Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween Sucks

I’ve never been big on sweets, unless of course its dark chocolate or cheesecake, and costumes always seemed to get me in trouble, so Halloween was never a really big holiday for me. However, with the changes in my life, I seem to be spending the day looking back wistfully.

When I was a tiny lad, still not that much taller, I think I enjoyed it. We were always quite poor, but on a couple of occasions a costume was purchased for me. I remember specifically a Magilla Gorilla costume that I wore several years. There are also pictures of me in a Deputy Dawg costume, but I only recall that through pictures.

In those days, shortly after the invention of the wheel and when telephones were just for listening to the neighbors on a party line, Halloween costumes consisted of a thin hard plastic mask, usually a cartoon character and this flimsy thing resembling a hospital gown, only black. Looking back, the “gown” usually had frosty white or silver writing on the chest proclaiming the name of the cartoon, as if anyone was dumb enough not to know who the character was.

The masks were flimsy with little holes cut in the nose to help you breathe. Needless to say, by the end of trick or treat time, you had a runny nose, the little rubber thread of the mask had slipped out of the staple and if it was cold the mask had cracked. Good times, mmm boy!

As I got a little older, I got creative with the costumes, making horrifyingly terrible costumes out of whatever I could make from my allowance of fifty cents a week. (That was good back then!) I don’t remember a lot of these costumes; I probably blocked most of them out as being nightmares that are better damaging my psyche subconsciously.

I do remember in the third grade I dressed up like Phyllis Diller. Yes, I was strange even then. My two first crushes were Lesley Gore and Phyllis Diller. I recall making that decision because part of her shtick was being ugly.

As a kid I always felt ugly, was called ugly and thought it was something I couldn’t ruin. So I used my allowance to buy a white fright wig, slipped on my mother’s gaudy housecoat and somehow found a long cigarette holder, her signature prop of the time, and went door to door gathering enough candy in my paper bag to make me puke until Christmas.

I mostly recall it was a time for all of us cousins to get together unreigned. The night to me was always more about laughter than fright. In the dark ages, shortly after the discovery of America, around the dawning of the age of Aquarius and before Madonna unleashed the downfall of music, everyone went door to door at every neighborhood they could possibly canvas. We collected hard candy galore, but just as often home made treats; cupcakes, candy apples and for those who wanted their houses toilet papered, fruit.

Then some bozo started putting razor blades in apples, and LSD in cupcakes. I always felt this started in Baltimore, but then as far as I knew the world dropped off around there. Regardless it kind of ruined the fun. For a few years we weren’t allowed to start eating our treats until an adult looked through it. Personally, I thought that was just an excuse for someone to pilfer the good stuff, but at nine what can you do?

Somewhere around that time I lost interest. When we moved to Tennessee, we lived, and still do, way up on the mountain and never had trick or treaters. I did indulge in costumes a couple of times, always leading to trouble.

Once I dressed up like a tube of Crest for a party in Abingdon. On the curvy mountain creek road between Mountain City and Damascus I had a flat tire. At that time I drove a 1968 Ford Maverick we had dubbed “The Titanic”. Needless to say, the spare was also flat, dry rotted more likely, and I ended up walking three miles in the dark knocking on doors until someone let the life sized toothpaste use a phone.

There was also a Homecoming incident that will forever live in infamy. Let me state emphatically here that I hated high school with a passion. I won’t go into detail, but I was an outcast and really didn’t care. However, I decided senior year that I would go ahead and just get involved in everything so if nothing else high school wouldn't be a total wasted memory.

So Homecoming week each class was given a theme and they had to come to school dressed in that theme. Ours was Longhorns of the future, Longhorns being the team name, whatever. So I went all out.

The night before I platted my hair with Dippity Doo, think slimy hair shellac that smelled like medically enhanced mint. I got up in the morning and let the multiple pig tails out, my long black hair now sticking up in five and six inch pieces all over my head. I put on a pair of yellow swim trucks and a pair of black faux leather knee boots my mother had. I wrapped my chest in Saran Wrap and painted everything that showed green. The crowning touch was a pair of fourteen-inch antennas Shane Moody had made for me.

I hoped in the car and drove to school…and promptly ran out of gas on the way. Fortunately for me, there was a gas can in the trunk, so I just grabbed it and walked to the nearest gas station and was back on my way. No big deal…HA!

First of all, I didn’t realize this was a costume contest. Didn’t know that until the school assembly, where I was announced as the overall winner for the week. I had to get up in front of the entire school dressed as a green saran wrapped red neck, not once BUT THREE EFFING TIMES!!!

Somehow I managed to get past the much too public trauma, until the following Thursday. Thursday is when “The Tomahawk” comes out, the county newspaper. That’s when I discovered as I filled up my car with gas, some one had snapped a picture and sent it in. So there I was, dressed for Longhorns of the future pumping gas with the headline, mind you, “Aliens Invade Johnson County Homecoming”.

Not been much for dress up since…wonder why. Of course, these days unless you get invited to or throw a Halloween party the only excuse for a costume is when you are “allowed” to for work. I never bothered. Usually people would ask what my costume was and I always told them I was dressed as someone who wanted to be there.

So this year, Halloween for me is “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”. A few of my cousins will bring their kids by. Mom and I have made up a few little bags of treats. I actually got Mom started doing that.

When I lived in Rising Sun, I lived in a ground floor apartment that was literally in the middle of downtown. The first year I lived there, I was overwhelmed. I hadn’t had ghouls and Madonna ring my doorbell demanding wrapped candy ever. It made me think of being a kid when I enjoyed the holiday.

I decided after that first year to do what I could to make what rugrats and drunken teenagers who rang my bell relive a little fun. All year long I'd find little inexpensive toys and stock up. I bought those little Halloween bags and filled them with wrapped chocolates and what I considered really good candy.

No bags of mixed Dollar Store candy for my trick or treaters…no no no. I filled my treat bags with full size candy bars and made special trips to Campbell’s store in Oxford where I could still get things like candy necklaces, Pixie sticks and button candy. Each bag got one surprise, a Pez dispenser, a matchbox car or something bizarrely wonderful like toy reindeer that poop Milk Duds.

My house got to be popular, not only for the candy but because when I opened the door I had “Rudolph” running endlessly on the TV, and I put the speakers to my stereo on the porch and started playing Christmas carols. And the kids I knew got special super sized treat boxes, filled with candy, little toys I’d chosen just for them and a book, usually a paperback of a favorite when I was growing up.

I lived in that apartment for ten years. When I gave it up and moved in with my Aunt Irene, it was back to Halloween being nothing.

The first year I lived with her, the Saturday after Halloween I took her to the grocery store. A little boy I’d guess at being around eight kept pointing at me. Finally he ran up to me and says, “Hey, mister, you moved didn’t cha?”

I told him yes. His retort was, “Yeah, I figured. Halloween sucked.”

Come to think of it, maybe being an adult at Halloween isn’t so bad after all.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

When A Stranger Smiles

I have to admit that I’ve always been wary of major miracles. Biblically whenever the Red Sea was parted or an arc was built, someone had screwed up royally somewhere. Maybe it’s my own personality flaw, seeing exactly where my life is now, and I should be demanding some major turning water into wine.

I am also keenly aware the pennies add up to dollars. To me, little non-essentials tossed on the ground pile up quickly into guarantees that life is so much more than a random series of events. I don’t know that I always see the glass as half full, but I have made it a point to wear down the square pegs until I can shove them, like it or not, into round holes.

Maybe it’s just that I haven’t noticed when I bend over in the road to pick up the shiny object that the truck would have plowed me down had I not. Maybe instead of finding the comment hysterical I should have been offended. Maybe I’m just more insane than even I imagined. Then again, maybe that’s not so bad.

These days, while admittedly struggling, I find such comfort in the tiniest of miracles. The fact that it is now the last week in October and my Dianthus are still in bloom makes me smile. Knowing most of the leaves have turned and fallen, and most mornings are so thick with frost it looks like snowfall, there are still bright red, purple and orange petals daring me not to sigh every time I step outside. I know it is egotistical, but those hardy little blooms are hanging on as long as they can, just for me.

It’s been too long a time that I haven’t had to have some sort of boost to get me through the day. They always seem to pop up just at the right time, like the lone slug of cool water in the middle of endless desert wandering, saving me from knee buckling surrender and strengthening me into questing further for the proper door. I never knew where they will come from, or what form they will take, but they are always without a doubt right there, in my face, daring me not to acknowledge them.

Not that long ago, driving to work from Rising Sun to Lancaster the day after we had buried my Aunt Irene I realized that it was Friday. Friday was the day she would always give me a ten dollar bill and have me bring home magazines for her to read. She was a hoot; you’d think she was the Ladies Home Journal and Southern Living type. No, Aunt Irene liked the Hollywood rags, not the real trashy stuff, but People, Us and OK.

Sometime between pulling out of the drive way of her home, I would now live in alone until it was ready for sale to strangers, and the 45 minute drive to downtown Lancaster it hit me that it was Friday, and she’d not be needing her weekly dosage of newsprint. I would not be heading home that night and listen to her tell me all that was going on in the world based on what she had just read. She was gone.

The drive to work was uncontrolled pain. I kept my foot on the gas, knowing I had no choice but to continue although my heart racked with pain to my very soul. I kept thinking just let it out. I’ve got a long drive and I’ll be fine by the time I pull in the parking lot. But the tears and the sobs kept coming, causing me more than once to pull to the side of the road just to be able to breathe.

By the time I made it to Lancaster Proper, I was still sobbing, throat and tear ducts raw and chest heaving for breath. I was in no shape for work, but determined to continue. I didn’t know how, as this Tsunamic wave of grief was unexpected and unexplainable.

Lancaster, a small wonderful town in Pennsylvania, is reminiscent of NYC in some ways. (Anyone from Lancaster reading this is probably laughing hysterically) I say this, as the town is made up of a series of very tight, almost familial boroughs. Each of the little divisions having it’s own unique landscape and personality.

My trip to work included crossing into and through what I dubbed “Penns-hispania”. It is my favorite part of the town, an old fashioned series of buildings reminding me of movies set in the city in the ‘50s. Kids played stickball in the street. Neighbors chatted with each other from stoops and the little shopkeepers swept the sidewalks and seemed to know all their customers by name. Of course, this was a Latino neighborhood, without subtitles, so it pressed me to pick up a few words here and there.

There was one traffic light in this neighbor that always caught me. This particular morning was no different. It turned red, and stepped on the brake and waited. As I sat, I continued to sob, crying deafening my ears. I suddenly realized that the crying I was hearing wasn’t my own, but that of a baby in a carriage on the sidewalk right outside my car.

I turned to look, spying a young woman, mid twenties, doing her best to calm the shrieks of a beautiful baby boy. She picked him up, patted his back and rocked him in her arms. The woman was frustrated, but carrying on. For some reason our eyes locked…and she smiled.

In that instant, the miracle of calm seized my body. In that moment the connection that had been broken reconnected enough to give me what I needed to go on. It didn’t make sense, but in those moments it isn’t sensibility that heals, but the warmth of human emotional touch.

I continued to travel that road, alone and broken, for almost a year. Three or four times a week, even when not caught by that traffic light, I would see the young woman and her son. More often than not, there was a brief exchange, the nod of a head, the tilt of a glance or a smile shared between strangers that seemed to give just that extra little tuft to the day.

As these letters form words on this page I struggle to shape into sentences why that story is as important for me to form as it is, I feel, for you to understand. I guess the best way to put it at this point is that you are my smile from a stranger and these words are my smile in return.

I have no idea who you are. We have little, if anything, in common other than we both read English and have access to Internet. But I am here and you are there and for one moment in time I trust that we connect. I hope that we connect.

There aren’t droves of you; just a few and one is all that truly counts. The fact that at one time or another my rabid prose have been looked at on every continent of this world amazes me. The only proof of each others existence are letters I’ve arranged in sequence on a screen, and you being the next higher number in sequence in a column. Some of you I do know or at least know of, but very, very few of you I have actually met in person.

Odd, don’t you think, how personal some of our relationships get with people we only know via cyber-space? There are people who have become such important fibers in the fabric of my world. Twenty years ago, I would have had no chance to brush anywhere near these people, and they do fade in and out. In today’s world, in my world of today, you whom I only know exist via a tick on a screen makes up a reason for me to breathe.

Dear Fabiana has moved back to Brazil, and I haven’t heard from her in two years, but I can still feel her thoughts and prayers for me, as I hope she feels mine. I still get emails from Belle and Carey. Jeff G, Otter and I still comment on each other’s blogs. It should boggle the mind how close and small this cyber world is, but instead it feels comforting, natural and encouraging.

And then, it can be frustrating. I found out a few weeks ago my cyber-buddy Eric Arvin was seriously ill. Having never met the man, not even sure exactly where he is, but it was frustrating not to be able to do anything to personally encourage him or comfort his family.

I felt silly putting notes on his “page” but I was powerless to do anything else.
It’s not like he could say, “Hey Doc, could you move the ventilator tube so I can check my emails?” Fortunately, he has recovered and is back in contact.

Eric is a gifted novelist. (What two, three new books coming out in the next year?) Although we have little in common, his wit and warmth are very much a part of my world. I kind of got to know him as his first book was published, so in many ways I’ve watched the child artist grow into a mature craftsman via cyberspace.

Like you, now reading this. I know nothing about you. You know nothing about me but whatever your mind may glean from these words. It’s not important. What is, is that we have shared an exchange. Although that may not bring forth the parting of the Red Sea in our lives, it has in someway placed another penny in that pile adding up to the next dollar.

I wish I knew your name. I wish I knew where you where. I wish I could add your face to the register of smiles in my head. I wish I could some how say thank you. I wish I could give just a small portion back of the monument that you have given to me.

Then again, maybe none of that is important because as strangers we have shared a smile.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Dork 'n' Roll

Several weeks ago some cherished friends now Facebook faces, Stacy Quaid and Mike Kloppenburg to be exact, did one of those tag things on me. Time has escaped and I never responded until now. I apologize up front at the time lapse. When you spend the majority of your days in swirls of terminal boredom and primal fear, in Piscean double time, a straightforward time line is impossible.

This “tag” concerned the simplified over complication of listing 15 albums in your collection. Still unsure of exactly what the instructions were, most influential, most recently listened to, burned in effigy in the park, something along those lines. When completed it was supposed to be cut and pasted somewhere and the cooties were to be spread somehow on the Facebook playground at recess or during math class. Once again, I have forgotten the instructions.

For some reason, much of it embarrassment, remorse, and guilt, the thought never left my head. I can only say that obsessions led me elsewhere. As it seems all in my life always leads me back to things not picked up and put in their proper place, this particular pencil point down finally screamed sharpen me so I can be pencil point up, ready to use.

Confession is good for the soul. Put not off until tomorrow what can be done today. Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clear to the bone. Does a former drill sergeant make a bad psychiatrist? Here it goes, in my own psychotic manner:

First let me say, or is that finally, my musical choices are kind of my artistic privates. I don’t usually flash them to just anybody. When it comes to music, you are definitely Goldilocks and I am definitely all three bears, my choices ever the reflection of my refined Piscean Schizophrenic Obsessive Compulsive Chameleon with Southern Baptist tendencies personality.

The first song I ever remember being taught the words to was “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” by the Beatles in the back seat of a car driving somewhere with my neighbors Bonnie and Lonnie when I lived in Havre de Grace, MD. I remember, not quite fondly, the repercussions of singing said song on the pew in church the following Sunday. I was four maybe five, but learned swiftly that the Beatles and Southern Baptist worship services in the 60’s were a less than perfect blend.

The first song I ever chose to learn is still my all time favorite, Gale Garnet’s “We’ll Sing in the Sunshine”, desecrated in the 70’s by Helen “I Am Woman” Reddy. We had just moved to a trailer park in Port Deposit, I had to have been six or seven at the time.

Our neighbor trailer always had the radio on and I could here it playing while I was playing in the yard. This is where I was really first exposed to music. Sandy Posey, Herman’s Hermits, Lesley Gore and, for some odd reason, Jerry Vale always evoke very distinct memories of that yard and my dog, Tippy.

As I grew up, my tastes grew eclectic and odd, much like me. My “dorkification” was cemented by either a sick day or a snowstorm, when I was stuck inside watching television, specifically the old Merv Griffin show. This particular day he introduced a new singer by the name of Gloria Loring. Even now, I feel goose bumps recalling her sing “The Other Man’s Grass Is Always Greener”.

Ms. Loring, most of you would now know as the mother of one Robin Thicke. Some will recall her turn as Liz Chandler Blah Blah Blah on “Days of Our Lives”. Some will remember her as the woman who sang (and co-wrote) the theme to “Facts of Life”, or from from #1 single “Both to Each Other (Lovers and Friends)”.

I recall her as the voice that made me stop in my hyperactive tracks and for the first time in my life be moved emotionally. Needless to say my musical choices all now are about a moment in time frozen by a chord. Each choice in my collection, like the endless notebooks or bits of paper scraps, recall a specific moment vividly recaptured for the time it takes to listen to it.

Like, Ms. Quaid, anything by the Carpenters floors me. Granted the last few albums were at best merely uses of vinyl. Karen Carpenter was my John Lennon. I actually wore black for three days when she died. Skipping the two first biggest hits, everything from “Rainy Days and Mondays” to “Solitaire” skipping lots of okay stuff to the final “Make Believe It’s Your First Time” (the one on her solo album, not the one her brother ruined for the posthumous album) makes my heart sigh.

I have to throw in here near the top “Katy Lied” by Steely Dan. This album was given to me as a Christmas gift by my high school girlfriend, Dawn Miller. (Dawn wherever you are thanks for the Steely Dan addiction) This is probably one of my few albums that doesn't read “dork” from miles away.

Now I guess I must admit my obsessions for the BBC. The two CDs I seem to play most often these days are the soundtrack to “Torchwood” and a collection of John Barrowman show tunes. Barrowman is no Sinatra, but I love it when he takes the actual stage show arrangements and just records them, which he tends to do like no other. As for the soundtrack, the Torchwood theme is my ring tone.

I am also stalking loving Kristin Chenoweth, her album “As I Am” a particular favorite. I love the fact that she’s a Christian, and this being her gospel tinged album, feeds a specific place in my heart and CD rack. “Borrowed Angels” makes me cry. “Upon This Rock” gives me faith. “The Song Remembers When” gives me hope and “Taylor, the Latte Boy” gives me giggles. Couple that with “Bernadette Peters Live at Carnegie Hall: Sondheim, etc.” And my stage diva quotient is happily filled.

(BTW Miss Chenoweth, I am the man of your dreams, you just haven’t met me yet and I fear the coming restraining order.)

Next, I must take my dork taste internationally. Anything from Tina Arena or Robbie Williams can be found, in alphabetical order then by release date thank you, in my CDs. I am particularly fond of Williams “The Ego Has Landed”. I know I’m one of the three Americans that buy his music, but good or bad (i.e. Carpenters) his music stirs me.

The character of London Chamberlain in my novel is patterned somewhat after him. I know, in the first part of the trilogy it’s a nasty character but later on he becomes a vibrant positive stroke on the canvas. Mr. Williams, you are my “Rock DJ”.

Bringing it back, I obviously have a large swath of Contemporary Gospel. Michael English’s “Gospel”, Jonathan Pierce’s “Sanctuary” and Jody MacBreyer’s (nee Avalon) self-titled CD are usually at hand. These collections as a whole just continue to supply strength and purpose. These are the one’s I sing along with. I love to sing, not very well unless you turn off your hearing aid, but the cuts move me and I can belt along badly with all my heart.

Then there’s Glen Campbell. I have much of his songbook. I think when more time passes, he will become the music historian’s Elvis Presley. (Throw stones here) From country to pop to gospel the man can just sing it all, and nail it every time. Ironically my favorite of his is “That Christmas Feeling”. Like watching “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” and “Rudolph”, the year is not complete until I’ve experienced it a dozen times.

Kudos as well to “The Best of Bubble Gum Volume One”. I’m a sucker for this bouncy, cavity inducing stuff. The Brooklyn Bridge, The 1910 Fruitgum Company and Lou Christie lead this pack of factory-produced confections. Volume One is my favorite because it contains the unforgettable bouncy “Simple Simon Says” (put your hands on your hips, let your back bone slip, Simon Says…)

Whatever happened to music like that? Fun bouncy stuff no deeper than candy bar wrapper but hardy enough to keep you smiling for hours. Yeah, yeah today’s music is superficial, too, but “Slap dah ‘ho” and explicative deletive repeated ten times to thump thump thump doesn’t make me smile for hours. I find it the equivilent of Rush Limbaugh and Christine O’Donnell having a child together. The thought makes me stop and then hurl until I can strangle myself with my large intestine.

Speaking of awful, I do love my REALLY bad albums. Burt Reynolds “Ask Me What I Am” is particularly so awful it’s fun. He does two patter songs “Slow John Fairburn” and “Room For a Boy Never Used” that are actually wonderful. The rest is a freight train speeding over a 4/4 time cliff. I always have much more confidence about my musical abilities after a listen.

Mac Davis, The Chi-lights, Jason Mraz, Billie Holladay, Gordon Lightfoot and Breathe (Whatever happened to them) all have earned spots on my rack. Along with such Who? Non-legends as The Kurth and Taylor Band, Dee Jones, Dr. Alban and Brian and the Nightmares have warranted shelling out some cash to fill my stash.

I haven’t bought any music since I left Maryland. In fact I think the last CD I purchased was either Robbie Williams “Rudebox” or Michael Buble’s whatever it was called. It’s Michael Buble for crying out loud! The dude may be an obnoxious jerk, but he can sing!

Even though most of you have died laughing at the revelation of my musical taste or shook your head in pity, one or more of these acquired tastes are a part of my world each and every day. Music and song are my bread and water. Okay, so I like peanut butter and butter instead of jelly. They’re my tastebuds.

I will end this wordy musical blog by thanking Ms. Quaid and Mr. Kloppenburg. Once again, maybe it’s only my taste, but I enjoyed chewing and swallowing these CD’s that have earned a place in my life.

As a thank you, I have decided to name my first son Quaid Kloppenburg. I will, of course, refer to him by his initials, making him QK Beebe. He will join myself and my fictional daughter Bobbie Pheobe Beebe and the three of us will listen to cringe worthy albums together forever.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Feed Santa

Earlier in the week I found a note, clearly displayed, in the kitchen. This is not uncommon, as my mother consistently leaves Post Its around as reminders to herself. Maybe they are for Dad and I, as when we see them, we usually get it done.

This particular note struck my eye, as it clearly stated “Feed Santa”. It was late for us, 9 PM, so my first instinct was to get out a plate of milk and cookies. Although according to that wonderful commercial they’ve run the last couple of years, you get a better haul if you give him cheese.

On second thought, knowing my mother’s handwriting is notoriously hard to interpret; I thought I’d better ask. There was a huge debacle with the word “Pepto” several years ago that still has retailers in Harford County, MD shaking in their boots.

So I saunter into the den, where Mom is enjoying her monotonous marathons of “America’s Funniest Home Videos” and casually say. “Mom, what’s this note that says feed Santa?”

She gave me one of those ‘can’t you read’ looks she always gives and corrected me. I’m so glad I asked. Imagine my embarrassment of trying to open non-existent Christmas gifts under the non-existent tree in October, ruining perfectly good cookies and milk when all that needed to be done was “Feed Starter”.

I’ve said before, my mother makes bread and sells it as a hobby. It’s quite delicious and she makes any where from twenty to thirty loaves on average per week for friends, etc. It’s made from an old fashion ‘starter’ and twenty-four hours before you make the dough, you must feed the starter, which is, of course, the leavening.

Now I leave all this to Mom. She’s the bread maker; I’m the cheesecake maker. She don’t mess with my spring form pans. I don’t mess with the jars of mystery liquid in the fridge. All I know is you feed it with instant potato granules. Where the origin of this starter comes from I don’t know.

Mom doesn’t know either. You can make it, but she says she doesn’t know how and never has. My guess it is made from the remains of an original sour dough bread loaf back when the Indians occupied the territory we now live in. It’s definitely something “yeasty” and would probably set off an atomic chain reaction if dropped. Scary stuff, but the bread is worth the risk of toxic disaster.

This “starter” is one of those Southern things that seems to carry on no matter how hard you try to kill it or forget it. Like counting the fogs in August will tell you how many new snows there will be the coming winter. If your ears are burning someone is talking about you. Wrap tea in a cheesecloth and put it in a teething baby’s mouth to soothe them, general bizarre but dead on stuff.

Of course, the whole incident has me thinking. How many times in my life have a looked at something, as much as two or three times, determined the instruction and carried on, not realizing I had misread? Would my life be drastically different? Would the world?

Could I have altered the entire course of my life, simply by stopping and saying out loud, “What’s this note about feeding Santa?” Could disaster have been avoided if someone on the Titanic said out loud “What’s that white thing out there?” Could history have been changed if someone in Florida had asked “What’s a chit?”

Perhaps I’m over simplifying, but as I age I discover more and more that it is more often the tiny things adhering together that make up the big things. Often a smile from a stranger on the street has buoyed me into getting through the rest of the day. Knowing I reached the little goal I set for myself that day piles up to making a whole week go by.

I wonder what would have happened had I paid more attention to the details. I wonder how many wonderful friendships I could have had if I hadn’t dismissed someone because I didn’t bother to “Feed Santa”. I wonder what kind of career I would now be enjoying the benefits of if either myself or someone else had bothered to get just five seconds more of information?

I have lived my life with few regrets. It is not what I wanted or expected it to be, but I’ve been lucky. I’ve lived every dream I’ve ever had. Maybe not on the grand scale it was in my head but I have been to Africa. I have performed on a stage in front of thousands of people. I’ve had plays produced, my words read by strangers and had the chance to meet people that were my heroes and thank them for being that for me.

But I wonder now what more could have been. Could it have been richer? Could there have been less tears and frustrations? Could there have been someone that I could have helped?

Maybe the right question is how much better can whats ahead be? Perhaps, that’s what we all should be keeping in mind, especially now when the world seems to be so full of hate, loneliness and lies.

Feed Santa.