Apr 25, 2011

No funeral for this friend

In this Land of Nomads, memories freeze while life goes on

We all know the drill with car tires: the brand new fresh ones go up front and the worn front ones now go to the back. The best of the back becomes the spare and the two leftovers go to the dump or become a ids' swing or decorative (and recycled!) garden ornament.

We rotate our circle of friends in much the same way, if only in a slightly longer cycle of every 3 years or so.

Our high school buds transform into the new college bunch, with the old hometowners moving to the rear axle. The process repeats with a whole new cast taking over the front & center at each and every succeeding academic stop. Then comes the real world, with job and city-hopping rolling in with different characters hitting the scene, and the rubber keeps on rotating. Front to back, back to trunk, trunk to dump.

Once in awhile there's a hiccup: you hit a place and time where the socialization process breaks down and doesn't kick in the way it always had before. You're alone, a stranger in a strange town and maybe even scared to death at times. Sometimes the reaction is to run back to the prior pit stop, other times it is to just run, period. If neither option is taken as action, a certain darkness of the soul can be uncovered -- and the view isn't pretty.

All along the way, at each transition point, the older circle of friends shrivels in terms of its participation and influence in your current reality. How many school pals are we in touch with fives years after; then ten; then twenty; or longer?

You love them all dearly, though, and beat yourself up for losing touch, for having designated them as the worn tires no longer part of the new running machine. But when you traded the old car in for a new model, it came with its own tires. You accept it.

But, in moments of nostalgia, you seek them out with a third party inquiry or a Facebook search or the successful hunt of an old email address. Sometimes you connect: there they are!

The joy always seems mutual from the other side; it's obvious they've harbored the same thoughts during the gap. You yuk it up and make plans to meet up in real life. But more often than not, it never happens. Even if it does, it's usually a one-shot deal. Then, it's back in the trunk for that old tire.

The real sadness kicks in, of course, when the reach results in the ultimate flat: news of that person no long being available for the brief recollection of the good old days. "Ah, geez, you didn't hear? She died about ten years ago. Willy told me he heard it from Suzie"

Not too long ago, you would have found out about such news in a matter of minutes, because that person that you went to grade school with still lived a few blocks over, and their kids grew up playing with yours. Just like your parents all played together, on the same fields and in the same streets, backyard pools and porches. The neighborhood reeked of ghosts and you knew them all by name.

But that isn't how the game gets played anymore. No more 3rd-gen Little League squads, no more widowed old ladies living out their last days in the 100 year old family homes in town, no more walking into a bar and finding your softball league teamies piling in after the usual Tuesday night matchup with your younger brother's contemporaries from the same side of town.

And no more foosball games at school, surrounded by your dorm pals and the extended crew of beloved misfits, with you and your usual playing partner taking on any and all challengers in that smellly old saloon and acting like life would never be any more complicated than it was right then and there at that very moment in time.

Instead, you go for ten or twenty years without having played a game of foos, because's there no one around to play with or even a table in sight or anyone that even knows what the hell you're talking about. Then you find out that your sidekick all those nights so long ago had been gone from this earth for a decade and you didn't event hear peep about it until last night --- from somebody else that you hadn't talked to since the day you walked out of that upstate gym with a framed piece of paper and a funny looking hat.

No chance to say goodbye, no funeral to get to, no family member to share a though with and no reconvening of the old bunch to give a collective and loving goodbye to her with ... together as one. Hell, not even any details on how her life had been and how and why it ended so early. Now, whatever happened to those ties that were supposed to bind?

Jenny: definitely the sweetest of our crew, probably the sanest and the one we all leaned on, in a variety of shapes and forms. I hope she somehow was rewarded for being all that.

And the running thought I now have? How I'd love to have a game of foosball with any kids (and grandkids) she might have had....

Apr 11, 2011

Ramblin' Monday --- Random Bytes

Q: Who was responsible for the comeback of Pabst Blue Ribbon? What was once a cheap workingman's beer disappeared for decades. Now you can't walk into a live-music joint (or any joint in Brooklyn, for that matter) and not see the young crowd slugging it down. Find that person and put him/her in charge of everything. Now that's what I call a corporate turnaround! I smell a book coming.

Recall a few years back where the buzz was about out now being in an "experience economy?" The gist: we now seek to do things as opposed to collect things with our disposable income. A Disney World vacation? Yes. A pool table in the basement? No. But now, I'm not so sure we are even in an experience economy anymore. Yes, people show up, but once there they don't really experience anything. They just seek to take a picture of what's supposedly going on. On the oustide looking in, but on the scene!

"History has a long leash" (RM)

A random promotional idea for the fading sport of thoroughbred horse racing: a national contest to pick the complete (first to last) order of finish in the Kentucky Derby. Winner gets $10 million. Do the math: it's do-able (and insureable).

"Rand's particular genius has always been her ability to turn upside down traditional hierarchies and recast the wealthy, the talented, and the powerful as the oppressed" (Mother Jones on conservative icon Ayn Rand. Get ready for next week's release of the Atlas Shrugged movie. This will be ugly. Count on it)

Attention Red Sox fans. Relax. The Ole Town team is just taking a lesson from Zenyatta. This race is a marathon, not a sprint.

This woman at the podium (another self-professed 'social media guru') just said "Twitter is my primary news source." What she is really telling us is that she has minimal interest in the outside world and that even her own vacuum is only worth the random touches that she happens upon now and then. Now, why do I attend these events ?

When was the Capital Region anointed as the Cult Capital of America? I missed that memo. Scheduled for May at the Empire State Convention center is the meeting of the Twelve Visions Party, aka The Neothink Society. This group, now making its way onto various cult watchdog radar screens, spews the standard secret code salvation message, but mixed with a far right wing political agenda with some perpetual life mumbo-jumbo tossed in. Plus the usual MLM business model, of course. It's a very weird cocktail, for sure, and makes NXIVM and the John Birch Society both look mainstream. But it's not nearly as weird as the group's guru, one Mark Hamilton, who can best be described as looking like a Vegas used car salesman -- on acid. Look him up, just for a good chuckle. The problem is that not everyone is chuckling.

It's sad to hear the status and fate of the Parker Inn boutique hotel in downtown Schenectady. When built in the prior decade, it was heralded as the first building block of State Street's revival in that desolate city. Fast forward to the present, and we learn of its bankruptcy filing and a future where it will be turned into private residences and apartments. Local economic development officials are distancing themselves from their organization's financing of the orignal project, blaming it on predecessors. It's tough to make a go of it when you only have 23 rooms to rent. The comparable 74 State Hotel in downtown Albany is feeling similar pain.

We read of a new Broadway retailer about to open shop in pricey Saratoga Springs. Their product line? Olive oil. Yes, I said olive oil. No, the press release did not come out on April Fool's Day. The betting windows are now open...