“I found a box of memories.
Read a letter; dropped a tear where you signed your name,
And turning the page,
Smearing the ink, into love always.
Girl I always start this way,
And then I end up in a bottle, screaming out your name.
And punching the walls,
Carrying on like I’ve gone insane.
But in the mirror? I can see the man
Who just shook his head with no remorse.
Watching an angel crying tears,
Stepping over my beers, as you walk out the door.
Well there ain’t nothing like a memory,
When it’s coming on strong like a hurricane.
How can love like that just up and walk away?
You’re killing me baby!
Got me pouring up another drink;
Bourbon’s hitting me hard, like a freight train.
With my back against the wall, or on my knees?
When the worst of your memory?
Gets the best of me …”
-- “The Best of Me” by Brantley Gilbert. I freely admit, I irrationally love this guy’s stuff … and this, gun to my head, is my favorite song he’s ever put out … even if the video on Youtube! selected, sucks ass ...
My November opened, by attending a “Celebration of Life”, for a friend who died way too young.
So I suppose it’s only fitting, that while attending that Celebration of Trish’s life, I noticed what I’ve been staring at, nearly every day since I saw it. It was a picture on her memory wall that her great friend Cindy had put together.
I was asked about it a few days before, if I could recall when, or why, this snapshot in time had occurred. Absent an actual look at it, I was pretty much clueless, and said as much.
Then came November 1st, when I saw it. Truth be told, I’d never seen what I can’t help but refer to as “The Picture” ever before, even though the moment in time it captured occurred nearly three and a half years ago.
But the moment I saw it, I had my Rose in “Titanic” moment – that moment when she began to re-tell her memories of the sinking, and she opens by noting “I can still smell the fresh paint”. Just simply seeing one of her stateroom items, took her back to what in her case, was literally a lifetime ago.
Just seeing “The Picture”, took me back … to what feels like a lifetime ago, in mine.
There are nine visible people in “The Picture”*, and unless you count conversing with myself, I have spoken to exactly two of the other people in “The Picture” over the last half year.
And one of the two, wasn’t exactly by my choice.
Three and a half years ago, when this event went down, I never imagined that -- at least, with most of the people in “The Picture” -- there’d go even a week, at most two, without a conversation occurring. Without a text or email being exchanged. Without time being spent together, no matter how small that window of time was.
I couldn’t have been more wrong, in how I viewed my life, and the world as I knew it, as barely twelve months after this (to me, haunting) glimpse at life was snapped – and definitely forty-two months out?
A day like the one captured in it, is simply impossible to imagine ever occurring again.
But I cannot stop staring at this thing.
If only because it’s one fascinating insight, into what once was.
And what sadly, will likely never be again.
(*: in the interest of fairness, there’s an arm, and part of a body, of Person Ten, sitting in the chair behind me, that I can’t make out to the point of scientific certainty … but I’m 95 percent certain, of who that person is. And if I'm right (and I think I am), this is just further proof, there is no such thing, as coincidence.)
Also in the interest of fairness, there are at least eight people who I vividly recall were there that day, that don’t appear anywhere in the picture – with a ninth, that had already left when "The Picture" was taken.
Go figure – of the eight off-camera folks the moment this was taken (at least one of whom took “The Picture”), seven of them I am still extremely good friends with, two of them to the point of literally being the family you choose (which is always the best kind)?
The only one of the eight not to appear in this thing I don’t speak to anymore, I can’t – it’s Trish, my friend who passed away six weeks ago.
The moment I saw this moment selected for her memory wall, I froze. Because Cindy was right – I instantly knew exactly what the day was, exactly why we were all together, exactly who everyone in the photo was. And it must have been obvious, because she approached me and simply noted “I’m guessing I was right; you know what (this day and reason for the picture) was?”
Yes. Yes, I did. And yes. Yes, I do.
Every year, I post what I refer to as “The Annual Column”, and to be fair, most years, it posts on Christmas Night.
This current post you’re reading is 790, so it seems fitting, that three years ago, when Post Five Hundred was “The Annual Column”, we’re on decent pace for Post Eight Hundred, to be “The Annual Column”. (Yes, I know – I need to slightly pick up the pace, to make that happen.)
Last year, I couldn’t get the thing written until early April of this year, in a manner I was comfortable with posting. And for the life of me, I spent nearly three months wondering why I couldn’t write it. It’s not only “The Annual Column” on this site, it’s my favorite post I, uuh, post, every year. Normally, I start this thing on Thanksgiving Night, watching football while dogsitting my brother’s dog. And normally, over the month of December, this thing writes itself.
Normally, the issue with this thing isn’t that I can’t compose it – it’s that I have to trim it down, to avoid writing the next epic 1,200 page novel you never wanted to read.
Once I saw “The Picture”, I finally understood, why it took me three months to crank out a semi-decent, not-even-remotely up to typical standards Annual Column.
Because only one person in the damned thing, got a positive shout-out from me.
And if I’m right about the asterisk noted above?
Three people, got anything but.
The other five? I really haven’t spoken to, or in most cases seen, since the day the picture was taken. I guess Future Ted Mosby was right in the “Gary Blauman” episode: “Kids? You will be surprised, at how easy it is, for someone to disappear from your life.” I still to this moment can identify every person in “The Picture”, and why they were in my life at that point in time. And more to the point, I can identify at least one unique, individual moment with every single one of them, that occurred that summer in a location other than where “The Picture” was taken, between them and me.
That accounts for nine people in it – one praised in “The Annual Column”, three critiqued, five unmentioned.
The tenth (again, assuming “the asterisk” is who I think it is, and given that the more I stare at this thing, the more I know I’m right about who it is)?
Is the clueless, “what the hell is happening here?” dude, who yes, looks literally clueless.
Was – and is – me.
What truly strikes me, is how for most friends in “The Picture”? The facial expressions captured, perfectly reflect how things feel when it comes to them – at least from me – forty-two months later.
Dusty? Staring off in the distance, looking like he’d rather be anywhere, than where he was.
Kellie? (Who I believe is “the asterisk”?) A perfect ending to a meaningless knowledge of her – barely visible for the world to see.
Damien? Seems deep in thought. (Fitting for a guy we refer to as “Doc”.)
Katie? Masking reality quite well, behind a smile I never could ignore.
Mark, Sarah, Cassie, Kelli, Kaela? I’m still friends with all five on Facebook … and yet haven’t seen, or heard, from a one of them, in pushing two years, save for the yearly “hey, happy birthday!” or occasional thumbs-up like button, on something you post, or is posted about you.
And then … there’s me.
The clueless, befuddled, “what the f*ck is going on here” dunce … on The Deck.
For the record, “The Picture” (and it will appear below, to close the piece down) was taken in July 2011, at The Pool. The reason for the gathering was yet another reception** for Dusty and Kellie’s marriage; this one, for “us kids”, and “our parents”, away from a formal setting, away from having to shoot the sh*t with people you didn’t care about, or barely knew, or were a second cousin to your step-mother.
In addition to the ten folks mentioned in the previous section, I know “My Second Parents”, Russ and Mona, were there – because (a) the picture was taken at their house, and (b) I have no doubt Mona took the picture. I know Donnie was there***, as was Dusty’s mom (who is the one that left, prior to “The Picture” being taken.) I know Trish and Cindy were there, and I’d bet good money Dave and Lynn were as well. And I’m pretty sure Susan was there as well.
(**: I think this was reception tres, if you count the wedding, and the reception out at that ranch on 50. I know "The Picture" was taken before Nebraskapalooza happened, so I'm going with tres, as the count. And Jesus, re-reading Nebraskapalooza, just hammers home, how f*cked up "The Family" became ... and remains.)
(***: to this day, Donnie’s reaction to seeing Damien for the first time, never fails to make a few of us laugh. The unattainable dream for you, sir. The unattainable dream.)
And now, things are what they are. “The Family” is in shambles, and quite frankly, is beyond repair at this point. “The Ex” reached out to me two months ago, begging for a place to crash and stay, to get back on her feet. I never could say no to her; I now haven’t heard from her in twenty two days, and have no idea if she’s dead, alive, or worse, as her stuff remains cluttering up the place.
What truly stuns me though, is that other than “The Ex” using and abusing my decency for the last couple months, the only one of the ten in the picture I’ve spoken to in the last six some odd months, is Damien. That doesn't stun me; we've always gotten along well.
But of everyone in the picture? He's the only one I'd still count as a friend. Of everyone there that day NOT in the picture? I'd count every one of us still drawing breath, as at least a friend, if not family.
I waited on posting this, uuh, post, partly because it’s hard to write. I’m not someone with a sh*t ton of what you would refer to as friends. I tend to have a few close friends that (thank God above) I usually don’t tend to lose, but I’m not exactly the most socially adept individual, at forging a relationship with someone.
My brother? He can walk in a room, and within ten minutes, know the names of everyone in it. Me? If I’m inebriated enough, I can walk into a room and ask everyone’s name within ten minutes … and I’ll botch your name for at least six months, before I get it right****.
But most of the time, I don’t even bother to do that.
I’m the guy who sits on the couch at your party, and hopes for one familiar face to have a party-length conversation with. (And go figure ladies: I’m about to be 38, and single. I know, I know – I’m as stunned as you are, given how freaking hot, I am. (Pause). What? (Pause). No, I haven’t lit myself on fire again! How dare you, Ms. Editor Dudette? How dare you!)
(****: “Tony and Lisa” and I had a good laugh over that, on Sunday over lunch. (That recap is still to come, probably early next week; Part Uno is here.) Their real names? Jeff and Paula. How the hell do you come up with “Tony and Lisa” out of that? Jerry and Marla, I can see, but Tony and Lisa? (Pause). What? (Pause). Well of course alcohol and/or a medicinally legal herbal product was involved! Good God, you’re just now figuring that out?)
And now: “The Picture” -- a glimpse into what life was, when it was at its finest:
(Start with the chica holding the volleyball, and let’s work our way clockwise. Kelli holding the ball, Cassie next to her. Kaela and Katie (aka “The Ex”) next to the ladder. Me with the “what the hell is going on here” look on the deck … and if you have any doubt this is a dated photo? No beard on me, and I have hair! No "I'm going gray, so shave it all off!" look yet!
“The Asterick” next to me, whose arm and leg you can somewhat make out, I believe is Kellie (“aka “The Chica”). Sarah next to her, then Dusty (aka “The Champ”), Mark, and Damien (aka “Doc”. Image credit: someone not in the picture originally; me, via the Snag-It dealie on my laptop, for this purpose.)
I don't know why I felt like posting this, uuh, post. I just did. Maybe it is the needed break, to move on from a few failed friendships. Maybe it's to remember the past, if only to avoid repeating it.
Or maybe, it's to capture at least one last time, how great life used to be ...