Monday, May 03, 2004

There's plenty of actual work to be done, but this weekend sits in the front of my mind and won't let anything out past it, so I'll have to write it out.

Friday was a day off work, ostensibly to prepare for a garage sale that got rained out, but who want to spent a gray, rainy day sticking prices on the dusty detritus of previous lives? So instead we ate breakfast out, puttered a bit, then frittered away the afternoon with the help of the Playstation 2. Friday evening started out as friends coming together to play a few boardgames and eat one another's food, but come 10:30, we turned on Nightline and watched the somber parade of names and faces.

None of us knew anyone personally who appeared, but we're each at most two degrees of separation from someone stationed in Iraq, a few of us were ex-military, and all of us have people we care about deeply who are or were in the military, National Guard, or Reserves. That lent a strong scent of "there but for the grace of God" to the whole experience. As I expected, the dead were overwhelmingly young, mostly nineteen to twenty, with a cluster in the mid-twenties, another in the mid-thirties, and only a handful past that.

We're a pretty anti-war, anti-Bush crew, and the broadcast only made us more so. I expect it'd be the same for those who support the war. You can't look at all those faces and still think of the war in intellectual terms. For my part, I just kept thinking that we didn't sign on for this. Those of us that supported the war did so because they trusted their president when he told them they were in danger. I'm sure some of them would have said yes to a war with the defined goal of "reshaping the political landscape of the middle east and bringing freedom to the Iraqis", but that's not the war we were sold.

Christie and I left the party a sleep-killing mixture of pissed off and sad. She officially moved in last weekend, and the cats came over this week, though they're still mostly living in the basement. Friday night, though, we switched them, so Jewel was in the basement and the two new stressed-out bundles of nerves were upstairs with Christie and I. Bailey and Maddie spent most of the night striding up and down the bed making "meep meep" noises, while I lay there having bizarre half-dreams about the Senate Apropriations Committee and financing for the war. Not fun. Christie lured the cats out into the living room, and I took a Benadryl that dumped me unceremoniously into catatonia until almost one the next day.

Saturday was my friend Marni's last Mayday/Birthday party. For twenty years there's been a party on or around the first of May on the same patch of land at the edge of the Missouri River bottoms south of Columbia. No more. Marni's living in Santa Cruz and coming all the way back here to throw a party has started to feel more like work than play. This year was also her fiftieth birthday, so it seemed like an ideal year to go out on top.

Every Mayday party, I think this'll be the year I find a way to capture it on paper, and every year I fail. It's good beer, great vegetarian food, fireworks, watching sunset from the bluff, live music all day and an eighteen foot bonfire to cap it all off. It's good people who haven't seen each other in a year and sometimes don't even know each other, people who've known each other for thirty years or thirty minutes. It's most of what I love about life, about Missouri, and about the people I've been lucky enough to share space with, all in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Sunday the plan was for a shopping trip into either Kansas City or St. Louis. We opted for St. Louis, since that's where REI is, as well as Borders, Whole Foods, World Market, Best Buy and a few more such stores, all within a few blocks. Being the emotional acrobats that we are, we spent the first thirty miles or so talking about money. What's hers, what's mine, and what's going to be ours. If you think that's an easy conversation to have, then you've never had it. Of course, it was easier the last time I did this, as we had so little money that it was never really an issue. But we talked it out, and know what we're going to do until the wedding and after. It's like one of my teachers used to say, "If you've gotta eat a whole bunch of frogs, eat the big frog first."

The big surprise, actually, was how little we really needed. I'd had a picture in my head of all the little wants and needs that have cropped up over the last month or two, but I hadn't accounted for the psychological effects of the moving, sorting, and evaluating both of our possessions that's been going on as well. So in the end we bought a mess of books, a new pillow, and a vegetable peeler (mine was abducted by aliens). Not exactly worth a trip into St. Louis, particularly once you factored in the lousy Macaroni Grill dinner and 40 minute traffic jam outside Wentzville.

It was a classic lesson in "nothing ever goes as planned", but that hardly stopped us from laughing our way through Whole Foods, or making fun of the mouth-breathing moron with a brown cardboard sign tied to the back of his truck reading "Osama for Kerry-Fonda '04".

There was a time in my life that normal day to day chaos drove me up the wall. An unproductive trip followed by lousy traffic compounded by stupid drivers would have had steam coming out of my ears. But now I keep my list of goals short, and my list for the day had one item: have fun hanging out with Christie. Given that she was cracking me up in the emergency room a month or so ago, I really can't imagine what could keep me from being able to check that off my to-do list.

So there you go. Three days, and three completely different activities with completely different emotional tones. No wonder I was mentally constipated.

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