Letters to Lost Friends Reboot?

This morning I updated the WordPress installation on my old Letters to Lost Friends site and ended up listening to the final episode that I’d recorded in July of 2008 – nearly three years ago! It got me thinking about my life back then, about my life now, about friends, and about making things that mean something to me and, hopefully, to others. I’m proud of that podcast, even though it was so short-lived and I have to say that I’m considering starting it up again. The only thing is that I never really got many submissions and the whole point of the show was to have other people’s letters to lost friends so that it wasn’t just about me week after week.

If you’ve got some time, I’d really appreciate you listening to an episode or two and letting me know if you might have any interest in this podcast coming back to life and, more importantly, if you might be interested in submitting a letter. If I can get at least 6 submissions of “letters to lost friends” and 3 “friend of the day,” I will definitely bring the show back.

Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular

365-98_Jack-O-Lanterns Galore

Taken at the Roger Williams Zoo Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular. It was cold, and rainy, but still damned spectacular and I was glad I went. Thanks Jen for taking me!

You can see my full set of pictures from the night here

This, however is one of my favorite pumpkins of the night:

Roger Williams Zoo Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular

If you are in RI, I would recommend checking it out. Few things that are billed as “spectacular” truly live up to their claim. This particular event, however, actually fulfills its hyperbole.

Twenty Years On

itsnotme.jpgReal  life is not as aesthetic an experience as the movies. I mean, I know that. You know that. We all know that. Certain events, however, create an expectation that something more than real, something movie-magic making, might, indeed, happen to us. Events like weddings, first dates, proms, funerals, or reunions are supposed to provide life-altering moments. Maybe it’s just me, but I have a tendency to project what I’ve seen in movies, on tv, or read in books onto these kinds of events.1

I was recently in a room of people, most of whom I have not seen in twenty years. It was fun. I was reminded of Chad’s winning smile, Juliet’s gentle but deep gaze, Bruce’s sincerity, and Jen’s generousity, and how much I simply adore Emily and how I have so much fun when I get to hang out with her. There were a lot of people who were not there that I would have liked to see: Josh, Ben, Daoud, Nick, Shula, Dena, Mandy, Beth, Alice, Jen, Victoria, and Maria to name a few. Even with many people missing, there wasn’t enough time to see everyone and I missed saying goodbye several people and certainly didn’t have a much of a conversation as I might have liked with Juliet or Chris. Again, it was fun. Yet in the end I felt underwhelmed, like something was supposed to happen, some personal revelation that brought the last twenty years into focus or the opportunity to reconnect with an old crush and learn that she had harbored a secret crush on me too . . . ah the irony and we would laugh and drink and reminisce and make fun of our teenage selves even as we found an intimacy that would have been far too frightening as kids . . . oh, sorry, there I go again. Thinking of my life like a movie. Stuff like that happens, sure, but so rarely that even when I see it in the movies, I often find it to be false and forced; a cheap sentimental ploy to play with my emotions.

In real life, the reunion ended and nothing intrinsically aesthetic had occurred. Instead, I saw some people and had some drinks and shared some laughter and good memories. So why wasn’t that enough? I am now in touch with, or have the ability to be in touch with, a number of people who represent a rather good time in my life and people who, I’m willing to bet, have much to teach me about the world and myself. Through Facebook and email, I can now keep in touch with some good people, people who I would, without a doubt, love to meet for coffee or dinner or drinks and get to know who they’ve become and share my own stories with them. So why not view the reunion as a resounding success?

First of all, I cannot turn off the fact that I look at most events and performances with a director’s eye and feel for aesthetics. On that level, the reunion was kind of “teh suck.” The music was played too loud for normal conversation. There was no use of online media to get us past the need for every person to discuss a) what their job is, b) where they are living, and c) how many kids they have—all of which could have been given to us ahead of time in order to catch up with the basics before we got to the reunion. The food was mediocre and the bar should have been open for at least an hour or two at the beginning of the night. I would have also liked to see some recognition of classmates we have lost, or some kind of attempt from the “class leaders” to bring us together as a class rather than as a group of various cliques. It would have been nice to have copies of our yearbooks that we could have looked through in order to laugh at ourselves. Because we didn’t have anything like that, I really appreciate Lincoln’s decision to actively go around taking pictures for everyone (regardless of which social group they belonged to) and Chad’s generosity to put the photos up on his website. I don’t know exactly how or what, but in general I just wish there’d been something more to bind the class together, to acknowledge that we shared something in those four years as we moved from childhood to adulthood.

Second, and this is me being slightly more honest than maybe I should, I really was hoping to live out that “we had separate crushes on each other and never knew” fantasy. With who, you ask? Well, I was a teenaged boy, so I pretty much had a crush on almost all of the girls I knew in high school at one time or another. So, at least from my perspective, it could have been any number of people. Not only is that fantasy, well, a fantasy, but it is also hard to make true when nearly every single woman there was married or in long-term relationships. Sigh

Finally, as with most events, I have a tendency to be simultaneously in the moment and observing the moment. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a director, or because I’m a writer, or both, but I rarely stop trying to analyze the story of what’s happening around me. This is not to say that I never settle into the present moment and enjoy the company of friends and loved ones without reservation. However, in social situations that are larger than a few friends, I often feel split in a deep and existential manner. That split reserves part of myself from my surroundings in order to observe and catalogue and analyze. Sometimes I resent this, and struggle against it, feeling like I am missing out on the unadulterated joy that others seem to so easily experience and that’s when I get that “more alone in a crowd” kind of feeling. Perhaps the trick I need to learn is to accept my natural inclination to analyze in order to enjoy both the moment and my analysis of the moment without worrying that I’m losing out or feeling the need to apologize.2

Gee, you mean accepting myself more completely might make my life more enjoyable? Who’d of thunk it?

So, yeah, twenty years on: We were all older, some of us carried more weight and less hair, and some of us didn’t (and I don’t hate any of you who look exactly the same (ahem, Juliet, and yes, you too Chris), really I don’t, not one little, itty-bitty smidgeon of a bit). I genuinely enjoyed seeing and talking to everyone that night and wished I could have talked to more people than I did. I both hope and believe that the reunion will be responsible for rekindling several friendships that have languished over the years. The reunion was good. I think the repercussions of going to my reunion will be even better.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go watch Grosse Point Blank.

  1. No, I haven’t had multiple weddings, but I have attended multiple weddings. Even as a supporting character in a wedding story, isn’t something supposed to happen me as well? []
  2. I have been resisting the urge to apologize throughout this entry because part of me keeps telling the other part of me that I’m needlessly analyzing the reunion and, even more annoyingly, doing so in a self-involved, narcissistic manner. []

Games Make Great Presents

Risk Macros

(Photo by indi.ca)

This is a commercial. Of sorts. A good friend of mine runs a game store in Kingston, RI called “Games Less Ordinary.” I’ve known Anne for almost 20 years now, and we’ve gone through a lot, and I am so incredibly proud of her for starting her own store and running her own business. Years ago when we were dating, she would talk about starting her own business and being her own boss. I love that she found a way to make those dreams and hopes come true.

It’s also not a great time to be a small business owner, what with that pesky economy and all. If you are considering buying a game for someone for the holidays, or just for your own enjoyment, I hope you’ll consider checking out Games Less Ordinary’s Amazon Storefront and ordering from there, or calling them to special order something if they don’t have it in stock. If you happen to be in Kingston, RI you should stop by and check out the store. I don’t play a lot of board games myself, but I know that my friends who play board games on a regular basis have a great deal of fun. I’m going to make an attempt, in the new year, to play more games as a social activity.

Besides, it looks like playing board games can help keep you from going crazy:

In the New England Journal of Medicine study, researchers looked at leisure activities of seniors over a 20-year period to see whether they developed dementia. The study also examined the result of frequently challenging the brain by doing crossword puzzles, playing board games or cards, reading, writing for pleasure and playing musical instruments. They also looked at physical activities’ affect on the brain, such as tennis or golf, swimming, dancing and housework.

They found a reduced incidence of dementia among the people who participated in reading, playing board games, playing musical instruments and dancing. And the researchers found that people who engage in the activities were more frequently less likely to develop dementia.

[From Brain Workout Benefits, Study: Reading, Playing Board Games, Dancing May Prevent Dementia – CBS News; Emphasis added.]

Ok, so it’s not necessarily a 1-to-1 correlation between playing board games and avoiding dementia, but come on, it’s gotta do more good than watching that episode of The New Adventures of Old Christine, House, or America’s Next Top Model.

My game was Risk.1 God I loved that game. I know there are more complex and nuanced war games out there, but there’s something about Risk that just works for me. I miss playing it. I miss the combination of skill and luck and sometimes diplomacy and trickery that went along with the game. I miss spending time with four or five good friends for three, four, sometimes five hours while playing. I remember playing with Clay, Kevin, Jen and a number of others all throughout high school. I especially remember those winter days when we would get together at Clay’s house and play Risk and then have snowball fights and either play more Risk or watch movies. Fun times.

What games do you play or have fond memories of playing? Drop me a comment before heading over to Games Less Ordinary and I hope you’ll consider giving a game as a gift this year and that you will consider getting it from my friends awesome, terrific, wicked cool, and totally rad game store.

  1. Which, ironically, Games Less Ordinary does not have listed in their online store, but I know that if I called them up today, they would special order it and I’d have it by next week. []

A Small Rant

When in the world did I become “Pete” to any number of people? Yes there have always been a few people who called me that, mostly my brother, my father and Jon R., but lately it seems that everyone I know from high school and have been reconnecting with since I got on Facebook and moved back to RI have taken to referring to me as “Pete.”

I was never, and will never be a “Pete.” There is no way that I would have let that stand in when I was younger (i.e. a pretentious and annoying teenager), so I’m trying to wrack my brains for an explanation as to why people that I haven’t seen for 20 years have begun using this particular nomenclature for me.

So let’s be clear here: my name is Peter.

Not Pete.



The East Cost Tour Continues

photo_2.jpgLeaving my family in RI today was harder that I expected. I don’t remember previous times when I chocked up and got a bit weepy as I was leaving to go onto the next phase/place of my life. But as I was driving down Holly Road I was was holding back a tear or two. Maybe I’m more apt to recognize the good things that I have, that my family offers, regardless of where I am and what I’m going through? Or maybe I’m just getting sentimental in my old age? I think part of it is that this move is far more frightening to me than any of my others. Primarily because I have nobody to disappoint but myself. This is a far more solitary journey than any of my grad schools, and I have no responsibility to anyone or any institution but myself. I think I’m up to the challenges I’m setting, the goals I want to reach. But there is always a nagging doubt. A “what if I’m not good enough or smart enough to do this on my own” question that rattles around my head sometimes. However, I have no doubt that my parents will support and love me and that that are rooting for me to figure this out and find my way to a more centered, happy place. Not for even a second have I been saddled with even an iota of guilt about the fact that I’m moving far away – which is pretty damn cool if you ask me.

I’m currently staying with Diana and Andy (and their baby, Liam) for the night before heading down to Richmond tomorrow. The ride down was uneventful. Once here, Diana & I went to the Apple store so I could get a protective case for my iPhone and then ate some yummy Vietnamese food for dinner, then back to their house where we just chatted the evening away. Actually, despite the fact that we were talking about how none of us felt very “grown-up” it was a very “grown-up” evening.

They are good people and I’m glad to be their friend.

Playlist on the way down:

  1. “Lantern” (CLOGS)
  2. “Stick Music” (Clogs)
  3. “Kicking Television: Live in Chicago” (Wilco)
  4. You Look Nice Today “Aunt Nancy”
  5. “Alligator” (The National)
  6. “The Inkling” (Nels Cline)

44 Lines about 22 People

In the spirit of “88 Lines about 44 Women” I’d like to offer a small memorial to a number–22 to be exact–of people that I have lost along the years. Honestly, these lines are not brilliant, and some of them are not even good, but I have tried to communicate at least one essential element of each person, or my relationship to them. In a very clumsy and earnest way, I am trying to pay all of them a small tribute. The rhyme scheme is too Dr. Seuss and I should have gone for ABABCDCD instead of AABBCCDD – but you live and learn.

Enough dissembling! Here then, are 44 lines about 22 people:

Continue reading