Some of you may remember knowing a few families who used to send out an annual story of the year at Christmastime, usually personally delivered by a real-life postman in ear-muffs. You’d know it was from “The Lawrence Family” because the penmanship on the envelope was in the same flowing script every year, one of a score hand-addressed by say, Mary, who went on to work for a healthcare company, printshop, or ad agency. “Susie finally wedded Max in a rainy ceremony in June and the cake turned into a soggy mess, but we all had fun anyway, except Martha, who broke her hip. Heather took second place in dance at the state competitions in Chattanooga. Daddy succumbed to cancer but his memory lives on in every ornamental cherry blossom in the springtime.”
Then there are the rest of you, who have never seen or received one of these, but still know hundreds, if not thousands of Lawrences, by post, tweet and “like,” their dance trophies, wedding and funeral bouquets fluttering and sparkling like droplets in the clouds of our digital days.
They are all good and always have been, these sharings great and small. I do not write to compare eras of giving; giving just is. And if the ubiquity of connectedness seems to have rendered the moments less meaningful to some, let them be forgiven for missing the calligrapher’s pen and the heft of a letter-opener in the hand.
Being one to have found joy both in a mailbox at driveway’s end and a pocket-screen during lunchtime at Germantown Cafe, I offer a few random reminisces from this year. Some I’ve written about already. I’m going to leave a bunch of stuff out, some intentionally and some not. Don’t try to parse importance by the completeness or order of the record. Miss Mary was a better writer; I am just sentimental.
I’ll start with #thesituation2010, as we tweeted it. Snow in Nashville is a big deal, and we had some snows last winter in which even Yankees could spinout and lose a fender. Yanks always say we don’t know how to drive, or fuck-all about salting roadways, and they’re right. Big whoop. We made soup, tweeted, and pretended we were living on crust of bread and such for a few fine days before a glorious spring arrived, on time, and like clockwork.
While we were arguing over the #situation2010 hashtag, Haitians were digging out – are still digging out – from the horrific earthquake of January 12. Malcolm Gladwell has an excellent piece about Why the Revolution Won’t Be Tweeted, and he may be right; however, the fact is that many folks of a certain younger age learned, as I did, of the disaster on Twitter or Facebook. Within days, we’d texed a zillion dollars in contributions, which has to mean something, even if Haiti remains one of the world’s most truly god-awful places on the planet. Help is help; I haven’t the moral acumen to judge, but I can pray, and send money, so I did.
Someone said during the year that Nashville’s seasons have been ice, flood and hell; May brought the rains, and the Cumberland and its tributaries hopped out of their banks as easily as 1,2,3. Like every flood, it seemed like a suckerpunch after the destruction was wrought. Prefab buildings shared freeways with sputtering cars, and the Schermerhorn’s pipe-organ was wiped out; but the fact was, it started like just a really rainy weekend before we all started noticing that uh-oh, did they just say the levee at Metrocenter could be compromised? My memories are still of the laughing 20-somethings jumping off the backs of trucks rolling down my street, leaving bottled water on doorsteps because we we were suddenly on water conservation measures, and running downtown Monday morning, seeing Ghost Ballet all awry in the waters. Anderson Cooper came, and everybody had the “big media is ignoring us because we have redneck accents” blues up until that point. Then we got all feel-good because he said on primetime CNN what we already knew, which is that we man-and-woman-up when we need to, thankyouverymuch. There was no truth to the rumor that lady 30-somethings were sending panties up to his room. I think.
And I would be remiss if I did not mention Christy Frink, who started tweeting during the flood what she could gather from her living room, which is also the HQ of the Nashvillest blog, a labor of love if there ever was one. (She and Morgan Levy do not even accept Google ads on the site; they just do it because, um, they want to.) It became apparent that even the mainstream media was getting its news from a lady in pj’s, banging it out on the internets. I’d see it in my stream, then some bedraggled reporter on Channel Four would say five minutes later, “We are getting reports…” Christy was the defacto media center for all things flood. I think she stayed awake for four days on nothing but Cheese Nips and coffee, and if you wanted to know if the levee was holding, or if your aunt’s place in Bellevue had made it, Christy had probably posted it from her orangy-yellow stained keyboard. I had the honor of meeting her for the first time later in the year. Listen, if I was 20 years younger, she wouldn’t have a chance. I’d follow her around like a puppy.
Nashville cleaned up, the waters receded, and the city rebuilt and rebuilds; Christy took a nap, and suddenly it got hot. Stupid hot. Circuit breakers and AC compressors arced and stalled; repairmen were revered when they came to our homes with “the parts that came in.” We all complained, sweat into our sheets, and the snows were a distant memory.
Somewhere in there, the Old Spice guy showed up. An overnight sensation that took six months (hardly anyone remembered Isaiah Mustafa’s Super Bowl debut), an old-guy brand (or more correctly, the ad agency of an old-guy brand) did something obvious: they put him in a studio and shot him doing funny video responses to fans, and then tweeted them. He was all the rage for a while, and made us laugh. It was hailed as the big online marketing success of 2010. I think it was, too. The writing was stellar, and I am told Mr. Mustafa is more fun to look at than me. I concede.
I started online dating in the late fall. I was sheepish about it at first. Everyone is. My divorce was final in February, and I thought, OK, I’m not having any luck at the Hot Bar at Whole Foods, so I signed up as a signal of openness to the Universe. The Universe responded, with some very interesting people. One girl looked like a model, and kissed like you fantasize models kiss; she also told me she’d killed a man. (She said it was an accident, but I wasn’t taking any chances.) Another had me walk Ganier Ridge at Radnor to see if I was really “athletic and toned” like I’d said in my profile. One guy she’d done this with had almost passed out. Ganier is hilly. She is an energy healer, which means she can cure what ails your chakras without even touching you. She never mentioned if she knew CPR.
There were a couple of others; lovely ladies, all, with whom I was beginning to wonder if “chemistry” was a myth, and the fireworks on Love, American Style (if you don’t know this 60’s reference, brush up) was really meant to be replaced by something more, ah, 50-something; something acquired, something not-dazzling-but-very-nice-enough. Then I heard these words, which have changed my life:
“Would you like to see my daughter naked?”
This was Judy. We were in the Frothy Monkey on our first meeting, having that awkward, get-to-know-one-another conversation where two folks are sizing each other up, getting used to one another’s voices and thinking, “I wonder what he/she looks like in better light?” Fair disclosure: one of her three daughters had posed for Alan LeQuire. If you don’t know him, he’s the artist responsible for the Athena in the Parthenon, and Musica in Buddy Killen Circle. Judy had said in her profile she possessed “a wicked sense of humor.” She’d also blown off my initial email contact because she thought I was a smartass, a liberal, and also because she was dating some other guy who was tall and had really big feet.
We ended up talking into the night, and walked up to Blind Pig – which has a hamburger about 10x better than that ostentatious Burger Up place up the street – and closed it down, talking about spirituality, statuary (sorry, sculpture) and our past lives, until the chair legs were up in the air and the Sunday night shift guy was thinking, “Sheesh, leave already.”
There’s a lot more I can say about Judy, and 2010. But I am winding down, and I have gifts to wrap. I will simply say this: I am blessed. I understand grace better than I ever have, which isn’t much, but a start. I am grateful for granddaughter Verdoodle being healthy, and laughing a lot on the rare occasions when I see her. I am grateful for new friends and the rekindling of old acquaintances that have become friends; I am grateful for the ornamental cherry-trees in Germantown, and for positive and helpful people that have been put into my life. I can run six miles, and do an unassisted pullup. I’m happy and sappy, the kind of sappy that makes cool people roll their eyes, wear aviator sunglasses and derisively use the word “pollyanna.” The sun is out, and I have heard it may snow again on Christmas, the first time for Nashville in some statistically unlikely number of years.
So. Love to you all, and joy and peace as the year ends and the elevenses begin.
See you at Frothy.