love, memories, obits

One last toast to a man whose bright light will never really extinguish…

Last night, I sat in front of my computer with Bill and a German beer. I tuned into Zoom, an application I had only used once before last night. The first time I used Zoom, it was for a wine tasting. Last night’s Zoom meeting was for a much more sober purpose. We were there to remember our dear friend, Matt Jensen. Most of us in on the Zoom call knew Matt because he served with Peace Corps/Armenia from 1995-97. But Matt was also widely known in other circles worldwide. He was also a Peace Corps Volunteer in Senegal in the 1980s, and most recently, he was a beloved teacher at P.S. 110, an elementary school in the Greenpoint area of Brooklyn.

It was in Brooklyn where Matt lost his life just after midnight on May 18, 2021. He was just trying to cross the street– a wide boulevard well known for being dangerous to pedestrians. He had just celebrated his birthday with friends and was on his way home. He’d almost reached home when he was struck and killed by a speeding car on McGuinness Boulevard, the driver having apparently not noticed that they’d hit him and left him for dead!

Apparently, there were no witnesses or surveillance cameras to capture a photo of the person who killed this man with such a huge heart and bright spirit. Based on debris found at that the site where Matt was found, police surmise that he was hit by a black Rolls Royce. He was someone who had devoted his life to helping others– especially through teaching. He was a very gifted teacher, and I learned last night that the young children at the school where he taught practically worshiped him, even if they weren’t in his class. He knew everyone, and they all knew him. He was a very tall guy with incredible energy, so he was hard to miss, even without that vibrant personality and charisma that defined him.

Geoff, the organizer of the memorial, had asked me to sing a song. It always cracks me up that no one ever asks me to speak at memorials or weddings. I usually get asked to sing a song written by someone else. Even at my own father’s memorial, I wasn’t asked to speak. I was asked to sing– and my mom even told me which song she wanted me to perform. I was happy to do it, although my college minor in speech has gone to waste.

Just as I had for my mom when my father died, I sent Geoff a couple of recordings I had made, and he really liked my version of “Imagine”, sort of done Eva Cassidy style. I sing it in her key and with her mood, but more in the straightforward fashion that John Lennon sang it. I guess you could say it’s really “my” style, though heavily influenced by others. I was glad to have Bill with me, as he had graciously downloaded Zoom yesterday so we could figure out the technical aspects of the application. I wanted to make sure we did the music sharing part right. I’m glad to say that it went off well, except that I was very emotional and almost started crying in the middle of it.

Last night, I learned that besides Matt, our Peace Corps community has also recently lost two others– Loretta Land, who was an amazing senior Volunteer who had joined the Peace Corps at age 62– and Don Flumerfelt, who was in the group before mine. Loretta died in January of this year and Don passed in 2019. I had recently been in touch with Loretta, but she kind of dropped off of Facebook. I wondered about her. I can’t say I was surprised about the news that she’d passed, but I am so glad we did get to chat a bit last year. I wasn’t as close to Don, but I do remember spending a great afternoon in Yerevan, making business English conversation recordings for him. I also remember that he was very inventive and had built a shower for another Volunteer.

We also lost an Armenian friend, Ashot, the drummer for a local band in Vanadzor called Snack. Vanadzor was where Matt was originally assigned to work). Snack was an Armenian band, but one of the Volunteers also played with them, so they often performed at our parties. In storage, I have a cassette tape of their music, which always reminds me of so many fun times in Armenia. Ashot would have been turning 49 today, but he passed away of a heart attack in his bed on Thursday of last week. Ashot was also, for a time, married to Rose, a Vanadzor based Volunteer from my group. They shared a son. She was also in attendance last night. Some of the guys would have performed last night, but since Ashot was buried yesterday, it wasn’t possible.

At 7:00pm Germany time, I joined about 25 other people on the Zoom call. I felt so honored to be among them, even if I wasn’t close to Matt in recent years. It was great to see so many familiar faces of people I knew in the 1990s, back when I was trying to make my own mark in the world. To be honest, I left the Peace Corps as an angry person. There were many complex reasons for my anger, and some of them had absolutely nothing to do with my service. But, suffice to say, I was ready to go home in August 1997, thinking that maybe things would get better. What ended up happening for me, personally, was a bit of a nervous breakdown. Ultimately, the “breakdown” wasn’t a bad thing, because it forced me to reset my life and make some changes, to include taking voice lessons that helped me sing last night’s song. But I worried about what people in that group remembered about me, as I was a bit of a mess in the 90s. I was determined not to make an ass of myself. 😉

There were several returned Volunteers from my group, as well as the former country director, the former TEFL director, several Armenians, people who had known Matt through the American University of Armenia, and a woman who knew Matt in Brooklyn. We were also joined by Matt’s cousin, John. I had never met John before, but I immediately liked him. I could tell that losing Matt has been devastating for him. I can’t even fathom how much pain he and Matt’s friends and loved ones felt when they got the terrible news that he’d been killed. I was glad to hear that Matt’s brother is taking good care of Matt’s beloved cats, Katie and Olive.

The participants in the Zoom meeting were scattered around the world. I’m in Germany, but we also had a couple of folks from Armenia, someone in Sweden, someone in Russia, someone in Belize, and a number of folks on the East and West coasts of the United States. It’s amazing to think of how far and wide Matt’s light has spread… and there were so many loving sentiments and stories shared.

One of Matt’s former students, Hoveek, really touched my heart as he spoke about how much Matt had impressed him. When we were in Armenia, it was just a few years after the fall of the Soviet Union. It was a time when there weren’t a lot of Americans there. And Hoveek was immediately moved by this man who was not at all like the people he knew. He spoke movingly about how he observed the way Matt dressed, and how when they visited the Peace Corps office in Yerevan, Hoveek saw the magazines about America and met others. Matt helped Hoveek get a job working for the Peace Corps. I could easily see and hear how much love and gratitude this man had for Matt. It was an honor to hear what he had to say… and really, just to be a part of the large group of people who got to know Matt and were touched by his spirit.

I learned that Matt wrote letters to so many people and had connections to folks in very high places. I think, if he had lived longer, he might have even delved into politics. He loved to talk politics and wasn’t afraid to speak out… but even in death, he will make a difference. There was a huge memorial for him in New York, and some very high ranking people vowed to finally do something about McGuinness Boulevard, a dangerous street that has claimed other people’s lives over the years. If they make that boulevard safer for others, then Matt’s death will have done a great service to so many people… again, a way of sharing that light and affecting others for good.

But I think the most profound commentary I heard regarding last night’s memorial came from my own husband, Bill. Bill never had the chance to meet Matt, but he’s heard me talk about him over the years. My memories of Matt are mostly about some of the hilarious things he said, but also his wild dance skills. Matt loved to dance, and had taken lessons. I don’t dance all that well, but I do like to spin around the dance floor with men with rhythm. I learned last night that Matt would dance with anyone! I have told Bill many stories about Matt over the years, but until last night, all Bill knew about Matt came from my limited perspective.

Thanks to our Zoom meeting memorial, Bill had the chance to hear about Matt from others who knew him through different channels. So, this morning, when I asked Bill what he thought about the memorial, his comments came from a totally different perspective. This was the post I wrote for the Peace Corps Armenia Reunion Facebook group:

My husband, Bill, was sitting in the Zoom meeting with me last night. I just asked him what he thought of the memorial, and he said it was interesting to hear all about Matt from someone other than me. Not having met Matt in person, he was struck by how personal Matt was in his dealings with others. He noticed we didn’t just gush about the positive things, but we mentioned his many quirks, too. And he loved that Matt wrote letters, since letter writing is such a lost art. He said he could tell that teaching was truly Matt’s calling.

And then Bill said, “It made me wish that the person who killed Matt could be there to see and hear just how many people have been affected worldwide by his death, and the profound loss and grief caused by that one careless act. Especially among the kids he taught.”

It really drives home how much we all affect each other, even if it doesn’t always seem like it. My husband never even met Matt, and yet he has been affected by him through me, and now by all of the people who spoke so lovingly about him last night. I take some comfort in knowing that there are so many people worldwide that he taught. Every single one of them has the potential to share his vibrant light with everyone they know, too. In that way, he’ll never truly be gone from the world.

When I think about that, it makes me realize that we all have so much potential… and most of us affect people in ways we’ll never know. We’re all connected. Not to be corny, but Matt’s life was a little like the proverbial “candle in the wind”. It glowed bright and cast warmth and light to so many… and then it was suddenly snuffed out by the careless actions of someone driving a Rolls Royce. Such a bizarre way for a man like Matt to die… it was as if Kurt Vonnegut conjured it for a novel! But in the end, his death may end up saving lives, as local activists continue to demand that something is finally done about that unsafe crossing.

Every person has the potential to share something unforgettable and good. Matt Jensen shared his light generously with people far and wide, and because he cared and shared so very much, that generosity is still perpetuating through people who will never, ever forget him.

Bill never met Matt, but Matt still affected Bill. Imagine what those young students in Brooklyn will do as they grow up. Maybe one or two of them will be inspired to teach. Maybe a few will decide to join the Peace Corps. Maybe one or two will learn to dance, or become fans of ABBA, or travel the world. Or maybe they will simply tell their friends and family about this tall, blond, monarchy obsessed ABBA fan who taught them so much , helped them learn English, made them laugh… or made them a memorable meal with beets and cabbage, or a delicious pound cake!

Matt was a thoughtful, kind, and loving person to the very end, and he always thought of others. Upon hearing of Prince Philip’s death in April, Matt wrote letters of condolences to Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Anne. Princess Anne wrote back before Matt died, but I think I heard that Her Majesty the Queen also responded, but her letter arrived after Matt’s death. I like to think that Matt knows how many people loved him and will remember him, sharing his light to infinite numbers of people around the world. And I hope he’s up there in the great beyond, sharing a toast with Loretta, Don, and Ashot… and anyone else beyond the bar who was touched by Armenia and knows how much Armenians love making toasts!

I’m so grateful that I was able to share my memories with other people… and in some small way, honor Matt with one of my own gifts. Maybe I can share my light the way Matt did with whatever time I have left. The most important thing Matt taught me is that no one is promised the next minute. So I hope this post inspires you to share yourself… because I promise, you matter to someone. And you probably matter to many more people than you will ever know.

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memories, obits

“Christ on the cross! Who are we waiting for?”

I’ve been waiting for today for weeks. Sometime tonight or perhaps tomorrow morning, Bill will come home from his latest business trip. I’ve really missed him. I always miss him when he goes away, but this time has been more difficult than usual. I was feeling like I just might make it without any major catastrophes last night, when I got a private message from the very first Armenian language teacher I had when I was in the Peace Corps. She was looking for information about one of the Volunteers who had served with me. I put her on the right track; she had forgotten the Volunteer’s name and site location.

This particular teacher, name of Armine, was brand new to the Peace Corps when my group arrived in the wee hours of June 2, 1995. I always really liked her. She was tiny, had a high pitched voice, and a wonderful sense of humor. We used to laugh a lot in our classes. I was among her very first four Peace Corps students, and she taught me for four weeks, until we all rotated to new teachers.

We were the third group of Volunteers to serve in the Republic of Armenia, and in those days, things were still pretty rough over there. I remember being completely exhausted upon arrival in Armenia. We had gathered in Washington, DC for staging, which lasted a night and all day May 31st. Then, we boarded a United Airlines flight to Paris. We spent all day in Paris– in my case, the day was spent in horrible Charles de Gaulle airport, because I didn’t know how to get to the city and hadn’t made any friends on the flight. That was my first flight in many years, although I did live in England when I was very young. It was also my first overseas experience without my parents.

My parents were definitely over the kid thing by the time I arrived, so they would take vacations and leave me at home with my older sisters or a house sitter. I remember they went all over the place… to Barbados, the Bahamas, Europe, Morocco (to visit my sister when she was in the Peace Corps), and to several places in the States. Given the way I was when I was a teenager, it actually might have been better that they didn’t take me with them. But not traveling so much when I was growing up had left me very inexperienced when I joined the Peace Corps. I was 22 years old… about to turn 23 in 1995. You’d think the first overseas trip I’d take as an adult, I’d go to a place like France or Germany. That’s what a sane person would do. But no… I joined the Peace Corps, and it forever changed me in countless ways.

As Armine and I were chatting last night, she asked me if I’d heard the tragic news about one of my former colleagues, Matt Jensen. I hadn’t, because I wasn’t one of the popular people when I was a Volunteer, and am not in any of the Facebook groups. She told me that Matt died the other night in a terrible hit and run accident. He had been trying to cross a busy intersection against the traffic light, in the wee hours of the morning. A black Rolls Royce struck him, and he was later found by police, gravely injured. He was rushed to a hospital, but his injuries were so severe that he could not be saved.

A3 in 1995… we were still in training.

I thought about the calendar and realized that he had just celebrated his 58th birthday. I remember how, when we were in the Peace Corps, I once made him a birthday cake. In storage, I have two photo albums full of Peace Corps photos, including a picture of Matt hugging the cake I made for him for his 34th birthday in 1997, just a few months before we finished our service and left Armenia. Although he had originally been assigned to a different area when we were Volunteers, he came to live in Yerevan for a good portion of our second year. Matt was a master’s level teacher in the TEFL (teaching English as a Foreign Language) program and, for some reason, he had come to the capital, where I was assigned, and temporarily lived with my friend, Ginny.

I got to be friends with Ginny because all of the Peace Corps teachers were required to have side projects. Ginny, who was a business Volunteer, was working with the USDA to develop products made with dried Armenian produce. I was a good cook, so I was recruited to help Ginny develop recipes that could help farmers market the produce internationally. That project was a lot of fun, and led to us hanging out a lot during her first year of service and my second. Ginny and Matt were unlikely roommates. Matt was about 14 years younger than she was and very liberal. Ginny was from Missouri and kind of country. I remember they had a few fights. But because they were roommates, I got a chance to know Matt better than I otherwise might have, and we became friends… at least during that time.

Matt was unique in that he was in his mid 30s during our time in Armenia. Most of the people in our group were either just out of college, or were older folks living out a lifelong ambition. Matt was also unique in that it was his second time as a Volunteer. He had served in Senegal in the 1980s, right after he finished his years at Hartwick College. He was always very outspoken during our training, and a leader in everything. He was also a talented artist, having designed the t-shirt we had made for our training group. I remember when we had our swearing in, I was in a skit we put on for our host families. Matt had recruited me to play a woman named թագուհի (t’aguhi– it means queen). I sang my lines, opera style, in Armenian as Matt and several other freshly sworn in Volunteers put on a comedy sketch about two women who meet at a hair salon and find out they love the same man.

I remember during our close of service training, he famously announced that if any of us saw him headed to a Peace Corps recruiting office, we should tell the recruiter that he was “not well”. We all had a good laugh at that, because by the time our service was ending, a lot of us were getting a bit antsy about the next big thing in life. For me, it was to be a month long train trip through Europe. I had planned it thinking I might not ever have the chance to come back… little did I know what the future would hold, huh?

After we left the Peace Corps, Matt and I eventually lost touch. I never forgot about him, though. That would have been impossible. Matt was the kind of person who completely defied being forgotten. I even thought of him yesterday morning, before I knew what had happened. I heard his voice in my head, which isn’t unusual for me. I often rehash memories of people long after they’ve left my life. But, for many reasons, Matt was especially memorable.

Personality wise, Matt was kind of like a much younger and male Bea Arthur crossed with George Carlin– maybe if Bea and George had ever had a son together, he’d be kind of like Matt was. Then there was his towering height. He was of Danish and Swedish stock, and he stood at 6 feet 4 inches. He had blond hair and blue eyes and a heavily Yankee-accented, gravelly voice that quickly betrayed his Connecticut roots. At one point, he’d let his hair grow long, and he looked like a regal Viking. I used to enjoy mimicking him, because his voice had so much character. He was often profane, which I admired a lot, and he was very witty, which I admired even more. To this day, I still sometimes say things that I heard him say first. I still say them because they make me laugh, even after many years. And when I say them, I say them the way he used to, because it’s even funnier that way.

Matt was a great teacher, very artistic, and a natural leader. His students all loved him. However, he could also be cranky and impatient. It was the kind of impatience one might expect from a no-nonsense New Yorker. For instance, one time we were walking somewhere together, and there was a woman ahead of us who was moving kind of slowly. Matt blurted out, “Oh, come on! Walk like you mean it!” Naturally, I busted out laughing, because it was just so unexpected and hilarious… and rude!

Another time in May 1996, our group was on a bus, headed for mid-service training. It was summertime, and hotter than Hell outside. We were parked in Yerevan, waiting for some people to get on the bus so we could make our way to Lake Sevan. I didn’t enjoy trainings that much, particularly during that middle point of my service. I didn’t know it then, but at that time, I was suffering a pretty severe bout of clinical depression, and was feeling kind of persecuted and paranoid. Anyway, there we were on the bus, feeling uncomfortable in the heat. Everyone was quiet, waiting for the lone person who was due to join us. Suddenly, Matt blurted out with his characteristic New York bluntness, “CHRIST on the cross!! WHO are we waiting for? Let’s just leave ’em!”

Matt is in this picture, taken just a few months before we finished our service.

Once again, I just about died laughing, because it was just such an irreverent, blasphemous, and obnoxious thing to say! I turned around to look at him and we both cracked up. It was exactly how I was feeling, too… kind of cranky and irreverent and totally over it. That point in time was a low point in my Peace Corps career. I was having a hard time with my service and giving serious thought to quitting, although I knew if I quit, my parents would probably disown me… or, at least that’s what I was thinking at the time. Remember, I was legitimately mentally ill then.

I’m glad I didn’t quit the Peace Corps, although I do have some regrets about those days. I was very young and naive, and I did things back then that I would not do today… and behaved in ways then, that I wouldn’t today. In those days, I was also a proud Republican voter, which is especially embarrassing– although at least in the 90s, there was no one like Donald Trump representing the party so openly. Sometimes, those memories are cringeworthy for me. But then I remember some of the good times, and times I spent hanging out with Matt were among the best.

When Matt was in Yerevan, living with Ginny, I would come over and we’d often have dinner. One night, he cooked cabbage. I have never been one for eating a lot of cabbage because it makes me fart like a whirlwind. But I do remember having cabbage with Matt, and now I think of him whenever someone tries to serve it to me. He hadn’t used a lot of salt, explaining that his mother had high blood pressure and wasn’t allowed to cook with a lot of salt. He’d learned not to use it, either. It was a very windy night at my house that evening.

As he did with a lot of subjects, Matt used to talk about food with a lot of excitement. He’d get animated over anything, even lentils and dill. That was another thing about him that I can’t forget. He was an incredibly energetic, charismatic, and enthusiastic person, when the mood suited him. I remember he loved to dance and had even taken lessons. I can’t dance at all, but I do remember him twirling me around the dance floor at some of our Peace Corps parties. I remember, even as I clumsily stumbled around with Matt, who was so much taller, lighter on his feet, and a confident leader on the dance floor, I felt pretty and had so much fun.

Ararat as viewed from a window at my school in Yerevan.

Matt Jensen even influenced me to make a music purchase once. One of the last times I saw him alive was in January 1998, a few months after we came home from our service. I went to his sparsely appointed apartment in Washington, DC and spent the night. I remember on the way to his place, we were talking about Mariah Carey’s latest single, “Butterfly”, which he didn’t like at all. He was hilariously going off about the lyrics, which he found inane. I remember the tone of our conversation– it was very sarcastic and hysterically funny. I had to agree with him about Mariah’s song. When we got to his place, he immediately pointed out the bathroom, because he knew I’d need to pee. I don’t remember a whole lot more about that evening, except that he had ABBA’s box set. He played it while we talked. I have always liked ABBA, but was more of a casual fan. I later ended up buying the box set myself, and every time I hear it, I remember how much Matt liked ABBA.

I also remember having a funny conversation with him about Kathie Lee Gifford. For some reason, I was telling him about how she had done some kind of mother’s day variety show special. I want to say she had some guest stars with her– I seem to remember Cindy Williams was among them. And Matt said his mother, who was quite elderly, had seen Kathie Lee Gifford on television and was describing it to him. I will never forget hearing his highly characterized New York accent as he imitated what his mother said about Kathie Lee’s show… “It was SICKENING!” Again… I laughed my substantial ass off at that– just the very disgusted, yet hilarious tone he used that really drove home the point. I could easily picture a female version of Matt saying that.

Matt went back to Armenia during the summer of 1998 to be the TEFL trainer for that year’s group of Peace Corps TEFL trainees. We traded letters and gossip for awhile, but then eventually lost touch. I think the last time I saw him alive was at the Peace Corps office in Washington, DC. I was with another former Volunteer, a guy named Albert. Albert and I were both headed to graduate school in the fall of 1999. He was going to New York University, and I was going to be off to the University of South Carolina. We went into the career center, and Matt just happened to be there, too. We had kind of an awkward exchange; Matt told me to enjoy being represented by Strom Thurmond, and that was the last time I ever saw Matt.

Incidentally, I have a weird habit of either running into people I used to know, or strangers who know people I know. One time, I went to the Peace Corps office in Washington, DC and ran into a guy who had been a Volunteer in Bulgaria. My friend and fellow Volunteer, Elaine, and I stayed with him in Sofia for about a week. No, we didn’t know him before we stayed with him– she just called him up and he graciously let us crash. And a couple of years later, I ran into him, completely by chance, in Washington, DC… the same way Albert and I ran into Matt by chance.

Years later, I saw Matt on Facebook, but I never felt comfortable friending him. I don’t exactly remember why we quit writing to each other. The late 1990s were a rough time for me. I lost touch with a lot of people at that point and went through some hard times. I finally got better when I got treatment for my depression and anxiety, but I’m afraid that people probably remember me for being a bit crazy back then. I’m still a bit crazy, but not like I used to be. I’m also a lot more mature. I wish I could have been friendlier with Matt in his last days. I think he might have enjoyed knowing that I finally came over to the liberal side and voted all blue last November. Matt was a very devout Democrat, and I remember when we were in the Peace Corps, he used to wear a Barbara Boxer t-shirt and pick on the lone staunch Republican in our group, a guy named Frank.

Not long ago, I ran into Matt on Facebook. We were involved in a Peace Corps related exchange, probably involving a mutual friend, but I don’t remember what it was about. He wrote, “I always liked you.” That made me feel good. I’m so glad that is the last thing he ever said to me, because it almost gave me closure. If I’m honest, there were times when he wasn’t nice. He had a short temper and could be grumpy and even kind of mean, when the mood struck him. But overall, he was just a larger than life kind of person, both literally and figuratively. He was a wonderful and gifted teacher, a warm friend, and he really loved his work and was dedicated to doing it well. Based on the comments left by the people who knew him more recently, I can see that he touched a lot of lives and has left his unique and indelible mark on so many hearts… especially young and impressionable ones.

Godspeed, Matt. I’ll never forget you. Thank you for making me laugh so many times… especially when I needed it the most. You have inspired me, and so many others, in so many ways. In that way, you’ll always live on.

I felt like singing this for Matt.

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Rest in peace, Prince Philip…

I don’t have much to say today. It’s raining outside, so even if we weren’t still stuck at home, I probably wouldn’t want to go out. I watched Lyle Lovett’s most recent live stream with Willis Alan Ramsey. I had never heard of Willis Alan Ramsey before, but he and Lyle are old friends. It was an enjoyable live stream, although maybe not as interesting to me as the ones Lyle did with Vince Gill and Michael McDonald.

Bill informed me that he’ll be gone for most of May. He also told me that it looks like we’ll be getting vaccinated sometime next month… although if he’s going to be TDY, maybe not. I sure am tired of waiting and I hate this lifestyle. It’s very depressing.

What a life.

I was saddened, but not surprised, to read about Prince Philip’s death yesterday. He was 99 years old and had been married to Queen Elizabeth II for 73 years. Until very recently, he had enjoyed fairly good health, but I know he spent some time hospitalized a couple of months ago. And, let’s face it… he was a mere two months shy of turning 100, so the end was bound to come eventually. Still, I kind of enjoyed Philip, who was like the court jester of Britain’s Royal Family. He had many quips at the ready, and a lot of them were very politically incorrect. I enjoy political incorrectness very much, even though I know it’s not so cool nowadays.

Last night, Bill and I were talking about everything the Duke of Edinburgh had seen over his long lifetime… He was a young man when World War II was happening. He was here to see cars, computers, televisions, organ transplants, and air travel become normal. He saw the first space travel, artificial hearts, and the Internet. And no matter what you might think of him, his wife, or their family, a 73 year marriage is an incredible accomplishment.

Let’s also not forget that he was a man who faced some significant hardships early in life. He was rushed from his native Greece when he was a baby and spent his earliest years in Germany. His mother went a bit crazy and later joined a religious order. And then, having been a decorated naval hero, he married Princess Elizabeth and became her consort, basically a “kept” man at a time when being a “kept” man was kind of humiliating. He took Elizabeth’s name and walked behind her as she continues to reign over the United Kingdom… Not every man could have handled such a role with the great aplomb Philip did.

I know not everyone loves them, but they sure seemed to love each other.

I have some British friends who are sad that Prince Philip has passed on, although I know there are a lot of other Brits who feel it’s time to get rid of the Royals. As an American, I have no skin in the game, but I have always been a bit fascinated by Britain’s Royal Family. I enjoy watching the pomp and glamour, even if maybe it’s all rather outdated.

Anyway… when I saw video of him riding in a car recently, I thought Prince Philip was looking pretty poorly. I am not surprised that his time came yesterday. My heart goes out to Queen Elizabeth II, whom I am sure already misses him. It’s too bad he wasn’t able to make it to 100, although maybe he didn’t care about that particular goal.

My Granny lived to be within six weeks of her 101st birthday, but I feel pretty sure she was more than ready to go when the time came. She lived a long life and was much beloved, but I think her final years were hard for her. They probably were for Prince Philip too, even if he didn’t have to worry about a lot of the things more common people do.

The passing of the prince led Bill and me to talking about our own deaths. We talked about what we’d like done with our bodies– cremation, burial, or whatever. I told Bill that I don’t really care too much, although I think I wouldn’t mind being turned into a tree. However, I would not want him to use a “mushroom suit” to accomplish that goal, since I have a phobia of mushrooms. That would be my worst nightmare, although it’s unlikely I’d know the difference.

I read that the actor Luke Perry, who was a big star on Beverly Hills 90210, and died a couple of years ago of a stroke, was buried in a “mushroom suit”, which is supposedly made of mushrooms and is an eco-friendly way to dispose of one’s remains. I like the idea of eco friendly burials, but wearing a suit made of mushrooms is enough to make me want to scream. Actually, reading about the suit while looking at the creepy stock photos of mushrooms is traumatizing enough. Still… I do like the idea of feeding trees and doing good things for the Earth… or even providing a handy spot for a dog to pee, though I am not into golden showers as a living person.

Well… like I said, I don’t have much to write about today. I think I’ll close this post and go watch something trashy on TV in an attempt to cheer myself up on this gloomy Saturday. As happy as I am that Bill has a good job, these trips really suck balls, especially when the pandemic prevents me from doing anything fun to pass the time. I guess I’ll keep working on my guitar and pondering what kind of trouble I can get into.

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Touched by a stranger… who is now an angel.

I so often write about people whose comments irritate and annoy me in some way. Today, I’m going to do the opposite.

I frequent a forum called Toytown Germany (TT). It’s a place for English speakers in Germany (or even just people with an interest in Germany) to hang out. I joined that forum in 2008, when we were living in Germany the first time, but before I was on Facebook. I’ve always found it a useful place to find information about living in Germany that isn’t military-centric. I also find a lot of the people there interesting, since they come from all over the world and walks of life. It’s not unlike the Recovery from Mormonism board, which I also sometimes frequent, only there’s a lot less talk of religion, which suits me fine.

A few years ago, someone on Toytown Germany started a thread entitled “What Made You Cry Today?” At this writing, the thread had swelled to 135 replies. I just added one myself this morning. Last night, I happened to glance at the thread, having not read it from the beginning. I noticed someone calling themselves manly386 responding to a call out from another poster. This was what he wrote:

  On 4/9/2020, 3:02:19,  Acton said: 

Wow! What a sad thread.

For Manly386, who says he has only 5 months to live, this must be truly awful. Could you tell us something about yourself? I see you live in Vancouver. How did you latch on to this TT site? I’m sure we could all chip in to try and give some positive support.

Hi Acton:  I’ve nothing to complain about.  Lived a charmed life, blessed with loving parents, a loving girlfriend (to become my wife later), good health and a body that seemed to accept all the abuse I could heap upon it and come back in fighting form. A Policeman for 32 years, both in the RCMP and the Vancouver Police Department.  on the side I dabbled in real estate and the stock market.  during those times 70″s 80’s and 90’s,  everything seemed to go up, couldn’t help but make money. By the 2000s I retired and got out of the market that’s when everything tanked. but I was okay.  We had a son, Warren,  who had pulmonary atresia, and died at 7.  8 was his favourite number, he could speak it in several languages.  He died nov. 28, at 8:00pm in 1988.  He was seven and a bit.  I counted up the months he lived,… it was 88 months.  go figure.

I was diagnosed with cancer two years ago. Probly because I was too chicken to have an annual colnonoscopy. Have Your Colonoscopy ! !

The cancer spread and now its in my bones, lungs, liver lymph, and I’ve developed colono-rectal cancer.

My Dr. whom I trust absolutely told me  “Dave there’s nothing more we can do, if all goes well you have about 5 months to live,  you have absolutely no immunity to anything, the chemo took care of that.”  No visitors, no going out for walks etc etc. Fortunately I have a very caring wife, she does everything she used to do and all the stuff I used to do, frustrates the hell out of me ’cause I loved helping out.  ah well, such is life.  I have no complaints, I don’t feel cheated, I’m 75 and enjoyed my life.

I found TT by snooping around on my computer.  That encouraged me to travel, I never had before, too busy.  I chose to backpack through Austria, Switzerland and Germany.   Bavaria was my favourite, The people were very warm and helpful.  went to my first curry night in Munich.  Didn’t know anyone but had a good time.  Ive been to Germany three times since 2000 and three curry nights.  Slept in train stations, rode the trains and busses, slept in hostels and absolutely enjoyed myself. It took me out of my Policeman’s Hard Shell and turned me back into a human.

I loved hunting, fishing camping and hiking.  Playing with my son and being a family man.  I truly was a fortunate man. 

Dave the Barbarian

ps  I’d love to make it to 100 “greenies” before the end !

Dave

“Greenies”– I think he was referring to the system of “likes” on the TT forum. At this writing, he has 39 on that post.

I decided to read his initial post, which prompted the call out:

What made me cry today?  My oncologist, a man I love and trust advised me that the chemo treatments were not working and there were no further meds available.  He’s given me 5 months at best.  I cry for my wife, the good woman that has stood by my side for 54 years.  Apparently I must leave her soon,  We lost our only son, and now she is losing me.  She is so trusting and good she is easily taken advantage of.  I fear for her.   These are chaotic times and so much is happening at once.  Despite my pretense of being a Barbarian living in a tent, that was me only in hunting season.  We are more than extremely well off financially and I’m trying to teach her there are sharks that will eat her alive.  A police officer for 32 years,  I was trained to protect,  now I won’t even be able to protect the one I love most. Christ, the world is both so beautiful and cruel at the same time. 

To all of you younger people in TT.  Shakespeare had it right,  “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may”,  don’t go crazy,  but enjoy the world while you are able to,  It’s a beautiful place. 

Dave the Barbarian.  

Since the post was from about a year ago, and Dave said he had about five months, at best, I went looking to see if he had been around TT recently. I saw that his last visit was on July 19, 2020. This morning, I Googled his name and city to see if there was an obituary. Sure enough, I found one, complete with photos. His last visit to the TT forum was a week before he died.

I can see that Dave had many loved ones, family members, colleagues, and friends who are missing him. I never knew the man or even heard of him until last night, and yet I regret that I never had the chance to interact with him, even if it was just on a Toytown Germany forum. He must have been a special person, indeed. He was definitely wise. Reminds me a little of my Bill, who is downstairs making breakfast as I write this.

I hope his wife, Lucy, is doing okay.

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celebrities, obits, politics, racism

Rush Limbaugh is finally dead… shit makes the flowers grow.

A few months ago, my husband lost a “friend” over his “hatred” for Rush Limbaugh. I put quotes around the words “friend” and “hatred”, because I’m being facetious. Anyone who knows Bill knows that he doesn’t hate anyone. He doesn’t even hate his ex wife, who probably deserves his hatred more than anyone on the planet. The point is, my husband isn’t a hater. But he never liked Rush Limbaugh. Neither did I.

Last night, we found out that Rush finally kicked the bucket at age 70. He’d been suffering from lung cancer, having announced his illness in February 2020.

Back in October 2020, Bill was labeled a hater by a former friend because he had noticed that the very organ that had allowed Rush Limbaugh to spread hatred and bigotry toward large groups of marginalized people was also going to be the death of him. Bill had posted his thoughts about Rush’s illness on his Facebook timeline, and some of his friends went freakin’ nuts. One even accused him of being a “bad person” for stating this:

I know what I’m about to say is the result of unskilled thinking, but this appears to be an example of Karmic Justice. The organ used to spew years of hate, vitriol, and self-centeredness will be his undoing.

We weren’t rejoicing in Rush’s illness in October, and we’re not rejoicing in his death now. I don’t generally celebrate when people die, even people I think of as highly contemptible, and worthy of disdain or even outright hatred. I think Rush Limbaugh qualifies as someone who, in life, was highly contemptible. And while I’m not particularly happy that he’s dead, I am relieved that he won’t be spreading his toxic negativity, ignorance, and bigotry anymore. He won’t be saying or writing hurtful things to or about people who aren’t like him and don’t share his opinions.

In the aftermath of Rush’s death, we’ve also seen yet another falsely attributed quote arise from the dead. If you’ve been on Facebook lately, you’ve probably seen people sharing this meme.

According to The Atlantic, Mark Twain NEVER SAID THIS.

I know a lot of people like to share these kinds of cute and clever memes, and many people don’t actually care who said it. I care, though, because I like to give credit where credit is due, and I don’t like false attributions. So where did this quote come from? According to the article from The Atlantic I linked above, no one important actually said or wrote it in that precise manner. Alex Eichler, the person who wrote the article for The Atlantic, writes:

Matt Blum at Wired has the fact-check: the quotation actually comes from Clarence Darrow, the lawyer of Scopes Trial fame. Here’s a fuller version of the quote, which appears in Darrow’s 1932 work The Story of My Life:

All men have an emotion to kill; when they strongly dislike some one they involuntarily wish he was dead. I have never killed any one, but I have read some obituary notices with great satisfaction.

Clarence Darrow

I know some people are glad Rush is gone. Some are actually jubilant about it. And I would never tell them they don’t have the right to feel whatever it is they feel. I’m not in a group that Rush openly mocked, unless you want to call me a liberal. I’m not actually that liberal, but I don’t like the way the Republican party has gone in recent years. I think their embrace of both evangelical Christians and Donald Trump is confusing and wrong. And Republicans often say regrettable, heartless things to people who are in trouble and need help.

Case in point. Yesterday, I read about former Colorado City, Texas mayor Tim Boyd, who basically went off on his constituents for begging the government for help. Texas, as you probably know, is in serious trouble right now, thanks to a terrible winter storm that has disrupted the power grid. People are suffering because of power outages. Some people are even dying! They’re either freezing to death, or poisoning themselves with carbon monoxide by doing things like running their cars in closed garages or using barbecue grills indoors to generate heat. But Mr. Boyd, proud Texan conservative he is, had this to say in a poorly written and now deleted Facebook post:

Typical Republican ASSHOLE!

And then he continued with this:

To be clear, I don’t agree with issuing death threats or even so-called “cancel culture”, but what the hell reaction does Tim Boyd expect? He was an elected official and it was his JOB to help his constituents and show some fucking compassion!

I’ll bet Tim Boyd is sad that Rush is dead. I’ll bet Boyd was a Limbaugh fan. I don’t know for certain that he was, but what he posted is the same kind of hateful, mean-spirited shit that Rush Limbaugh was spewing for YEARS on the airwaves. And ignorant, compassion challenged people who are deeply saddened that the raucous voice of their belief system has died don’t seem to understand that Rush hurt a lot of people with his snarky, hateful rhetoric.

This has been a very difficult year for so many people– from the deaths and illnesses caused by the pandemic, to the many natural disasters, to the massive job losses, and complete upending of of normal life for everyone. It’s really sucked on many levels. And so, when an elected official like Tim Boyd mocks and lectures people for their valid complaints, it stings a bit. Rush Limbaugh was of the same ilk, and people like Tim Boyd looked up to him. He had no compunction about saying awful things to and about anyone, especially people who have historically suffered and been marginalized by privileged people.

Seriously…

Let me remind Rush’s supporters of a few things. Rush Limbaugh mocked Michael J. Fox for having Parkinson’s Disease and accused him of exaggerating his symptoms. Rush Limbaugh called women “sluts”, and referred to Barack Obama as the “magic negro”. And he wouldn’t have thought much of me, either…

Bwahahaha… maybe he wouldn’t have thought of me as “overeducated”. But I don’t think that Rush was a very good judge of intelligence.

Anyway… I’m not glad Rush is dead. I don’t care enough about him to rejoice in his death. Besides, everybody has to die sometime. It was simply his time to go. I’m not going to celebrate his death. But I’m also not going to shame or blame anyone who is glad to see him gone. I figure they have their reasons, and many of those reasons, while perhaps hypocritical, are understandable. We all have our own karma to tend.

Bye now.. enjoy the next life..

In other news, our heating went out last night. It’s not as bad here as it is in Texas, but I am a bit chilled. Hopefully, the landlord will have it fixed soon, so my hands, feet, and nose won’t be so cold. And Bill has to go away for three weeks next Saturday. Hopefully, he won’t bring any COVID-19 viruses back with him. Otherwise, people might be cheering about my death.

So long, Rush… You served a purpose and now your work is done. And, as Folk Uke reminds us, even shit has a purpose.

“You’re not good for nothin’…”
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