Okay, everyone, it’s time to get in the time machine and set the dial to 1979… Jimmy Carter is president, Roots is shown on TV, and Three Mile Island has a meltdown…

…and I am no longer a friendless teen. I made more friends this year than I did for previous seven years, and my best friend, whom I mentioned previously, was I. The second part of my recent journey took me to I., a few other old friends, and her family.

When I. picked me up at the train station, she didn’t look the same at first. Her hair was dyed and she had a style of sunglasses on that I wouldn’t have pictured her wearing. We got in her soccer mom van and I felt a little ill at ease. When she took off her sunglasses and saw her eyes, with their same expression of mischievousness and fun, I started to relax. In fact, it didn’t take much time until it felt like we hadn’t been apart very long at all — or, as I. put it afterward, we didn’t miss a beat.

Over the next couple of days, I was inserted into I.’s life: her family, pets, farm animals, work, and hobbies. It was a very happy, fulfilled life. Most of the time, we drove from errand to errand. Although all this was new, there were parts of the experience that were very old. Even as teens, I. liked to spend her time driving around the countryside, and she spent a good amount of 85-cent gas escorting me through the scenery. And back then as now, I. was happiest being the hostess, having me come to her world. The first thing she invited me to do with her when we were young was to come to her house (I declined, as I didn’t know her much at all at that point.) So even though decades had passed, the whole experience had a familiarity to it.

At time I. hinted that she was very conservative, which wasn’t exactly a surprise to me. In high school, are ideas were not fully formed, and we were more alike. Neither one of us dated or did drugs. She was rebelling against her strict parents which, because we were basically “good girls”, consisted of nothing more than our staying out as late as we pleased despite her having a curfew. But this rebellion had nothing to do with beliefs. We grew apart when she went to a Catholic college while I went a liberal, artsy-fartsy school. Her rigidity was being solidified while I was having my mind opened, although at times with a crowbar. And later when I moved to California, she was both mystified at my choice and stubborn at accepting my departure. Every consequential conversation including her asking, “When are you coming home?”

It’s hard, if not impossible, to explain to someone who is comfortable in the place they grew up and call home how not homey it can feel. And trying to explain how a place that you didn’t grow up in feels like your “real home” is really unconceivable for someone like I. She loves her “homeland”, and has never considered living elsewhere.

The countryside of Connecticut is a place basically unchanged for generations. The same old farmhouses grace the rolling hills, and fall colors appear as if from a picture book exactly on schedule. I never thought the place very beautiful when I lived there, but coming back after decades I could see that it was pretty. But I still did not feel that I was “home.” Home was a place of mild weather, open mindedness, and racial diversity.

To me, one of the beauties of middle age is that I can sit and talk to I. and enjoy her company without any concern for our differences. It’s true that if we saw each other more, the differences could become a problem, but it’s a moot point: we’ll never live close again. That realization makes the hours we spent idling away as kids all the more special.

We spent one evening with a few other friends from high school. I discovered during this dinner that the people from my youth mean more to me now than they have in a very long time. I look at their gray hair and wrinkles and can still see the boy or girl they used to be. They’ve changed so much but I still love them. I don’t know why that is.

For the last several days, I had the very good fortune of taking a journey through the murky swamp of my emotions and the nebulous world of my memories. I was also fortunate enough to traverse this variable terrain aided by able and charming guides. The title of this post is not a reference to the Beatles but just a working title for my recounting my trip which, although it was somewhat psychedelic, did not involve acid.

The first stop on the tour: My first cousin’s son’s wedding in Queens.

I had a great deal of anxiety before this trip. Oh, I had my normal plane anxiety (as in “Agh! Somehow I’ll miss the plane and everything will be ruined! A scenario which has never happened in reality, yet the fear persists). My anxiety about seeing my family was more elevated than usual. This was because I had the feeling that several people were mad at me. I also felt strongly that I was about to be judged but I just didn’t know how. My low-cut dress? My lifestyle? How and where would the axe fall?

In addition, my sister seemed to have lost all interest in talking with me for the last year. I tried to get together with her for last Thanksgiving, and she kept being non-commital right up until Thanksgiving Day. Even then, when I would ask her where she wanted to meet or what she wanted to do, she would only say, “um… I don’t know…”. I finally asked, “Do you want to just skip it?” To which she much-too-quickly answered, “Okay!”

So when it came time for our annual birthday get together (our birthdays are a week apart), I didn’t call. I waited for her call which never came. She only called twice the rest of the year: once to wish me a happy Rosh Hashanah, and the other to find out what flight we had for the wedding so she could join us. I didn’t even speak to her for the latter, she spoke to K. She never asked to speak to me. I left a voice mail to talk about it, but she didn’t return my call. So now I was confused: why doesn’t she want to talk to me, but she wants to be on the plane with us? I figured it was utilitarian in nature: she wanted help with getting to the hotel. I was also left wondering, is she mad at me? Why? What is going on in her head?

Other relatives had been strangely quiet and/or unresponsive in recent years, so they got lumped into the “Are they mad?” grab-bag as well.

On the plane, she responded to my efforts to engage her in conversation but she herself did not seem engaged. When we arrived, K and I assisted her with her suitcase of bricks and taxi to the hotel. We saw her to her room where she seemed very happy to close the door and be alone.

Now, I have to back up a minute to speak of another relative: Cousin D. He is my first cousin, and I am about one year older than he. Growing up, we were both the babies of our families and both the smart kids, so we had a special connection despite his being an overly affectionate child. I myself am affectionate but I have a particular memory of his chasing me and trying to kiss me when we were 5 and 6, and my trying to enlist the help of adults to get him to stop. I liked him very much when he was NOT trying to kiss me, and was perplexed about this behavior. I did learn to appreciate it with time.

When he got married a few years back, I was flat broke and couldn’t make it to his wedding. Although I told everyone the reason I couldn’t go, no one offered to help. Either they didn’t believe me or they felt it was easier to judge me than to help. I wrote a long letter to Cousin D explaining the situation and did not hear back. Ever. And his responsiveness to me calling or emailing shriveled up after that. In my mind, I thought I was going to have to have a conversation with Cousin D about our relationship.

However, as we arrived in the lobby at 11:30 pm, the one relative their to greet us was Cousin D. In addition, he greeted me by sneaking up on me and kissing me. It was clear he wasn’t mad at all and was thrilled to see me. I got to unload some baggage right there, and I had just arrived. Things were looking good.

I spent the next 36 hours or so cavorting with various family members, and everyone was very polite. Still there was a deep-seated insecurity creeping beside me, something like, “Oh, they’re being nice, but are still harboring something against me.”

That is, until we all hit the dance floor.

One thing about my family — the best thing, really — is that we all love to dance. It seemed we were sitting through the speeches and ceremony and the food just so we could dance. It was quickly apparent that along with all the other lavishness we were experiencing at this wedding, we were treated to the best wedding band ever. We all started dancing and did not stop for hours. Everyone danced with everyone, in couple and groups. There was also the obligatory Giant Chaotic Hora that is the benchmark of a good time at any Jewish wedding. (It’s not a GCH until there are at least four intertwined spiraling circles with no clear end or beginning.)

After several hours of this, I began to experience THE MAGIC. We danced our way into forgiveness, harmony, and love. Laugh if you will, but I felt it. As our feet blistered, old grudges were dropped and animosity forgotten. My sister and I danced together, laughing and joyous, for the first time in years.

Finally, when the last song was over, we all hugged and kissed and went our separate ways. I don’t even know if I’ll see some of those people again. The years are passing and there have been some close calls with death. I don’t know about everyone else, but I’ll never forget the exhilaration and freedom I felt that day.

Afterward, some relatives indicated that although there weren’t angry with me, they *were* frustrated that I was an unresponsive email correspondent. When I quickly owned up by saying, “Yeah, I suck”, the discussion ended with laughter. Well, the truth was spoken, so what else is there to say? I’m not going to falsely promise to write.

The most bizarre part was a conversation between me and my brother and sister. My sister said that neither my brother or I ever called or wrote her. I think my mouth hung open. So *this* is how she perceives it? That *I* don’t call *her*? My brother and I joked that he and I had a secret agreement with the code word “No (insert big sister’s name here).” We pretended to have conversations like, “How’s it going? (No sister) What have you been doing lately (No sister).

And that, dear readers, was that. Next I caught a train to Part II: High School.

Right now, as I type this, the Blue Angels are strafing the building I work in. This makes me nervous and angry. When I look out of the nearest 19th floor window and see them weaving around the skyscrapers, it looks straight out of a war scene. I can’t help but feel like someone’s going to drop a bomb at any minute, and I’ve never even been a war victim. Who the hell thinks this is fun?

On top of that, being a Blue Angel has a 10% mortality rate. I can’t see how it could be worth risking your life to put on some show of war propaganda. But then again, I could be missing the “fun” because I just fucking hate war.

cute-prairie-dog.jpgDefenders of Wildlife sent an email today about their lawsuit against the EPA for approving two chemical to KILL prairie dogs, brand names Rozol and Kaput-D, chemical names chlorophacinone and diphacinone. As it says in their press release,

Rozol and Kaput-D contain blood-thinning drugs that cause poisoned prairie dogs to slowly bleed to death through “various orifices, including eventually the skin membranes”

pedestal.jpgIn case you think they’re exaggerating, just try to read this Efficacy Review for chlorophacinone on EPA’s website without barfing. I had to stop reading it because it was so horrible. I can’t imagine anyone reading this document, never mind conducting these experiments, and thinking, “Great! Slow, horrible death! We’re good to go.”

On top of this, prairie dogs actually need more protection not widespread destruction as called for by cattle ranchers.

Well, I guess it was time for EPA to get knocked off the nice pedestal I had put it on.

Adding to the nerd quotient of this site, you may now find some handy RSS feeds from NASA for your astro nerge needs. Yes, my love/hate relationship with NASA continues. To whet your appetite, below is a photo from the Image of the Day gallery. I find looking at Hubble photos gives me a good sense of perspective on life.

ngc6240-chandra.jpg

your and Koko’s mamaIt’s come to light that the common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees did not drag its knuckles. That behavior evolved later on, meaning that chimps been evolving for as long as and with as much complexity as humans.

It interesting to me that science continues to prove what is easily observable. In this case, in “proves” that animals are just as or MORE evolved than humans. I mean, just look at frickin’ birds. For the last couple of hundred of years they have been considered far inferior to humans, hence the term “bird brain.” But anyone who is being truly objective (which scientists are *supposed* to be) can see that they are way more evolved and complex than we are. More recent studies show that their ability to use tools rivals primates, and other advanced skills. And that’s just birds.

In general, civilization by its very nature seems to destroy any respect or appreciation of animals.