“Shit. This fucking guy wants to talk to me?” I thought.
(Yes. There’s lots of cursing in my internal dialogue.)
I just wanted to sit there, upload pics to Instagram like a motherfucker (that one was just thrown in there for my own fun), suck on my venti iced coffee, and then, in between it all, dwell on the perfect flowers which encircled the man-made geyser/water-fountain at this outdoor mall I found myself at.
But this chubby old guy with a Brooklyn accent had to chime in with, “The sound of the fountain. It’s really nice.”
“Shit, and he’s autistic,” I joked to myself.
Be nice Gabe. Be nice.
I put my phone down. Established eye contact. Remembered I was a person. Remembered we’re all connected. Remembered I was here to serve a purpose. Kindness. Healing. Make people laugh. Etc. Etc.
We talked about the fountain. The flowers. The breeze. The adorable Asian babies in strollers.
“Do you follow the Mets,” he asked next.
“Nope, not at all. I’m sorry.”
I apologized because he seemed a little disappointed.
But it didn’t stop him.
He went on to describe a whole inning to me. Pitch by goddamn pitch.
Losing patience, the back of my brain said, “Excuse yourself and go to the bathroom.”
But I hung in there. Without even looking at my phone, which I was dying to do.
He was a sweet man and deserved some sweetness.
And then, out of nowhere, as if a switch was flicked in the universe, he said, “I’m a healer, you know. I do healings through Jesus.”
Matter of factly, but totally channelled, he spoke clearly about God and faith and love.
Not religiously, but beautifully. Divinely.
How bizarre. I wasn’t there for him, he was there for me.
He was a messenger.
But the message came with a test.
Would I be kind to a stranger? And would I continue to show kindness when I really wanted to cut and run?
Because he finally said, “It ain’t never going to be perfect down here, you know. And I’m not afraid of dyin’. You’re going to see your mother and father and aunts and uncles again. Don’t you worry about it.”
He stood up and finished with, “Alright Gabe, it was nice talking to you. Time for me to stroll around and get my exercise.”
I gave him the respect of not watching as he walked away. Because I had a pretty good feeling he was just going to vanish.
The dead people.
When they show all of the dead people.
The poor folks in the biz who have died in the last year.
In Memory I think it’s called.
It’s my favorite part of the night. It’s my favorite part of any awards show.
I don’t exactly look forward to it. Because I don’t even think about it until it’s on. But I’m always happy to catch it.
Because, well, I’ll let Robin Williams from Dead Poets Society say it:
“Because we’re food for worms, lads! Because we’re only going to experience a limited number of springs, summers, and falls. One day, hard as it is to believe, each and every one of us is going to stop breathing, turn cold and die!”
Even the goddamn celebs which we jerk so hard.
All of us.
No one gets out alive.
Death is coming for our parents, our kids, our friends, our partners… and us.
You’d think this, and this alone, would convince us to be more lovely to each other.
We’re greedy, angry, meat eating, selfish fucks.
All I can say, regardless of where my life is now, is that I’m so grateful I’m me.
And if love is your reflex, as it is mine, I’m grateful for you too.
“What’s Holden doing right now?” I asked my mom.
A few months before her birthday, I overheard her say to someone that she wanted to reread the holiest of hollies, The Catcher In The Rye.
So, that’s the gift I gave her. Paperback, non kindle, with the original cover. Like a 60’s Corvette Stingray, a goddamn classic.
“He just got beat up in a hotel room,” my mom answered.
“Ahh, and now he’s pretending to have bullet wounds in the gut,” I said smiling.
After watching me flick through the book for a few seconds she said, “He’s a real sick kid that Holden Caulfield.”
“He’s not a sick kid,” I said defending him but actually defending myself. “He’s in a sick world.”
Raise high the roof beam,
Everything is happening at the same time.
The band at the beach club jams out a groove heavy, heartfelt version of Ain’t No Sunshine.
Kids splash around in the adjacent pool.
Middle aged men and woman, making up the majority of the audience, drink “pain killers” from their sand chairs.
An old woman taps her foot to the beat in her wheelchair.
A young girl, around three or four, walks along side her daddy. She uses her palms to shields her ears from the music.
A first aid crew from the pool sprints to a cabana in the distance – never a good sign.
The woman standing next to me is pregnant. Very pregnant.
After shooing it away a half-dozen times, this bastard of a mosquito lands on my ankle and I swat it to death. I bury it in the sand and I’m not exactly thrilled with myself.
Like an undulating ocean, thoughts enter my head, thoughts leave my head. Enter my head, leave my head. Enter my head, leave my head.
“I wonder what’s going to happen to me next,” bubbles up.
See, the thing is, we think we know what’s going to happen, but we don’t. We make plans, sometimes down to the very last detail, and then life unfolds as it will.
The only thing I know for sure is – the Doobie Brothers had it right. The guitarist just belted out, “Without love, where would we be now?”
In the weeds.
In the weeds at best.
P.S. The band closed the show with Good Lovin and a super spunky hippie chick grabbed the hand of some teenaged boy who was sitting by himself and they danced together in front of everyone. He has Down’s Syndrome. I still feel his smile. And I’m pretty sure it won’t leave me for quite some time.
Check out my new book here:
The Right Isn’t Right