rode on a scooter and wore a white baseball cap. She smiled. She’s 80-something.
“Are you the daughter or the wife?” Gloria said to Alexis, promulgating the notion that Gloria is always a showman.
“Jim, look it’s Gloria. And she’s my new favorite person in the world.”
These are the kinds of interactions you have on the first really nice day of 2017. It’s 65 degrees and sunny out. Alexis and I walked the three miles around Wicker Park and it was packed with people just like us, people who have been cooped up in forced air for seven months. We just need to get outside, to breathe air that’s at least a little warm and all the way dry. We crave the cawing of birds. We want to sing, walk, sigh, release another winter of gray and cold and damp and rain. There wasn’t much snow. But there has been a lot of gray.
If this were my blog about one of the many segments of my life – my Grateful Dead podcast called, “This is Dead Air,” I would make a Grateful Dead pun right here. I’d say “It was more than a Touch of Gray.” That may not make sense to the three or four of you who read my blog, but it would make sense to Lane Paradis, the Deadhead who does the podcast with me.
Lane and I sit once a week and talk about Wampum and the Grateful Dead. We laugh a little. Or, more accurately, I laugh at Lane sometimes. He’s the true blue deepest Grateful Dead fan I ever met, and I’ve met a lot. He’s been to hundreds of concerts in the last 40 years – and they’ve all been the Grateful Dead or Dead-related. Lane wears Grateful Dead tee-shirts all the time (although, truth be told – I’m wearing one right now also). Lane has Grateful Dead lyrics on his plumbing van. He’s already picked out the five or six rotating Dead songs for his wake when he dies. He has almost a complete set of Lyrix magazine, which was a Deadhead staple for a long time. And the wedding song for all of his daughters was a Dead song.
When we tape the shows, Lane brings his Grateful Dead indexed encyclopedia, which tells you every song the Dead played at each show. It tells you what order they played them in, the arena, how many sets they played, and a whole lot more. Most of the time we don’t even have to check the indexes because Lane knows the answer anyways.
“Where were the Dead playing around Christmas of 1977?”
“That easy. That was the Winterland shows. December 27th, 29th, 30th and 31st. Before that, they hadn’t played since Binghamton on like November 5th or 6th.”
We consult the bible. It was the sixth. The Dead played Broome County Arena in Binghamton, NY, on November 6th of 1977.
Anyways, where was I? I’m trying to make it to Another Thousand Words for the three or four of you, but I’m distracted. It’s been a long week of rain and cold… and a long winter of the same… and today the sun is out and my wife and I walked around Wicker, and my daughter’s home and she’s in a good mood. Plus, we shopped at Indiana-made Strack & Van Til’s, bought a new TV at HH Gregg (which, it was announced yesterday, is closing for good in few weeks), and we visited Alexis’s parents to discuss her dad’s gout and drop off a few items.
As we were heading into Strack’s, Alexis had called her mom.
“Mom, quieres unas cosas de Strack & Van Til?” That means – Mom, do you want anything from Strack & Van Til?”
And Alexis sat there nodding her head. “Okay. Te veo en una hora. Gracias. Bye.” It means – “I’ll see you in an hour.”
Alexis put her phone in her purse and looked at me with this wry smile. “Lemons, ketchup, and cookies. That’s what she wants.”
For some reason, I found this quite comical. As walked into Stracks, I was smiling, as I’m doing right now sitting on my bed in my underwear writing this blog to the three or four of you. Anymore, I kick off my jeans before crawling on the bed with the laptop to commune with the three or four of you. It all has to do with John Panek said.
“You write your best stuff in your underwear,” Panek said the other day while I was walking the treadmill at Planet Fitness.”
And ever since, when I sit down to write to you, it’s in my underwear. Today, it’s in my underwear with the bedroom window wide open to let in some of the fresh air and to let out a winter’s worth of bad breath and stinky feet. And farts. And Axe. Sometimes I wear Axe that my nephew Jack picked out for me.
“You smell, uncle Jim,” Jack said to me after I stopped by their house after a run around Wicker. “Take me to Target and I’ll pick you out some Axe.”
We went to Target, where I ran into a couple of women who listen everyday – “and have been since 1957.”
“Thank you so much for listening, ladies. That is really cool.”
Jack doesn’t care when people come up to me and I talk to them. My daughters always got a little miffed about it. The wife, she doesn’t really mind. What I’m trying to say is that Alexis and I went to the Munster Booster Club get-together last night at the Arts Center in Munster. I must have talked to a hundred people that either listen or that I went to high school with or I know from coaching softball or I interviewed at Pierogifest. It’s getting harder and harder to keep all the names in my head.
I’ve got a process for that, this forgetting names. Usually at functions Alexis and I walk around together. She knows because we’ve spent more than half of our lives together that I don’t remember names well. So she makes a point of saying the people’s names during the conversation, or she’s got this way of sticking her lips in my ear and whispering who it is. I like when she sticks her lips in my ear. I don’t hear very well. It makes it easier to walk around in life with someone whispering in your ear. I don’t know why that makes sense, but it does. It just does.
Another Thousand Words.