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Mostly drivel…

I’m writing not because I have something particularly compelling to say, but because it’s been exceedingly long since my last post, and the guh-ilt is tottering away up there, threatening to fall and crush me like a grape. So here are a few tidbits:

1. Twins are fascinating. Currently, I’ve got one set close at hand and another arriving imminently. I am doubly (quadruply?) blessed. The girls get more alluring every day. I love it when they sit on either side of me in the mornings, their jammies still on and their diapers threatening to runneth over, and we finish reading a story and in unison, they call out, “Again!” Or when they lean their heads against me and sigh simultaneously. Of course, the tandem thing reached new depths a few weeks ago, when, sporting colds, both girlies put their faces on my sleeve and wiped their noses, mirror images of the other. That one was more icky than fascinating.

2. I’ve never been to Vegas, but I’m on my way baby! 2011 is a banner year: my oldest niece turns 18 and graduates from high school, my nephew turns 16, and I turn 4-0 (much, much more on that to come). We’re celebrating with Lady Gaga and 16,797 of her closest friends at the MGM Grand. Then we’re going to – huh. Teenagers in Vegas. Suggestions?

3. Sometimes it’s better to keep your mouth shut. This is not a typical practice for me. Over the weekend I developed a very strong opinion about something, and went back and forth about whether to share it with pertinent people. Uncharacteristically, I chose to refrain. Today, my opinion was validated and my wish came true. I’m torn between feeling smug and grateful. I’ll likely be smote later.

That’s it. I tire, therefore I stop. G’night.

  Spring is my favorite season, but July is my favorite month.

And not just because of my birthday. Yes, that’s a BIG part of it, and I’m grateful for two women in my life (they know who they are) who get that birthdays are the most important holiday (sorry, Jesus).

But I love July for myriad reasons. Here in the Northwest, July means that the best weather is yet to come. It means fresh raspberries, and evenings that last until after ten. It means burnt orange dahlias at the market, stunning glimpses of the Olympics, sleeping with fewer than four blankets, and visiting with good, good friends.

This July was a great one, from start to finish.

It began with eating THE BEST barbecue — my brother’s-in-law is ah-may-zing — whilst chatting with a friend I hadn’t seen since high school – a boy I had a crush on oh so many years ago. Now he has kids as old as we were when I toilet-papered his house in 1989.

Then the girlies turned two – eegads! I swear it was just a few months ago when I first changed Glory’s diaper; she didn’t yet weigh six pounds, and her buns were the smallest I’d ever seen (they’re still pretty tiny). She and Elena and Manny got bikes from their grandparents, and they puttered around on the playground looking like characters from a Mario Brothers video game, with giant mushroomy helmets on their wee heads.

Vacation was next – hooray! I do love DC. Yes, it was humid. Yes, the temp broke 100 at least once. Yes, there were rain-pouring-down-like-it-only-ever-does-in-Seattle-in-the-movies-or-on-that-stupid-hospital-show thunderstorms. But y’all, I was warm for eight days non-stop! You can’t say that around here all that often. And the city is fabulous – lots of great food, and there’s always something to see.

But while I heart our nation’s capital, it’s the people that keep drawing me back. Megan and Alex, Jill and Brian, Juliana and Paul. These are top-flight people. Beyond.

And they hosted me ever so well. Juliana hardly let me lift a finger, and ferried me around, and helped me pick out the cutest pair of elephant pajama pants. And she thanked me about 55 times for seeing “Eclipse” with her (for the record, I only rolled my eyes once during the movie). Jill and Brian ate the raw pancakes I made without grimacing, and served me yummy and large gins and tonic, and fast-forwarded through the talking-heads parts of SYTYCD, but not the judge’s comments, per my request. Megan was just plain F-U-N. She can pack more into one day than anyone else I know. I saw parts of the city that I hadn’t yet, and found a new favorite cafe with her in the lead. And Paul wrote me a lovely note when I left.

Then back to Seattle just in time for summer to begin in earnest. A lovely evening picnic with yummy Michigan pasties, bing cherries, and fabulous friends. The next day I went to a garden wedding, where there were thirty guests, Dick’s burgers and Molly Moon’s ice cream. The groom was the only person I knew when I arrived, but two straight women got my phone number by the end of the evening. I tell ya, I am something!

And then I hauled my ukulele clear to Very South King County to be surprised by yummy nose-running-spicy Thai food in a strip mall in Bonney Lake, and to be delighted by some time with far-off Fred. Freddy taught me everything I know (which, my friends, is considerable!) about volunteer management and Christian music festivals. He’s also taught me an awful lot about sharing grace and loving people. It was a real treasure to see him and the others in Enumclaw.

Checked in with my therapist (still not crazy), checked in with my financial advisor (still not rich), checked in with my phlebotamist (and stayed conscious the whole evening).

And then it arrived – my 39th. On Friday the 23rd we drank champagne at work and I got a S-T-E-L-L-A-R birthday gift from my smart, sly, generous colleagues and friends. It really merits its very own post. I’ll just say two words: Soda Stream.

The next morning I nearly killed Manny and myself by mishandling the aforementioned gift. He was standing on the step stool next to me at the counter, and after a liter’s worth of flying fizzy water drenched us both, I turned to him with drips coming off my chin, and with big eyes he said, “that was crazy!” The next time I made fizzy water, he went in my bedroom and shut the door, only reemerging when I was well and truly done.

I was still a little damp when Sam, Ang, the kids and I went to eat scrumptious pastries at Macrina Bakery, followed by more bike-riding, and eensy Glory insisting that she could hang from the monkey rings her”SELF!” She did, in fact, for a whole three seconds, then dropped, laughing when her dad caught her halfway to the ground.

Breakfast was followed by lunch at one of my very favorite Seattle restaurants: St. Cloud’s in Madrona. Its backyard is one of the neighborhood’s best kept secrets (Don’t go there! You’ll hate it!). I had a gin and tonic with something delish, got two beautiful birthday cards accompanied by even more beautiful necklaces from Jen and Jenny (who know me so, so well), and answered the modified birthday questions, courtesy of Brian (“tell us about the night you were conceived….”).

A lovely text from another lovely Jenny.

Then Dinner. Yes, I know I capitalized the D. It was the perfect evening. Marilyn picked me up and we arrived right on time at Serafina, where the smartly dressed maitre d’ directed us to the bar for a pre-meal drink (who can guess what I had?), and a shot of the first tequila I’ve had since Mexico, compliments of the bartender.

We sat in the courtyard. If you live in the area and haven’t done that, stop reading and make a reservation now – I’ll wait.

Done? Good.

Three courses, all superb. Two pieces of advice: order dessert right away so they don’t run out of what you really want, and get. the. pork.

Oh, wait, more advice: consult with the cute sommolier and make sure you have a charming and flirtatious friend who can coax a great price on the wine with just a smile and a bit of smolder. I said “big with no bite” (about the wine) and that’s what I got. Delicious. I’d show you the photo of the label on my phone, but I’m 39 now, and technology is beginning to stump me. It pains me a little, right there.

I got into bed just before midnight, full of spirits and tenderloin and gratitude and light. And there was still a week to go!

My birthday spilled into the next day with lunch in the sun on the water in Tacoma, watching the Rhododendron come and go with Noreen and little G, who is her father in miniature. Noreen is someone with whom I don’t get to visit nearly enough, so the time was precious.

I saw Inception – worth the IMAX price, and I’m a cheapskate. I was bowled over by astounding beets (dill is the key!) in Lesley’s glorious backyard, while talking with my kick-ass book group about The Brothers K, my most favorite novel ever. I finished it (for the fifth time) a few weeks before we met, lying on my couch with tears streaming into my ears, well satisfied and thanking God for the brilliance of David James Duncan.

Then I met sweet, blue-eyed Iliana, the fifth baby born to my lovely peeps this year. She arrived just a few days before all ten pounds of Isaac, who I also got to meet, while sharing burgers and onion rings with his three big sisters and mom and dad – that kid will never want for cuddles.

And on the last day of the month, we celebrated Marilyn’s birthday. M and I were housemates for three years, and people often asked why we didn’t have joint parties. But really, why just have one day of festivity when you can have two? Marilyn blazed into her 40s with a killer dress, fabulous moves, and aplomb. I aspire to do it as well.

That’s it! My month in a gigantic nutshell. And through it all, I read my way through Harry’s journey once again.

Fin. Bon, bon fin.

Be involved….

Stephen Lewis is one of my heroes. He’s intelligent, articulate, provocative, and passionate, plus he’s a Canadian, and I’m a bit of a Canuckaphile. Also, he’s a feminist. When I heard him speak in 2008, he said that when his kids were growing up, he and his wife told them that the only thing they must be in life was feminists. One of them ended up marrying Naomi Klein.

Today he gave the commencement speech at Dartmouth College. I loved it, and I wanted to share it with you. If you want to check out Stephen’s work, go to www.aidsfreeworld.org.

As you heard, I served as the UN envoy on AIDS in Africa from 2001 to 2006. The nadir of that tenure was 2003. It’s impossible to convey the depths of despair and anguish that consumed the high-prevalence countries of Africa.

The spectre of death and the reality of death were omnipresent, from the graveyards to the village huts to the hospital wards. There were times when entire countries felt like a charnel house, a virtual cemetery. I remember one particularly awful episode: I was visiting the paediatric ward of the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka, Zambia, with the superintendant, moving from cot to cot, each cot filled with five or six tiny infants, bodies strangled by a combination of malnutrition and what was undoubtedly the AIDS virus.

I had been in the ward for five minutes when an agonizing cry filled the room and reverberated wall to wall like some ghastly other-worldly shriek. I remember convulsively swiveling round to see what in God’s name was happening, and there in the corner of the room was a young mother, on her knees by one of the cots, weeping inconsolably as the nurse came in with a white sheet and took the babe away.

What lives with me to this day was that it happened every ten minutes I was in the ward: a wail, a nurse, a sheet, a little morsel of a death.

I remember thinking to myself: has the world gone mad? How is this possible in the first decade of the 21st century? But of course, not only was it possible, but it was happening to huge percentages … 5, 10, 20, 30, 35 per cent of the population between fifteen and forty-nine years of age, of whole countries, and in the decisive majority, to the women of those countries.

What was so appalling was the fact that by 2003, we had anti-retroviral drugs available; to be specific, three drugs in one pill to be taken twice a day. It was called triple-combination therapy. It kept people alive. So powerful and effective were the drugs that they were said to cause the Lazarus effect … people at death’s door suddenly underwent a startling metamorphosis: they got better, they looked after their family, they survived!

But for some reason, the world was paralyzed in its response. It might have been racism, it might have been geography, it might have been indifference; whatever it was the treatment did not roll out, even though, by then, there were generic drug equivalents emerging that made treatment financially possible.

Millions of lives were lost, unnecessarily; millions were put at risk, unnecessarily.

And then something astonishing happened. It came in mortal form: it was called Jim Kim.

Alright, this is where it gets embarrassing, but I refuse to be cowed by circumstance. On December 1st, 2003, the World Health Organization — WHO — launched a campaign against AIDS called “3 by 5”. The objective was to put three million people into treatment by the end of 2005. The idea, months in gestation — startling, inspired, brilliant, came full-blown from the brow of Jim Kim … which, when I think of it, may explain his permanently furrowed forehead.

There’s no beating around the bush here. Jim Kim became the Director of HIV/AIDS at WHO. He had a tremendously supportive Director-General and the two of them together drove things forward. I was flush in the middle of being the Envoy; I watched it close-up, and I can say, unequivocally, that it was the absolute turning-point in the struggle to subdue the pandemic.

But it wasn’t easy. And it wasn’t easy for the most ridiculous and distressing of reasons: one of the singular truths about the United Nations, rarely known by the outside world, is the degree of jealousy and competitiveness among the agencies. And the sorry truth about “3 by 5” is that some in the UN world of AIDS were incensed by Jim Kim’s initiative, were incensed that he’d taken the lead, were incensed that it gave WHO all kinds of kudos and profile, were incensed that they were left in the murky backwater of the also-rans. They couldn’t sabotage things directly — after all there is a limit to vile human behaviour — but they sure as the devil weren’t going to help it succeed.

And at every opportunity, behind the scenes, sotto voce, they forecast failure. But nothing daunted Dr. Kim and his colleagues. They persevered regardless the rage and rivalry.

Well, in mathematical terms, “3 by 5” did fail. We didn’t make the three million. But in human terms, it was a magnificent success: what “3 by 5” did was to unleash a rollout of treatment that became irreversible. Thus it is that today there are nearly five million people in treatment, primarily in the developing world, overwhelmingly in Africa. Your University President contributed significantly to keeping those people alive

Can I tell you something privately, never to be revealed to the outside world? I love Jim Kim. I’m not for a moment self-conscious in saying it.

Now I readily concede that not everyone is going to be a Jim Kim. But I would insist that it’s possible for everyone to make a contribution to improving the human condition.

You are graduating from one of the most esteemed universities on the planet. Whatever the discipline, whatever the profession you embrace, it is possible, over the years, to better this often fetid world. You don’t have to devote your life to it — no one is asking for some saintly transformation — I am only asking for a sense of being a global citizen, of caring about the injustice in this world, and doing something, however modest, to end it.

In Washington this past week, just completed, there was a conference called “Women Deliver”, attracting the participation of over three thousand concerned advocates and activists from every corner of the globe. The conference addressed, head-on, all those issues that so compromise the lives millions of women lead, whether international sexual trafficking, or female genital mutilation, or honour killings, or child brides, or the absence of inheritance rights and property rights, or the lack of economic autonomy, or dismal political representation, or maternal mortality, or intimate partner violence, or marital rape, or the spreading contagion of savage rape and sexual violence in situations of armed conflict, like the Congo, and the crazed lust for political power, like Zimbabwe.

It’s impossible, in the face of all of this, not to realize that the most important struggle in the world is the struggle for gender equality. You can’t continue to marginalize half the world’s population and expect to approximate social justice.

This isn’t to suggest that everyone has to pick up the cudgels of engagement and join some organization devoted exclusively to human rights for women, although that would be a worthy pursuit. But it does mean that in your personal and professional lives, above all the lives of young men, whether played out in the family, the community or the workplace, respect for women and a recognition of equality become the benchmarks of civilized behaviour.

It carries a message. It ripples inexorably outwards. It’s also a part of global citizenship.

Next month in my country, Canada, we’re hosting both the G8 and the G20. Undoubtedly, they will devote a major chunk of debate to the international financial crisis. The agenda also calls for significant attention to maternal and child health, attention to the ghastly reality of between three hundred and four hundred thousand women dying every year in pregnancy and child birth, and the heartbreaking statistic of nearly eight million children dying every year under the age of five from wholly preventable diseases.

Added to this, if we’re lucky, will be an intense exchange over the catastrophic decline in funding for HIV/AIDS, dismembering the legacy of “3 by 5”, and threatening the survival of nine million additional people living with AIDS who need treatment now. Today. This very moment.

Again, I’m not asking that you hurl yourselves into the fray … that you up and join a non-governmental organization and take yourself off to Africa, although it’s a worthy consideration. I ask only that you talk about these issues, care about these issues, perhaps contribute financially to the solution of these issues. Global citizenship is not some rigid construct or dialectic: it takes many forms.

The same argument applies, I believe, to the summit of world leaders to be held at the United Nations in New York in September. They will be discussing progress on the Millennium Development Goals; eight goals to be reached by 2015, the most central of which is to confront the poverty of the developing world … the staggering fact that 1.4 billion people live on less than a dollar and a quarter a day.

And the same argument further applies, I believe, to the meeting in November this year in Mexico City, when the nations of the world will gather to address, yet again, the apocalyptic implications of climate change.

But in a vein similar to what I’ve said before, I don’t ask that you become climatologists. I don’t ask that you become resident environmentalists, although that would be quite wonderful. I don’t ask that you do post-graduate studies in wind turbines, solar energy, biomass or any other renewable energy alternatives. I ask only that you take this incredible education that you’ve amassed, and analyze and engage and reflect and dispute and embrace, but above all be involved in shaping a more secure, just and decent world.

Global issues; global citizenship. There’s nothing more noble than the quest for social justice and equality. As of today, you can choose to launch yourself onto that path.

I salute you. I congratulate you. Thank you for this honour.

Global citizenship is something I aspire to. Feel free to hold me accountable. That’s what we’re here for.

TMI RE: PMS?

Every month or so, when I have a little check-in with my naturopath, one of the questions she asks me is, “how was your PMS this month?” And I hem and haw and mutter things about pizza and moodiness and….  I haven’t really known what I’m talking about. I’ve not been adept at noting and remembering what’s happening below my head, which is where I like to spend my time.

But since I’ve been asked this question about three dozen times now, I think I’m finally figuring it out. So here, ladies and gentlemen, they are: my PMS symptoms, which will henceforth be known as THE ISSUES. (I know, you’ve been waiting for a looooong time.)

There are two distinct phases to THE ISSUE: 1) Apathy and Lethargy, and 2) Irritability and Hunger. I’m currently in phase two.

Phase One: Apathy and Lethargy

This phase always starts first thing in the morning, and it’s generally on a weekday. I wake up, stare at the ceiling, and think, “Am I sick? I must be sick. I can’t possibly be not sick.” Then I test out coughing, feel my glands, ponder possible nausea or stomach disorders, swallow test for soreness, and sigh. I’m never sick, at least not physically. But I am completely without the will to move. I don’t want to get up, I don’t want to roll over, and I definitely DO NOT want to go to work. So, sometimes I don’t. And then I go back to sleep, and when I wake up at 11:30 or noon, I’m gripped with guilt for not being at work (I don’t think that last part has anything to do with the PMS).

And if I do go to work, I’m certainly no Princess Productive, if you know what I mean. Which also involves guilt. Luckily, phase one only lasts about 24 hours.

Phase Two: Irritability and Hunger

The longer of the two phases, this can last for anywhere from two to FIVE days. And it’s serious. Today, I went on a tirade about the way the dishwasher was loaded at work. The dishwasher, people. Who the hell cares?

This is exactly how I feel and exactly how many hotdogs I want to eat. Poo.

Well clearly, I do. At least during phase two. For awhile, there was a terror threat-o-meter outside my office door that would change based on an intern’s outfit (a post for a different day). I’m seriously considering putting it back up, but this time for me. That way, if a co-worker wants to ask me a question, they can do so at their own risk, knowing that the filter that makes me at least a skosh diplomatic is not functioning properly, and they’re likely to get an EXTREMELY “HONEST” answer (that’s the way I like to think of it).

And along with the crabbiness is the h.u.n.g.e.r. I really don’t like to talk about it, because I’d rather be using my mouth to chew.

Pizza, hot dogs, cookies, sandwiches…. excuse me, I need to go have a snack.

Okay, better. Of course, this phase comes with it’s own guilt. Again, a post for a different day.

Anyway, it’s a freakin’ relief when my period finally starts, and I can be pleasant and energetic and moderate again. I know that many women don’t like “Aunt Flo,” but she’s one of my favorite relatives. May she arrive soon.

You know how we all have certain characteristics that our friends ascribe to us, but we ourselves would never in a million years come up with when we’re asked to describe ourselves? Mine: Knower of all obscure children’s songs.

Now this is a flat-out exaggeration, and I’ve many-a-time been in a situation where I wished I knew the song that someone else was singing to the kids in the room, but it is true that I could hold my own in a silly song contest. Not just children’s songs, but TV theme songs, commercial jingles, et cetera, et cetera.

One particular song runs through my head almost instantly when I wake up every Tuesday morning. I learned this little ditty from an LP that I’ve no doubt my mom bought for my older sister when we were wee; Cere’s name was penned ever-so-neatly in the top corner of the sunshine yellow border of the jacket. But I’m the one who listened to it repeatedly for the better part of a decade (sorry Mom, but you brought it on yourself!).

Yep, that's Annette, front and center. Right next to the creepy cat children.

The album? Mickey Mouse Club: Mousekedances and Other Mouseketeer Favorites. An absolute classic from 1975, with 24 hit Mouseketunes. And no, I can’t name them all (much to my chagrin, I also can’t find a song list online. The interwebs have failed me!).

I can, however, sing all the words to one of the songs: “Tuesday is Guest Star Day.”

Today is Tuesday, you know what that means!
We’re gonna have a special guest.
So get up, broom. Sweep the place clean,
Dust off the mat so the Welcome can be seen.
Roll out the carpet, strike up the band,
And give out with a hip hooray – hip hooray!
Wiggle your ears like good Mouseketeers,
We’re gonna present our guest today,
‘Cause Tuesday is guest star day.

And I do sing it. Every Tuesday. Because on Tuesdays, I wake up with relish. There’s a little extra spring in my step, and when I’m getting ready, I make sure that my hair and eye makeup look just so.

You see friends, there’s a Guest Star in my life each Tuesday. And no, it’s not a cast member from “Lost,” although they’ve made Tuesdays special in their own way [sigh].

No folks, my Guest Star is special to a small-but-stalwart group. There are four of us who wait in anticipation, listening for the tell-tale rumble that occurs a little after eight, signalling his short-lived appearance in our lives once again. When we hear it, we dash for the family room window, and while three-year-old Manny perches precariously on the railing of the doll crib, I scoop up two mostly-naked toddlers in my arms, stand on my toes and we all gaze adoringly down at our fleeting Guest Star….

The garbage man [bigger sigh].

That’s right, the big green CleanScapes truck brings one of the most handsome men I’ve ever seen to pick up my trash each week, and under the guise of “helping the children,” I get to stare unabashedly. And our eyes always meet.

Of course, what he’s seeing from two stories down in the alley are three angelic young faces with big brown eyes and beaming smiles, waving their pudgy hands in an enthusiastic hello, and the hair, eyes, and rapidly-turning-red-from-the-exertion forehead of me, the baby platform.

I suppose the brevity of my garbage man’s weekly visit is both a blessing and a curse. A curse because, let’s face it, I could look at that face all the live long day. A blessing because, let’s face it, I can only hold both girls for a couple of minutes. So it’s a bittersweet moment when GM gives a final wave, hops up on the side of the truck, and rumbles to the next row of cans.

With the warmer weather, he’s switched from a knitted skull cap to a baseball cap [biggest sigh yet].

So if you see me on Tuesday and there’s a wistful smile on my face and a faraway look in my eye, join in with the happy song in my head:

No good deed…

A word to the wise: maybe don’t drink after donating blood, lest you end up passing out on the floor of a public restroom.

Yes, my friends, it happened to me.

Last night, my co-worker and friend W and I went to the Puget Sound Blood Center and donated a pint of blood each. If you’ve never done this, it’s really a breeze:

Please note: the watch proves that this is not my arm!

1. You give the volunteer at the front desk your name and birthdate.
2. You fill in dozens of bubbles asking questions about your health, sex life, body art and travel.
3. A technician takes you into a little room where she asks for you name and birthdate, pricks your finger, takes your pulse, blood pressure and temperature, and questions you about your mother’s travel to Latin America.
4. Another technician gets you settled comfortably in a lounge-esque chair, asks your name and birthdate, scrubs your arm with alcohol, sticks a needle in your vein and tells you to squeeze a ball every ten seconds.
5. You sit and visit or read for ten-or-so minutes.
6. Another technician takes the needle out of your arm, has you hold it in the air for two minutes, and asks your name and birthdate.
7. Another technician asks your name and birthdate and bandages your arm.
8. You sit in the kitchenette for ten minutes, nibbling on cookies and drinking juice.

See? Easy as pie. That’s been my experience each time I’ve donated, and that was my experience last night. And then…

…W and I went to Smith on Capitol Hill for a drink and some gnosh. W had a butter lettuce, watermelon radish and spring onion salad with sweet potato fries and a nutty beer, and I had a Cuban pork and ham sandwich (I know, I know) with a pint of (aptly named?) Original Sin cider which, by the by, is NOT AT ALL DRY as the waitress purported.

This photo is in no way, shape or form an endorsement.

All was fine and dandy – we enjoyed good food and good conversation, and as we were wrapping up, I excused myself to use the restroom. And then the craziness began.

The two-stall bathroom was dimly lit and empty when I walked in, and I chose the stall furthest from the door which, while sizeable, had an inadequate lock that made me a little nervous.

Perched on the toilet, I pulled a few-weeks-old issue of The New Yorker out of my bag (where one is always handy) and began to do my business and read a line or two. Finishing, I put the mag back, thought to myself, “What was that big bang?” and found myself lying facedown on the floor, half out of the stall. Mind you, while I’d finished, my pants had not yet been returned to their original upright and locked position.

The next several minutes are really fuzzy, but I know that I cared a lot more about getting myself back into the stall and the door closed than about assessing any potential injuries or ailments. Once more on the throne, I breathed deep, clutching my head in my hands as the room danced around me and the light faded in and out. Just then, the waitress who doesn’t know sweet from dry pulled open the quasi-locked stall door and slammed it shut again with a quick “I’m so sorry!” I heard myself reply “hell-o” sounding hell-a drunk.

Once the coast was clear, I took a deep breath, zipped quickly, lurched out of the stall toward the sink, and promptly sat on the floor, crossed my legs, and laid my forehead on the cool tiles, uttering silent prayers that no one would answer nature’s call in the next few minutes.

Eventually, I was able to wash my hands (under all circumstances!) and leave the bathroom. W was the epitome of compassion, driving me home and making sure I was all right.

And while it felt like an out of body experience for the rest of the night, I woke up this morning feeling mostly normal, with just a bum pinky finger, a chewed up left eyebrow, and a badly beaten ego. At least I still remember my name and birthdate!

I had the good fortune of being transported back to the best part of my teens tonight – the part that included jelly bracelets and Aqua Net and Michael J. Fox and pop music. My sister and I shared a stack of 45s that we’d play on the living room stereo and dance ’til we dropped onto the gold-and-white shag. Our tastes were typical – whatever Rick Dees was playing on the Weekly Top 40 would find its way from the back-of-the-store, second floor record section in Hi Ho Shopping Center to our turntable. Some of my favorites were “Making Love out of Nothing at All,” “Cum on, Feel the Noise” and “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya.”

And the two songs I got to hear at top volume tonight at the Key Arena, sung by those titans of popular music, Billy Joel and Elton John. They did “Uptown Girl” and “I Guess that’s Why they Call it the Blues” as duets, with two pianos as big as my living room.

The visuals for “Rocket Man” might have been inspired by a 1970s Elton John acid trip.
Billy Joel twirled the mic stand like a baton during “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me.”

It rocked.

More than three hours of music from two men who’ve been performing longer than I’ve been alive — all I can say is damn! My ears are ringing and my head is filled with melodies and lyrics and awe. These sexagenarians brought. it. Sure, they ambled across the stage a little slowly, but at one point, Billy Joel was playing the piano so fast his hands were a blur on the big screen. And wildly screaming women in boas thronged the front of the stage all night long.
My takeaway? Life doesn’t end until it ends. EJ and BJ are by no means elderly or decrepit, but there are many people who start to hang it up sooner than sixty. Meanwhile, these two are singing about rock ‘n’ roll and sex. Play on, brothers, play on.