Lovely To See You Again, My Friend

Yeah, I know: it’s the title of an old Moody Blues song (and one with which they usually open their live shows). But in my case, it resonates with me, and not only because I’ve always loved the Moodies.

I have been astonished at how many of my former Readers — that is to say, Readers from my previous website offerings — have come back to see this latest version of my back porch. More than that, however, is the pleasure I feel at making their acquaintance, again. I recognize the online nicknames, remember the stuff they like to read about, and hell, even their writing styles are familiar to me, some as much as my own.

I’m not a man who requires much validation — as all know, my attitude is “Like me, and stay; dislike me, and feel free to go somewhere else” — so to have all you guys and ladies reappear out of the mists of time gives me not a feeling of validation, but of pleasure, just as one would greet an old school friend.

And yes, while the circumstances of my back porch’s reappearance are lousy, it helps a great deal that so many of you have said, in essence, “We’re truly sorry about the circumstances, but damn, it’s good to have you back.”

Ditto.

When I relaunched my blog, I spoke about needing a reason to live (and I promise, this will likely be the last time I mention this), and I believed that writing was okay, but not a complete reason to do so.

Actually, it is. I wake up each day not with a thought of “What the hell am I going to write about today?” but rather, “What do I feel like writing about today?” The difference between the two questions is profound, and I have to tell you all, the fact that there’s an audience of old friends willing to indulge me in my rants, raves and quasi-intellectual scribblings one more time makes the whole thing easy.

You see, I don’t choose to write; I have to write, have to communicate, and make known all the stuff which pleases me, enrages me and strikes me dumb with its beauty. And of course, there’s the godless Democrats to consider… and in a later post, I will explain the concept behind The Glorious Day.

In the meantime, please let me offer my deepest gratitude to all my Returning Readers for having faith in me after so long an absence, and to the New Readers, with whom I’ll no doubt become as familiar as with the older group, a.k.a the Beer ‘N Treason Set (thank you, Longtime Friend and Reader Jim D, for the name).

It’s good to be alive and writing again. And it is lovely to see you again, my friends.

My Friends, Part 2: The Brits

I have spoken before about how my American friends have saved my life in this, my time of mourning. Now I need to tell you about what my British friends have done for me; but before I do so, a little background is necessary.

We met Mr. and Mrs. Sorenson (their online nicknames) back in the late 1990s, enjoyed each others’ online company, and on our next trip to England, Connie and I met up with the “Sors” in Bath (yeah, I know: I was then and now too lazy to type out “Sorenson” in full). We spent a couple of wonderful days together and made a friendship that has lasted to this day. Every single time we flew to Britishland thereafter involved visiting with them, even if just for dinner or shopping. One trip even included a day of shooting clays at the Royal Berkshire Gun Club; and they in turn hooked up with us on a vacation at Disney World and later, a trip to Plano which involved the firing of thousands of rounds through various of my guns. (Yes, I turned a pair of hoplophobic Brits into gun nuts, and damn proud of it I am, too.) Both Sors have been regular visitors to my various websites over the years, and Mrs. Sor has been a constant, and very welcome commenter at this new incarnation of my online ramblings. Mr. Sor is also an enthusiastic not to say dedicated beer drinker, and so much of our time together on either side of the Atlantic has been spent in a blissful alcoholic haze. As is also the case with my other two Brit friends.

I met The Englishman through his blog, An Englishman’s Castle, and having several common interests (hanging liberals, shooting criminals, burning down government buildings along with their inhabitants, etc.), we struck up a very cordial online friendship. Then one year la famille du Toit went on an actual vacation (the first in years, as opposed to business trips with a few days tacked on), and for our sins we picked Portugal’s Algarve coast, about which I’d heard so much, and had seen many beautiful photos thereof in the distant past when I was involved with the advertising account for TAP, the Portuguese airline. Because neither The Mrs. nor I knew much about the place, we decided to play it safe (for once), and booked two weeks at the Club Med outside Albufeira. I won’t go into details, but it was a total disaster and we were miserable — to the point where The Mrs. and Daughter were actually prepared to leave the group and go somewhere else, like England or Scotland, all by themselves.

Of course that wasn’t an option. At a family meeting, all decided that we’d go over to Britain, but the cost of additional accommodation was quite beyond our budget (canceling our stay would entail getting no partial refund from the chiseling Club Med bastards), and we were waiting for a client check to clear before spending any more money. So in utter desperation, I called The Englishman and begged for a few days’ accommodation (which he’d once offered to us) so we could catch our breath and figure out what to do next. Please understand that we had never met in person before, yet when I told him that we were miserable and worse, surrounded by Frenchmen, his response was immediate: “Surrounded by Frenchmen? Oh dear no, no, no, we can’t have that: come on over and we’ll put you up for a couple of days.” So we left the Algarve and flew to England. We stayed at the Castle (actually, an old farmhouse), and fell in love with the place — yes, that’s where The Mrs. is going to be laid to rest — and in love with the Englishman Family. Then after a brief visit to Bath (just a few miles away) we went on with a new vacation plan — bidding a sad farewell to Mr. and Mrs. Englishman and their delightful children.

In parallel, I’d likewise met Mr. Free Market (Mr. FM) through his blog at Free Market Towers (actually, an ancient “cottage”) and discovered not only a similar affinity to those same interests as The Englishman, but a common deep and abiding love of firearms and shooting. Here’s the funny bit: although at the time he lived literally down the road from The Englishman, they’d never before met in person — which they soon remedied, and another friendship was established. Anyway, we met Mr. and Mrs. FM in person on a later trip and all got on like a house on fire — to the extent that our families have spent much time with each other on both sides of the Atlantic, the Free Markets coming over for Thanksgiving one year, several trips involving visits to sundry shooting ranges, stopovers at the Castle en route to other destinations, and what have you. And I should point out that along the way, my American friends Doc Russia and Combat Controller have become buddies with Mr. FM too, and have shared several adventures together (details to follow some other time).

So Mr. FM called me up a short while ago to see how I was doing and what my plans were. When I reminded him I was staying at Doc Russia’s house, his next words were:

“So what are you doing there? How do you spend your time?”
“Writing. Grieving. The occasional trips to the range and the pub with Doc, I suppose. But mostly just writing and grieving.”
“Ah. Well, the War Office [Mrs. FM] has just told me that your bed is made up and ready for your arrival.”
What?
“My dear boy, if all you’re going to be doing is moping, writing, drinking and shooting, then you may as well do some of that in England as in Texas.”
“But I can’t afford to fly over to the U.K.”
“Don’t worry about that. I have BA Miles to spare.”
“Mr. FM, seriously: I have little or no money, especially when it comes to Expensive Britain. All I could do is stand the occasional round of drinks.”
“Your money’s no good over here, old chap. Just leave everything to us.”
“But, but… I don’t want to abuse your hospitality. How long could I stay? ”
“As long as you like. A couple months or so should do it.”
“That seems like a hell of an imposition.”
“Dear heart, it isn’t at all. Frankly, I’m going to be out of the country quite a bit on business, and I’d feel better knowing that Mrs. FM won’t be all alone in the house while I’m gone. Also, we’re going on holiday for a week or two, and I’d definitely feel better if FM Towers wasn’t standing vacant during that time. So you’d actually be doing me a favor.”
“I don’t know what to say…”
“And you can go and visit The Englishman and your other friends while you’re here, of course. Just use the Range Rover. We’re also planning a hunting trip in Scotland and some high-bird grouse shooting later in the year, so you may as well join me for those.” Pause. “Oh, and as you know, Doc Russia and Combat Controller are coming over for the Scotland deer hunt too, so we can all get together and have a good time. There’s also Goodwood [Festival of Speed] and trips to Royal Berkeley and Bisley for some shooting, but we can work all that out later. I almost forgot: The Englishman wants us to do a tour of historic pubs in the West Country, so put that onto the schedule too.”
Then came the killer question which decided the whole thing.
“And Kim: exactly when were you thinking of interring Connie’s ashes in The Englishman’s Long Barrow, anyway?”

When I’d picked myself off the floor and could speak again, I looked at the calendar and made the travel arrangements with Mr. FM. Circumstances permitting and catastrophes aside, I’ll be leaving for Britain in late June. And wow, it looks like I’ll be getting to do Bucket List Entry #2 a lot sooner than I thought.

So there you have it: I now have yet another reason to live — just one in a long line of reasons to live, all made possible through the unbelievable generosity and kindness of friends.

I don’t know what I did to deserve all this, but to quote the silly Rogers & Hammerstein song: “Somewhere in my youth, or childhood… I must have done something good.”

And for the first time since I whispered good-bye to Connie on that dreadful day in February, I absolutely know I’m going to survive this thing, and it’s all thanks to my friends. Amazing.

The Moon Through A Dusty Window

After I posted Every Picture Tells A Story last Saturday and admitted ignorance as to the artist behind the wonderful cartoon, I received an emailed suggestion from Longtime Reader Michael G., who included a link which didn’t give me the answer, but it did take my breath away.

You see, I have (yet another) deep, dark and deadly secret: in my yoot, I was addicted to pulp fiction novels. At the time (early 1960s) they were deemed Way Too Racy for a young boy by my parents, so I was forbidden to read them. I don’t know why they were worried: in my nine-year-old innocence, I had absolutely no idea what the sex scenes were all about, and I just skipped them to get on with the story (I told you I was innocent). Needless to say, the parental ban simply turned the novels into catnip for a cool cat like myself, so with the assistance of a scandalous uncle (who was only seven years older than I and therefore keen to help me out), I worked out a plan: I’d give Uncle “Locky” my pocket money to buy the novels “for himself”, and then after he was done with them, I devoured them (by the dozen), reading them late at night after my parents had gone to sleep to avoid detection, using either a flashlight or, if the batteries had died, reading by moonlight if available — hence, a partial explanation of the title of this piece. Here’s the actual cover which triggered this post:

…and I got it from the treasure trove behind the link in Michael G.’s email.

To say that I was captivated by the covers of these old, long-forgotten novels would be the understatement of the year. Regrettably, none of the titles rang any bells in my memory — give me a break, it was over fifty years ago — but good grief, I spent hours looking at the covers this past weekend, still as enthralled as I was when a pre-teenager.

Of course, nowadays the blurbs could legitimately be terms “false advertising”, because seldom were the salacious hints actually depicted in the stories, mostly because of censorship whether editorial or governmental. And yet fools like myself (and there were probably hundreds of thousands of us) continued to buy the silly things week in and week out, hoping against that this time there’d be a really racy scene instead of something like:

“Come here, Big Guy,” she said, slipping the robe off her waiting body…

…followed by a chapter break. And I’m not even sure that that would have made it into print. Those were innocent times, my friends, and I’m thinking that I prefer them to our “modern” times, where “How To Suck Your Man To Orgasm In 30 Seconds” could be on the cover of Woman’s Daily — and the Cosmo cover would be even  more explicit.

And just to finish: I think that “The Moon Through A Dusty Window” is a brilliant title for a novel — it could-a been a contender, it could-a been somebody…

It could have been Hemingway’s.

 

It’s All Fun & Games, Until

Okay, I might as well admit to it: I love reading Britain’s Daily Mail Online. I know it’s trash, and they’re absolutely the worst people in the world, but it’s like Train Smash Women (I’ll explain that term tomorrow): it’s foul and horrible, but you can’t help yourself.

Here’s a wonderful example (from the DM last Friday): Naked man is spotted teetering on a window-ledge of French apartment block ‘after woman’s partner arrives home’. Go ahead and look (you know you want to); I’ll wait.

I think one of the reasons that these ridiculous stories appeal to me so much is that so often, something very similar has happened to me. And the above story is one such example.

Back when I still lived in Johannesburg — from memory, this was in about 1980 — I lived close to an area called Hillbrow, which was Johannesburg’s equivalent of, say, what the Bronx is to Manhattan: a dizzying array of high-rise apartment buildings in what was at the time the most densely-populated area in the entire Southern Hemisphere (back then it even rivaled Hong Kong in terms of population per square mile). Where I lived was a similar, but not quite as densely populated area known as Braamfontein, which was walking distance (about three miles) from Hillbrow, and next door to Johannesburg’s enormous main train station. All this is to give you some kind of scale for the calamity which is to follow.

I was at some party or other in Hillbrow, and ended up flirting with this rather cute woman. She told me that she was engaged to some guy, but he was always away doing contract construction work and because of that she felt lonely and neglected. One thing led to another (booze, mostly), with the inevitable outcome that we ended up in bed at her apartment. (Nowadays, of course, Good Kim would never have taken advantage of her vulnerability, but in 1980, 25-year-old Evil Kim ruled the roost, so to speak.) Here’s what happened next:

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My Friends, Part 1: The Yanks

Today is the day I finally move out of the Plano house where Connie and I spent the last dozen or so years of our lives together, raised the kids into adulthood and ran two consultancies as well as my blog and our podcast. We loved the place — actually, Connie found it in the online listings, loved it, ran through the numbers to make sure we could afford it, then found us another house to look at first just so I could say that I preferred the second one, and she could get the one she wanted in the first place. Sneaky? No, respectful. She knew that as much as I respected her judgement, I’d want to be part of the decision-making process, and she engineered the thing so we could both get what we wanted. Did I care when she later confessed her little subterfuge? Of course not; on the contrary, I was grateful for her consideration. And I wasn’t the only grateful one: for the first time in their lives, the kids were living in a house that wasn’t rented, and it gave them a solid grounding and foundation — a place to call “home” — at last. And they flourished.

Now they’ve all left home, and Connie’s left as well. And finally, we get to the point of this post.

The generous people who have contributed to my GoFundMe appeal have helped me take care of many of my outstanding financial obligations stemming from Connie’s medical condition, and at least my financial condition is no longer the looming disaster it was — THANK YOU. I know some of you quite well — we’ve met in person, even if just briefly — and of course there’s been that relationship with my Loyal Readers developed over many years. (As one Longtime Reader put it when I wrote to thank him for his large donation: “Let’s just call it a late payment on all those years of enjoyment you gave me with your old blog. Now get going on the new one.”) What the appeal has done has taken the burden of financial ruin away (mostly, anyway; I’ve got a little way to go still — if you haven’t been there yet, please consider it). But I have to tell you all, the incredible and generous response to the appeal has lifted my spirit beyond measure, and the horrifying prospect of utter destitution has been staved off. Thank you all, again.

Then we have my close friends.

I have spoken of these friends in the past, and it is absolutely no exaggeration to say that without them, I have no idea what I’d have done in the dreadful month following Connie’s death — or, for that matter, what I’d do with the rest of my life altogether. I’m going to list my closest American friends first — we’ll get to the Brits in another post — and use their online handles to spare them any embarrassment (and if you know their real names, please avoid using them if you go to Comments). They have been astonishing — “they” being Doc Russia, Combat Controller (CC), and Trevor (my South African buddy of over thirty years). They’ve called me daily with sympathy, support and advice, and sometimes just to check up on me, despite their own hectic schedules, and if I’ve called them in varying stages of despair and melancholy to bleat out my woes, I’ve never hung up the phone at the end without feeling better, more hopeful and less lonely than when I dialed.

We all know the part about actions speaking louder, right? CC and Trevor both live in Austin, but they come up to the Big D fairly often, and always spend time with me.
Trevor canceled a business trip (to Tokyo, I think) to be with me the week after Connie’s death, and helped me with the funeral home arrangements as well as with countless other painful details.
CC has been a voice of commonsense in financial advice — in my fucked-up state I would have made some appalling screwups  without him — and on more than one occasion his level-headed analysis has saved my bacon.

And now we come to Doc.

When the oncologist gave us Connie’s final, dreadful diagnosis, Doc told me in no uncertain terms that he was not going to let me move into some tiny little apartment and stare at the wall all day and night; instead, he told me (and I mean ordered me) to move in with him for a whole year so he could help me get through this horrible shit storm that was going to be my life. Clearly, he knew better than I how much Connie’s death was going to devastate me, and he was not going to allow bad things to happen to me. (He’s divorced, so there’s no wifely issue on me moving into his house.) When I feebly protested his overwhelming generosity, he basically told me to shut up. “I work long hours in the E.R., and it’ll be good to have someone look after the place. Also, when I go on my African safari in the spring, that means the house won’t be empty. And in any case, I’ll always have a hangout buddy, a companion to go shooting with, and a drinking partner when I feel like going to the bar. Believe me, there’s no downside to this.”

So today I move not into the apartment I rented in downtown Plano — Daughter’s living there and paying the rent until I’m ready to claim it back — but into the guest suite in Doc’s house.

As I said earlier, I’ll get to the Brit contingent in a later post; but it is absolutely no exaggeration to say that Doc, CC and Trevor have literally saved my life, in just about every sense of the word. They have been friends in need, and friends in deed.

“Thank you” can’t even begin to cover it.

Not That I Care, But

According to some smart guy, here’s how you know that you’re genuinely intelligent:

  1. You learn from mistakes
  2. You read for fun
  3. You can argue from multiple perspectives
  4. You think before you speak
  5. You don’t care what others think.

Well, duh.

  1. If you don’t learn from your (and others’) mistakes, then at best you’re like the socialists, who never acknowledge the failure of their pet philosophy, but keep on repeating it in the vain hope that this time it will work. It’s also one of the main reasons I’ve always studied history, especially European history, because they’ve made more mistakes than just about anyone else — or at least, they wrote about their mistakes, unlike some African societies I could mention.
  2. Anyone who doesn’t read for fun had better have a decent excuse, or be thought stupid. When we homeschooled our kids, three hours’ reading a day was mandatory. Now they read more than I do, which is a little scary. This is why when I see the moronic expression “tl;dr” (too long; didn’t read) in any forum, my response is inevitably “ts;dd” (too stupid; don’t debate).
  3. If you can’t argue from perspectives other than your own, then you’re going to lose the argument. Every single one. Knowing the other guy’s thoughts is critical to rebuttal.
  4. Gotta say that I don’t always think before I speak. Generally, however, that’s in response to an insult or a threat; in genial discussion, I always consider not only the words I’m going to use, but the effect they may have on others, just out of politeness. This is true when I’m with friends; with strangers, I’m a lot less careful.
  5. Guilty as charged. I found out that caring about the opinions of others makes one too vulnerable, and it also makes one’s writings and arguments less compelling. Not caring also makes one impervious to insult, which is why all those screams of misogyny and racism hurled at me by liberals and other twerps had (and have) no effect on me whatsoever. I especially love it when they call me “stupid”.

This doesn’t mean I’m “genuinely intelligent”, however. It’s just wisdom learned from experience, which I guess is just an encapsulation of all five points. No intelligence necessary, just common sense.