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Summer Kisses and Drunken Cherries Friday, August 22, 2008

Posted by Grace in from the kitchen, until the wheels fall off.
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…And then I don’t post for eleven days. Ha ha.

Cherries always make me think of kissing. The bite of flavor from one gives me a similar rush to when a certain someone’s lips are on mine. That, and the taste of cherries takes me right back to my first kiss.

I was working up at one of the national parks for the summer, not too many years ago, as a camp counselor. It was Saturday afternoon, in that gorgeous space of time when one week’s campers had left and the next week’s weren’t going to arrive until the next morning. That left the entire camp: kitchen, cabins, beach, canoes and kayaks to the camp staff.

A group of us counselors had hiked the hour or so into town, to pick up various amenities that had run out over the week. Candy, soap, sunscreen, etc. At the tiny general store, which carried everything from swim suits to screw drivers, I purchased a bag of cherries.

When we got back from the excursion, some of us went to suntan or nap, and the rest of us headed to the beach to swim.

Sitting on the dock, drying in the sun, we talked of schemes that seem to bubble up in camp counselors left to their own devices.  How long would it take to swim across the lake? Lifejackets would slow us down, wouldn’t they? How could another fan be jerry rigged into action in stifling hot cabins with a single electrical outlet? Do we have enough finger paint left from last week to make a mural on a staff cabin wall?

People gradually started to head back to shore from the floating dock, taking with them their sandy damp towels and half empty bags of chips, candy and fruit that had been contributed to the floating smorgasbord. It was starting to get cool, so the last of us started to pick up our stuff. I folded up my towel and zipped the top of what remained of the cherries.

As I stood up he stepped in and I was face to face with TM. And he smiled, took my hand in his, and kissed me.

… Neither of us heard the end of it the rest of the summer.

Drunken Cherries

Ingredients:

1 ½ lbs dark cherries

2 C red wine

½ C sugar

2 strips of orange peel

1 stick of cinnamon.

In a saucepan, bring everything but the cherries to a boil for a couple minutes until it gets syrupy. Let cool. Strain out orange peel and cinnamon stick.

Put the cherries in a bowl that has a tight fitting lid. Pour syrup over cherries. Cover and put it in the fridge. You’re going to want to let it get happy for a couple of hours, or even make it a day ahead.

When you’re ready, ladle them out into cups or bowls. They’re great by themselves, but even better over ice cream.

My Favorite Chords Friday, March 14, 2008

Posted by Grace in until the wheels fall off.
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He always had a way with music.

TM was one of those people who would hear something once, and be able to play it. He was one of those people who could do things with a guitar that few I’ve encountered can do.

When he was little, I’ve heard the story told it was early grade school, I’ve heard it told it was before that, his dad decided to teach him guitar. TM’s dad had been in a band in younger days, while he was going through law school, and was by no means a shabby guitar player. He belonged to the school of thought that music was something you heard and felt, not read. So he sat down with his son and two guitars, and let him explore. As I’ve been told, TM was quick to parrot him, but just took off after that.

All of a sudden he could play things that were on the radio, or he’d sit down and play. Songs that no one really recognized, just spun out from his head. His sister has commented that they would have to talk him into playing with other toys, all he wanted was that guitar.

We always laughed that he couldn’t think without a six string between his hands.

A few days ago, Lemon handed me an unlabeled CD and told me to listen. He’d gone through his computer and found some things that he thought he didn’t have anymore, things he said I’d appreciate to hear.

Through some graininess from home recording, I found TM again. The sounds those hands like dinner plates could coax from a guitar. A voice that’s dark and gravelly and comforts me like nothing else. Through the static and the metallic far-awayness of it all, it was like he found me again.

I remembered all the years where more often than not there was a guitar in his hands. Silly songs we would all laugh at, and messages he didn’t know how to otherwise communicate.

I close my eyes and it’s like he’s there. Chills.

Song of the Day: My Favorite Chords – The Weakerthans

Roses From My Friends Friday, February 8, 2008

Posted by Grace in until the wheels fall off.
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When TM was in the hospital, as happened often, he had a habit of making phone calls while really messed up on whatever drugs he had running in with his IV. His voice would have a smile in it, like he was on the cusp of laughter, even though when he got sick, he tended to get really dangerously sick.

A good portion of what he would say would make very little sense, like how he figured that giraffes were just horses that let their curiosity get the best of them; but still have a line of logic to it, they were the ones who just needed to know what leaves tasted like. He would just find these ideas and get stuck on them.

On one specific phone call I remember quite clearly, he decided to let me in on his plan on roses.

When I die one day, I’ll make sure there are white roses. They’ve always seemed to be the most sincere, so I think they would be the ones who would do it for me.

He was always very upfront and honest about mortality, but didn’t often just come out with it like that. When I die one day…

It says red in the plans, but they’ll be white. They’ll let you know that I’m somewhere out there, and that I’m alright. I’ll do it, I promise. Okay Grace?

At that time, I really had no idea what to say to that. My best friend in the whole world was talking about dying, and promising to have flowers sent so that I’d know he’d be all right. There isn’t really much you can say I don’t think, especially when they are in the midst of a drug induced floatiness. So I told him, “Okay TM, white roses it is.”

And then he proceeded to tell me about how he figured the nurses at this hospital were vampires. As someone who had had a blood test every two weeks for his entire life, he was sure he of all people would know, and because he’d had so much blood taken in the past couple of days it just had to be true.

He babbled on and on in the way that he would, winding in and out of ideas, memories, and stories of things; and I would try to keep up. Through it all, in those phone calls, there tended to be a general message he was trying to get across, but sometimes had issues with because of the automatic verbal fire he was going through.

In the days that followed, he fought through, he got better, and like always, the survivor got to go home. Much more time was spent laughing with the boys, cooking giant batches of spaghetti, getting whispered mixed up messages by a smiling voice from the hospital, and just being us.

At the memorial, the roses were red.

Being in the disbelief I was in, I took it as a sign, if they were red it meant he wasn’t gone. He promised white and he didn’t break promises. In the time that followed, those roses being red were really hard to accept. If they were white it was supposed to mean he was somewhere and he was alright. What was red supposed to mean?

But in the time that’s followed, white roses have found their way into my life. First gave me white roses before he left. My mom decided to plant a rosebush and showed me pictures of the pretty pink blooms it was supposed to have. It must have been mislabeled, because all summer it bloomed white. The eight-year-old boy from down the road caught me picking up the mail today, handed me a package, and asked to be my valentine. When I looked inside, it was a single white rose (his mom runs our town’s flower shop).

In some way, I like to think that that isn’t all coincidence; that it’s him telling me, I’m somewhere out there, I’m alright. Like from somewhere he’s reaching out with those hands like dinner plates, and changing details that you can notice, if you only look.

Song of the Day: Roses from My Friends – Ben Harper

When the Stars Go Blue Friday, January 25, 2008

Posted by Grace in until the wheels fall off.
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The phone rings, the tones unclear, warbling through sleep. There’s a feeling of rising through water as I reach out clumsily towards the light that shows as it rings.

Hello?

Angel! It’s really you?

At first I am confused, groggy. What is this person doing, phoning in such wee hours? Who is it? Is there some kind of emergency?

Angel?

I hadn’t been called that in such a long time. Suddenly, every cell of me was awake. I don’t even need to say anything, he knows.

I found you! Finally! It’s been a long time, I’m so sorry. I miss you so much. I don’t think we have very long, say something. Please.

The tears start to well up, I thought I’d never get to talk to you again.

What kind of person would that make me? I swore I would find a way to let you know everything was okay. The roses didn’t work out, they wouldn’t color right.

And I remembered those promises, whispered out as the sun was rising, through miles and miles of wiring, words strung together like patternless beads, messages whispered out on morphine.

I haven’t talked to you in forever, sweetheart. Fill me in on everything. Are the boys behaving themselves?

They behave, but nothing is right anymore. Everyone is spending so much time trying to be okay that we aren’t getting better. I don’t want to be okay with you not… Still, I have such a hard time saying it.

Static starts to become apparent on the line, like ripples on water, just disturbing the surface.

Everything is all right. You will be too. I love you so much.

I miss you. So much, but that goes unsaid. Static builds, waves grow, tugging the boat. I sit up, strain to hear, to keep my grasp. But its still you and me right?

Of course it is Angel, just like always. The white noise begins to overpower, break up the words; currents too strong not to feel. It’s you and me. You and me till –

And then he is gone. The voice is gone. I lose hold of the tenuous grasp I had to that which would keep me afloat. All the wishes and hopes that rendered so much not enough.

When I woke in the morning, I remembered, clear as day like it had just happened, like I always do with dreams. This one especially though, because it replays so often, feels so real, but still never fills that void.

Sometimes I wonder if why I can’t sleep is because of this. Why sometimes I’m scared to. But then, I sometimes also wonder if I do manage to sleep when I can because of the hope that I’ll get to hear that voice again.

I brushed out my hair and from the corner of the mirror, I saw our laughing faces and the haphazard snowman we built. Hours spent outside on a day too cold for the snow to stick properly; but still getting that lopsided, precariously balanced, man standing. We could do anything we set our minds to.

It’s you and me TM, just like always, you and me till the wheels fall off.

Song of the Day: When the Stars Go Blue – Ryan Adams

Can’t Stop Thinking ‘Bout You Saturday, January 19, 2008

Posted by Grace in until the wheels fall off.
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For TM, 11/29/2006. I miss you so.

Searching

Your house, 22 miles

Swallowed by flatness

Of fallowed corn fields

Bare of gold light

That saves me in summer

Birds journey across

Far from open water

Graceless like lost tourists

Like me, I cannot find you.

Your house, 13 miles

Little red wagon

skids on icy corners

barely retaining composure

50’s modern, late 1800 limestone

All slapped together

Very few people about

On a cold blustery day

You aren’t here either.

You were never really here

Bright eyes and artist’s hands

Roaming restless, taking you elsewhere

Across that field where we walked

Laughing at our shadows

Mine short, leaning into you

Yours tall, face turned away

To somewhere else

What place holds you now?

Your house, 1 mile

I merge, seek, park

Prepare myself for

Still glass-eyed faces

Returning me to emptiness

Their shadows whisper

Broken promise sorrow

As time and space list

The places you are not.

Song of the Day: Can’t Stop Thinking ‘Bout You – Martin Sexton