Monday, December 31, 2018

'it was twenty years ago today....'

"It was twenty years ago today
Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play...."

No, that Beatles lyric is not my twenty-years-ago-today story.  Here goes mine --

PICTURE IT:   20 years ago today.  December 31, 1998, New Year's Eve.  My apartment on the 31st floor of downtown St. Paul, Minnesota.

There I was, sitting at my computer, back when having a home computer was still a relatively new thing, probably debating myself whether I should turn on "Dick Clark's Rocking Eve" or just go to bed before 1999 even arrived.  On the computer, I was online on AOL ("America On Line"), back in those dial-up days, back when there was that awful sound when you connected, and I was mindlessly parked in an AOL Chat Room.  Remember those?

And then one of those moments happened, a not-a-big-deal that led to an adventure from which, thankfully, there was to be no turning back.  In the Chat Room, there was an IM ("Instant Message") to me from somebody with the "screenname" FOSSISBOSS (yes, it was all caps) asking if I wanted to chat.  I don't know what attracted his interest to my "AOL Profile".  Maybe it was my tag line -- "What good is sitting alone in your room?"  (borrowed of course from Cabaret) or maybe it was that hardly anybody else was online that evening because they were all out celebrating New Year's Eve, which made his choices limited.

The chat apparently went well, because he asked if he could come pick me up and we'd go out for a drink.  Well, why not?  I was a bit apprehensive, so I suggested my nearby favorite-at-the-time bar, Over The Rainbow, where I knew I'd be surrounded by friends in case this dude turned out to be a psycho.

He came and picked me up at my apartment building front door, and there he was, looking back in those days remarkably like the photo of him below (borrowed from my friend Deborah) -- dark, bushy hair; beautiful blue eyes; and that killer grin.  A life-altering moment.

So we rang in 1999 together somewhere Over the Rainbow, and after that the next 18 new years together, and what years they were!  As 2019 makes its first appearance tonight, I'll very much miss having him next to me recalling that first New Year's Eve, but now I need to picture him welcoming this new year alongside his mom, his dad, his dear friend Tomoko, his old dog Tango, and all of those angels who decided they needed his eternal energy up there.

THE POINT OF ME RE-TELLING THIS STORY?:  If I had dozed off with Dick Clark that night, I would have missed out on my best years.  Sure, I realize that instead of Jerry being the most amazing person that I have ever known, he could have been a serial murderer or a Republican or a totally forgettable dud or who-knows-what.  Maybe there is something to be said for keeping expectations low and hopes high.  Be open to possibilities, I guess.  Joy can come unexpectedly.  Life is very short!  Take chances!  After all, what good is sitting alone in your room?

Come hear the music play!

Saturday, September 1, 2018

the year since Jerry left us

Sunday, September 9:  the one-year mark of the day when Jerry -- my partner, lover, best friend -- gave up his fight with brain cancer and passed into his next adventure.  While since that moment there has been no day with zero tears for me, he sends me messages -- through monarch butterflies, cardinals, dreams, and pennies from heaven -- letting me know that somehow somewhere he is okay.  I sure would rather have him right here with me.

Some people have asked me how I plan to observe that one-year anniversary (is "anniversary" the right word?).  The purpose of this note is to answer that question and to invite my friends and others who loved Jerry to share that day of remembrance with me.
First, back to Bach:  September 9 will be a Sunday, so I'll be going to my church in the morning, and it will be Rally Day, which happens to be my favorite Sunday of the church year.  Rally Day comes the first week after Labor Day, which is of course the unofficial end of summer.  Morning services tend to be scaled down during the summers, when a lot of people are off up north at their lake cabins or on vacation or taking a break wherever.  But on Rally Day, the church year starts over.  It is sort of a "comeback" day.  The choir is back, all is refreshed and normal.  And my favorite part -- the tradition at my church -- the organist/choirmaster Philip Brunelle plays as the prelude Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor on the amazing Plymouth pipe organ.

Feel free to join me at this service.  In fact, I'd be honored to see you there.

My church (very liberal, yet traditional, as I am):  Plymouth Congregational Church, Nicollet and Franklin Avenues in Minneapolis.  The service begins at 11, but, if you come, be sure to be there soon after 10:30 to hear the Bach prelude!
Next, a sort of open-house at my home:  Starting at about 1 p.m. until probably into the evening, I would like to open up my house for friends and Jerry-fans to stop in and say Hello and/or hang out as they wish.  It will be no big deal, no RSVPing necessary, just a celebration of normal life.  You can bring a snack if you like (or not) and maybe we'll order some pizza or something.  The Vikings game will be on the TV off in the background, and, weather-permitting, we can drift outdoors Creekside.

If you don't know my address in Golden Valley, please messenger me or call me or something, and I'll get it to you.

Ideally, it will be one more day to remember Jerry's phenomenal life and -- for me, maybe for you -- to try to figure out how to emotionally maneuver the upcoming second year of him being gone.
September 9, 2018.  Who knows.  Maybe it will be some sort of Rally Day.

Jerry & me:  Dublin, Ireland, February 2016

Thursday, August 30, 2018

do you know the way to San Jose?

If you know me or if you were one of those people who read my blog during those years when I blogged every single day, you might remember when, back in 2011, Jerry and I brought my grand-nephew James here to Minneapolis from New Jersey the week after he graduated from high school.  We became “helicopter uncles” there for a while, helping him figure out college and work options and life in general.  The whole project could have flopped, but it didn’t.  James blossomed into a wonderful young man here in Minnesota.  Two years ago, he graduated from the University of Minnesota and launched himself into a career that seems to please him so far.

But life moves on.  He recently received an offer for a job in San Jose, California, and is moving there.  In the next few days, he is driving his car to California, and I’m going with him for that road trip, then I'll be flying home from San Jose, leaving him there to explore his new life.

I can’t help but feel sad to see him go and, at the same time, so proud. Jerry is looking down, I bet, and feeling the same.  Good luck, James.  We love you.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Howard ranks the Oscar nominees

I've been doing this for a number of years, ranking the Best Picture Oscar nominees from my own twisted point-of-view, and this year I found myself longing for the days when there were only five nominated pictures instead of nine.  For one thing, this hasn't been a normal year for me, so I had to sort of binge-watch as the Academy Awards got close.  Beyond that, though, I just didn't think there were nine films worthy of being nominated for the Best Picture of 2017.  Argue with me if you wish!

But the program is tomorrow (Sunday) night, and tradition rules my life – so here we go. My favorite to least-favorite:

  1. 1.  THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI.  Of course you knew that I would love this movie!  It has an offbeat and compelling story, amazing characters, and, most of all, Frances McDormand!  There were a few unanswered questions – like, why didn't the doofus deputy (named Dixon!) get prosecuted for throwing the ad dude out the window?  And why wasn't it a bigger deal that the police department was bombed?  It is unlikely that this great film will win Best Picture – note that the director was not nominated for Best Director (But should have been!). 
  1. 2.  THE SHAPE OF WATER.  This is a silly idea for a story – a cleaning lady falling for an overgrown reptile --  but it's really a terrific movie!  It feels like a cinematic achievement of some sort while still being a film you want to talk about afterwards with your friends.  I wanted to see it a second time but ran out of days! 
  1. 3.  LADY BIRD.  How could anybody not like this movie?  It's a high-school coming-of-age sort of movie that has exceptional dialogue, especially the banter between Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan) and her mom, played perfectly by Laurie Metcalf.
  2. 4.  THE DARKEST HOUR.  London, 1940, Winston Churchill (played by Gary Oldman) becomes Prime Minister, and the country is faced with dreadful decisions in dealing with Hitler.  I'm not sure why this was "the darkest hour" compared with bombings yet to come, but whatever.  My favorite scene was when Churchill took the Underground to talk to real Londoners.
  1. 5.  THE POST.  This true story – behind the scenes at the Washington Post during the Pentagon Papers drama – is obviously aimed at viewers like me who lived through the Vietnam era and knew who Robert McNamara, Daniel Ellsberg, and maybe even Richard Nixon were -- No explanations for younger, history-unconscious audiences.  Meryl Streep becomes Katherine Graham.  Tom Hanks is always Tom Hanks. 
  1. 6.  GET OUT.  This is a weird horror-movie mix of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Stepford Wives, and Rosemary's Baby (three films, all of which I liked better than this one).  I just disliked the whole nasty premise of the story.  I did like Allison Williams (from the HBO series, Girls) as the evil temptress.  This could win Best Picture, but I hope not. 
  1. 7.  CALL ME BY YOUR NAME.  Oh please, how desperate are we for Best Picture nominees?  This film, set in photogenic Italy, has some beautiful moments, but, to me, there is zero onscreen chemistry between the two main characters, and I just couldn't buy into any of it. 
  1. 8.  DUNKIRK.  If the purpose of the makers of this film was to make a bunch of impressive-looking battle scenes and make you feel the personal tension for those in battle, they succeeded.  If their purpose was to tell history-ignorant American audiences the amazing, inspiring story of the Dunkirk rescue in 1940, they failed miserably. Even The Darkest Hour explained the significance of Dunkirk better.
  1. 9.  PHANTOM THREAD.  OMG, this movie seemed to go on interminably.  Daniel Day-Lewis occasionally makes it almost palatable but not quite.  He says this is his last film.  I hope it isn't.

  2. Some of my preferences in other categories (although -- full disclosure -- I didn't see a few of the nominated performances):

  3. BEST ACTOR:  It's no contest.  Gary Oldman for his portrayal of Churchill in The Darkest Hour.
  4. BEST ACTRESS:  Of course!  Frances McDormand for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri!
  5. BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:  Sam Rockford, playing "Dixon" in Three Billboards.
  6. BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:  Laurie Metcalf for Lady Bird.
  7. BEST DIRECTOR:  Guillermo del Toro for Shape of Water.

  8. That's it for now.  Be sure to watch the program tomorrow night so that I have somebody that I can gripe about it to.  Thanks!

Friday, January 19, 2018

just a stranger in a strange land

This time of year, I get a kick out of friends who have transplanted to Florida and feel the need to taunt those of us in chillier states about the “paradise” in which they live.  They temporarily forget that they also live in the state with the worst drivers and the most miserable summers (I almost added “and little Marco Rubio” but decided to keep this post non-political).

Being a transplant myself, having lived in Minnesota – land of tater-tot hotdish and icehouses and SuperAmerica – longer than I lived in my native southern New Jersey – land of cheesesteaks and the Jersey Shore and Wawa -- I hope that most transplants find ways to stay loyal to their roots…

… which somehow this week brings me to the topic of football.

Growing up in the shadow of Philadelphia, the natural tendency is to be a Philadelphia Eagles fan, although there are some bizarre exceptions to that rule (Think: goofballs such as Cowboy-loving Chris Christie).  Living in Minnesota and surrounded by a sea of purple, it’s not hard to become a Minnesota Vikings fan, and the Vikings became my #2 team when Minnesota became my adopted home.  Jerry and I had Vikings season tickets for a number of years, and I would enthusiastically cheer for them unless they were playing the Eagles, in which case I’d wear my Eagles gear to that game, of course…

… which brings me to this weekend’s game between the Eagles and the Vikings, the NFC Championship Game.

One team will go home after the game and the other will go on to the SuperBowl here in Minneapolis in two weeks.  In a way, it will be a win-win and also a lose-lose for me, however it turns out.

Without question, I’m 100% for the E-A-G-L-E-S!  Let me say this, though. The stereotype “Minnesota nice” has the reputation of being a thin-layered fake niceness, but I have found deep friendships here with a lot of wonderful people, and, if the unthinkable happens and the Vikings somehow win, my consolation prize will be seeing all those smiles around me.  And somebody has to go beat the dreaded Patriots.

Enjoy the game.  Personally, I’ll be a wreck.