is her prerogative, but as a grandfather and a writer, I have to call him something.

For now he’s little Gustav.

I certainly hope he never goes away.

 

 

posted by Mike in Family,Friends,Happiness,love,memories and have Comments (2)

We’re genuinely enjoying ourselves in Georgia

I don’t know how to explain it, but there is something so genuine about living in Georgia.

I’ve written before about how impressed Nicole was with the people when we were here twice in March 2010 buying our house, but it seems like every week I see some little thing that makes me realize this is a pretty great place to live.

I know I have already mentioned that Griffin — a city of only about 20,000 people — has more than 50 different Baptist churches, and I know I’ve posted pictures of some of the signs I see advertising services. One in particular seems to be pretty good at coming up with different aphorisms.

Funny church

Since I’m Roman Catholic, I doubt I’ll ever go to a service at Vineyard Baptist Church, but I would like those folks to know they have brightened my day a few times with their sense of humor.

We’ve been barreling along toward summer recently, with temperatures in the 80s and fairly high humidity as well, but today was a big surprise. It was supposed to rain, and it might yet, but the temperature was only in the mid 60s and it was cloudy with something of a cold wind.

I thought it might be a good day to play 18 holes, and since I didn’t want to be caught a long way out on the course walking, I took a cart today. My game has slipped recently, and I’m not sure why. After playing 21 times in 31 days, I’ve only been out three days of the last seven. I shot a 44 on Tuesday and a 43 on Friday, and I didn’t start out well today either.

At the turn, I had a 43 — three pars and one double bogey.

For some reason, I’m getting a lot less distance off the tee lately, and I’m reaching far fewer greens in regulation. Where I was driving 220-230 yards off the tee, I seem to be down to 170-180 the last few times out. And where I was reaching the greens with my approach shots, I seem to be either coming up short or landing off to one side or another.

But what I now consider bad scores — 43 or 44 for nine holes — are scores that once would have been very good for me, so I don’t want to get too discouraged.

Cloudy day

The course wasn’t real crowded, and most of the people I came across were Georgia Nice. We chatted, and since I was playing alone, they let me play through.

After I bogeyed the 10th hole, I started getting it together. A couple of pars and a couple more bogeys left me 10 over after 14 holes, and then I went for the big finish. I did something I’ve never done before. I parred the last four holes, including rolling in a 23-foot putt on the 17th hole.

I shot 39 on the back nine and finished with an 82.

I didn’t realize it until this minute, because I’ve had at least half a dozen rounds better than that, but 82 is still better than I had ever shot for 18 holes until about two months ago.

I still miss playing with Chuck and Mickey, my two golfing partners for the last 15 years or so in California. Playing alone was strange at first, but as I said, I’ve gotten used to it and I can actually complete most of my swings now without pulling the headphone wires out of my iPod.

I really do love it here, and so does Nicole. Because she is working so hard on her research, we haven’t gotten involved in any activities in the community yet. So it isn’t at all surprising for us to go through the day without talking to anyone except each other.

That’s OK for now.

In fact, it’s better than OK.

We both love it here, and that’s wonderful.

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posted by Mike in Family,Friends,Georgia,golf,Happiness,retirement and have No Comments

Two old friends who have had pretty good lives

When I was 13, I met two of the most interesting people I have ever known.

We had moved from Ohio to Virginia earlier in the year, and I had been lost for the better part of eight months when I started high school in September. It’s difficult to comprehend now how much difference there was between Dayton, Ohio, and Fairfax, Virginia, in 1963. I don’t think I had ever heard anyone refer to the Civil War as anything but a historical event in Ohio, yet in Virginia it somehow mattered to people that I had just moved there from the North.

I don’t think I’d had that many friends in Ohio, but starting high school a year younger than most of the other kids in the class — I had skipped second grade — and then being what Dave Barry would call “puberty challenged” left me feeling totally out of place. Couple that with the fact that I was totally uncomfortable in my own skin and didn’t know what to do about it, and I was not a happy kid.

But the first week of high school introduced me to two fascinating people in my Freshman English class. Tracy Antley was a military brat, a girl who was intelligent, outspoken and funny. She wound up being the first really good female friend I ever had, although to my shame, I struggled with the idea of a girl as a friend in those days. Alan Singer was every bit as interesting, but what impressed me so much about him was that he seemed even more puberty challenged than I was, and he was short and not at all athletic, yet was totally comfortable with what he was. Which was smart and funny, with a stinging wit.

I seem to remember him being in our school only for one year, although it might have been two. His picture isn’t in our sophomore yearbook. Tracy was with us for three years until her father was transferred after our 11th grade year.

I lost touch with both of them. Ironically, I later learned that Tracy spent her first two years of college at Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Va., a school I visited numerous times for dates during the three semesters I spent at the University of Virginia.

Of Alan, I had no clue.

But as one turned to another, and barely pubescent kids became middle-aged and then older, I learned some things. It didn’t surprise me much to learn that Tracy and Alan had married, and it surprised me just as little to learn that they had divorced. Tracy had become an attorney, and Alan a writer and an English professor. She lives on one coast, he on another. He has published numerous books, none of which have been touted by Oprah, made into a movie or found an audience among folks who read Tom Clancy, Stephen King or Nora Roberts.

Alan Singer

It’s a pretty safe bet that none of those things were goals of his when he wrote the books. Tracy told me that Alan was the only person she knew who completely understood “Finnegan’s Wake” the first time he read it.

I ordered two of his books through Amazon. “The Charnel Imp” has been sitting on my bookshelf for six or eight months. It’s not a long book, but for some reason, I find myself intimidated by it. It contains possibly the most dense prose I have ever seen, and I don’t mean dense in a negative way. Wading through the first page or two leaves me feeling like I’m chopping my way through a rain forest with a dull machete.

Just this week, I got his first novel, “The Ox-Breadth,” from a used bookseller in Philadelphia. I haven’t read it yet, even though it’s only 129 pages long. I did glance fondly at the dedication page.

For Tracy.

That made me smile.

I found his e-mail address on his university’s Website, and after I read the two books, I think I will send him an e-mail and tell him what I think of them.

I’m not sure he’ll remember me. As I said, our lives touched for just one year. But I do think when you come across someone you knew as a child who accomplished something, you ought to let them know you noticed.

I also promised Tracy I would let her know what I thought.

So I guess I had better put down Tom Clancy, Stephen King and Nora Roberts and tackle his books.

Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever read Nora Roberts.

I’m more of a Danielle Steel fan.

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posted by Mike in books,Friends,memories,writing and have No Comments

Life’s lessons come slowly and are hard won

I was writing on Facebook about how strange it seems to me that my experience there has put me back into touch with friends I haven’t seen for 20 or 30 years or even longer.

One of those friends responded to my comment by saying how much happier she was now, approaching age 50, than she was when she was 20. I had thought she was a pretty special person back then, but it didn’t surprise me that she wasn’t happy. If there’s one thing I have learned in the last few years working on a book about my high school classmates, it’s that life was a lot more complex even for the kids who seemed like they had everything going for them.

One girl I interviewed who had seemed to me like an absolute goddess told me that all through high school she had felt like she was stupid and ugly. It turned out she was dyslexic, a problem that wasn’t as well understood in the mid ’60s.

Forty years later

As for my friend from 1980, she was both beautiful and bright, but for whatever reason, she hadn’t really found herself.

Heck, does anybody really find themself at that age?

I knew two 18-year-olds who seemed really happy, and both of them breezed through college in four years with honors, got great jobs and got happily married by their mid 20s.

To be fair, though, I’m assuming a lot when I think my two kids didn’t suffer through some of the same angst.

There is no question that age and experience teaches us that not everything we thought was crucially important really mattered as much as we thought. I know there was advice my mother gave me that I didn’t heed that turned out to be absolutely correct.

Unfortunately, most of life’s lessons seem to be ones we have to learn for ourself.

I’m glad Facebook has shown me one thing.

Most of my friends, most of the folks who really mattered to me at one time or another, seem to have fairly happy lives.

posted by Mike in Friends,Happiness and have No Comments

Life’s lessons to be learned from Frank Costanza

I was never a huge fan of “Seinfeld,” but I’ll admit there have always been things about it that make me laugh.

One of those things is Jerry Stiller as George Costanza’s father Frank. I always liked the Festivus episode, especially the part about the airing of grievances, but the one that never fails to leave me clutching my sides is when Frank is working on his temper and has come up with the mantra of “Serenity Now.”

At first he’s saying it calmly, but by the end of the episode he’s shouting it to himself in an angry voice.

Frank Costanza's Festivus card

To me in addition to being hilarious, it also shows just how hard it is sometimes to be human. No matter how much you feel like you’ve learned, no matter how certain you are of the right thing to do and no matter how hard you work to do it, being human means you’re going to fall short and let yourself — and other people — down at times.

“During the past year, you have disappointed me in the following ways …”

Sounds just like Thanksgiving or Christmas in a lot of families, including just about every movie made in the last 20 years about grown children returning home for the holidays.

The fact is, we hurt the people we love more than anyone else.

But that’s because they care what we think and vice versa. There is no one in this world whose good opinion of my I value more than my wife’s opinion, and that isn’t just because it makes things more peaceful at home.

It’s because at least theoretically, the person you love enough to marry is the one who knows you better than anyone else in the world, so if your wife thinks you’re a schmuck – or a smuck, as a close friend of mine used to say — then there’s a good chance you are one.

A schmuck, not a smuck.

So when I mess up, all I can do is apologize, put it behind me and try not to do it again.

And go around muttering “serenity now” until I feel better.

posted by Mike in Comedy,Family,Friends,Happiness,love,Ranting and have No Comments
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