25 July 2016

This happened today, thanks to Pokemon Go

A reunion three years in the making
I am getting the sense that TMFKATB is keenly aware that his time in the mission field is drawing to a close. His letters are arriving a little bit later each week and they have a familiar ring to them. I think he's trying to maximize his time with those he is serving and serving with as opposed to waxing poetic in emails home. Today's letter was nice, almost formulaic, but reassuring that all was well.

The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I were talking about his letter when are respective phones began noising off that each of us was getting a text. Quicker to open her text, SML let out a half-giggle / half whoop and said I needed to open my texts. Now.

There it was - TMFKATB with his buddy from here in the 'Stan, Cooper. They've not seen in each in three years. Cooper began his mission service in Rio de Janeiro a year before TMFKATB left, so their service has kept them apart. Until today. Cooper's family is behind the Zion Curtain, visiting their family in Mormon Mecca. TMFKATB and his companion were driving down a road in West Jordan when he saw, unbelievably, his buddy in a K-Mart (turns out there are still K-Marts that are open - who knew?!) parking lot playing, wait for it, Pokemon Go. They pulled over and a joyous reunion ensued! The best part is that Cooper was with his mom who immediately began texting us pictures and a blow-by-blow of the sudden reunion. To hear from someone who knows TMFKATB, who saw him when he was home sick from Mexico, and to have her say, "He looks so good!" was an absolute blessing for us. We loved getting the play-by-play. We loved seeing TMKATB see Cooper's dad. It really was terrific! Did it make us jealous? No, it made us so excited to know that we'll be seeing him in 23 days (but who's counting?!). We've been flying high all afternoon and into the evening as a result. Massive thanks to our sweet friends for making this happen today!

The world is so much smaller than we think. I'm grateful for this crazy technology that we have that allowed us to see and hear our boy today. We're grateful for friends that were able to give our boy more than a few hugs today.

I'm even grateful for Pokemon Go. Had Cooper not been playing it in that parking lot today, I'm not sure this reunion would have happened. Never in a thousand years did I think I'd be grateful for Pokemon Go. I suspect that this will be a one time thing.

video
Hear him for yourself!

24 July 2016

O Pioneers! (No, not the book)

Crossing the Sweetwater River
@lds.org
For the good residents ensconced behind the Zion Curtain, tomorrow is a day off. It's the official observance of the 24th of July state holiday. The state shuts down to celebrate that fateful day when Brother Brigham lifted himself from his sick bed in the back of wagon, looked over the uber-inviting barren desert wasteland splayed out before him that would one day become the Salt Lake Valley and declared, "This is the place!"

All along the Wasatch Front tomorrow there will be parades and massive consumption of fried foods. No doubt someone who is simply not right has figured out how to make "Deep Fried Funeral Potatoes" and served up they shall be. Because what better way to celebrate the sacrifice of thousands of people than gorging on foods that will hasten your death.

The legacy of the Mormon Pioneers looms large even today, nearly 170 years after their arrival into the Salt Lake Valley. Many of us can trace our heritage back to people who were in some of those original companies. The stories of those who died along that arduous trail are part of the fabric and ethos of many families today. They are stories that cannot, nor should not, be forgotten.

As I hear those stories, I know that there is no way I could have survived a trek across the continental United States, dragging a handcart or riding atop a wagon or simply walking, as many did. None. Consider my life: I have carried on active Twitter wars with our national rail provider over less than expected service. I have actively booked bizarre flight routings between two city pairs just to insure my First Class upgrade would clear. I was once more upset that I couldn't finish my chicken jeerza on a flight out of London because the flight attendants were preparing the cabin for an emergency landing than I was about the fact that our airplane was, wait for it, in mortal danger. When I was 18 years old and preparing to serve a mission, I was invited by some full-time missionaries to go out with them to get a feel for the work and I said no because I was afraid my new shoes would wind up looking like theirs (I was 18, remember, and it was the mid80s, so be kind).

So I am more than confident what I say that this whole pioneer thing would not have worked out for me. Also, had I survived and made it to the Great Salt Lake Valley, I'm afraid I would have taken one look at it and said, "Nope. I did not come all this way for this. I'm out. Seriously. I'm out. I've heard good things about that California place. Who's with me? Let's go." Of course, I would have promptly died somewhere in the desert but that's neither here nor there. I am able to honor my pioneer heritage today from the comfort of my home. I am humbled by what they did and what their sacrifice means.

But I'm just grateful it wasn't me.

22 July 2016

America the Dystopian?

Recognize this? Look like any part of the United States?
Yesterday, I got something in the mail I'd been anxiously awaiting. It was my new passport. In the 35 years since I got my first one, this passport is my 5th, maybe 6th. I burned through a couple of them during my most frequent travel years. My passports have allowed me to see the world and gain an appreciation for the physical beauty of this world as well as the goodness that is at the root of people, regardless of skin color, how or whom they worship, or their bank balances. It's also allowed me to appreciate what is to be an American citizen and to live in this country.

Apparently though, I, no all of us really, have been fooled. Unbeknownst to me, America has become a dystopian nightmare where violent crime, lawlessness, and general mayhem abounds. Apparently, to leave your house is to subject yourself to assault at any moment by illegal immigrants. Apparently, to leave your house is to subject yourself to terrorist attacks that are rampant and occurring every waking moment of every waking day. All of this because an African American man (clearly he did not know his place) had the testicular fortitude to be elected President and now it will only grow worse because a woman (A WOMAN!!!) is a candidate for the highest elected office in the nation.

This dystopian nightmare was brought front and center last night by the Republican Party's freshly nominated Presidential candidate, Donald J. Trump. What he pitched last night in his petulant scare tactic speech was a vision of an America that simply does not exist. Fact check his speech, as hundreds of sources already have, and you'll know it doesn't. Look around your neighborhoods and tell me you are living in a nightmare of lawless mayhem. You are not and you know you are not. He bloviated that he is my voice and the voice of Americans everywhere. No, no he is not. Here's just a few reasons why:

I am not a bully. I am not a philanderer.
I am not a misogynist. I am not a bigot.
I am not a liar. I am not getting my news from the National Enquirer.
I am not capable of bankrupting multiple businesses, multiple times, including a casino. A casino! People literally throw money at you in casinos. How do you bankrupt a casino?
I am not capable of engendering hate on a scale that will literally destroy a venerated American political party.
I am not endorsed by the current and former leaders of the KKK.
I am not so reviled that the only people I can get to vouch for me are my children, who just happen to be on my payroll too.

So, no, he is not my voice. But his voice is scary, stupefyingly so. Consider his performance last night and then let this gem sink in:

Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.

Hermann Goring, a Nazi (A NAZI!!!), said that. Goring helped Hitler assume power in Germany and was Hitler's number two man, until like any one of Trump's former wives (and for Melania, don't think for a second that the Michelle Obama cockup in her speech won't be included in the list of reasons that she'll be joining that "Ex"club), he no longer had use for him. Is anyone else utterly horrified that this quote seemed to be the central theme of the "Law and Order" candidate?

The Trump candidacy at first seemed like a bizarre little side show for a bombastic egomaniac. It's not funny anymore. It hasn't been funny for quite some time. With absolutely zero regard for international policy or for things like, oh I don't know, NATO, the specter of a nuclear armed Trump is beyond the pale. From his ghostwriter in a recent New Yorker article, "I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead the end of civilization."

Yikes. Just yikes. But, remember, it's America the Beautiful, not America the Dystopian.

18 July 2016

It's tough out here

Post-haircut shot. Mission life
is glamorous.
From time to time, the letters from TMFKATB have brought me to tears. Usually it's happened when he's shared an experience that was very similar to something I encountered when I served thirty-plus years ago. I could easily identify with his emotions and so mine were brought close to the surface. Today's letter brought me to tears smack in the middle of the ShopRite. Trust me when I tell you the only time it is justified to cry in that place is when you recognize just how much more we pay for food stuffs here in the 'Stan. It would drive the hardest of souls to tears.  But it wasn't the ridiculous prices that broke me down today, it truly was one of the best letters we've gotten in his nearly two years of service.

The bulk of his letter related the story of the miraculous events that led to the baptism of a Venezuelan family of five. His joy in their happiness and his recognition that he has been but an instrument in God's hands is what sent me into a spasm of tears. He has grown so much during these past two years. It's been amazing to watch.

It was a joyous letter but also indicative of that growth I mentioned. At the end of an exchange with me, he wrote:

A recent convert here that I was really close to got arrested and is getting deported this week. He called from jail and asked us to pray for him. His wife is a mess. It was weird for us twenty year olds to comfort them. It's tough out here. Even in America, people suffer.

He's right. It is tough out here and people do suffer here. Yet people continue to come here because as bad as it may be for them, it is far better than what they face in their home countries. The family that TMFKATB and his companion found so much joy in fled Venezuela just a few weeks ago because there is opportunity here.

It may be tough here, but there is hope here. There is opportunity here. There are people that care here. Sometimes they are twenty year olds who may not know exactly what to say but they find a way to bring comfort. There are lots of good people in this country of all stripes who are looking to make it a little less tough. And that is a good thing.

17 July 2016

Weapons of War

What's your preferred weapon of war?
Every other Sunday, I have the opportunity to lead the discussion / teach our adult Sunday School class at church. As ours is a lay clergy and we serve on a volunteer (or 'voluntold' depending on your perspective) basis, I've had this Sunday School gig for a few years now and it's one I really enjoy. More often than not, I feel like I've come away as the one who has learned the most. Today was no different.

We focused our study on a group of people who, after their conversion, decided to bury their weapons of war and covenanted to never raise them again. As we discussed this, I asked the following questions:

What are the metaphorical weapons of war are you carrying that you need to bury?
Why is it so difficult to bury them?

I stressed the metaphorical bit because the last thing this needed to turn into was a battle royale over the Second Amendment. I mean that would have been fun, but wrong place, wrong time. Even I know that. Although no one ponied up with their own 'weapons of war,' I was cool with that. It meant as an introspective, thought-provoking question. We did have a solid discussion  about the challenges of letting those weapons go. These are often very personal things can they can, oddly enough, actually bring us comfort. This is especially true when they are used as defense mechanisms.

I started thinking about the weapons of war that we carry. Here's a few of them, and this is by no means an exhaustive list:
  • The Grudginator: Deployed for ages and a personal favorite of many, this weapon is timeless and is prized for its nasty efficient simplicity. Known for its ability to store up power and feed itself over long periods of time, it is expert in dividing friends and family. It has some wicked side effects, including an ability to blind the good judgement of those who choose to carry this weapon. It is also amazingly unpredictable as to when it goes off. It does have an uncanny ability to explode during family reunions and at the reading of wills.
  • The Judge-o-matic XLS: Like the aforementioned Grudginator, this one has been around for ages. It is a wily one too. Once in the hands of people, it embeds itself and gives them a sense of moral superiority that leads in almost every case to the ostracizing of others for the way they act, look, believe, or even love. One of its most profound side effects is rampant intolerance and divisiveness. 
  • The Snark Missile: This is a tricky one. In well-trained hands, it can be a funny little devil, deployed in conversation to point out irony or absurdity. More often than not though, it's an invective laden bomb typically deployed to mask the insecurities and discomforts of its user. 

There are so many more weapons that we carry in our own personal arsenals. Like the countless number of warheads that the US and the former Soviet Union amassed, we've got way more in our arsenals than we'll ever use. I know I'm a real big fan of The Snark Missile. To give it up now, during the greatest gift snark has ever been given - the unholy Trump/Pence alliance and the train wreck that is the Republican presidential campaign - my Twitter feed would never be the same. If watching "The Americans" has taught me anything, it's that the Russians had just a hard a time getting to peace with us (US) as we did with them.

Take a look at what you're carrying. What can you do without? Which ones can you bury?

12 July 2016

It's her birthday

Celebrating her big day in Moline, IL
It's an auspicious day here in the Den. The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML is celebrating her birthday. This is her 28th birthday that she has, for better or worse, celebrated with me. That's a lot of birthdays and I've only forgotten it once in all those years. Twice, I tried to convince her that the houses we bought right around her birthday constituted her birthday presents. With a track record like that, I know you are thinking what I'm thinking, "#Husbandoftheyear!"

PS - If you are thinking that, you are a man who's been married a long time, like me. You will also know this is poorly conceived thinking.

Anyway, there was no breakfast in bed or other traditional birthday shenanigans here today. But there was a hat, banner, and blasters that I, in a shock to no one, did not provide. That's because the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML is not here. She's somewhere in the middle of the United States, with one of her dear friends, taking turns driving an SUV, dragging a U-Haul trailer packed with very important stuff, like TMFKATB's golf clubs. Because golf. Because his head will explode if he doesn't have his clubs at his side when he starts school.

These two women (#I80ladies if you want to follow them on the Instagram), who have five grandchildren behind them, are by all accounts having a really good time. The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML overcame her fear of dragging a trailer and is now so confident in her skills that she may have a second career in driving the big rigs. They found a 7-11 yesterday and got their free Slurpee. They saw some old man, in full commando, relieving himself into traffic from the side of the freeway. They stayed in Moline, IL last night! Isn't America great?

Believe it or not, they've talked the entire time and have not run out of things to talk about. Let's be honest, I'd have shot myself by now. But not my wife. She's having fun with her friend, celebrating her birthday in several states. If she's lucky, birthday dinner may be somewhere in Wyoming. Suffice to say, it's been a memorable birthday for her. She deserves it.

Happy birthday to my favorite!

11 July 2016

It's time to go to work

Apricot tree - harvesting the goodness therein 
In the last line of TMFKATB's letter today, he wrote the following:

I only have five full weeks left of the mission!
It's time to go to work!

That sentiment made me smile. It's more than safe to say that over the course of the last two years, in both Mexico and behind the Zion Curtain, he has busted his proverbial hump working and serving. One could justifiably argue that he really did bust his gut serving in Mexico, so his declaration that it was time to go to work today was just a little funny. 

He's recognizing that he only has five weeks left (seriously, he's only got five weeks to go) and there's a lot yet to be done. I'm quite sure he knows he will not have an experience like this again and he's determined to live it to the fullest up to the very end.

His week, per his letter, was a little chaotic as they find themselves deeply invested in the welfare of a family that has recently arrived in the United States from the chaos that is Venezuela. The family of six was staying with another family of seven in an apartment clearly not made for 13 ("Code Violation on aisle six!) and they were given two days notice to hightail it out of the place so that the other family would not be evicted. TMFKATB and his companion became pseudo real estate agents as they worked to find a place for this family to stay / live. In what he called a miracle, they were successful. They found someone that was willing to give the family their basement as a temporary place to stay while they work to get further settled. He was so excited that they were able to help this family. There are good people in this world. There really are. 

I'm glad he was reminded of that. I'm glad he's determined to work up to the end. I can't believe it's nearly here.

10 July 2016

Live fully

Amen! and Amen!
Thanks "This Week in Church Signs" @twitter
As the #prayfordallas and other #prayfor hashtags made their way through my Twitter feed this week, I felt enormously conflicted. As a man of faith, I have seen prayer work in ways both small and large, even miraculous ways, throughout my life. I know prayer works. However, given the events of the last several weeks and months and the hashtags that have emerged from them (#prayfordallas, #prayfororlando, #prayforbrussels), I've felt that those prayers aren't getting past my ceiling, or anyone else's. I know that those prayers have been filled with pleas of comfort for victims and for the madness to stop. But it's not stopping. It's not stopping because prayer doesn't work. It's not stopping because prayer alone can't stop the madness. The reasons it's not stopping go way beyond our collective prayers. Our acceptance of our elected officials perpetual state of inaction. Our lack of humanity. Our divisiveness. Our unique misinterpretation of the Second Amendment and America's credo, "You can take my gun when you take it from my cold dead hands." Our white privilege. These are just a few of the reasons why prayer alone will not solve for the issues currently at hand.

These things have been weighing on me and it's been tough to find comfort while grappling with all this. It's been tough in conversations with family and friends. It's been tough in my personal prayers. As I started plowing through my Twitter feed this morning, I didn't expect to find comfort. Each Sunday in my 'Moments' feed, up pops "This Week in Church Signs." It's a collection of the best in church signs from across the country. These are typically witty one or two liners used to get people's attention or to pique interest and bring people back to the pews. Some of these are awesome and demonstrate that there are some very funny clergy or church ladies out there. This morning I found the best one yet in my feed. It's the one pictured at the top of the post.

Live so fully that Westboro Baptist Church
will picket your funeral

Just a quick aside - if you're not familiar with the hate-fest/cabal of evil that is Westboro Baptist (and why the Baptists have not sued these people for defamation of character, slander, and libel is beyond me), here's a refresher. These are the folks who turn up at funerals of gay people with signs reading "God Hates Fags" or "God Hates You."  These are the folks who turn up at funerals of soldiers killed in action with signs reading "Thank God for Dead Soldiers." Suffice to say, they are a delight (and by delight, of course I mean a hideous scourge), living like true Christians (which is like saying the Kardashians don't care one iota about cash), and just the people you hope to invite to dinner. That is, of course, if you're dinner is in Hell where Satan is the Maitre'd, Hitler is your busboy, and Miley Cyrus and Lindsay Lohan are the house band.

The message on this sign, from the Wantagh Memorial Congregational Church, hit me with such force! In the face of an unsettled world, why not live life to  the fullest?! Why not live life out loud? Why not live in such a way that I can grapple with the issues of the day and still literally grapple with my three year old grandson? Why not live in such a way where I can stand with those who may not look like me, live like me, or love like me and let them know I'm a friend? Why not live in such a way to help those who may be voiceless find theirs? Why not live in such a way where some of my prayers that haven't gotten past the ceiling make it further? Why not live in such a way where I'm not embarrassed to go for a run, in spite of the fact that my moobs are back with a jiggly, disturbing vengeance? (I'll keep my shirt on though - you're welcome!) There's just something comforting in the specter of living life a little differently.

In "All's Well That Ends Well," William Shakespeare wrote:

Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.

With that in mind, what a way to use that as a guide while living fully!

In the meantime, I've got to go craft an email to the Church with my reasoning as to why we need signs in front our buildings.

08 July 2016

What have we done?

Anyone remember those days?
When there was humanity...
 Bleary-eyed and not ready to start my day, I rolled over this morning and as is my ritual, I grabbed my phone to get a take on the overnight events as that helps frame the way my work day is going to go. Based on the home screen full of alerts, I instantly regretted opening my eyes. Scrolling through the updates from the various outlets I follow, I found myself overwhelmed. Again.

Five police officers dead in Dallas. The largest loss of law enforcement life since 9/11. Scenes of people running for their lives during a peaceful march as the terrifying but all too familiar soundtrack of semi-automatic gunfire played in the background filled my newsfeed.

Just a day before as I rode into the city on the train, I was gutted watching the footage of a black man, bleeding to death in the front seat of a car. The bright red blood stain seeping across his white t-shirt was as jarring as it was sickening.

As the events of the last few days have played out, I've asked myself one question: What have we done? And by we, I mean us. I mean we fellow human beings. When did we decide that all this was A-OK? When did we decide that humanity - compassion, kindness, understanding, sympathy, tolerance - no longer has a place among us?

Was it when 49 mostly gay Latino men were slaughtered in a nightclub in Orlando?
Was it when seemingly countless young black men have been killed while in police custody or at the hand of the local neighborhood watch psychopath guy?
Was it when a privileged white young man gets a literal slap on the hand for a vicious rape?
Was it when we decided that we were totally OK with the slaughter of twenty school children and six teachers in an elementary school?
Was it when we decided poverty, both here and around the world, is not our problem?
Was it when we decided it would be super fun to have a racist, bigoted, misogynist who literally spews divisiveness at every turn run for president?

Our recent history does not build a case for evidence of our humanity. Were we on trial for a lack of humanity, the evidence would be so overwhelming that it would redefine the concept of an "open and shut case" for perpetuity. No amount of wringing our hands, hash tagging, or, and as a man of faith it pains me to say this, praying, will seemingly turn the tide. Trust me, too, that the irony of me writing this very missive, which will be tweeted with a hash tag, is not lost on me.

If we are to bring back a shred of our humanity, it must come from each of us individually. It comes from us taking action, from doing something. It will come from us showing compassion and kindness. Alan Paton, a South African anti-apartheid activist, said, "There is only one way in which we can endure man's inhumanity to man and that is to try, in one's own life, to exemplify man's humanity to man."

Perhaps if we took Mr. Paton's advice to heart, we might stop seeing scenes like this:

EMT's at work at the Dallas shooting
@nbcnews
Maybe we can one day turn the tide on this tsunami of inhumanity, so we can stop asking, "What have we done?" and can proudly say to our children, or grandchildren, "Look what we did."

05 July 2016

His last transfer

Salad(!) and the Bingham Copper Mine
Due to yesterday's Independence Day celebration, I wasn't able to post the update from TMFKATB. So here it is, a day late.

This week's missive was brief, scant on detail but chock full o'exuberance. As is the norm, we get his family letter first and then as his day wears on, he sends additional updates. His family letter, entitled 'The Last Transfer,' was a reflection of the joy he has found in his two years of service. It all seemed to come together in the last couple of days for him and he was nothing short of elated.

He reflected on the fact that news would be coming about transfers and that this would be his last one. It was clear that he didn't want to be transferred but he put a positive spin on it. A few hours later, in his unbroken streak of everything somehow turning to gold for him, he sent this news:

"Great news! I'm staying here! I honestly can't ask for a better way to end! I am so happy!"

How do you argue with that? I am so happy for him and how he'll be able to wrap up his service. He's got six weeks left and he's as happy as he's ever been. So to celebrate, he and his companions went to the Bingham Copper Mine. If you've ever flown into the Zion Curtain's welcome mat, Salt Lake City International Airport, and you've approached from the south, you've seen this mine. It's a lovely eyesore open-pit copper mine which you can't miss. Strangely, that's where his happy took him yesterday. Good for him.

Maybe I should try that the next time I'm the receiver of great news. Go find a mine or a quarry and soak it all in. Whatever works, right?

So many things about this picture...but you gotta love the
skies that the Mountain West manages to produce.
And what about the motorcycle photobomber?

04 July 2016

On Independence Day

1976 - Honoring our nation's Bicentennial
Today, July 4th, 2016, the United States of America celebrates its Independence Day. It's been 240 years since that auspicious moment when the 13 colonies declared themselves free from their overlord and ruler, Mother England.

In terms of world history, the United States at 240 years old, is still fairly young. But what a wild ride its been! I'd rehash it but my non-American readers (who, let's face it, know more about our history than we Americans do) will probably call me out on a litany of errors, so I won't.

Our nation, like its history, is fascinating. We are a messy melting pot that believes wholeheartedly in its exceptionalism. We far too often take our freedoms for granted and forget that we aren't the only democratic society out there. We are at times impossibly divided (Would the 2016 Presidential Election please pick up the white paging phone please?) and yet will band together in moments of great trial. On the other hand, we see no problem in using weapons of mass destruction on the world. Of course, by that I mean the horrible Kardashians. I can only say how truly sorry I am for that. No, really, sorry, world. You did nothing to deserve that. Nothing.

This is a nation where I can still choose to wear my boss Chairman Mao t-shirt to a church Independence Day breakfast. Because who doesn't need a little discussion of cultural revolution over waffles? I really did do that today. The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML rolled her eyes as I left the house and told everyone she played no role in what I wore. Nor should she. I mean I am nearly 50 years old and can usually pick out my own clothes.

Oh, my country. There's no place else on earth like you. Where else am I going to get stellar guidance like this from the movie and cultural guidepost "Independence Day":

Once again, the L.A.P.D is asking Los Angelenos
not to fire their guns at the visitor spacecraft.
You may inadvertently trigger an interstellar war.
~ Unnamed Los Angeles newscaster

That's good advice for any of us, Los Angelenos or not, on any day of the week. Put down your guns and avoid an interstellar war.

Happy Independence Day, my friends.

Another Bicentennial celebratory aircraft

03 July 2016

Summer

Simsbury, CT 07/02/16 645PM
#nofilter
Summer.

What a magical word! As a child, summer meant a reprieve from the drudgery of the school year. It meant bike rides down to the park or over to Smitty's for a slice of pizza. It meant days spent in the pool. As I got a little older, summer meant Mexico, Lake Powell, my first serious crush and my first kiss (not necessarily in that order). On the down side, it meant Scout Camp but only once, because let's face it, even thirty eight years ago the BSA and I had a pretty deep antipathy which remains delightfully unresolved to this day. It also meant my first real job (retail chump on Scottsdale's kitschy 5th Avenue - trust me, you'll never get the AZ 5th Avenue confused with 5th Avenue in New York. Never!).

Then the summer of 1984 brought my first trip to Europe and my first semester of university. It was one of the best summer's of my life. Those were truly carefree days. When your biggest concerns were how much plaid could you get away before you got kicked out of the Testing Center and would your mousse canister (because 80's hair) run out before the end of the night, it's a safe assumption that your life was pretty carefree. And it was.

Fast forward a few, who am I kidding, a lot of years. Three children later and now two grandchildren and somehow summer still evokes magic for me. Whether it's true or not, the pace of work seems just a little less frenetic. The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML are able to do a little bit more as we please. Walks along the river in our neighborhood or walks along a cliff in Newport, RI's swankier neighborhoods? You bet. Open mic night at our local deli / pizza joint. Check check. Taking in some amazing blue skies in advance of a symphony's outdoor performance followed by fireworks with some really good friends? Why yes. That was Saturday night's activity.

Of course, now that I'm singing the praises of summer, Mother Nature being the she-hag that she is in these parts, will no doubt turn on us and things will get wicked hot and muggy here pronto. That's how she rolls. In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy summer like it's 1984 all over again. In the immortal words of Ric Ocasek of The Cars from their 1984 hit, "Magic":

Summer, it turns me upside down
Summer, summer, summer
It's like a merry go round

I'd say that's a merry go round ride worth taking. For your retro pleasure, here's "Magic" -