Why I Drink Coffee

Today, Geoff explores his history with and his desire for coffee. It was a long road from surreptitious spoonfuls of Grandpa’s special coffee ice cream to the current cup each morning, but along the way, we discover exactly why he drinks the bitter brew.

Taking Care of Mother

In this week’s podcast, Geoff remembers the surreal and absurd time he went north to take care of his mother for the last five years of her life. It involved a log cabin, old friends, the triumph of meatballs, blended squash, a coloring book and surgical gloves. This one probably isn’t quite safe for work.

Another Passing

This weekend, writer/actor/comic Taylor Negron passed away. I’m not quite sure why it affected me so deeply. I had never met him in person, although we did have many friends in common. I’d exchanged a few comments with him on Facebook, which is, I suppose, the modern incarnation of a deep friendship.

Taylor died of cancer. I hadn’t even known he was sick, although I’m sure many did. He was younger than me by a few years, and in part, that alone made me stop and think. I’ve had a couple of health scares myself this last year, and have had more than a few moments thinking about my own mortality.

I suppose the real thing that hit me about Taylor’s death was that a dear friend of mine has recently been battling cancer. He’s had one operation, but they missed a bit of it, so he must now go in for another, more extensive one. He has completely changed his lifestyle, his eating habits, his outlook on life in the past two or three months. I suspect, because I have a need to be there for him, I have tamped down my own feelings of fear and sadness about his condition, so when I heard about Taylor, all the pent up emotions about my friend found a safe outlet.

I’ve spent the weekend grieving.

Taylor Negron was, by all accounts, a gentle, talented, funny man who loved his friends and created a very odd, Bohemian life for himself. My friend is doing will, at least mentally and emotionally, at least most of the time. Now that I’ve had the time to safely indulge in the luxury of sadness, I can do what needs to be done, both for myself and for my friend.

Sorry, no punch line. Next time, I promise.

What’s In a Name?

In this week’s podcast, Geoff examines the source of the name of the podcast by taking us on a journey all the way from a sublime British verse play from the 50s set sometime during what seems to be the Elizabethan era through a profane Hollywood cabaret show from the 90s set sometime in what seems to be Las Vegas in the 50s. Hopefully, it will all make sense once you listen.

A New Years Recollection

Happy New Year! This week, Geoff recalls the wild parties his grandparents gave every New Years Eve when he was a kid. There was drinking, hors d’oeuvres, party hats and noise makers, balloons and lots of smoking. He helped set them up, but was never allowed to attend. Ah, the sweet memories of childhood.

The Happiest Place on Earth

Today, Geoff tells us of his first Christmas in Los Angeles, one fraught with strange and surreal details. It involved his first “apartment” (a small room), his neighbor, a street hustler, and a spontaneous trip to Disneyland in the rain. The room, the city and the theme park – the happiest places on Earth.

Extenders

In this episode, Geoff recalls a time when he was boarding a cross country flight and realized he’d gained enough weight that he needed a seat belt extender. This, of course, caused some serious soul searching and a new determination to set thing right in his life. Which is almost never a good idea.

I Remember Cheese

There was a time in my life when one of my favorite things to do was eat cheese. A small wedge of gooey Brie could nearly bring me to tears. A mild cheddar, bright orange, sliced and melted, was as close to heaven as I think I have ever gotten.

There was a time when my answer to a mild depression was to hack off a chunk of that mild cheddar, which I bought in long loafs, put it in a bowl, microwave it and eat it with a spoon. I can still feel the soft, hot mess in my mouth, that tiny little pop as my teeth cut through a spoonful.

A grilled cheese sandwich, one with almost any cheese in it, saturated with butter and fried to a golden, greasy crispness, could send me into paroxysms of ecstasy.

One Christmas, my Aunt Lou hosted the family at her home in Cranford, New Jersey. She and Uncle Sid had arranged the table in the basement, and there was one long table to the side that was covered in every kind and shape and color of cheese you can imagine. I can still remember the glorious first bite from that round of Gouda. The remembrance of that table has become for me a lasting impression of the meaning of Christmas.

Pizza, the kind my grandmother made, with real, full-fat mozzarella that stretched in hot strings as you tried to separate one slice from the pie, or tried to pull a bite from the steaming slice, was a perpetual rite of passage that I passed through an infinite number of times. The combination of steaming cheese mixed with scalding tomato sauce created a kind of wonderful pain as you ate. Foodies now talk about mouth feel. That was mouth feel.

I started to notice, however, that eating cheese did odd things to my energy, my sinuses, my skin. The day after eating cheese, I started noticing a pronounced sluggishness. I developed gout, a particularly unpleasant condition, and started needing a cane to get around. One day decided to see if cheese had any effect on it. I was sure it wouldn’t, but I was desperate and willing to try anything.

A week after giving up cheese (and other milk products), I was able to get around without the cane. This created a real dilemma for me. Was I really willing to give up all that melty wonderfulness? Well, yes, of course. I’m a sensualist but I’m not an idiot. Gout hurt. A lot.

It’s been years since I had cheese. I don’t usually miss it, but there are times when I simply sit and remember, and laugh sadly at the cruel, cruel joke that something so exquisite could also be so uncivil.

But I’ll always have Cranford.

 

#3

Robin Williams

Robin Williams is dead. Somehow, that doesn’t seem quite possible. A lot of the noise on the Internet is about how talented he was, about the devastation of depression, about his past successes, how he entertained, enlightened and brought joy to us all, but couldn’t find it himself.

I am left with several conflicting emotions and thoughts. Whenever one of our creative icons dies, especially when they are relatively young, I think of the work we will never get to experience. But in this case, if it does, indeed, turn out that he killed himself, I wonder how many who are on the edge will use this as an excuse to end it for themselves. I also wonder how many will see this as an impetus to get help, and stick around for a while.

My good friend Randy Cassingham has some rather devastating things to say about the selfishness of people who take their own lives. Other people I know talk about how mental illness, especially with the stigma attached to it in modern society, often leaves people no choice, or very little choice, but to take the course of action it seems Mr. Williams took.

I am battling health issues (physical, not mental. This time, at least) that I haven’t shared with anyone, and one of my first thoughts was, that could be a way out. But it was a brief thought. One mixed in with the myriad other thoughts ranging from the dark to the sublime to the philosophic to the wildly ridiculous. It’s how a creative mind works, and if you want to live a creative life, you must let those wild imaginings have their moment. Resisting them will only make them mean more than they do.

So Robin Williams is dead. My heart aches for him and for his family and for his public. I grieve for the people who had work lined up in his upcoming movies and TV shows, who will now find themselves, at least temporarily, on unemployment. I grieve for the genius laid low. I grieve for his wife and children.

But, after most of a day considering it, what I choose in my own life to do with the incomprehensible news that he is no longer with us, is to rededicate myself to making my own mark, however small in comparison, so that, when I do pass, there will be people who will say that I touched their lives in wonderful, powerful or, perhaps, strange ways, and who will remember me and keep me alive with that remembrance.