Growing Up in the Suburbs

March 21, 2005

Life has a funny way of providing plenty of what I like to affectionately term ‘headsmacks.’ A headsmack is that thing you do when a sudden obvious realization crosses your path. Like when you look for your glasses and after ten minutes realize they’re on top of your head or you’re headed to a friend’s house (which happens to be in the same general direction as your work) and, being on autopilot, you realize their exit was two exits ago. Those are headsmacks.

Life, however, has the best headsmacks.

For instance, Mindcrime and I, over the last five or six years, manage to talk a great deal via instant messenger. In general we probably rap six or seven times a week, anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour or so. It’s been a great assist in the deepening and strengthening of our friendship and despite the fact that he’s in BFTaiwan, it’s been something that has helped to keep me sane.

In the last month, it hasn’t changed but it is ‘different.’ It’s in a new phase, it’s moved to the next level. My pal, Mindcrime, became a Daddy not too long ago, as many of you will know. Now, there are often little interuptions in which he types, “AFK – gotta burp the baby” or “BRB – nap time for the jawa”. (Note: jawa is the nickname he’s given Molly, the baby, because he says her communication sounds like she’s trying to steal droids from Luke Skywalker.)

Anyway, I’m tickled to death over these little asides because it has afforded me the opportunity to harass him to know end. As I said, it hasn’t changed anything for us.

But today (this morning for me, this evening for him) I suddenly got a headsmack. We’re in the middle of throwing back ideas for the heroes campaign we’re gonna start up as soon as he gets his butt back to the states and he tosses off a quick “Dude, gotta diaper the jawa, hold on.” Suddenly the lights went on, the No Vacancy sign flashed off, the missing can of beer for the six-pack reappeared, the hand went to the forehead.


We’re grownups.

Yeah, it sounds like it might be a little late to be recognizing that at forty but hey, that’s all part of my charm. It calls up all sorts of thoughts and ideas. You start realizing that life, unless extremely fortunate, is half over. You look back and grasp this dark thought and get the nice warm fuzzy glow of all the stuff that you did in the first forty years to illuminate these next forty. You think about the astounding friends you’ve made.

I remember when Hurricane Fran blew through Chapel Hill. I was living in a studio unit apartment that was in the theatre building. I get a call from Lutece at 6 am the next morning because he’s having a heart attack. Without a moments hesitation I bound down the stairs to my jeep. No one is one the streets but a police officer trying to keep people inside because of all the damage. He hollers at me to get back inside unless it’s an emergency. I holler back that it is and why. He waves me on as I proceed to drive through a number of yards and over ravines to get around the damage, get Lutece and get him to the hospital. It turned out to be a panic attack. I give him no end of grief about it now, but I can tell you that was a very, very happy call I got when he let me know he was all right.

I remember this trip I took to Minnesota almost a decade ago to Oberon’s. He was knee deep in grad school and his favorite pastime was chasing away the spastic Dalmatian named Zoot that thought it was a lap dog on speed. One week of full blown, unabashed craziness.

I remember late, late evenings with Allyson from the first theatre company I ran. We’d laugh till we were stupid, drink Michelob Dry (how I EVER stomached that crap I’ll never know) and tried to figure out how to make Wild Honey (that’s a play) better. Kandace and Tracey would join us and I’d be in a whirlwind of estrogen and female-bonding and it’s no wonder I got a minor’s degree in Woman’s Studies.

I remember heading to this awesome bar one night in the early 90s. It was long before buffalo wings were a fad. CJs (no relation to Mindcrime) was this dive that had good beer and the best freakin’ chicken wings you’ve ever had. BYOF (Burn Your Face Off.) That was actually their name. I can remember everyone that was with us but I remember Mindcrime getting so drunk at one point, we’re all laughing, and he laughs so hard he leans over to his right and without pausing says, “Uh-oh, gravity works” and crashes to the floor.

I remember the summer before I headed off to become a part of the 82nd Airborne. Todd Ermeling and I spent that whole summer cruising around in his GTO, listening to Pyromania, and drinking till we were bloated. Todd had lost his mother to an aneurism and at the time we seemed like kindred spirits. I lost touch with Todd many, many years ago.

I think about other names and faces that have crossed in and out of my life. I think about the ones that have been around the longest. Sometimes a face flashes in my memory and I realize it’s someone I knew for about two week (like the girl that I hung out with the summer I was 14 who lived in the lake house next to the one my aunt and uncle owned.) I don’t remember her name but she’s there. Like the face of the homeless guy who, when I was working third shift at an all night gas station in the early 90s, I twice had to call an ambulance for because he had seizures out in front of the pumps.

It’s a funny world. All these things, all these experiences make me who I am. It warms those next forty years, as life wanes, but it doesn’t diminish in anyway. No, life may wane but it keeps growing in experience.

I have a great many things still to do in my life. At least, I get the sense that I do. If not, my time would be done and God would call me home. I’m not going yet.

With my wife, my amazing friends, and at least half of my life before me – while sometimes daunting -, it’s a pleasure to know that all I have to do is give Lutece a call and see if he wants to grab a bite to eat, or give Oberon a ring and hear that strong, full of life laugh when I tell him he needs to move his gaming group down here or log on every night, wait for Mindcrime to pop up some rude greeting and wait for the inevitable “BABY TIME!”

I’m not the only one on this journey.