Tuesday, October 24, 2006

210 of 210 : Craig

Good heart, good mind, good spirit. Fat—too fat—body, but working on it. I think he’s in a good place in his life, more centered, more content. It’s funny—there are a lot more years behind him than in front, yet what he feels most is . . . hopeful. Everything’s possible.

Th-th-th-that's all, folks. I've reached the end of this lovely, enjoyable, communal writing experiment. I'm going to keep the blog up for a while, but I hope you'll check out my new blog, Notes from the Dreamtime. We'll be live at 2 p.m. today. Stop by and give me your feedback!

Monday, October 23, 2006

209 of 210 : Smith

My great-grandfather (Smith was his given name) was repairing the roof of his chicken coop at age 88 when he fell. He broke his hip, was hospitalized, and within two months developed renal failure and died. I never got to meet him, but he remains the backbone of our family.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

208 of 210 : Jane #2

I can’t tell you how much I admire this woman. Thoroughly independent, even solitary, living life completely on her own terms. Creative, vigorous, with a fine mind and an open heart. I hope I can be half as hardy and accomplished at her age (here's hoping I last that long!).

Saturday, October 21, 2006

207 of 210 : Jane #1

Her dogs are always LOUD. She is always LOUD. A large, brash, fiercely intelligent woman, and one of the founders of Ms., she’s also a JP and an incredibly active presence in the town. But much as I admired and liked her, she wasn’t someone you could just relax with.

Friday, October 20, 2006

206 of 210 : Ed

A born-and-bred old Middletowner who sold honey from his own hives and impossibly cheap seasoned firewood from his groves. Though his was one of the town’s founding families, I think he was on the outs with them: when he talked about stepping in some manure, he substituted the family name.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

205 of 210 : Matthew Perry

Never met him. Or the host of other actors who persistently find their way into my dreams. I’m not dreaming about Matthew Perry; he just does a cameo appearance as, say, an obnoxious salesman. Last month it was Kevin Kline as a theater usher, and Oprah as a golf pro.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

203 and 204 of 210 : Emily and Danna

When Emily’s niece died, the pastor ended the memorial service by inviting her nonreligious relatives to stand and give their lives to Jesus; when they didn’t, he berated them: “I hope you remember this as the day you rejected Christ, because you’ll never see Vickie again.”

When Danna’s great-grandmother died, one of granny’s sons was in prison, but was allowed to attend the funeral in shackles. When the family Pentecostals started wailing hysterically, he seized the opportunity and fled, shackles and all. Few noticed, however, since at that moment an obese grieving relative collapsed on the coffin and toppled it.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

202 of 210 : Thelonious

One Step Down was legendary. Long and narrow, with perpetual clouds of cigarette smoke and the sweetest jazz you've ever heard. One night I ended up there and was invited to sit and drink with a couple of Thelonious Monk's old bandmembers, who shared stories of his talent and temper.

Monday, October 16, 2006

201 of 210 : Mr. Otter

Darryl and Janet’s home backs onto a fairly new manmade lake, which made the appearance this afternoon of “Mr. Otter,” as they called him, all the more surprising. An actual otter, lying on his back, sunning himself unconcernedly on the bank. Now they’re on Otter Watch, cameras at the ready.

A cousin, perhaps?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

200 of 210 : Louise

Junior high dances were absolute torture. When people wasn’t dancing, they were sucking face with their dates. Ick. So I took Louise, a plain, painfully shy little thing who thought I’d given her the world by asking her out. We were each other’s bulwarks against the horrors of adolescent society.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

199 of 210 : Isaac

Everyone else called him Mr. Asimov, but she called him Uncle Isaac. A close friend of her family, I heard stories about their dinners together, laughing, her father arguing genially with him about how far one could bend science fact in the making of fiction. He always remembered her birthday.

Friday, October 13, 2006

198 of 210 : Another Shirley

The village was full of generally friendly people. But the proprietor of the other general store in town was sour, taciturn, cold. I made her my special little project. It took two months of near-daily visits, but I finally got her to smile and even be the tiniest bit chatty.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

197 of 210 : Mr. Bunting

As assistant headmaster he could have had me arrested for breaking and entering, or suspended or expelled, but he seemed to understand my need to read my Permanent File that he kept in his office. Mainly I wanted to get the results of the IQ test they had recently administered.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

196 of 210 : The Jehovah’s Witnesses

Dressed in Sunday finery, clutching Bibles and copies of The Watchtower and Awake!, they appear. “Oh, no,” I say, “we have our own faith, and we’re very careful not to stray from it!” “Not straying from the faith” is a prime JW tenet, so it flusters them greatly. Most effective.

[By the way, Tony’s wife and dog appeared today—a little ahead of schedule, but we’re having a cool spell, so maybe it confused her. The dog is a little larger, and she’s stopped dying her hair (it’s mousy brown and gray now), but her voice can still echo for blocks.]

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

195 of 210 : Earl

My great-uncle loved practical jokes. At his mother’s 92nd birthday, he gave her a diamond ring to replace her old wedding band, but in the presentation speech, he said it was because she had never actually been married. I can still remember her shock, her laughter, and her great joy.

Monday, October 09, 2006

194 of 210 : Robert

The organization's parking lot attendant / maintenance worker. Stoic, upright, a man of few words. He died so suddenly, riddled with an unusual cancer. Exposure to chemical weapons in the Gulf War? Secret military testing on black soldiers? Heartbreakingly, a definite possibility. And easier to accept than an inexplicable natural death.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

193 of 210 : Kiki

Our junior high school “bad girl.” I watched her change from a sweet (but slightly dim) girl in elementary school to a biker chick who distributed sexual favors like candy from a piñata, despite a pleasant and stable home life. She’s now a quite respectable mother with . . . a teenage daughter.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

192 of 210 : Doris

For a few horrible years I managed fast food restaurants. My trainer at one point was Doris, a ball-breaker whose unpleasant demeanor was matched only by her over-the-top lust for some of her female workers. She said she wanted a t-shirt from Wendy’s, whose motto at the time was “Hot-n-Juicy!”

(Not Doris, but a reasonable facsimile of her.)

Friday, October 06, 2006

191 of 210 : J.C.

Beanpole tall, he was the big cheese at the telemarketing firm. Well, almost the big cheese. There was a main supervisor-cum-stick-in-the-mud, but J.C. ruled the roost with his boundless charm, and his workers were extraordinarily loyal. Unethical as the day is long, as was he, but great to party with.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

190 of 210 : Melissa #2

Little slip of a thing. Buzz cut, nearly bald. Tight-fitting black clothes, much of it leather, with prominent silver accoutrements. A marvelous brain: funny, with a cutting wit and a keen intelligence. My first words to her: “Hey, didn’t I see you in V for Vendetta”? Cue her wonderful laugh. . . .

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

189 of 210 : Dana

After the workshop, I asked the instructor if he’d like to see some manatees. We went to a lagoon where they frequently gather, and I flopped onto the dock and reached into the water. Dana was amazed to see one large fellow roll over so I could pat his belly.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

188 of 210 : Jody

She’s a proud papa-to-be: her partner, Tracey, will be attempting to conceive at her next ovulation. Names already chosen. Because the hospitals charge such outrageous amounts for artificial inseminations, they’re going to do it the old-fashioned way: Jody will use a turkey baster, and Tracey will stand on her head.

Monday, October 02, 2006

187 of 210 : The Rabbi

He may have looked like Harvey Fierstein, but it was a lovely Kol Nidre service. The only thing that threw me was when he wished me a “Gut Yontiff.” Adam kindly translated it into Hebrew for me: yontiff is Yiddish for yom tov, a good day—that is, a holiday.

(Harvey, not Rabbi Natkin)

Sunday, October 01, 2006

186 of 210 : Martha

An Internet pal of mine is a prodigious knitter. She knitted lovely scarves, in “Princess pink,” for everyone to wear to Princess’s memorial, and even sent one to those of us who couldn’t attend. After she saw The Last Knit, she decided that knitting indoors might be a good idea.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

185 of 210 : John

His father was the school’s headmaster. Low-key geek one minute, entitled rich kid the next. Somehow we became co-editors of the newspaper, though I did most of the work—albeit at his very comfortable home, listening to early Elton John on their professional sound system, and drinking his father’s booze.

Friday, September 29, 2006

184 of 210 : Margot

She was the most unlikely Elvira. Granted, we didn’t have a lot to choose from for our production of Blithe Spirit (I played Charles), but she was tall and brassy, not lithe or lilting. But she was perfect. She had that ascerbic wit, that bite, and she dazzled the audience.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

183 of 210 : Susan #2

One great benefit of Mom’s insurance plan: doctors who make house calls! Susan is the visiting doctor’s nurse, and she’s a ray of sunshine. She hugs everyone hello and goodbye, jokes happily with patients and family, keeps the doctor on task, and generally makes one feel good to be alive.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

182 of 210 : Steve

He’s a reporter for People, so he’s always passing along the most delicious celebrity gossip that can’t be printed in the magazine, and getting his photo taken with famous people. Friends always tease him that he’s not really black, since he looks decidedly Latino and “sounds white” on the phone.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

181 of 210 : Neil

An optician by day, an artist by night. His friends are, howyousay, eclectic. At a park they found a homeless man sleeping in the picnic shelter, so they left him some wine, a bottle of apricot beer, and an oatmeal cookie, then took pictures of him, wrapped up and unconcious.

Monday, September 25, 2006

180 of 210 : Jesse

In ten years, he’ll be running a cult. In his post as education director for his social group, he’s mandated that all members participate in a “ritual of rededication” to the organization, and leads a spiritual exploration project in which you “risk your very existence” if you miss a deadline.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

179 of 210 : Felix

How long does it take to lose an accent? Our other neighbor, a congenial fellow with a terribly sweet wife (with crippling RA), has the thickest New Yawk accent I’ve ever heard outside of the Bronx. I was shocked to learn that he’s lived in Florida for, like, 30 years.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

178 of 210 : Yet Another Bill

Our next-door neighbor is an elderly gent with a decided lisp. Give him a second and he’ll tell you all about his innumerable ailments and his countless doctors’ appointments each week. I try to be friendly, but there are only so many times you can hear about his gall bladder.

Friday, September 22, 2006

177 of 210 : Tracy

My eldest niece is developmentally disabled, though not profoundly. To everyone’s surprise, she met a good man, and they married; seems there’s a shoe for every foot after all. Alas, the sole fell off after a few years, and they divorced, but she’s doing remarkably well now on her own.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

176 of 210 : Uncle Bill

Extremely tall and lanky, with the most unfortunate buckteeth. He never married, never dated, never did anything even remotely social except drive a Checker Cab all his life. Lived the attic of his sister’s home, had the same nervous laugh she did. Makes you wonder about their life as children.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

175 of 210 : Elisa

She was so shy that she rarely spoke above a whisper in her lilting Caribbean accent. But then she’d start to sing. Oh. My. God. Easily the most silken, beautiful, utterly natural voice I’ve ever heard. The music she made was as simple and graceful as water dancing over stones.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

174 of 210 : Edna

She was the corpse in the next room at my aunt’s funeral. Edna’s relatives didn’t wear lugubrious expressions or speak in hushed, reverent tones like ours did. They had a par-tay! I thought the laughter and joy was terrific. But getting their photos taken with the body? Not so much.

Monday, September 18, 2006

173 of 210 : Chris #1

Mom’s sister’s son, Julie’s brother. Probably the best person in the family, all things considered: funny, smart, genuine, strong, hardworking, caring, committed. Good-looking, too. He’s taken just enough risks to have really lived, while staying unfailingly responsible. Does he have some hidden dark side? With Chris, I think it’s WYSIWYG.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

172 of 210 : Toni

Dewey and Margaret had three children: Ernest, Peggy, and Thelma. Ernest had me; Thelma had Toni. Toni married twice, but had no offspring. I too am childless. With us, our grandparents’ lineage dies. Considering the dysfunction on this side of the family, I’m not entirely sure it’s a bad thing.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

171 of 210 : Aunt Thelma

I remember her mainly in two different contexts: smoking and telling stories with her sister Peggy (she of the foghorn voice and brassy demeanor) at family gatherings, and late in life, blind and crippled from diabetes, shut off from the world, her television and old blind dog her only companions.

Friday, September 15, 2006

170 of 210 : Walt and Ken

Princess’s memorial—or rather, a fabulous celebration of her life, a riot of excess, held on her birthday—was last weekend, and Walt just uploaded all the photos he shot. My favorite shot was of Walt’s partner, Ken, holding their bird, Pobrecito, whom they brought on the trip with them.

("He's not invisible, dammit!"
was the weekend's continual refrain)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

169 of 210 : Tanya

We have wonderful conversations while she cuts my hair. We talk about movies—I rave about V for Vendetta, she adores Jackass. Sports? I discuss tennis, she waxes poetic about NASCAR. Music? I love Yo Yo Ma, she’s crazy about Garth Brooks. We just shake our heads at one another.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

168 of 210 : Sharon

We had a conversation one day about race relations in America. I argued that money was a stronger motivator than racism; she tried to explain why I was wrong, but it didn’t really sink in. The government’s response to Katrina in New Orleans just proves what a fool I was.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

167 of 210 : Hunter

He lives on an estate (a hundred acres or so) in Virginia; founded a global investmant firm; wrote a bunch of books; and serves on fifteen non-profit boards of directors. No room for schadenfreude, though: he’s a genuinely kind and generous man with a passion for ethics, of all things.

Monday, September 11, 2006

166 of 210 : J&K

When I met them early in their relationship, I never thought they’d last. They were too dissimilar. But their wedding—my first as an officiant—was glorious, and they grew together quite happily, but became rather homogeneous and insular in the process. “Becoming one” is not always a good thing.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

165 of 210 : Becca #1

She had two facial expressions: a sunny naiveté, and a puppydog-eyed look of concern and compassion. Our group visited a nursing home every other Sunday. One week she held the hand of an elderly woman whose family had forgotten her birthday, and said, “I really hope you live another year!”

Saturday, September 09, 2006

164 of 210 : Nora

Such a lovely woman. Warm, welcoming, a true peacemaker, even when she felt passionately about some controversial issue. Always seemed to be a bit of an outsider in the village. Maybe people were frustrated because she didn’t like to badmouth others—a trait few others in town seemed to share.

Friday, September 08, 2006

163 of 210 : David #2

Got an email (something forwarded again and again) from a former neighbor, one of the more prominent figures in the little town I lived in for two years. David was by turns artistic and boorish, wise and unbelievably foolish, statesmanlike and childish. I wanted to like him, I really did.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

162 of 210 : Rayna

We went to a club one evening where amateurs of both sexes stripped to their undies. Erik kept saying, “Titties! Lemme see titties!” Rayna, his busty date, sat on his lap and laughed uproariously. He’d already decided to propose when she got pregnant, so they just moved up the timetable.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

161 of 210 : Erik

Wow, just 50 more to go!

My nephew the athiest, and Hannah and Molly’s father, has grown from a rather self-centered young thing to a man utterly devoted to his family. He stumbled into the pawn business by accident, but now runs a very successful shop with designs on a more discreet, upscale version for bigwigs.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

160 of 210 : Darryl

My other brother, Darryl, phoned this afternoon to chat about the Roseate Spoonbill walking along the edge of the lake behind his house, and the Wood Stork preaching to a congregation of attentive egrets. Since Janet had her bout with cancer, he’s been careful to notice small glories like these.

Monday, September 04, 2006

159 of 210 : Uncle Aubrey

Vinnie even outlived her son, Aubrey. He owned a general store, a wondrous place to this terminally suburban kid. It still serves that tiny town in rural Maryland, and still displays his name. When he died, the raccoons he kept in cages were released in the woods behind his home.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

158 of 210 : Aunt Vinnie

My great grandmother’s sister was crotchety when she was young and nearly unbearable when she was old. After she was widowed, Vinnie lived with Grandma Hoyle, and never thereafter lifted a finger. She just loved being waited on. Why her older sister and benefactor became her servant, I’ll never know.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

157 of 210 : Lenny

Has fascinating ideas about reincarnation. At death, he believes, the self goes back into the Great Soul like a pail of water tossed into the ocean. Then a new pail comes along to scoop up some water. The same water, the same soul? A strange admixture? Or something altogether new?

Friday, September 01, 2006

156 of 210 : Stanislav

Stan Grof is a serious bigwig, basically creating transpersonal psychology. I met this great bear of a man after years of hero-worship-from-afar, and when he hugged me genially, I actually blubbered while telling him how much his work meant to me. And he wasn’t the least bit embarrassed or uncomfortable.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

155 of 210 : Mrs. Gagneau

My high school had a graduating class of 25, with only two of us in honors French. Mrs. Gagneau was a zaftig Haitian woman with a wonderfully sharp sense of humor, a somewhat depressing home life, and a precocious young son. She happily taught us to curse like French stevadores.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

154 of 210 : Margaret

My paternal grandmother had the strangest little nervous laugh; it always seemed truer than the smile she perpetually wore. An extremely kind woman, she endured a difficult marriage because it was expected, and doted on her two grandkids. She had a huge collection of pennies that I loved playing with.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

153 of 210 : Jack

When he’s with a small group of close friends, he can be pleasantly chatty. When he’s in a larger group, I have never heard him utter a sound, unless directly addressed, and even then the response is minimal. I’d ascribe it to shyness, but I think he’s just studying everyone.

Monday, August 28, 2006

152 of 210 : Tom #2

Poets are wonderful creatures, most of them. This one is genteel, elegant, absurdly intelligent, and just a little shy, and he has a command of the English language that I deeply, deeply envy. His most shocking collection, and probably my favorite, is called Trash. His subject: serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

151 of 210 : Gigi

Gigi was the ancient Pom-Chihuahua mix my mother adopted when her equally ancient owner died. An admirable companion for Mom when I moved to Vermont, Gigi’s greatest fault was impatience. She’d demand that Mom come to bed at precisely 9:30, and if she didn’t, Gigi would literally stamp her feet.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

150 of 210 : Goldie

Every morning started with The Howling. She’d leap onto Mom’s bed, settle, then begin: deep and quiet at first, quickly growing to a joyous, full-throated ululation. Two weeks before she died, she met a halfblood wolf at PetSmart. They danced together as if they’d been doing so for many lifetimes.

Friday, August 25, 2006

149 of 210 : Tasha

When she disengaged herself from that tangled heap of puppies and immediately walked over to me, there was nothing more to be said: she had chosen me. Tashuunka Wakan Heyokah Yellowdog lived almost precisely ten years. She was my constant companion, my bed mate in winter, and once, my savior.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

148 of 210 : Girl

...he had a wife in tow: he had eloped! Girl was his mirror image, albeit with long hair. Such a sweet dog, but such a rebel: she’d actually entice Ransom into doing naughty things; you could see her standing by, smirking, watching him misbehave, while she kept her paws clean.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

147 of 210 : Ransom

The Cruzan Mutt, while not on the AKC registry, is a distinct breed on St. Croix. Ransom was a lovable galoot who ate his food without chewing. He was affectionate yet steadfastly independent, with boundless energy and a lust for life. He disappeared for three days, and when he returned...

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

146 of 210 : Tina and Brutus

My doxies. Littermates and inseparable companions, though Brutus was more henpecked husband than brother. One rainy day Tina had to go out, but she wasn’t going to go alone. She barked—only once!—and he followed her into the rain, and stood meekly by until she had finished her business.

Monday, August 21, 2006

145 of 210 : Rusty

How I adored him! Everyone did, really, even the cats, who’d weave between his legs and try to trip him, or would taunt other dogs then run to him for protection. Infinitely patient, Rusty was half Boxer, half Great Dane, all heart. I thought he’d live forever. I was wrong.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

144 of 210 : Cokie

My first dog (and yes, dogs count) was black, like Coca-Cola. One day my mother heard Cokie yelping his head off as I dragged him down the lawn by his tail. Moments later it was I who was yelping, as he dragged me back up the lawn by my diaper.

(Not Cokie, but darned close.)

Saturday, August 19, 2006

143 of 210 : Shirley

My mother’s sister has had a difficult few years. Money problems, then the loss of their home; double pneumonia, then a coma, then a long journey back to (relative) health; then her husband dies. For all that, she is unfailingly positive. I marvel at her strength, her faith, her life.

Friday, August 18, 2006

142 of 210 : Louis

My paternal grandfather was a recovered alcoholic who never moved from his distressingly ratty easy chair unless it was to visit a fellow Friend of Bill in need, and not even then if Hee Haw was on TV. None of his three children enjoyed a particularly warm relationship with him.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

141 of 210 : Howard

My grandfather was an old man by the time he was 20. Once in a while, though, a little impishness would peek through, like the time he watched all of us playing Twister, and he gave my upended butt a shove; we were reduced to a giggling heap in seconds.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

140 of 210 : Sharon

My client’s AA just got a bizarre earful from me about why I’ve missed a couple of deadlines recently. My computer hard drives keep dying. Seems my incipient healing talent (I’m just a big old magnet) is wreaking havoc on them. They need a lead shield for protection from me!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

139 of 210 : Dr. Wendy

I was never so excited to see a doctor in my life. Mainly because this one was an M.D. who also practiced alternative medicine and shamanic healing. Yet for all her talents, perhaps her greatest was in her ability to listen, really listen, and to be completely present to others.

Monday, August 14, 2006

138 of 210 : Augie

Kraig’s first boyfriend (well, the first I knew about) was murdered in a gay-bashing incident. The next, Augie, was a stripper, though I never saw him dance; he left the biz after finding love. He's terribly sweet, the perfect wife. And I almost always refrain from calling him Augie Doggie.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

137 of 210 : Henry

We lived in Henry’s house. Perched precariously on a shockingly steep hill on St. Croix, it overlooked the most beautiful tangle of trees and flora you could imagine. When it rained, our windows opened to a world standing between life and death. Living in Henry’s house was an incalculable gift.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

136 of 210 : Father Mike

He so wanted me to be a Catholic. Thought I was planning to convert, when I was only gathering data on demon possession and exorcism. He did, however, convert me to his little parish’s Saturday evening masses: quiet, comfortable, sacred in an understated way. I worshiped there for three years.

Friday, August 11, 2006

135 of 210 : B.

Ever encountered someone who irritates the heck out of you on general principle, even when they haven’t done anything particularly wrong? Every time she opens her mouth, I want to do her bodily harm. She could be telling me what time it is, and I'd want to slap her. Hard.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

134 of 210 : Joe

He was 65 (but looked 85) when he was forced to retire from his non-profit organization because he was emotionally abusive and becoming increasingly irrational. He treated poor Mark like his personal whipping boy. He tried the same crap on me, but only once. Alzheimer's can only excuse so much.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

133 of 210 : Vahan

A football player with a brain, Vahan was an affable jock whose teammates seemed obsessed with his circumcision—or rather, his lack thereof. Apparently they had never seen one with a turtleneck before. I was mainly struck by his startlingly light blue eyes. He reminded me of a Siberian Husky.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

132 of 210 : Tony and Wife

Every November a large U-Haul pulls up at my neighbor’s home. A houseful of furniture is unloaded; a wife and small dachshund appear. Within three months she is screaming at the top of her lungs, slamming doors, cursing. The U-Haul returns; wife and dog disappear. It’s an annual holiday tradition.

Monday, August 07, 2006

131 of 210 : Connor

The nine-year-old built a Fortress of Solitude out of pillows in the middle of the living room. During a party. He just wanted to be alone. I used to play Hide-and-Seek, insist on being It, and as soon as the other kids disappeared, lay low with a good book.

(Not his actual fort.)

Sunday, August 06, 2006

130 of 210 : The Guy at the Drugstore

He just stood there, talking to himself quite animatedly. As alarm was setting in, I realized he was talking on his cell phone using a Bluetooth headset. A week later I was near three people carrying on separate coversations on the damned things. It was like being surrounded by schizophrenics.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

129 of 210 : Robert the Bruce

No, the Robert the Bruce. Apparently I’m his descendant, through my great aunt on my father’s side, who was a McIntyre, and gave me a tea towel with Robert the Bruce’s picture on it. “Never forget,” she’d say at every family gathering, in a nearly indecipherable brogue, “yer from royalty!”

Friday, August 04, 2006

128 of 210 : The Librarian

I’ve always loved libraries, and have often worked in them. One day Mr. N_______, our effete high school librarian, drew me aside and said he had a book he thought I’d particularly enjoy. My anticipation turned to repugnance when I saw it was a photo book of nude pre-pubescent boys.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

128 of 210 : Carlyle

I remember the Rector Search Committee asking her about her sexuality, a concern the bishop had raised since she was middle-aged and had never been married. She laughed and said, "For the record, no, I am not a lesbian. But I reserve the right to be!" We hired her immediately.

127 of 210 : Corinne

She’d always get an A+++ for her Social Studies maps. Mine were perfect, how could hers be better? One day I peeked: she’d drawn 3-D contours around the land masses! So I copied her technique, though I still only got an A+. The teacher must’ve had the hots for her.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

126 of 210 : Bjorn and Kjell

The most identical of twins, they were both really nice guys, but one of them considered me a good friend. Problem is, I never knew which one that was. I think it was Bjorn, but I’m not sure. Then again, I couldn’t tell them apart, so it didn’t really matter.

Monday, July 31, 2006

125 of 210 : Mary Beth

Let’s see: she’s my half-brother’s son’s wife’s mother. Which means we’re not really related, thank God. She sent me the most inflammatory email, unbelievably homophobic and racist. I explained how offensive it was. She said she hadn’t actually read it before forwarding it. I told her that was even worse.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

124 of 210 : Cisco and Vicenta

Fullblood Yaquis, they gave me my “Indian name,” as they called it: Maito Sewa Yoleme. El Milador de Milagros. I saw them in a dream two years before I met them. Heroin stole a few years from Cisco, and even treasured friendships can fade, but I still feel their presence.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

123 of 210 : Carl

We’d sing the night away at Friends, our favorite piano bar (there was nothing Carl couldn't play, but he loved the old standards best). At 2 we’d go dancing at eXile, then around dawn head to Au Pied du Cochon in Georgetown, where we’d unfailingly order lobster and fried eggs.

Friday, July 28, 2006

122 of 210 : The Stamp Man

We went back to his house for drinks after Ingrid’s. Once there he accused us of stealing his stamp collection. He showed us his badly burned torso—courtesy, he said, of his ex-wife who similarly coveted his stamps. When he pulled a large kitchen knife, we ran for our lives.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

121 of 210 : Julie

When my cousin divorced her first husband, it was for good reason. She then married a sweet, hardworking guy who was devoted to her daughters and utterly worshiped her. This week we learned that she’s left him and is in love with someone else. Even her daughters think she’s nuts.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

120 of 210 : The Astrologer

I went to a professional to me help interpret my birth chart. He studied the printout in silence for several uncomfortable minutes, occasionally glancing up at me nervously. Then he rubbed his hands together and said, gamely, “Well, let’s try to find something that’s positive in this chart, shall we?”

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

119 of 210 : Sal

Few college characters were more fascinating than the drug-and-drink-addled fellow who lived next door. One early morning I answered the banging on my door to find Sal standing there, stark naked and with a raging erection, asking if I had orange juice so he could make screwdrivers for his girlfriend.

Monday, July 24, 2006

118 of 210 : Holly #2

I honestly can’t recall how we met, but she was four years my junior, and in my senior year in college I took her to her high school prom. She had a smoking body, and a smoky, sexy, DJ’s voice. Alas, I was more interested in her (male) best friend.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

117 of 210 : Holly #1

A sweet girl with a hole in her heart. When we became friends, she warned me that if she ever fainted, I was to let her lie still, and she’d come to after a few minutes. One day, on the way to dinner, she fainted. But she never came to.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

116 of 210 : Marguerite

When I was a baby, she’d carry me with my head in the palm of her hand, my body draped across her forearm; I’d giggle continuously as I watched the world go by. We start out in bliss, then spend the rest of our lives trying to find it again.

Friday, July 21, 2006

115 of 210 : Pick Temple

Even though I’d already been on Romper Room, I found myself on the Pick Temple Show, a local Western-themed kid’s show. Those of us in the onstage Peanut Gallery saw what went on behind the scenes in making a television show, and I wasn’t alone in finding it terribly disillusioning.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

114 of 210 : J.D.

J.D.’s horse came to me in a dream. “Tell them he’s afraid of his power, that his bluster will disappear when he embraces his talents as healer and psychopomp.” I’ll also tell you he fashions singular works of wearable art from stones and wire. Power will out, as they say.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

113 of 210 : Gregg

Pen-pal Gregg forwarded some oddly poetic e-spam, translated from the Russian: Let us restore the neglected calculation. Leader! From you suddenly left bookkeeper? You they did betray? You are substituted? Tomorrow tax? Bookkeeping cruelty! Tracking calculation by our specialized company, minimization of Nalogooblazheniya, resolution of debatable questions in tax organs.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

112 of 210 : Pat #4

Your classic playground bully. Pat was bigger, heavier, and stronger than any other fourth grader, but still found it necessary to terrorize everyone else. When he showed up with a badly sprained but inartfully wrapped thumb, he was frightened and in serious pain. I made friends with him that day.

Monday, July 17, 2006

111 of 210 : Pat #3

Pat and Ginger were best man and matron of honor at my parents’ wedding. When Ginger became ill, Pat took care of her. When Pat became ill, I drove him to treatments. She went to a nursing home, he went to hospice; a month later, they died—two days apart.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

110 of 210 : Pat #2

I’ve never felt such loathing for another human being. She was my receptionist, but seeing as how she was the president and founder’s sister-in-law, I could hardly fire her. Incompetent, nasty, rebellious, lazy, and crazy to boot. Only after her husband died of AIDS did we have a genuine conversation.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

109 of 210 : Pat #1

He’s known as the Nathan Lane of Central Illinois. His dinner theatre costumes are often rather loud. “I know that spam generators string together random phrases to slip past filters,” he writes, “but this email I received is just insulting!” Thank you for your interest in circus clothes, it began.

Friday, July 14, 2006

108 of 210 : Gerry

Jim had a crush on Gerry’s roommate, Jody, so he persuaded me to invite them both over for dinner. When we paired off for conversation after dessert, I learned that she and Jody were a couple, and frantically tried to catch Jim’s eye before he said something embarrassing. Too late!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

107 of 210 : The Thompsons

Our next-door neighbors’ dog, Pinky—a Dalmatian with a pink nose and pinkish spots—dearly loved one particular sparrow who’d come down and perch on his back while he’d lay in the yard. One day he rolled over and accidentally crushed his little friend, and he mourned visibly for weeks.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

106 of 210 : Karen

She would talk and talk and talk and smoke and then talk some more. Things turned around when she got a silky black Lab-Whippet mix, Chip, the virtual mirror image of my blond Lab-Whippet mix, Goldie. I’d let her talk all she wanted just so the dogs could romp together.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

105 of 210 : The Landlords

She was sweetness personified. He was pleasant for maybe one month. She’d bake me cookies, ask me to dog-sit, invite me to use their truck if my car died. He’d complain about the basement flooding, the ancient refrigerator dying, the woodpile just being. It was two years of passive-aggressive misery.

Monday, July 10, 2006

104 of 210 : Phoebe

She took my hands and, trembling stongly, transferred energy into me. Even though nothing in my experience of her indicated that she had such talent, I felt a strange electricity (less dangerous but more powerful, somehow) pass from her into me. And my crushing headache was gone in an instant.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

103 of 210 : Melissa

First she was Missy, the funny gay woman. Then she became Melissa, the conflicted lesbian who fell in love with her boss, Carole. Then she became Melissa, the serious straight woman who fell in love with her decidedly married boss, George. I long for the happy, uncomplicated days of Missy.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

102 of 210 : The Mountie

I lost my wallet in rural British Columbia, and some beneficent soul turned it in to the RCMP. A Mountie counted and carefully dried every bill, tried very hard to find me, and was altogether gracious. Unusual kindness and honesty? “Well, no,” he said, quizzically. “Then again . . . this isn’t Vancouver!”

Friday, July 07, 2006

101 of 210 : Mark #2

Speaks with a slight Irish accent, always has, even though he was born and raised in Kentucky and his family members have suitably Southern drawls and aren’t particularly Celtic in their lineage. Always seems rather skittish, afraid of the world, despite innumerable self-empowerment seminars. Makes you want to kick him.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

100 of 210 : N.

Wounds happen. The more you make yourself open and vulnerable to someone, the greater the peril. Many times, happily, your risk is rewarded with trust, intimacy, love. Then again, sometimes you get hurt so profoundly that you wonder if the wound can ever heal. Mine did, but it took years.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

99 of 210 : Brad

He’s not what you’d call a shy person. But the afternoon he took us out behind the art gallery to the storage building crammed with beautiful antiques in various stages of restoration, and pulled out several indescribably powerful collages he had created, he was as bashful as a little boy.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

98 of 210 : Mr. LeMahieu

First I corrected his slipshod discussion of Eliot in front of the class. Repeatedly. Then, when he angrily called me into his office, I told him to come to class fully prepared or I’d tell the dean of his affair with a student. Amazing what a little blackmail can do.

Monday, July 03, 2006

97 of 210 : Chuck

Those poor bats. Violently roused from their sleep by fire and smoke, they flew wildly up from the dry well and collapsed on the ground, gasping for air. Chuck and I thought it great sport, and did it again and again. How could we have been capable of such cruelty?

Sunday, July 02, 2006

96 of 210 : Stephen

One day my friend Stephen broke into his neighbor’s home, stole the old woman’s jewelry, and bashed her head in with a lead pipe. “All my l-life I’ve been b-b-blamed for things I d-d-didn’t do,” he explained. “I g-guess I just wanted to be b-blamed for s-s-something I d-did do.”

Saturday, July 01, 2006

95 of 210 : Wanda

She was homely, her hygeine was frightful, and she had a nasty attitude: a misfit among us misfits. One day I walked her home. The filth was indescribable, flies swarming everywhere; her father was absent, her mother a drunk. I pitied her acutely, but still didn’t want to befriend her.

Friday, June 30, 2006

94 of 210 : Robbie

“Your beaver pelt is askew.” That line has me giggling this morning. Tomorrow it will be some other line. We call him EOQ, or Evil Old Queen. And some days he most decidedly is; he can be downright vicious at times, but his wit is peerless. Happy Birthday, you EOQ.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

93 of 210 : Uncle Jimmy

perpetually smelled of three-day-old Budweiser. I couldn’t tell you what, if anything, he did for a living. A wiry little fellow, he was never without a cigarette or a simple-minded grin (possibly from the Bud, possibly from inbreeding). Inexplicably, he loved my Aunt Peggy, golf, and that God damned malamute.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

92 of 210 : Alan

Princess was fanatically devoted to Big Brother each summer, even the Internet live feeds. Alan, her husband, hasn’t turned on a television since her death. Saturday a thunderstorm caused a brown-out, then suddenly every TV in the house came on of its own accord. Each was tuned to Big Brother.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

91 of 210 : Dewey

One warm spring evening a bunch of us gathered at his house. The stereo blasted Santana’s Sacred Fire while we discussed Terence McKenna’s True Hallucinations, drank beer, laughed, drummed. There was something terribly potent about that night, some ineffable quality of the energy, that still makes my heart beat faster.

Monday, June 26, 2006

90 of 210 : Jen

My niece has a checkered past. Not as checkered as mine, certainly, but checkered enough that after one drunken gabfest, we had so much dirt on one another that we had a Mutually Assured Destruction strategy in place. Over time, most of my secrets have become inconsequential. Hers have not.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

89 of 210 : Marty

In 1973, when the The Exorcist was released, there was widespread hysteria over the horror in the film. I saw this firsthand when my friend Marty, nattily attired as always, hospitalized himself for a couple of days because his tongue had turned black—the result, he claimed, of demonic possession.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

88 of 210 : Jeannette

My doctor sticks needles in me, then waves crystals over my body. Thing is, she’s the most knowledgable and skillful medical professional I’ve ever encountered. She is a scientist, and a damn good one. She knows what she’s doing, she knows what works, and she gets results like nobody’s business.

Friday, June 23, 2006

87 of 210 : Gary

He and his wife ran a Christian bookstore, and I worked there. Great folks who loved life, food, laughter. For some reason I started pilfering from them---a coupla books, a CD. . . After I moved, I wrote and apologized profusely. He wrote back, simply, “Your account is settled. Love, Gary.”

Thursday, June 22, 2006

86 of 210 : Michael

This Michael was a girl. A big, brassy junior high school girl with a “bad reputation”—the first I’d ever met. Dunno if she was as easy as they said, but I marvelled at how supremely self-confident she was. A façade? Probably, but a convincing one, to my twelve-year-old mind.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

85 of 210 : Kate

When Ken died, she was a mess. After six months they told her to move on. After a year they said her grief was obsessive and she needed counseling. She mourns him still. And Kate is one of the most grounded people I've ever known, if you discount the vegetarianism.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

84 of 210 : The Doctor

I went for a check-up when I was twelve. He spent an inordinate amount of time feeling around in my underwear, inquiring in the most obtuse way whether I had reached sexual maturity. He was just professional enough to make me doubt my hunch that he was a major perv.

Monday, June 19, 2006

83 of 210 : Carole

Pencils painstakingly lined up on her desk, blotter pristine, telephone precisely angled: she was the consummate Virgo. First she came out as a lesbian, trumpeting her happy relationship. Three years later, ignoring all the spinning heads, she married a man—again, very happily. But of course: Virgos are always right.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

82 of 210 : Russell

He was technically a great uncle, but I only knew him as Poor Little Russell. Every time we’d visit my (great-) Grandma Hoyle, at some point I’d be ushered into a bedroom to find a frail, profoundly disabled creature with twisted limbs. Was that exercise for him, or for us?

Saturday, June 17, 2006

81 of 210 : Leroy

Roy Egg is his name, and chickens are his game. His exquisite barnyard portraits, at once realistic and whimsical, are prized pieces of art. I won a stand-up pig of his at a West Pawlet ham supper raffle (I just loved the irony); that night cemented my love for Vermont.

Friday, June 16, 2006

80 of 210 : Herb

He was flamboyantly, unabashedly himself even among guys who hated gay people. We worked together in a highrise office building on a very busy city street. One day a semi blew its air horn down below us; without missing a beat, he shouted out the window, “I’ll be right down!”

Thursday, June 15, 2006

79 of 210 : Brad

He was nearly inapproachable, godlike. The best-looking guy in eleventh grade, he was already an amazing drummer in a rock band, and had that slightly aloof, infinitely cool way about him. But I was even cooler: I showed him how to produce a hallucinagenic drink from yucca without poisoning himself.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

78 of 210 : Charlene

She’s just a voice on the phone, but we’ve had the most wonderful conversations about Raven’s Brew coffee. See, I have this dream of opening a thoroughly unconventional coffeehouse that serves amazing organic coffee, and they’re going to be my supplier. Like heroin, only cheaper. Well, a little bit cheaper.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

77 of 210 : Hannah

Hannah is Molly’s big sister, and they are a study in contrasts. Hannah is sweetness and light, a little social butterfly, ready with hugs and kisses. Molly is preternaturally sullen, angry, willful, and clearly an introvert, but I’m willing to bet that she’ll have a deliciously wicked sense of humor.

Monday, June 12, 2006

76 of 210 : Molly

My nephew’s youngest daughter, 3, was in the Bahamas recently on a cruise. Her grandmother suggested they use the ladies’ room. Molly asked, “Can boys go in there?” No, grandma said. “Can men?” No, it’s for ladies only. “But I’m not a lady!” Molly protested. “I don’t have big boobs!”

Sunday, June 11, 2006

75 of 210 : Gary

Met him just tonight. Happily married-with-child, very handsome, and a thoroughgoing pagan. A transplanted Scot who’s lived in Michigan, Idaho, and Florida, but plans to have his ashes scattered back in the Highlands. He thinks about his death even though he’s barely 30. I admire a guy who plans ahead.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

74 of 210 : Ricky

Jim felt something was wrong with the boy. Big head. Thin, almost translucent skin. Terminally peevish. “My little brother’s kinda twisted,” he said, worrying what Ricky would be like as an adult. One day he stole Jim’s bike, and was killed by a drunk driver in front of my house.

Friday, June 09, 2006

73 of 210 : The Humpback

Another odd denizen of our town was a genial man with a bad hunchback, though for some reason we all called him the Humpback, as if he were a whale. His favorite ploy was to tease me: “How long is a Chinaman?” The correct answer, of course, was “That’s right!”

Thursday, June 08, 2006

72 of 210 : The Bear

He was profoundly retarded, though without any physical anomalies that we could see. A gentle bear, he carried around a wooden tub of peanut butter, and would dip crackers into it for children in the neighborhood. And no one feared abduction or abuse. He was just the peanut butter man.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

71 of 210 : Dominic

I remember when I learned that this funny, kind man was prince of an African tribe. I stood there, amazed that I ate lunch with a prince. He went on to work at IMF or the World Bank, maybe both. Major D.C. bigwig now. And he laughed at my jokes.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

70 of 210 : Adam

He’s blind as a bat, but Adam still drives better than his wife does. He’s a junior high school teacher, a published author, a certified hypnotist, a poet (he once organized a clothing-optional poetry reading), a political activist, a pagan, and an actor. And he’s terribly shy. So he says.

Monday, June 05, 2006

69 of 210 : Gina

One of my cousins is the most stunningly beautiful girl I’ve ever seen. Tall, slender, and jaw-droppingly-gorgeous. Everyone Gina met pressed her to enter the field of modelling. So instead she married a shy boy and became a stunningly capable nurse and opted for a life of service and happiness.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

68 of 210 : Brian

His bedwetting phase lasted a lot longer than in most kids. His home was always a disaster, with laundry (some clean, some dirty, but which was which?) piled absolutely everywhere, even in the living room. He’d frequently be found napping in such piles. And he’d wet them almost every time.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Requiescat In Pace, Princess

I received this today from Adrianne's husband, Alan:

Dear Friends of My Pink Princess:

It is with profound sadness that I must inform you of the tragic passing of my wife on June 1, 2006, at 6 PM. My Pink Princess died very suddenly of heart failure. Mercifully, she passed quickly with little suffering. Later that evening there was a brilliant pink sunset, before the sky descended into blackness.

I'm sorry that I do not know all of you, but I do know that you brought great joy and happiness to my dear wife. She would often laugh outrageously when she read your mail, and in compiling your e-mail addresses, I did recognize many names that she mentioned often. How she enjoyed the witty banter and wicked humour! As you know, she was brilliant, and according to her, many of you are too.

Adrianne was a sparkling pink diamond in a dismal world of grey and beige. I will always be grateful for having had the privilege of knowing her for 40 years this month. Over 31 years of marriage with 24 hours a day spent together is an honour that few couples get. Our friend Danny just told me that "St. George Years" count for "dog years" compared to other couples who have to work and be apart. He's right. We were hoping, as we all do, to have many many more years together, but I am lucky for what we had, and believe me, I know it. So many happy memories, so much laughter, so much joy. Havencrest is embued with Adrianne's spirit and love, as well as her likenesses. I am embraced by her touch at every turn.

Since you are not "locals" you would not have access to The Princess' obituary, so I will provide it here. I was hoping, there might be a way to put it on Adrianne's website along with her In Memoriam page. I haven't cracked the code for how to do her blog, (she always derided me for having a MAC) but I did manage to obtain some of your addresses for this e-mail, and I am sorry if I missed friends, and I'm sure that I did, but perhaps some of you will forward this letter to those who didn't receive it.

Because Adrianne was NEVER about death or sickness, I plan to celebrate her life with a special memorial service in September, on her birthday 9/9/06. She loved birthdays........and especially hers! I hope to honour her with an evening of the kind of joy and beauty she was famous for. If anyone wishes to receive an invitation, please forward your mailing address, I would love to meet you. I have just begun to stumble my way through The Princess' social files and it is a bit overwhelming to someone with my inabilities in this area, never having had to worry about it, since I was married to the social abiter par excellence.


Alan St. George
Havencrest Castle

Obituary follows:

Adrianne Blue Wakefield-St. George died Thursday, June 1, 2006 at her home, Havencrest Castle, in Savanna, Illinois.

Mrs. St. George was born September 9, 1950 in Connecticut. She married Alan W. St. George on March 21, 1975 in Wilmette, Illinois. Mrs. St. George would always say, "The day I was married was the happiest day of my life."

Mrs. St. George authored an autobiography, A Very Special Person, and a book of etiquette, Millenial Manners. She illustrated a series of children's books for Dr. Vickery of Lena, Illinois, and Adrianne wrote, produced and starred in a children's fairytale, The Day the Queen of Cold Got a Facelift. She also wrote and produced Havencrest Castle, History and Tour. She was the original founding member of the Carroll County Humane Society.

Mrs. St. George and Alan restored and expanded their home, Havencrest Castle over the past thirty years in a manner in keeping with their mission statement of creating an example of the way American aristocracy lived, at the turn-of-the-century.

Mrs. St. George had a passion and was well-known for hosting beautiful and elaborate dinner parties and events. It's been said, "When Mrs. St. George entered a room, the lights and music went on, and when she left, they went out." She could speak with anyone on any subject and was know to speak to foreign visitors, on occasion, in their native tongue. She loved animals and her favorite flower was the gardenia.

Mrs. St. George will be dearly missed by her husband, Alan W. St. George of Savanna; her sister, Beth, of Connecticut; and their six dogs. She is preceded in death by both of her parents.

A private Memorial Service will be held at a later date. Memorials may be given in Mrs. St. George's name for the Carroll County Humane Society. Condolences may be sent to the family at www.lawjonesfuneralhome.com.

Above her many talents and accomplishments, Mrs. St. George's proudest achievement was the designation "wife."

67 of 210 : Evanne

She talks to fairies. And they talk to her. Not the cute little Tinkerbell-ish ones, but the tall, powerful faes of Celtic lore whose otherworld realms make humans forget their mundane lives. They are spirits of nature, the sidhe, the Tuatha Dé Danann. And they talk to my friend Evanne.

Friday, June 02, 2006

66 of 210 : Janet, after

Then she got cancer. Several times, in fact. Now in total remission, Janet has left her rigid, controlling ways behind her, and she’s actually supportive and quite pleasant to be around. Nowadays the only things she plans with her old meticulousness are life-affirming cruises to Alaska or the Panama Canal.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

65 of 210 : Janet, before

My sister-in-law was a poster child for OCD: she kept a yardstick next to the kitchen table to ensure its correct distance from the wall, and woe to the fool who walked on her carpet in socks—she’d be picking up tiny dots of fuzz before he reached the sofa.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

64 of 210 : King Peter

I’m told his wealth is nearly inconceivable. He owned a large island that somehow became a sovereign territory, and Peter set up a government there and proclaimed himself king. He gave Paul’s parents several cases of the celebrated 1970 vintage Dom Perignon, and I had three glasses one lovely afternoon.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

63 of 210 : Paul

He was a member of the Lurkers’ Society, and his family was . . . “comfortable.” One Gatsby-esque Sunday afternoon featured croquet and champagne, with everyone dressed in white. For graduation, his parents gave us bottles of exceedingly rare Kentucky Bourbon. One day a few years later, Paul simply—and quite mysteriously—disappeared.

Monday, May 29, 2006

62 of 210 : Kathleen

When I met her she was still Kathleen, not Kate, as newer friends call her. The magic began one evening (at a dive that inexplicably served the best pizza in the world) when I asked her, in front of her husband, if he were well hung. And she told me.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

61 of 210 : Tim

Soul of a poet, mind of a philosopher. Brilliant artist, especially his watercolors. Great cook; his wondrous pancakes are unspeakably delicious. Very easy on the eyes. Athletic. Emotionally tender, but intellectually rigorous. Excellent musician. Superb sense of humor. Disciplined yet very laid back. And straight, damn it all to Hell.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

60 of 210 : Wayne

He’s usually found in positions of leadership, but his style is low-key, even subtle. He’s like that just sitting around talking with friends: he evinces a quiet strength but never tries to control the conversation, and his sense of humor is keen and warm-hearted. I miss his face. A lot.

Friday, May 26, 2006

59 of 210 : Susan

Those eyes. So full of kindness. Strength, certainly, and wisdom. And just a soupçon of mischief. She’s a caring and generous mother, always accepting and laughing, even in difficult circumstances. The lovely evenings spent in spirited conversation with friends old and new continue to sustain me today, a decade later.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

58 of 210 : Sue

Was “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” her favorite phrase, or just our favorite saying about her? If she didn’t want something to happen, it simply didn’t. Yet she was the most magnanimous of hosts, and when she smiled, there was no warmer place in the world to be.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

57 of 210 : Bill

I’m not sure which of us came up with the idea of discussing women’s erotica, but it seemed a natural fit after Bill’s infamous pasta puttanesca, the culinary equivalent of sex. Was it the anchovies? The capers, the peppers, the garlic? Or the amazing warmth and hospitality of that table?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

56 of 210 : Ramberto

He had more ego than brains, more charm than ethics, more passion than good sense, and more natural enthusiasm than nearly anyone (he played Backgammon as if it were a contact sport). So why did he have to go and screw up really wonderful friendships by telling unbelievable, dastardly lies?

Monday, May 22, 2006

55 of 210 : Harvey

While I enjoyed the film of Torch Song Trilogy, I think the play was better. But I’m biased: I got to meet Mr. Fierstein after the performance. He was wearing bunny slippers, and he signed a copy of the script for me. He even put bunny ears in his signature.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

54 of 210 : The Neighbor’s Son

One day, when I was five (such youthful exuberance!), I ventured out into the world hoping to have an adventure. In the woods behind my house I encountered a stranger, the adult son of a neighbor, who molested me; my childhood disappeared that day. Not all adventures are happy ones.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

53 of 210 : Mrs. Seacrest

The Seacrests lived across the street from the Witch, and were the only people in our neighborhood who had a pool (and an in-ground pool at that). Kind, capable Mrs. S. gave swimming lessons to all the kids, and had the most prominent moustache I’ve ever seen on a woman.

Friday, May 19, 2006

52 of 210 : The Witch

In our neighborhood stood a dark, brooding house. Its haunted, reclusive occupant was a crone with wild hair, a dead eye, and (we were certain) bones in her basement. Now I wonder if she was just a lonely old lady whose family never visited, and wish I had befriended her.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

51 of 210 : Kraig

I outed him by mistake to a mutual friend, and he didn’t speak to me for three months. Now he lives openly with his Brazilian boyfriend, Augie, and works on global TB issues. We both relish websites that poke fun at religion gone amok. Some favorites: 1 2 3 4

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

50 of 210 : Ken

He was killed in a horrific car accident. The funeral was a lugubrious Catholic affair—the precise opposite of what Ken would have wanted. When the priest said the Sanctus and the acolytes rang their little bells, I distinctly heard Ken’s voice in my ear, saying, “Ice cream! Ice cream!”

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

49 of 210 : The Palmists

For a lark, Les and I stopped in for a $5 reading. The mother told me I had many regrets, though I had none, at the time. The daughter told Les that someone had put a curse on her. Nope. Though one was certainly placed on the palmists that night.

Monday, May 15, 2006

48 of 210 : Miss Connie

When I was five, I was on Romper Room. Twice. Miss Connie was sweet as could be. I, on the other hand, was a pious little thing who told her, loudly, that she wasn’t saying the Grace before our milk-and-cookies properly, and that Jesus wasn’t going to hear her prayer.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

47 of 210 : Mr. Washburn

After lab one day, our ninth-grade science teacher let us go out onto the balcony for a breather (our school overlooked the Caribbean). And there it was: a massive waterspout, just offshore. I was awestruck, if for no other reason than I had dreamt that precise scenario the night before.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

46 of 210 : Philip

There is no Philip; there is only “Philip,” the body, the corporate identity for a whole passel of multiples. Instead there is Yvette, the lesbian, or Bob, the accounting whiz, or the teacher, or the frightened child. Several of them serve as husband and father. But there is no Philip.

Friday, May 12, 2006

45 of 210 : Abcde

I know of a girl named Placenta (her mother heard the word in the hospital—thought it sounded pretty), and another named VulvaMae. Now a friend reports that a woman in Philly has named her newborn son “Abcde.” Pronounced AB-suh-dee. “So he'll always know how to spell it,” she explains.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

44 of 210 : Vsande

She smokes like a chimney, but won’t eat meat or use a/c, even in Florida summers, because it’s unhealthy. She’s politically progressive, but runs a porn website. And you just know her mouth will get her killed one day. I christened her “Reality’s Bitch,” and she wears the moniker proudly.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

43 of 210 : Adrianne

She spends her winters planning extravagant galas, her summers watching the Big Brother live feeds, her days shopping for rare antiques on eBay, and her evenings watching Buffy reruns. Al Hirschfeld even drew her portait when she was a teenager. She’s the Pink Princess, and I am her unworthy servant.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

42 of 210 : Charles

His carefully crafted online persona is “LCM, Centre of the Known Universe,” an outrageous disco diva in platform shoes with Algonquinlike wit who smokes glamorous du Mauriers and ends each night in a pool of his own sick, when he’s really just a gentle Canadian government worker longing for love.

Monday, May 08, 2006

41 of 210 : Uncle Freddie

Kind, genuine, and unfailingly upright (in the very best sense of that word), I always thought he was one of the quieter members of our rather loud and garrulous family until I realized that most of the laughter at our holiday gatherings was provoked by his dreadful puns, ever-so-artfully timed.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

40 of 210 : A Man in the Airport

The old man stood at the restroom sink, shaky hands searching in vain for the faucets, a look of helplessness on his face: was this more evidence that he was losing his faculties? When I showed him how the photoelectric sensor turned on the water, he nearly cried with relief.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

39 of 210 : Sue Ann

We talked marriage almost immediately. We watched our coupled friends fall in love, fight, break up, make up, uncouple, and start over again. Such dysfunction, we thought. We’ll show ’em how to do it properly! Odd how our plans never foresaw that big coming-out announcement we made to one another.

Friday, May 05, 2006

38 of 210 : Karl

After using a brush to remove every last speck of dust from the LP, he let us hear the opening strains of Vaughan Williams’ Mass in G Minor. We gasped at the exquisitely etherial music. No more than forty-five seconds later, he lifted the needle. “Just a taste,” he said.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

37 of 210 : Frances

Her laminated card read The Lurkers’ Society, with no other information. “Every so often we wear trenchcoats and lurk in the stairwells,” she explained. “Occasionally we hide behind trees, or conceal ourselves in darkened alleys.” Answering my quizzical look, she shrugged, “It’s just what we do.” I signed up immediately.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

36 of 210 : Liz

She become an Episcopal priest, battling through the tough ordination process in a part of the country still resistant to women priests. But I’ll always remember her as Martha to my George in a stunning performance of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf in college: her “What a dump!” was perfection.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

35 of 210 : Ingrid

The tall, aging German woman didn’t own the place, but we called it Ingrid’s anyway. The dark, louche bar-and-restaurant-that-never-seemed-to-serve-food was home to a handful of hard-bitten regulars. Les and I found dozens of ways to ply free drinks from its denizens, and danced to Chuck Mangione on the juke box.

Monday, May 01, 2006

34 of 210 : George

Meet Jim’s father: Thin and wiry in youth, by middle age he was badly stooped and gnarled with arthritis; when he was old, he was practically a pretzel. A snarling dog of a man, and rabidly racist, we all felt his physical afflictions rather aptly illustrated the twisted virulence inside.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

33 of 210 : Nenah

She tried so patiently to tell me why calling herself “Nenah Sylver” instead of “Nina Silver” would bring her more prosperity because of its numerological vibration, but her explanation just wouldn't sink in. Maybe the concept was too complex for me. Or maybe it was because I couldn’t stop giggling.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

32 of 210 : Les

At age 11, whenever she’d drop something or bump into a wall, she’d say, “Whoops, my brain tumor’s acting up!” Her friends would always laugh. By the time she was 18 she had new friends who weren’t in on the joke. She loved the way they’d blanch and fall silent.

Friday, April 28, 2006

31 of 210 : Mo

In a newsgroup I posted some gossip about a favorite actress. Out of the blue she emails me, and after several rounds of “No, who are you, really?”, we become regular correspondents. Now whenever she’s on TV, I say, “There’s my friend!” And for a brief time, she probably was.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

30 of 210 : Asha

Asha’s husband died Monday. A stroke victim, he existed in that shadow-world between functionality and invalidism; sometimes he knew both at once. We never met him, but guessed he was older than she. Was there just the tiniest trace of relief in her voice as she told us the news?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

29 of 210 : Barry (Not His Real Name)

He was a loner who joked frequently about suicide. I got worried during one depressive episode and told a college dean, and the resulting bruhaha embarrassed and angered him greatly. Later I heard he was on SSRIs and much happier, so perhaps it wasn’t a total gaffe on my part.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

28 of 210 : Jim

What do you say about someone you’ve known since you were three years old? He was my first friend, and still one of my best; and he always surprises me—with his totally unwarranted shyness, his artistic creativity, his wicked sense of humor. I’ll always be a kid around him.

Monday, April 24, 2006

27 of 210 : Victoria

She’s a good shrink, despite her belief that psychotherapy is a hard science, akin to physics or chemistry. While I see her point that “soft science” sounds pejorative, I view psychoanalysis as more of an art: gifted therapists are shamans in white lab coats, while bad ones are drunken brain surgeons.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

26 of 210 : Adrian

My mother’s physical therapist was a tall, bald Brit who was also a professional actor. He was enormously engaging, and a damn good PT as well. He was not, however, a very good actor, at least as Ebenezer Scrooge. His performance gave new meaning to the phrase “long for death.”

Saturday, April 22, 2006

25 of 210 : Mrs. Oosterhouse

My fourth grade teacher was a published author who wrote children’s books. We loved her stories of Perry the parakeet, who would magically miniaturize school children and fly them around on his back, having wonderful adventures. To her I first whispered my secret desire: “I want to become a writer.”

Friday, April 21, 2006

24 of 210 : Miss Miller

A classic spinster, to our young eyes she seemed ancient and withered. She ate bananas with knife and fork because the normal way was too suggestive, and at the museum she shielded us from the shame of Michelangelo’s David by placing her hand where a fig leaf should have gone.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

23 of 210 : Cate

My cousin’s girlfriend for a few years, Cate wasn’t a member of our family nearly long enough. She had a lovely, sunny disposition that seemed to fit right in with our familial craziness, so I can’t imagine why their relationship broke up. I still miss her laugh, and her acceptance.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

22 of 210 : Tracey

Before a single hour of conversation had passed, I knew her like my own soul. It’s the eeriest sensation, this level of utter comfort and connection. Past lives? Entirely possible. Though it feels more like we were the same self once upon a time, now residing in two different bodies.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

21 of 210 : Mark

His sister had a crush on me; I had a crush on him. Happily, I won. It all started on The Infamous Camping Trip. There was steak (which we ate with our bare hands), a 1967 Bordeaux, and some shamefully delicious fumbling inside our tent. Oh, to be 13 again!

Monday, April 17, 2006

20 of 210 : Chuck

I’d sneak out at 2 in the morning and meet Chuck and Mark at a neighbor’s vacant house. We’d climb onto the roof and sit there for hours talking about sex, spirituality, life. The moonlit shadows shifting on the field below never failed to scare the bejesus out of us.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

19 of 210 : Jeffrey

A timid childhood acquaintance, both disturbing and disturbed. Something would trigger him while we were playing, and he’d say, “I wanna flush my clothes down the toilet!” Or he’d pull down his pants and roll on his back in a frenzy, begging us to sprinkle baby powder on his crotch.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

18 of 210 : Art

I wish there were a better word to describe him, but “pusillanimous” will have to do. The founder and president of the non-profit at which I worked, and an overtly kind man, he was a milquetoast who hid his surprisingly rigid religious beliefs behind a wall of unjust personnel policies.

Friday, April 14, 2006

17 of 210 : Lois and Caroline

Lois and Caroline were the first lesbians I ever knew. Family friends and business clients of my father, I even worked in their boarding kennel for a few years. They’d been “married” for decades, but their breakup was so painful that now neither can bear to speak the other’s name.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

16 of 210 : Alex

I fall in love way too easily. Alex was cute, a close friend, and probably bi, but at 17 when I blurted out my love-that-was- not-like-the- love-you-have- for-a-friend- but-something- significantly-more, he was flattered but so not interested. I can’t tell if that’s what ruined the friendship, or his moving 1150 miles away two months later.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

15 of 210 : Tom

The schizophrenic brother of a college chum, Tom spent much of his life in mental hospitals. I spent Thanksgiving with him and his family, and discovered that we shared an understanding of the dark landscape of the psyche, a love of seriously warped humor, and the disdain of his father.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

14 of 210 : Aunt Peggy

My father’s sister had the voice of a foghorn. Those garish red toenails on her piggy little feet were a constant source of fascination for me. One day her malamute tried to rape me, and only a cattle prod, turned to the highest power, was finally able to dissuade him.

Monday, April 10, 2006

13 of 210 : Maria

An accomplished artist, daughter of a famed photographer, my high school rival in a class of twenty-five, salutatorian to my valedictorian, she demanded a painstaking recount of our grade point averages—how could I have bested her, she reasoned, when she had a straight 4.0? Extra credit, of course. Bitch.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

12 of 210 : Mary Ellen

Mary El, as we called her, was Dale’s first wife. A good, churchgoing woman, she introduced me to the Narnia books (for which I am forever thankful). When their marriage broke up, Mary El spent a few years finding herself. She ended up finding a Caribbean god in tight pants.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

11 of 210 : Nildale

Dale’s my brother, seventeen years my senior. He likes dreadful puns and endless discussions about the best route to take. Nilda is his second or third wife (no one’s sure), and thinks “Fantasmic!” at Disney-MGM Studios is high art. They are still giddily in love. Their licence plate reads NILDALE.

Friday, April 07, 2006

10 of 210 : Linda

For a few misbegotten years I was a real estate agent, and for a time she was my business partner. Not a good career choice for either of us. A gorgeous lesbian with auburn hair, she dreamed of opening a women-only roller rink. The ads would read, “Dyke-o-Rama—Everybody Skate!”

Thursday, April 06, 2006

9 of 210 : Ernie

He died when he was eleven years older than I am now. A complex and often charming man, my father had a deep, unresolved anger toward God, which occasionally broke out against others—and himself. I think I learned the power of confidence from him, and the power of fear.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

8 of 210 : Ron

My professor set a chair in the middle of the room, threw his imaginary manuscript onto its seat, and started shouting at it, “Why are you giving me a hard time?!”—his sure-fire way to break writer’s block. He became my mentor, but I don’t think he ever realized it.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

7 of 210 : Katharine

The college switchboard is quiet until the call, and suddenly it’s That Voice. She asks for her friend in Administration. “I’m sorry, Miss Hepburn, but she’s at lunch just now,” I say, trembling nearly as badly as her voice did. “May I take a message?” “Just tell her . . . Katie called.”

Monday, April 03, 2006

6 of 210 : Chris

The towhead in my acupuncturist’s waiting room is restless, but his energy seems more intellectual than physical. “Our teachers won’t let us write fiction or poetry unless it’s part of an assignment,” he says. “I wonder if maybe they’re afraid of creative thought.” He’s nine, and his shoes light up.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

5 of 210 : Dorothy

My grandmother’s breasts were so pendulous that she’d rest them on her shoulders to wash under them, my mother says. In her last years, my loving Nana thought that television announcers were talking directly to her, and feared that black men were waiting outside on the lawn to abduct her.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

4 of 210 : Mary Lynn

Mary Lynn was sweet, spiritual, and slightly cross-eyed. She visited me the summer after college, and everyone expected us to announce our engagement. But she fell in love, or lust, with my best friend, which was just fine by me. The thought of our marriage bed gave me the willies.

Friday, March 31, 2006

3 of 210 : Ella

My great-grandmother’s singular hope was that I’d be on The Lawrence Welk Show someday. She didn’t know if I’d be singing, dancing, or playing the piano, but she thought I’d be a huge hit. She died two months shy of her 101st birthday. Lawrence Welk died three years later, alas.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

2 of 210 : Cynthia

Third grade: I put on my best suit, she wore white, I gave her a ring, and we had a lovely little wedding ceremony. We grew apart after a couple of months; within a year we barely spoke to one another. She was no longer the girl I had married.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

1 of 210 : David

We lived in the Caribbean, and he looked like a young Mick Jagger. The friendship was never entirely satisfying, but the sex was intoxicating. We were fourteen. I saw him last in Chicago, where he had joined yet another religious cult. Heard he stole the cult's only truck, then disappeared.