My friend Ken and I are on our second loop around the lake.
On our first, the clouds cut across the sky so that the lake glowed one moment and was shadowed the next.
Now, it’s sunset, “the hour of truth,” Ken calls it. And I can tell when Ken’s truth is not so much about to surface but burst.
I love when this happens. It generally means I’m about to get a history lesson. At the least provocation, you can practically see his wheels turning backward in time and that he’s a little surprised by how good remembering what our forefathers were up to way-back-when makes him feel.
And that’s good enough to make me feel good, too.
On election day, 2016, we walked along Waterfront Park.
“I should write a song about this day,” he said. “A sad tune about misery and shortsightedness because that’s what it feels like to turn on the TV.”
We laughed hard. Or harder than we would have if anything was actually funny.
Today, Ken’s lesson is about Thanksgiving. I never knew it was an English harvest celebration held the first week in October as it is in Canada. Or that the reason why ours is on the third Thursday in November is that the U. S. Congress, in 1941, passed an act saying so. Seems the federal workers, “who live for holidays,” pointed out that October had Halloween; December had Christmas; January had New Year’s.” Something had to be done about November. And the third Thursday sounded so ... right. Congress agreed.
“Well, why wouldn’t they?” Ken says.
Next, we talk about friendships past. It was Ken’s idea.
“It’s always good to reflect before charging ahead into the new year,” he says, thinking more about tax policy, I’m sure. But that’s just Ken. He can’t help himself.
But what rushes into my mind is an-old-friend-who-broke-my-heart.
“Well,” I say, “she certainly taught me that it’s possible to keep someone close while letting them go.”
Ken calls this an emotional “deep state.” When habits rule, not our brains. But he would think of affection like this, wouldn’t he?
I remind him that I’d recently spoke at my first national conference and he hadn’t asked me about it yet.
“Some friend,” I say.
“You’re brave,” is all he says.
“Brave, me? No way.”
I mean that’s almost like saying I’m lucky to be a writer. I am lucky, because I love what I do, but the work doesn’t come from luck, not even close.
“If you knew what I looked like in the greenroom,” I say,” “I doubt you’d think I’m brave. I was terrified. I picked every last piece of fuzz off the floor.”
He crinkles his eyes fondly.
“And it’s weird because I’ve chosen performance anxiety pretty much my whole life. When I was five, I’d put on puppet shows for the whole neighborhood. Italian neighborhood. Very judgmental.”
“You just knew you wanted to run your own show,” Ken says, “and earn your own pennies.”
“Sadly, that’s the part that has stayed the same, pennies for pay.”
We talk about when we’d last seen so-and-so and what we’d last heard about them. We talk about wintery things, too, like the cold.
And cold remedies. This exchange went something like: “It’s like we aren’t allowed to have a cold anymore,” Ken says, so I say my Chinese friend gives me herbs that smell terrible, and he says his “Amazonian” neighbor gave him a green pot square made with avocado instead of butter, and I say my Austrian friend says a shot of schnapps “chases off the chill” and that I have no problem with her advice whatsoever, and he says his sister calls chicken soup nature’s antibiotic.
And that brings me to my Filipino neighbor Marlin (“like the fish,” she said when we met) who swears by slow cooked beef tongue.
“Ew,” I said.
“No, ew!” she said with a frosty attitude. “Just do!”
MARY LOU SANELLI is an author, speaker, and dance teacher living in Belltown. Her website is www.marylousanelli.com.