Discombobulation

Nancy posted a mess of photos or her and Rich going back their 27 years and the earliest of them, with her so drop dead cute, was only a couple years before I first met her. That first time I met Nancy was the weird meeting her HR coworkers arranged so that she—she’s really cute and funny, Phil, you’ll love her!—and me—he’s huge and funny, Nancy, you’ll love him!—could meet and be cute and funny together for the people who collected around to watch. I’m serious, that is exactly what they were planning. Nancy and I still talk about how weird that was. Of course, I kept putting it off. Finally, two of the HR girls (HR girls always adored me, why I don’t know) came and got me. Nancy’s here! You two must meet! I grumpily followed. We get to the meeting spot and point out Nancy and I nearly died. She was so little, they hadn’t told me she was so dinky. And she was the cutest, most gorgeous thing I’d ever seen. They hadn’t prepared me for that either. She smiled that smile of her and looked at me with that gaze of hers and suddenly I felt like the biggest and the clumsiest galoot, just ridiculous, and the last thing I wanted to do was to meet somebody so gorgeously dinky. I hesitated. Come on, Phil, meet Nancy! and they led me up to her. I’m totally fucking this up, I was thinking, I don’t wanna meet her. She seemed just as uncomfortable. I can only imagine what she thought with me looming over her. The audience was getting impatient, waiting for witticisms. Say something, Phil. She was so cute, and those eyes of hers so irresistible, that I couldn’t even look her straight in the eye. I don’t think I’ve ever been so discombobulated. But the audience wanted something funny. I couldn’t think of a single funny thing to say. So I mumbled a short joke. A short joke. I remember regretting that instantly, but Nancy laughed. Our audience laughed. Nancy replied with a joke, though neither of us can remember the joke, but it was funnier than the short joke, and the crowd laughed again. Apparently we’d passed the audition. The crowd dispersed, and relieved at the end of the weirdness, Nancy and I chatted briefly. The whole weird scene certainly made it clear that neither of us were like these other people. Normal people are so strange. And we’ve been pals since.

Little things

Fyl just asked me to open a jar. A little torque and pop, it was done. She looked surprised. She’d brought me a jar a couple days before and I struggled with it. Finally bashed it with a spoon and with tremendous effort it popped open. It’s a bad arthritis day, I said, and it was. Everything hurt. Today it was just clutch and twist and the room was awaft with the scent of pickles and testosterone.

Sometimes it’s the little things. Well, my hand isn’t a little thing, I suppose, it’s a big thing. So it’s the little things about the big things. Anyway, tonight it made my day. Or night. Whatever. It doesn’t really matter when it was. Sometimes the little things about the little things don’t really matter.

That’s it. No point in making a big thing about it.

Chanel No. 5

The Lyft was a trim Lexus SUV, and we sank into the plush bucket seats with all the legroom as the loveliest driver I’d ever seen led us across town. She was charming and chatty and witty and disarmingly attractive, a knockout, petite and Chinese and dreamy. We rode towards South Pasadena a tad stoned when suddenly and silently the car was filled with the rank and noxious odor of rotten eggs. Just as my eyes began to sting all four windows slid open. Sorry our beautiful driver said. It took me a couple seconds to realize that this extremely attractive Lyft driver had just broken wind in the car, and I didn’t even know that was possible.

Condoms

I kept the condoms in a bowl on a shelf in the linen closet. Don’t know why. Used to toss packets of throat lozenges I’d swipe from work in the bowl too. Condoms and throat lozenges all mixed together. Remarkably similar packaging. Used to keep a couple packets of those lozenges in my pocket all the time. Just reach into the bowl in the closet without looking and shove a couple of the packets in my pocket.

One day at work I reached into my pocket for something—I can’t remember what—while in an elevator. There were three women in the elevator car with me. As I pulled out my hand a packet of the lozenges slipped out and fell to the floor. I hadn’t noticed. One of the ladies in the elevator quietly cleared her throat. The other two were busy with their phones. She cleared her throat again, a little louder. I looked at her. She glanced at the floor. I looked down and froze. It wasn’t throat lozenges. It was a similarly shaped packet but a darker green, and packets of lozenges didn’t spell out Trojan in huge letters. Or they seemed like huge letters in that elevator. Huge dayglo letters screaming you’re fired. I felt myself turning ruby red in spite of all efforts to be casual and covered the suddenly terrifying packet with my foot. The elevator stopped on the third floor and the other two ladies stepped out, still lost in their phones. The elevator doors shut again and the remaining lady giggled. I reached down and picked up the wanton condom. Can I have that? she asked. Sure, I said, standing there like an idiot with a Trojan in my hand. As the elevator doors opened on the fourth floor she plucked it from my palm. I’m sure I looked utterly dumbstruck, a giant guy in an elevator giving away a souvenir condom. She smiled and waved goodbye with two fingers and a big green Trojan packet. I felt myself blushing again.

Neither of us ever mentioned it again. I never explained. She never asked. It’s not the kind of thing one talks about in the office. But when I got home that night I took the rubbers out of that damned bowl and stuck them in a drawer. By the bed.

 

Iron Man

I remember a party here and some stoner in a Black Sabbath shirt kept requesting Iron Man. I’d never seen the guy before and he was way high and quite insistent about hearing Iron Man. I am Iron Man he sang, dum dum dum dum dum/da da da da da da dah/dum dee dum. I gave in. So you want Iron Man? Here ya go, and I put on Eric Dolphy. Ba ba ba da be da/da be da. That’s Iron Man, I said, and showed him the cover. He looked bewildered, even hurt. I almost felt guilty and jacked up the volume. Dolphy screamed a solo. He left. Jazz can be cruel.

Summer Solstice

I remember driving through Missouri River bottomlands on the Yankton Sioux reservation on the summer solstice. Dusk faded slowly and the air was full of fireflies as the sun took forever to set. We stopped by a bridge to get our bearings, reading the map by the last rays of sunlight. Somewhere past 9:30 it was finally nighttime and we slunk through Nebraska on the south side of the river in the dark, the air fragrant with loam and alfalfa and slow water.

Undrinking problem

I remember the time a doctor told me I was an alcoholic. But I barely drink, I said. He gave me a look. Denial, he said, was part of my problem. But doctor, I scarcely drink. When I go out to I’ll have a drink or two, and just every once in a while at home. I barely qualify as a social drinker. I’m writing you a referral for our alcoholism counseling service, he said. But I’m not a drunk I said again. It will be OK, he said.

A friend asked if I went to the counseling. No, I said, I’m not an alcoholic. I barely drink. You didn’t go to the AA meetings? Of course not. But this is Hollywood, he said. A former drinking buddy of his met David Bowie that way. I don’t care, I said, I’m not going to go to AA meetings. It’s your life, he said.

Last night

Got asked for the zillionth time last night how we’ve been married forever. Well, I said, it’s been thirty eight years of me mansplaining to an Indian who’s not gonna listen to a white man no matter what. Fyl laughed. The earnest questioner was as bewildered as before. Maybe you think about it too much Fyl marriedsplained, and the tenor player began a gorgeous, perfect Skylark, Fyl closing her eyes as jazz love filled the room.

January 6

Today’s the day that all the Eastern Orthodox kids had their second Christmas. That’s all I knew about the Great Schism when I was a kid, that the Greek kids down the street got two Christmases and the Irish kids just got one. Anyway, Merry Christmas, Greek kids.

Xmas free again

The pad is utterly Xmas free again. Every year there is a Christmas explosion that fills the house, and then just as suddenly it reverse explodes back onto the closet shelf, all of it but the tree (which goes wherever sacrificed trees go), a crazed Christmas party’s worth of stuff reboxed with an inherited Germanic efficiency that my Irish half observes with lazy poetry.