About Me

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Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
"No, really!"

My Favorite Bit of Paper Cup Philosophy

The Way I See It #76

The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Back to the Future, or Everything Old Is New Again

I wrote happily about my far distant past and then felt a little low reliving some of those very early days. I found that musing about a different part of life was a little less painful and I had some donkey laughs. I was flooded with memories of a decade of early adult life and my fingers began to tap as quickly as the thoughts filled my cranium. To my surprise, I was writing (at least in part) about Ex. Without invective. With no vitriol. This was new and fascinating to me, as I have spent few moments in the ensuing years fondly remembering things past between us. I am a woman who did not let the door hit her in the ass as she walked away. Few pleasant words were ever again exchanged between us. But to my further surprise, after posting about the 1980s, I continued to recall little bits of debris from the 32 years spent together and I found it quite pleasant. Comforting. Pleasant memories burn less energy than angry ones, I've found. I believe I have grown a bit.

Friend Tag rang in on Comments to say he'd also experienced tremendous professional growth during the 1980s while also taking on marriage and parenthood. We spoke of some movies we enjoyed in common, and I'm still hangin' in the 80s. When I took my momentary little plunge, I went to YouTube and was perfectly poised to select music that would only make matters worse. But I stumbled over a fortuitous find that led me on a path to other discoveries. Pretty soon, I was laughing out loud. I danced, too!

Some adventure/comic movies of the day included Romancing the Stone and The Jewel of the Nile. These starred Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito. In retrospect, they look very 1980s, but we enjoyed them. They were fun and funny. They had some decent enough songs in the soundtrack. To call these films life-altering or even particularly memorable would likely be stretching it, and yet . . . something lingered in my mind. Billy Ocean. MTV. I don't want to say too much. I want the reader to view it. But, without giving up too much, I will say that one wants to wait until the back-up singers are revealed. I wonder if others will first grin widely, then laugh loudly, and finally replay the thing and dance with them like I did. I have got the elbow-bending leg-marching rocking thing going on! I can punch my fist high into the air just like they do . . . and I am reminded of having fun in earlier times. I can do the sideways shuffle thing like Billy Ocean and I wish - oh, I wish - I had a white tuxedo! I regret that embedding is disabled, but follow the link for some fun! Or perhaps I'm just too easily amused. "The tough get rough . . . !"

All right, enough of that. True story: Ex came home every Friday night, no matter whether he drove for hours or took the redeye. He came with dirty laundry to be exchanged for clean laundry and dry cleaning to be taken when he returned to whatever part of California on the Monday morning. The weekends were filled with errands and socializing with friends and family, at least a few hours of quiet and private conversation, prescription-filling, expense reports completion, shared meals. Sometimes I had a honey-do list for him ~ hey, I worked a zillion hours a week, too. And I was never good with drills or other tools with moving parts. If the gardener had let us down again, Ex tackled the lawn. If the cars needed service, he took them while I took the dogs to be groomed and shuffled paperwork for both of us. It worked out nicely. All we lacked was sufficient time to rest and relax. For much more than a decade. Spending more time apart than together pointed something out to me, and I believe to him. Being together for brief periods on the weekends reminded me of the things I liked and disliked most about him. It seemed to me that everything was experienced through a magnifying glass. Small irritations seemed too important. The good times felt over-the-top. Once in awhile I took a nap on Sunday afternoon that lasted from noon until 6:00 p.m.

He and I were polar opposites in many elemental ways. I am prepunctual. Always. I would rather arrive some place naked than late. Ex told time by the calendar and actually appeared to enjoy creating a little chaos by dithering. It is almost literally true that we always traveled in separate vehicles to the same destination. For more than 20 years. Air travel with him was an excruciating proposition for me, but - in fairness - we never missed a flight due to his sense of time management. However, on this particular Saturday, we rode together to the mall. Ex needed some new kicks and then we were going to see a movie everyone was talking about - Ghostbusters. We shopped awhile and he bought a pair of new Reeboks for a startling amount of money in 1980s terms - the Miami Vice model, if I am not mistaken. How's that for some 1980s aura? So pleased was Ex with his purchase, he decided to wear the new shoes out of the store, tucking the other pair inside the box and bag. I glanced at my watch and went on alert. If we didn't hustle, we'd be late for the movie. I set a pretty brisk pace to get us out of the mall, and Ex grouched at me for being too tightly wound. Yes. That has been said about me. Especially regarding punctuality. Exiting the mall, he got tangled up in the bicycle parking stand, whacking the top of his foot pretty hard. "You OK?" "I don't know. There's no time to check and see. My wife has a ticking stopwatch."

There was no discord in the theater. Ex and I were agreed on the finer points of popcorn. We both liked Diet Pepsi, and Bon Bons were a firm favorite of us both. We were completely in accord about where to sit in a darkened theater so one doesn't get a stiff neck, blasted out by the speakers or crawled over by late-arriving movie-goers. We settled into our seats and enjoyed the film like just about everyone else at the time. How can a movie starring Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis and Rick Moranis go wrong? Sigourney Weaver was lovely and talented, and I'd watch Annie Potts in any role. The special effects were grand, the dialogue quick and funny. I was having a wonderful time! Until he started. At first it was a slight wiggle of his leg. It escalated to a pretty rapid shaking of the same leg, and non-stop. "What the hell, Ex?" He said his foot was hurting a little. Probably from whacking it on the bike stand. Soon his entire body was gyrating. "Geez, Ex, do you think we need to leave?" I'm sure my tone of voice did not suggest to him that I thought that was a good thing. He said he wanted to see the end of the movie and he'd be all right. The twitching and shaking went on until I finally moved one seat away, putting my jacket, purse and the popcorn on the seat between us. I could still see him shimmying out of the corner of my eye, but at least I wasn't being jiggled continuously. Finally the movie was over. We said we'd enjoyed it. It was good!

Making our way out of the dark, Ex commented he needed me to slow my pace. His foot hurt. It was throbbing. I'm not cruel, and I had no other pressing engagement. I slowed down tremendously and gave him my arm. "What do you think is going on, Ex?" He wasn't sure. He just wanted to get to the car so he could assess what was going on. I suggested we check the foot in the theater lobby where he could sit on a bench. Who cared if people thought it was strange for a man to take off his shoe and sock in the lobby? We needed to see what was happening. He sat on a bench and brought his foot up across the opposite knee. It was enormous! Three times the size of his other foot, maybe more. Dark brown eyes looked into blue ones. Uh-oh. I told him I wanted to take off his shoe and he agreed. I tried to remove it and was stunned to learn that foot was not going to eject that new Reebok. His foot had swelled so tremendously, it was as if the shoe had been consumed by it. I couldn't squeeze a finger between foot and shoe. "I'm going for the car. Stay here." It scared me that he agreed to do that. Usually he soldiered on when I asked him to be cautious.

Running across the parking lot, I decided we were going directly to the emergency room. If I took him home, he'd self-diagnose and self-heal. I'd seen it happen before. It scared me that he didn't bitch about my taking him directly to the hospital. Well, Ex was not an infant, was not running a fever, was not unconscious, was not pouring blood from any part of his body. He was way low on the list of priorities in that emergency room. We talked. I brought him drinks and a snack, crabbed at the intake window that the man's foot was huge and throbbing and couldn't that possibly indicate some internal bleeding? Finally we were ushered into a draped cubicle where we waited another eternity. At least now, his foot was elevated. And finally assistance came. Now I can't swear the man was an M.D. For all I know, he could have been part of the custodial staff, but he was here to do something about this foot and I was happy to see him. He replicated my earlier efforts to try to do something about getting that shoe off. No way. Ex was grimacing from the man's attempts and the fellow proved humane. "I'm going to have to cut the shoe, and likely the sock, off. There's no wiggle room here." Yes, I knew that to be a fact. He used some of the marvelous flat scissors found in places like hospital emergency rooms and made a number of cuts so the shoe and sock could be peeled away in strips. As the pressure was released, I could see Ex's body visibly relax. The foot, however, swelled even more, right before our eyes. It was incredible! "My god, Ex. You're all swelled up like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow man!" The doctor or custodian, Ex and I began to guffaw in a way unbecoming in an emergency room. Obviously that good man had seen Ghostbusters. Ex quipped, "Just don't roast me in the streets of New York, please."

It was really pretty straightforward. His new Reeboks had been tied snugly. The whack on his foot at the bike parking stand broke some blood vessels and he began to bleed. A couple of hours seated in the theater allowed that foot to fill with blood until it became enormous. When the shoe and sock were cut off, the blood that had been constricted from the pressure flowed out and completed the largest single foot ever seen on an average human male. He was put on restricted physical activity and needed to keep the foot iced and elevated to the extent possible. It took a long time for his body to reabsorb so much fluid. I'm certain he was pretty uncomfortable for awhile, hobbling around trying to work, travel. He kept his brand new, single Reebok in the closet for years. I used to see him pick it up and study it closely. When we moved to our new home years later, he put that Miami Vice shoe on the patio and put a little potted plant in it. The plant thrived and grew, bursting its pot. Its root system grew and filled up that Reebok to three times its . . . I swear that's true!

In my ears right now: I imagine the reader already figured it out.

Something that charmed me: The story of Ex and his Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man foot was told and retold so many times that Amber can tell it perfectly. One can watch her face and see the laughter cross it at the funny moments, concern when she speaks of Ex being uncomfortable. She wouldn't be born until 6 years after it happened. But it is part of her landscape.


  1. What a great story. I'm trying not to obsess about how expensive those shoes were and how horrible it must have been to see them get cut up. Ghostbusters is a funky good song. Weren't the 80's great?

  2. @ Kass-erole ~ Fortunately we made a good living in those days. And shitty sneakers probably cost more today than good ones did then. Miami Vice kicks, indeed! Ex also sometimes did the pastel T-shirt with a sport jacket thing a la Don Johnson. Yeah ~ I like the 80s. The 60s were profound and the 70s were embarrassing. The 80s were fun and quirky.

  3. I wish you hadn't posted this. I'm wearing Reeboks, and I feel my foot going numb...

    You might decide to answer this in some future post, but if Ex had had a job where you would have seen him seven days a week, do you think the marriage would have worked out? The differences between you two seem kind of minor.

  4. @ Kirk ~ Well, if they happen to be Miami Vice Reeboks, Kirk, you could be in trouble! Who you gonna call?

    That's a really good question about the marriage, Kirk. It pleases me you gave it that much thought. Round-about answer: in the 70s, we lived very traditionally like most married people live. By the mid-80s, enough pressure had built up in the marriage that the odd working/living situation provided a nice steam valve. After Amber was born (1990), we purposely returned to a more traditional way of life. It lasted 12 more very difficult years. We didn't do well when we were in day-to-day contact. So being separated didn't contribute to the split up. Being together did.

    About our differences. They were enourmous and fundamental. I just haven't written about all of them (yet). So far you've only read about the ones I can joke around about. What I've not revealed (and I may or may not sometime) are the deal breakers and heart breakers. By the way, I was absolutely 50% of the problem. I don't believe I've ever been guilty of painting him as the blackguard and myself as the rose. We were just two mismatched humans who had ups and downs. And when the crash came, it was as mighty a one as I've ever heard about.

  5. Punctuality is the thing that makes me so tense I can fart out my nose!

    Hate being late. Though I would never arrive on time for a party - hell, I'd have to be invited to one for starters!

    Reebok story made me laugh. I had a frienemy at school who owned two pairs - one black, one white and if ever feet boasted hers did! I used to turn up for PE (gym class) and I swear my feet would try to run the opposite direction to hide my tennis shoes from sight...tennis shoes faded to the colour of an old lady's cheek from being sat out in the bargain box for so long before my mother finally gave them a new adoptive parent - me! I pretended to forget them until the humiliation of being made to borrow even worse sneakers became too much! What I would have done for a pair of Reeboks....

  6. @ Miss Rachel ~ I'd invite you to a party if you'd demonstrate farting out your nose. Seriously, though, I'm likely a little too freaked out by the punctuality thing. Both parents were extremely uptight that way and I clearly took it on. I'd like to be more balanced about it. Once in awhile everyone has some reasonable cause to be late for something.

    Your Reebok story made me twinge/cringe. First, it's beautifully expressed - the image of your feet trying to run in the opposite direction from those boastful Reeboks, and the sneaks faded to the color of an old lady's cheek . . . But I also thought of how it feels when we are young and want to have something some other young person has. My parents could afford to provide most things I asked them to buy. And, don't get me wrong, they provided many wonderful things. But sometimes, if they didn't understand WHY I wanted something, they weren't motivated to produce it. If I still wanted whatever it happened to be at that moment, I felt stung by them and envious of the young people who had it. It's funny. As an older adult, I don't long for things other people have, typically.

  7. Just want to add something to your last comment. I was much more materialistic as a kid than I am as an adult. It wasn't just wating a certain toy for its own sake, though that was certainly part of it, but that other kids who did have the toy wouldn't let you forget it. the concept of "keeping up with the Joneses" is beat into your head at the very beginning in this blessed country of ours.

  8. @ Kirk ~ I completely agree with you. The intense pressure begins when we are very young. It was twisted for me (what WASN'T twisted for me?). My parents provided everything needed and many things wanted. Piano lessons and a camera and my own phone and good clothes and schools. They can't be faulted. But my father is an extreme individualist. If I uttered the words, " . . because the other kids . . " I was guaranteed not to get it. That wasn't good and sufficient reason to buy anything. By the time I was about 11, I bought many of the things I wanted with babysitting money. They didn't object to my owning some pop culture things, music, etc. They just weren't going to buy it. It taught me a lot of things. Like a person has to work and earn money and a person has to go find the things they want on their own time and money. I used to work with a woman who said I am part pink poodle and part plain Jane. I guess that's how one would turn out having developed in the dynamic where I came up.