family, obits, tragedies

April brings new life… and for some, the end of life.

Happy Easter, everybody. We have gorgeous spring weather so far today. I don’t plan to do much, since everything is closed, anyway. For a country with so many atheists, Germany sure does go nuts over religious holidays. Everything closes over Easter, from Good Friday until Easter Monday, although things are open on the intervening Saturday. This year, I didn’t plan ahead well enough. We ran out of dog food for Arran and contact lenses for me, after tomorrow. Fortunately, the stuff we need will probably be here on Tuesday. I hope I managed to sock away an extra pair of contacts in my luggage so I will be able to see before the delivery gets here. I wish I’d had my eyes lasered years ago.

Historically, for me, anyway, April tends to be a “cruel” month, even though it’s also usually very beautiful. So far, this year, April has been punctuated by grief… not necessarily for me, personally, but for people I know or am related to.

It started with a guy I knew in high school. I had a lot of classes with him, but we didn’t run in the same circles. I never knew until I read his obituary that he taught special education at our high school for some time. He eventually left that job, but then had brain cancer. That’s what killed him on March 31st, just a couple of weeks after his 50th birthday. On April 1st, a lot of people were posting about him on Facebook, writing about what a kind person he was. That made me wish I’d known him better, but he was more popular than I was, and people in my high school mostly thought of me as a weird person. So the cute, popular guys never talked to me. I’m probably less weird now… or, maybe they admit that they’re weird, too.

The next person to go was my cousin’s lovely wife. My cousin and his wife were married in 1984, when I was 12 years old. I wasn’t at the wedding, because it took place in Georgia, and I lived in Virginia. My cousin and his wife were a beautiful couple, but very religious and politically conservative, as are most of my Georgia based relatives (and I have quite a few). I was briefly among the Georgia folks myself, but we had to move to North Carolina after about 18 months of living there. I was sad to go. I enjoyed Georgia.

My cousin and his wife had three gorgeous daughters who are the epitome of “southern belles”. They’re a very close-knit family. When my cousin’s wife was diagnosed with cancer last spring, and the cancer then spread to her brain, the whole family got t-shirts made and wore them to support her before she went into surgery. They took pictures wearing the t-shirts and holding up signs with Bible verses and slogans. We heard that she had done fairly well with the surgery. Then, there was not much news at all.

I was a little surprised to read that she had passed away last week, since I hadn’t known that her illness had progressed so much. I mean, I know something about chronic illnesses such as cancer, and when I heard about her initial diagnosis, I figured she might not have much time. But her daughters appeared to be having the time of their lives, which is what I’m sure she wanted for them. My cousin’s eldest daughter posted a gender reveal video for the baby she’s expecting. Then, she announced her mother’s death. I didn’t know she was so ill, so I didn’t know she was near death. Last week’s news of her death came as a shock to me.

I knew her middle daughter planned to get married on April 16th. That daughter shared a photo of her hand holding her mother’s hand. I could only see the hand in the photo, but it was pretty obvious just from that photo of her hand that my cousin’s wife was very, very sick. Her skin was yellow and mottled with purplish red splotches, even around her fingernails, which were lined with the same red. I guess it was bruising of some kind.

She was a very beautiful woman who was much beloved by family and friends. She was also very religious and had strong faith in Christianity. Although I am nowhere near as religious as she was, I like to think of her joining those who went before her, to include my aunt and uncle, and my cousin, who was her sister-in-law, as well as all of the other people who were in her life I never knew. I’m sorry she had to miss her daughter’s wedding yesterday, but her daughter did say she thought her mom would have the best view… I hope she’s right. It looks like her daughter had a beautiful wedding, at least.

And finally, the third death was that of one of Bill’s friends from high school. I never met this man myself, but Bill has talked about him throughout our almost twenty years of marriage. Bill was kind of a shy introverted type when he was a teenager, and he went to a public high school in Houston where there were a lot of wealthy kids. Bill wasn’t wealthy, but he did have an interest in the military. He joined JROTC and made some friends, which unfortunately included his ex wife. But one of the guys he met was a guy named Mark who was a year older than he was. Mark was kind to Bill. He had a great sense of humor and a talent for art. Bill really liked him a lot, especially in the days when he wasn’t very confident about himself.

The years passed, and Bill lost touch with his friend… but then along came Facebook, and Bill reconnected with him. They didn’t communicate much on Facebook, mainly because Bill barely uses it and never posts. One of Bill’s other classmates, a guy who friended me for some reason, announced Mark’s sudden death yesterday. Apparently, Mark, who was divorced, had no children, and had recently lost his father (his mom died many years ago), decided to commit suicide on Good Friday.

Mark’s Facebook posts left no indication whatsoever that he was planning to kill himself. On Friday, he just posted “Guys, it’s been a slice”, accompanied by a collage with pictures of him at different stages of life. I told Bill that his high school friend had announced Mark’s death. Bill looked him up and read all of the posts by people who were devastated by Mark’s decision. So many people asked why he hadn’t reached out to them for help. A couple of people wrote that there was nothing they could have done… which is probably true in a case like this. Mark never left a clue of what he was planning. Unfortunately, it sounds like people will always wonder what drove him to make this decision, although a lot of people knew he had “demons”. But then, don’t we all?

It seems unconscionable that in this season of renewal– with flowers blooming and babies being born– some people have died before their time. All three of these people, who touched my life before they passed, were folks who might have been considered too young to die. While all three deaths could be considered very sad and tragic, I am especially sad for Mark. The other two had family with them when they passed, but Mark apparently died alone, and probably violently. As awful as it is for him, it’s even worse for whoever had to find him and whoever will be cleaning up the aftermath of Mark’s decision. I don’t know the exact method he used to kill himself, but he did own quite a few firearms. Bill told me that he owned some Russian pistols that he highly prized. So, it’s likely that one of his guns was the tool he used to end his life “on his terms”, as one of his friends put it.

I try not to look at suicide as a moral failing. I see it as more of a fatal response to depression, which is a real illness. Depression can be deadly. Maybe Mark could have been helped if he had reached out for help, but there really is no way to tell. And, in fact, there may have been something else going on that we didn’t know about… and will never know of. At least it looks like he had some good times during his last week. Many friends wrote about how they saw him this week. I wonder if Mark thought about how they would feel after he died… having spent time with him having lunch or drinking beer… and then finding out that he was planning to kill himself.

I didn’t know Mark, but I was there last night as Bill teared up over the news of his death. It just goes to show that everyone affects other people… even people they’ve never met in person. But as someone who has experienced depression and has felt suicidal, I understand that things might have seemed hopeless and pointless, and maybe he felt helpless to change anything. And one more talk with a friend or a doctor might have felt futile. So he made a decision that impacted a lot of people he never even knew.

This morning, Bill told me that he used to envy his friends. At one time, their lives seemed better than his was. I asked him what he thought of that notion today. He said, “I prefer my life.” I’m glad to hear that, especially since younger daughter shared an adorable video of her little daughter yesterday. What a blessing it is that Bill can get to know his grandchildren, even if it is just on video. Seeing her so happy and energetic gives me hope for the future. I’m glad I can be part of Bill’s future, especially as he awaits the birth of his second grandson in a couple of months.

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bad TV, obits, religion, Trump

Another one bites the dust…

Yet another song from my childhood that has great relevance today… It will always remind me of roller skating, though.

This morning, Bill is working from home. He got a Moderna booster shot yesterday afternoon. By the evening, he had chills and was feeling kind of rotten. By 4:00am, he had a headache and a fever. Today, he’s a bit tired, but the fever is down. Since he and a bunch of his colleagues got their boosters this week, a lot of them are teleworking. I expect I’ll be boosted soon, since today marks six months since I got my last shot. I don’t look forward to feeling rotten, although I didn’t feel terrible after the initial vaccines. Maybe I’ll get lucky and not have a bad reaction.

Some people still aren’t on the vaccination bandwagon. Some people still think COVID-19 is a hoax– some kind of world domination scheme intended to enslave the population. Well… I think that thinking is a special kind of stupid. But some people are stubborn and they have to learn the hard way. Enter Marcus Lamb, the latest Christian “media mogul” who has “gone home to be with the Lord”. Yep… Mr. Lamb, who was 64 years old, was a COVID-19 conspiracy theorist and vaccine skeptic. And now, he has no more worries about his health. In fact, he HAS NO HEALTH anymore. He’s DEAD. Another one bites the dust!

Marcus Lamb was a founder of Daystar, the second largest Christian television network in the world. From the beginning of the pandemic, Lamb and his cronies focused heavily on the virus, calling it a “satanic attack” and denouncing vaccines. Daystar reaches 2 billion people worldwide, and according to Michelle Boorstein, a reporter with the Washington Post, appeals to the masses with “a fluid, modern, charismatic faith, more about general good vs. evil, miraculous healings and religious freedom than any specific denominational theology.”

Earlier in the pandemic, Lamb invited many vaccine skeptics to promote their conspiracy theories on his network. They hosted daily interviews with these pro-religion/anti-science folks, during which they discussed how vaccines were being pushed by “hidden satanic forces” and “stealing Christians’ freedoms”. I just want to ask Lamb and his buddies– what the hell good is “freedom” if you’re dead?

Now, in fairness to Marcus Lamb, he did reportedly suffer from diabetes. Diabetes can worsen COVID infection. Lamb also had other risk factors that were likely to make his illness more severe. Mr. Lamb was over 60 and male. And it’s obvious that he was hanging out with other people and ignoring safety protocols. I would be very surprised if anyone working at Daystar was taking precautions against contracting COVID-19. Clearly, they had the “answers”, right? Maybe not, since according to Lamb’s wife, Joni, Marcus Lamb got “COVID pneumonia”, which helped lead him to his untimely death.

In a Facebook Live video, Joni explains why and how Marcus Lamb died. Apparently, his heart gave out while he was in the hospital, receiving oxygen. Joni explains:

“We were trying to treat the covid and pneumonia with the different protocols we use, including the ones we talk about on Daystar,” she said on the show. “We used those — I myself used them and had breezed through covid.”

His blood sugar spiked and he needed oxygen, she said. “He 100 percent believed in everything we talk about here on Daystar, things that help so many people around the world with early protocol treatments for covid,” she said. “We still stand by those, obviously.”

I watched some of the people on the above Facebook Live video who spoke about Marcus Lamb. They all appeared to be genuinely grief stricken that he’s dead. And maybe they take comfort in the belief that Lamb will be a lamb of God, up in Heaven with all of the other Christian wingnuts who have been promoting anti-vaxxer and government conspiracy bullshit. I just don’t know what it will take to convince people that this is not a joke. COVID-19 is killing people, and while faith and hope is all well and good, God gave us science for a reason. Obviously Lamb was a believer in medicine, since he went to the hospital for care. So why wasn’t he a believer in vaccines?

What really disturbs me about the case of Marcus Lamb and the other so-called Christian media moguls who have gotten sick with COVID-19 and died, is that there are so many people who watch and listen to what they say and do. Many lonely, sick, or elderly people who are isolated watch programs on Daystar or similar networks. And they are influenced by these people who give them hope, or at least a narrative that they agree with and can use to bolster their false beliefs against science.

According to the Washington Post article I linked, “White evangelical Christians resist coronavirus vaccines at higher rates than other religious groups in the United States, a phenomenon experts say is bound up in politics, skepticism about government and the consumption of alternative media and unfounded conspiracy claims about vaccine dangers.” When I think about the kinds of people who watch Daystar and its ilk, I think Daystar was giving evangelical Christians exactly what they wanted. And they were doing it, not because it’s the best thing for their followers, but because it brought in more money and power.

Not surprisingly, Lamb was a Trump supporter. Last year, Lamb appeared in a photo with Trump, at an “Evangelicals for Trump” rally. Honestly, anyone who calls themselves God fearing Christians, but support Donald Trump– who is about as un-Christlike as a person can get– has missed the point entirely. I mean, supporting Trump and being “Christian” is kind of contradictory behavior, isn’t it? And yet, a lot of people are doing it, and ignoring the facts. I don’t understand and can’t abide it, but hey, at least it’s obviously hastening their chances to find out if Heaven is real.

I am not a big fan of televangelists. At most, I am kind of fascinated by their nerve. So many so-called religious leaders are really more interested in power and money than they are promoting God. As I wrote yesterday, organized religion has ruined many people, and many families. So many people have killed or died over religion. So many families have been ruined over clashes in religious beliefs or lack thereof. But I don’t equate religion with a belief in a higher power. The fact is, I don’t think of myself as a very religious person, but I do have a belief in God. I don’t know why I do, but I do. That, to me, isn’t the same as being “religious”.

Daystar has faced some controversies, too, as have many “prosperity gospel ministries”, which promote the idea that in order to get God’s favor, one must give money. And of course, the televangelists promote the idea that they are the ones who should benefit from the largesse of hopeful followers of Christ. They promise that you give them money, you will be blessed. But so often, it turns out all that happens is that the people who donate their “grocery money” only get poorer. It’s sad that so many people who follow “false prophet” televangelists and corrupt “leaders” like Donald Trump never see that they are working against their own interests.

But anyway… condolences to Marcus Lamb’s friends and family members. Truly, I am sorry to hear about Lamb’s death. I can see that he had some people in his life who are sad that he’s gone, and I don’t want to discount their pain and grief at losing him. I take heart in the realization that maybe some people will learn from Lamb’s sudden passing.

Now to get on with my day… gotta do the vacuuming, practice guitar, and walk the dogs, since the sun actually peeked out from behind the clouds for a few minutes. Hope everyone has a nice Thursday.

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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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silliness

When things mysteriously disappear…

I must be losing my mind. This morning, I stripped the bed so I could wash the sheets. I removed the pillows, the top and bottom sheets, the duvets, and their covers. I will admit that I was a little preoccupied this morning, thanks to the pain and numbness in my right hip and thigh. I remember pulling five of the six pillows on the bed to my side, leaving one on Bill’s side. I went to the other side to remove the sheets and the pillow… and sometime between taking the sheets off and removing the five other pillow cases, I misplaced the sixth pillow.

I’ve looked under the duvets, under the bed (where it couldn’t have fallen because the gap is too small), in the hallways, and along the route to the laundry room. The pillow is nowhere to be found. I’m sure it will turn up eventually, but it’s pretty creepy that I misplaced something that large and that random. I have no idea where it is or where it could have gone, even as I know it could not have walked off by itself.

This happens as a Facebook friend I met offline back in the early 00s shared a picture of me from 2004. I had red hair then, and I was short and stout, as I am now. However, I was a bit thinner at that time than I am now. Unfortunately, the person who took the picture elected to get a shot of my barrel sized butt, and the Facebook friend elected to tag me when she shared it. It’s not a good picture of me at all, although clearly I’m not the intended target of the photo. Why someone thought I’d want to see it and be tagged in it, I don’t know… although I realize we are our own worst critics. I mentioned my barrel butt and noticed later, this person shared a meme. It’s one I shared myself recently.

True, but that doesn’t mean I want to see a picture of it.

I suppose I could try to do something to make my barrel butt more like a keg, but if it looked like that fifteen years ago, the odds are it will look like that until I finally croak. I’ve been relatively good this week. Bill’s been out of town, so I’ve been on the wagon, despite the yucky weather. I think watching Intervention helps keep me drinking water instead of beer. Also, because it’s just me and I don’t feel like cooking a lot for just me, I’ve been eating somewhat less. But Bill comes home tomorrow, and the homecoming should be epic… if we don’t end up attending a mandatory fun Christmas party.

Maybe I should take heart. At least jerks like Tommy Callaway won’t be tempted to slap my ass on live TV. On the other hand, he’d have no excuse, since it would be impossible to miss it.

And finally, last night, I was trying to fall asleep because I made the mistake of napping yesterday morning (cold, dark, snowy weather does that to me). As I was lying there, wide awake, I posted a Facebook status update. “I need a girlfriend”. Now, when I posted that, I meant I need someone to hang out with locally… someone to go places with, drink wine with, gossip with, or whatever. But a guy I knew during my Peace Corps days posted an article from The Guardian entitled “Why it’s never too late to be a lesbian.” I was kind of amused by that, so I posted a gif from the 1989 film, Coming to America

A man’s got to put in overtime to get me off… Shit, it may be time to watch this again.

Ah well, these are minor problems in the grand scheme of things. I found out yesterday that yet another Epinions friend passed away. His name was Jeff, and I really didn’t know him apart from our writing pursuits. He was very well liked, as I’m now discovering by the many tributes left on his timeline. Jeff liked karaoke and doing stand up comedy. He was always nice, and very friendly, although I never got to know him very well. He’s the third Epinions friend who has died this year. All three succumbed to cancer, and at much younger ages than they should have. In Jeff’s case, it was brain tumors. He successfully had surgery to remove one tumor and an MRI picked up another tumor deeper in his brain that could not be removed. Because he was very weak, it was not possible to try radiation or chemotherapy. So, just a couple of days after his surgery, he journeyed to the great beyond.

I’m heartened to see what a positive impact Jeff has had on his vast array of friends. So many people are posting their condolences. I only hope he knew how much he meant to them before he passed. I think too many people withhold that positive regard until it’s too late. The well wishes are nice to read now, but they probably would have been even nicer a month ago. As far as I can tell, Jeff was still somewhat okay at that point. I see that he was posting on Facebook and doing stand up, anyway. It sounds like his death was a complete shock and totally unexpected.

On his journey to the Pearly Gates, Jeff joins Philip McKeon, who was Tommy Hyatt on the sitcom, Alice, Carroll Spinney, who played Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, Marie Frederikksson of Roxette, and a hapless raccoon who got drunk on Gluhwein at one of Germany’s many Christmas markets and wound up being shot. Actually, I could rant about the raccoon, but I need to see to my runaway bed linens. Maybe later, I’ll get to it.

Sure wish my fat ass would mysteriously disappear like that pillow did.

Edited to add: I just remembered where that pillow went. Bill took one with him on his business trip because German hotels usually have terrible pillows.

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obits

Literally dying on stage!

I just read about the late Ian Cognito, a British comic who was in the middle of a performance and had just spoken about having a heart attack of stroke moments before he fell ill and died mid set. He was on stage at the Atic Bar in Bicester, about 14 miles north of Oxford in England, and at first, the audience assumed his twitching was part of his act, as he was known for having a “flamboyant” persona on stage.

Apparently, the 60 year old comedian hadn’t been feeling well before he went on Thursday night, but he insisted on completing his act. As he addressed the crowd, he said “Imagine if I died in front of you lot here.” Ouch! From his mouth to God’s ears?

Someone on YouTube says this is by Ian Cognito. Seems surreal now. Loved the ending of this.

Other comics backstage realized something was wrong before the crowd did. They called for medical assistance, and a paramedic who happened to be in the audience attempted CPR, but it was too late. Ian Cognito died at the scene. What a way to go!

It must be a special kind of surreal to be a comedian who literally dies on stage. It must be even stranger to watch this happen. Comics often talk about the horror of “dying on stage”, but they’re talking about their act. You know… it’s awkward and humiliating when you try to perform and fail. It’s happened to me a couple of times during vocal recitals. I have forgotten words of songs, even when I’ve had them down cold. I would imagine it’s even worse for comedians, who have to adjust their acts to the reactions of the crowds. Sometimes jokes that work for one group bomb when another group hears them.

I am not at all familiar with Ian Cognito’s act, but it sounds like he was a very decent person. Fellow comedian Jimmy Carr tweeted this:

“Veteran stand-up comedian Ian Cognito has died on-stage — literally. The audience thought it was part of the act. Died with his boots on. That’s commitment to comedy.”

Other comics were similarly complimentary. Ian Cognito was described as “fun”, “legendary”, and “kind”. He’s also being called “A Proper Comic”. Although I know comedians dread the idea of “dying on stage”, it sounds like Ian Cognito did it in a way that no one will ever forget. It also sounds like he’s really going to be missed. I will have to seek some of his material. I have a feeling I’d enjoy it. I like cheeky British comedians… or cheeky Brits in general. I could have been one myself if my ancestors hadn’t moved to America.

I am in the midst of planning our next trip to Great Britain. Bill and I are going to Scotland again in August. I look forward to running into some witty folks while we see islands we haven’t been to before and drink lots of whisky. Hopefully, no one will die.

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