A lot of people ask me, "What the heck do you DO with yourself all week, now that you've left your job as a highly-paid (high being the very relative term that it is, i.e. compared to what?) trial lawyer?" So, to give you some idea of what a ner' do well slacker does with his time, here goes at least part of a recent non-work week for yours truly:
Last Sunday, July 24, 2011, I went to my second-in-a-row church service at Zion First Baptist Church, and I love the address, 16 James A. Moses Avenue, in Middletown. It's a tiny little church, all white-painted interior, and filled to the brim with all black folk, except, that is, for yours truly. I'm the only pink guy in an all shades-of-brown congregation. And I hope it stays that way. It's fun to be a "skin minority." I say that because the fact is, although all men and women are created equal, in the eyes of God, we're not created equal in the eyes of most white folk, at least in our "bless-ed" country, the U.S. of A.
Zion First Baptist Church also bills itself as "The First Black Baptist Church in Middletown since 1943." Rev. Carleton J. Giles, Pastor, is a large man, very pleasant demeanor, large brown-framed glasses, a shiny bald head, jovial demeanor and patter. Rev. Giles is also has a very loud voice, made even more so by electronic amplification of the sound system. He sings the old standard hymns of my boyhood experience in the Methodist Church in Philadelphia, PA, into the microphone, from the pulpit. There's no missin' Pastor Giles singin' those old-time religion songs of the Christian faith. When Rev. Giles blasts out the lyrics of "Yes, Jesus loves me, the Bible told me so," there's no room in the church for anybody to disagree.
Summer is "dress-down" time at First Black Baptist. I typically (for the past two Sundays) wear a short-sleeved black collared shirt, with very light white window-pane pattered highlight, un-tucked, over black Levi jeans, and, as always, my gray Teva sandals, no socks. Some men wear dress shirts and ties, others dress shirts over shorts, others have dress shirts, ties, and leather sandals. All the women, and I mean ALL the women, dress up. In very nice dresses, their Sunday finery, many with big hats, some made up, others all natural, but none, of course, au naturel. And the most Rev. Carleton J. Giles, Pastor, dresses down is wearing a light-colored sport coat, flowered tie, and off-white dress shirt. As he explained the first week I went, "I know it's dress-down here in summer. And that's a good thing. But the best I can do there is wear this sport coat and this tie with the flowers on it. But I'm not complainin'. That's just me."
I grew up in the Methodist Church and for the past 35 years I've gone to First Church, a UCC congregational church. I left First Church and went to South Church for a few weeks, in June. Then I realized South was just as staid and stale to me as First. The week before I started at First Black Baptist, I ran into, or God sent to me, a black man named Hosea. He was walking towards South Church, around 9:15 a.m. that Sunday and I assumed he was going to South Church to worship. "No, I go to First Black Baptist, Zion, the little church down next to the YMCA parking lot." "Hosea," I said, "you mean like the Old Testament prophet?" (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Hosea ) "Yeah, sorta' like that. We'd be happy to have ya' there if ya' wanna' come." "Maybe I will. Maybe I just will," I thanked him.
So The White Church was becoming a bit staid and stale. But The Black Church is anything but. I'll write more in detail in future posts, but suffice it to say that The Black Church is to The White Church as the disco scene is to C-Span discussions of the Federal Reserve system.
'nuff said about last Sunday.
On Monday I saw Dr. Larry Levine, my primary care doctor, and good friend (he delivered Robin in 1990). Larry wanted me to have my blood sugar and cholesterol re-checked from the blood sample taken for my May annual physical. Everything is fine now, so I don't have to return to see him again until my next annual physical. Also, because I'm finally off all the psychotropic medication I was on for depression, he doesn't need to see me every few months to make sure I don't become hyper-tense. I didn't even realize that hypertension was a potential side effect of taking Prozac, Wellbutrin, and Remeron. I stopped taking the Wellbutrin in February, the Remeron in March, and slowly titrated off the Prozac from mid-June until mid-July. As I've told many of you, I'll continue to do psycho-therapy with Ray Oakes, my therapist, as long as I can afford to pay him his 50-minute fee of $100 cash on the barrel, no insurance accepted, no billing hassles.
As a side note, as I've also told some of you, I've suggested to Ray and my psychiatrist, Dr. Allan Jacobs (a South African native, so he tells me he's African American, even though he's lilly-white and has light-colored hair), that they consider marketing themselves to people who yearn to be creative. Writers, artists, that sort of thing. Why, you may wonder? Woody Allen has been in psycho-analysis for 50 years. Although it's enabled him to justify marrying his step-daughter, despite the public outrage, he's also created a body of work which includes Annie Hall, Sleepers, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Match Point, and Midnight in Paris. Before Frank McCourt ("Angela's Ashes") died, he told an NPR interviewer that there is one simple reason for why there are so many great Irish writers. "Catholic confession. In confession, young boys tell stories every week to the priest. Lies, truths, half-truths. About their lives. They become writers."
After that, I went to the Park and Rec office next to Coldstones in Riverview Center to buy an annual pass to Vets Pool. I wrote out a check for the $25 fee but was pleasantly told by Chris Bourne that it's free since I'm over 60. Finally I get a Senior Discount. This usually only kicks in when you reach 65. I then picked up Susie at the eye doctor. She went there because after the bike accident, she began experiencing flashing lights in her right eye which the eye doctor said were the result of the accident. She needs to follow up with the eye doctor in a month.
Monday night, I tried to watch "The Tourist," the movie starring Angelina Jolie as an undercover spy who meets Johnny Depp on a train, but fell asleep throughout the movie, so I put it aside for another day.
On Tuesday afternoon, I went to Vets Pool to swim and read. Vets Pool is a great deal. It's free if you're over 60, outdoors, plenty of college kids who are lifeguards, and the lifeguards make sure nobody dives, splashes other swimmers, gets roudy, or anything else. Although I love the rowdiness of The Black Church, I just want to mellow-out in the pool.
I began reading Kay Redfield Jamison's "An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness," which was suggested to Susie by a therapist friend of ours, Ginger Blume, who had learned from a discussion with me about my suicidal depression last fall, my recovery, and my open-ness to revealing most everything about my past to anyone who will listen. Ginger, like other long-distance, well-meaning, but ignorant-about-the-details-of-my-subjective-and-most-of-my-objective experience, psychiatric wannabe diagnosticians, thinks I may be "manic," perhaps even "manic-depressive." Some of my "friends," really just two, who shall go unnamed here, whom I now am beginning to think of as my unwanted "Miserable Moral Minders" or "Talibanic Scolds," actually have publicly objected to my "inappropriate" and "self-destructive" behavior and recommend, without any significant clinical justification (one claims to be a "therapist"; the other thinks he's a psychological clairvoyant), that I "need to go on mood stabilizers." One of them even refuses to resume the walks we've gone on regularly, for many, many years, through many crises in each other's lives, until I get, as he puts it, "truly curative" care.
Anyway, I'm about half-way through Dr. Kay Jamison's wonderful story of her own psychotic manic-depressive illness and I am again reminded that there is a continuum on which each of us lies. We are all, more or less, "manic" or "depressive," not in any clinical psychological sense of those terms, but in a practical way. Substitute "energetic" for "manic," and "sad" for "depressive," if it makes it easier for you to understand the algorithm, or the rubric, or the concept I'm pointing to. Now that I'm off all psycho-tropic medications, but I've made some very significant changes in my psycho-sexual life, I wake up feeling happy every morning, whereas, before my major clinical depression took hold of my mind and emotions last summer, most acutely between September and late December, I woke up feeling tense, guilty, and ashamed most mornings. Not every morning, but very frequently. And now that I'm feeling good, and self-confident, and happy with my new way of life, and very happy in my marriage, and very comfortable being the father, not the friend, of my children, and grandfather to the real "love of my life," my grandson, Little Dude, Liam, I am more energetic, more open, more self-confident, more happy, and this change may be hard for some of you to understand or at times, tolerate. But that's the way it is. And I hope that's the way it will continue, although I am working on toning myself down a bit, depending on who I'm with and what the context of "appropriate behavior" is.
Tuesday night Susie and I went to Ray Oakes for our weekly marital therapy. This was Susie's first visit with me to Ray since her accident. Ray was extremely pleased to see Susie, neck brace and cane, and all, and, as always, we got some stuff about our marriage out in the open, on the therapeutic table, that needs to continue to be worked on, fine-tuned really.
On Wednesday morning, Susie and I went to The Scene of the Accident, The Bike Crash really, to meet with an expert who is investigating the legal aspects of the case for us. I then drove Susie to West Hartford to meet with her neurosurgeon, Dr. Schwartz, about which I wrote a blog entry several days ago.
Wednesday afternoon I went to Vets Pool again, where I had a conversation with Tang David, a Taiwanese immigrant who goes to the pool every afternoon after he gets out of work at 2:30 p.m. We talked about China, Taiwan, and the U.S., Mandarin, politics, child-rearing, and life. Tang's given name is something I find hard to remember in its Mandarin pronunciation, which is why he calls himself David. Tang is his surname, but the Chinese (which includes the Taiwanese) put the surname first, followed by Mr., and then the given name. So his American name is really, Tang Mr. David.
Wednesday evening Susie and I ate a delicious meal provided by one of her fellow-parishioners at First Church. Since her needs were taken care of, she agreed I could go to the Music at the Mansion at Wadsworth Mansion in Middletown. Wednesday nights during July, the Mansion has musical groups come to play on the expansive back lawn, for free, and people come at 6:30 a p.m. with picnic baskets, chairs, and blankets, to eat food, drink wine, and listen to music. The group this week was "The Glamour Girls" (see http://www.gigmasters.com/Dance-Band/The-Glamour-Girls/ ), three "hot cougars," two blondes and a very black-haired blue-eyed woman, who dance and sing, backed up by two guitarists, a trumpeter, and a drummer, all men. I estimate there were 500 to 750 people on the lawn, watching the concert.
A male and female swing dancing couple went out for the first number, then sat down. I recognized them from Ginger Blume's birthday party a year or so ago, where all her and Lee's swing-dance friends, who are all great dancers, who don't just do "free-form" dancing like me and many other people, danced the night away to the strains of "Eight to the Bar" at the East Hartford Holiday Inn.
After the swing dance couple left the area in front of the band where people can dance, I overcame my inhibitions of feeling foolish dancing alone in front of a large crowd and went out on the dance "floor" (it's just a grassy lawn), faced the glamour girls, and, well, just danced. Soon, I turned around and realized that there were a lot of people, mostly women, dancing behind me. The dance party had finally begun. The band played until 8:30 p.m. and I got to dance with a lot of women, from K.C.'s friend Jeff's girlfriend, Jan, to Sherry and her sister, and Beth, from Jule Crawford's law office, to Robin Reynolds, to Mylene Patrois from Montreal, with whom I spoke French, to many other women whose names I don't know. To summarize: I had a blast. The time of my life. I then left in the darkness and went home to help Susie get ready for bed and recount my magical evening for her.
On Thursday morning, I had my regular weekly psychotherapy session with Ray Oakes, after which I bought a fresh blueberry muffin at the Village Provisioner on Main Street in Essex, which I ate down at the end of Main Street, beyond the Gris (Griswold In). I spoke with the owner of Fatty Knees sail boats, who was there launching a Fatty Knees boat with his girlfriend, both of whom were visiting from Massachusetts. Then I chatted with some Sicilian-Americans from Middletown who were clamming from the dock. Finally, I talked for a while with Tom Lee, a middle-aged man from Essex who was drinking coffee while sitting on a bench overlooking the island across from The River Museum, with his young niece. I determined that Tom works at Whiting Forensic Mental Hospital at CT Valley Hospital in Middletown and probably knows my friend and neighbor John Porter's wife, Traci Starbird, who's an art therapist for mentally ill PTSD survivors at CVH.
Susie had a couple of therapists over on Thursday afternoon, all provided by Anthem and our excess medical insurance coverage. Bonnie, her home health aide, and Noreen, her occupational therapist, whom Susie didn't want me to interact with, and distract them from their appointed rounds helping her, so I went to Vets Pool to swim, and read, swim, and read, shower, and come home.
Thursday evening, I went, with Susie's blessing, to Thursday Jazz on the River, at the Canoe Club Restaurant the Outdoor Bar, right on the Connecticut River at Harbor Park in Middletown. My good friend, Trevor Davis, organizes the Thursday Jazz sessions. No cover but lots of good music, incredible views of the gentle bend in the river, just south of the Canoe Club, and great people to talk with. I said hello to Steve Crabtree and Nancy King, spend a long time catching up with Joe Cunningham, Teresa Fanska, and meeting Teresa's teacher-daughter, Sarah, who's getting married next year, Joe and Teresa's friends, Tighe Hunter, who, it turns out, is a very good swing dancer, as I witnessed late in the evening with a woman who had been dancing throughout the evening with an older gentleman wearing a cool Fedora light-colored dark-banded hat. Also I spoke briefly with Karl Scheibe about his nice visit with Susie that afternoon while I was at the pool and about an article on the controversy about the value and possible over-use, or not, of psychotropic medication in the treatment of depression. And I spoke even more briefly with John Shaw and Andrea Roberts, and Ginny Houghtaling, all from First Church, who were sitting at a table on the north side of the outside bar. I also ran into Allie and her girlfriend, Chloe, whom I'd met the week before. Allie's mother is Lauren Gister, a lawyer in Deep River or Chester whom I think I've met at Middlesex County Bar Association meetings in the past. I had a wonderful time sitting with Carl and Bea, Tighe's uncle and aunt. Carl is a drummer, who now has problems with his right wrist which prevent him from drumming regular gigs. However, late in the evening, which lasts from 6 to 10 p.m. every Thursday night in the summer, Carl took over for the very famous drummer whom Trevor was able to lure to play at the Canoe Club. That guy, a black man in his 60's, has done studio work for the likes of Aretha Franklin, Lionel Ritchie, and many others whose names, like his, I can't remember. Tighe's Uncle Carl used to play in bands with Tighe's father, who had 8 kids, Tighe's the youngest, and played an out-of-this-world saxophone. For years, his father worked in a factory in Meriden during the day and played sax on-the-road 6 nights a week. I shared with Tighe, Carl, Bea, another black man whose name I don't remember, whom I also met at the jazz night, about going to the black baptist church and they all seemed interested that I had the interest to do so.
I also had a very interesting political conversation with Grady Faulkner, a black Middletown City Councilman, who works as an accountant for a company in Enfield, I believe he said, which makes parts for solar energy panels. Grady grew up in Harlem, used to go to the old Appollo Theater, where he saw lots of great black popular artists perform. He speaks with just a hint of what I would call a "cool black" lilt to his voice, and looks and talks a little bit like Wynton Marsalis, the great black trumpet player. Grady was interested that I plan to go door-to-door for Dan Drew to try to oust our Republican mayor, Seb Giulano.
On Friday, Susie had more in-home therapy and I went to the pool in the afternoon to swim and read more of the Jamison book. Friday night we had a wonderful dinner at home, provided by a First Church member, and both of us went to bed early, she in our bedroom, and I on our back porch, with Russell the Coolest Cat.
Yesterday, Saturday, I had a meeting in Hartford, then went to the store at Stop and Shop in Cromwell for Susie, had lunch, went to the pool, ordered out Thai food with Bob Coffey, who came to dinner and went with Susie and me to see the progress of the building of our new house at Bartlett Hollow. After Bob left, I went from 9 to 11 p.m. to the Barefoot Boogie dance at Vinnie's Jump & Jive on Main Street in Middletown. That was another wonderful dancing experience. Lucia Deleone, a PhD in literature, originally from Mexico City, who also speaks totally fluent French, and her boyfriend, a Shakespeare scholar, both of whom lived many years in Prague, where they met a few years ago, were the YouTube computer lap-top DJs. At the end of the evening, when all the other dancers had left, and it was just down to the three of us, I asked them to play one of my favorite songs, Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes," from his 1993 concert in Modena, Italy. Here is the link if you want to dance to it-- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9aqS6UN6WlI Lucia, the dark Mexican beauty, couldn't resist getting away from her laptop, next to her boyfriend, and joining me on the dance floor to mouth the words to "In Your Eyes," jump around on the dance floor like the singers on stage 28 years ago, projected virtually on the wall of Vinnie's, and soak in the love and the peace of this miraculous song experience. Every time the refrain was sung, on the wall, back in 1993 in Modena, and right here and now, in Middletown, on Main Street, in 2011, Lucia and I couldn't help but look at each other, in the eyes, as we jumped and dance with ecstatic pleasure, as Peter and the other singers said, over and over, the mantra, "in your eyes." A magical evening, a magical moment. Life is Good.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
I've got to go because bible study, adult Sunday school, at the black baptist church, starts in 20 minutes at 9:30 a.m., followed by the rockin' and rollin' church service in the little pressure cooker of the sanctuary, all white on the walls and all black on the inside, except, of course, for this one little white-pink sinner-of-a-man, who's never felt closer to God, and Jesus, in all his years in The White Church. Amen.
More another day........
Bob aka Grandude aka Big Dude to Liam's Little Dude