Hello, Readers. Conventional wisdom says never start off anything with an apology. Since I fancy myself as far from conventional I want to start off by apologizing for posting a day late this week. However, I have a lawyer’s explanation for my (alleged) tardiness.
Yes, it’s technically Wednesday; however, this blog is traditionally posted two days after the end of the weekend. Granted, in most cases that day falls on a Tuesday. However, because of the long weekend it happens to fall on a Wednesday this week. Ergo, my post is timely. And I thought law school would never do me any good. At any rate, it’s fabulous to have all of you back and I hope that you all had wonderful weekends of your own.
Before I begin this week, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the goings on in and around my beloved Austin. Unless you’ve been in a hole this week you should be aware that Austin is battling several wildfires around Austin in Steiner Ranch, Leander, Cedar Park, and Bastrop. My brother and his family are in Steiner, my sister and her husband are in Leander, and my parents are in Cedar Park. The fire in Bastrop is in Bastrop State Park and at last count had taken some 30,000 acres of pristine land. I used to camp and hike there quite a bit and was there just a few weeks ago.
My story is not unique. Austin still operates like a small town and virtually everyone knows someone who has been touched by these fires. In addition to family in those areas I have many friends who have been affected and I’m certain that I have many readers that I’m not aware of who have also been affected.
The Central Texas area is far from the flat, tumbleweed infested, windblown desert that most non-Texans picture when they think of my state. Austin and the surrounding Hill Country are beautiful, lush, vibrant, and serene. They are just as much a part of me as the fingers I use to type this blog and it’s heartbreaking to me to see any part of them destroyed. I doubt I have much pull with The Man Above anymore, but my prayers go out to all of you reading this that have been displaced or affected by the fires. Thanks to the brave people who choose to go out there and fight them for us. With that said, let’s get to it.
Some Guy had an interesting weekend. I traveled to Snyder, Texas to visit some close friends and meet up with other friends from all around the country for a dove hunt and the John Wayne Film Festival which benefitted the John Wayne Cancer Foundation. As many of you know, through sheer accident, I have some fancy friends. It’s always wonderful to see my fancy friends in a laid back environment and it was even nicer to know that we were all there for a good cause.
I’d like to thank all of the folks who showed up. Thanks to Barry and Leslie for putting the entire event together and allowing me to help when I could. Thanks to the Wayne family for trusting me with a small portion of The Duke’s legacy. It was good to see all of you again. Thanks to Larry McMurtry and his lovely wife for making the long drive from Archer City to help out the cause and thanks to James McMurtry for his fireside acoustic version of “DP’s Lament,” which was inspired by the only regrettable events of the weekend. Let’s hope that little tune doesn’t make the next album. We worked on putting that event together for a year and to see it all go off without a hitch was very gratifying. It was wonderful seeing all of you and it was a big, fat ball of fun knowing the money all went to charity. Finally, I’d like to apologize to all of the dove I shot this weekend. If it’s any consolation, you were delicious.
Incidentally, I hope you all appreciate the irony of me going bird hunting with the Pulitzer Prize winning author of a book entitled “Lonesome Dove.” Watching a 75 year old with a 12 gauge take aim at an actual lonesome dove frantically searching for the cover of trees while being peppered with buckshot in spite of its status as the symbol of peace was almost too much to digest. It was certainly too much for me to invent.
So, I know you’re all asking yourselves, “What’s up with the self indulgent, name dropping lead in, DP?” Well, let me respond by saying that I’ve only dropped names where necessary. There were other big shots there that will go unmentioned, but my interaction and experience this weekend in addition to the fires here in Austin put me in a contemplative mood, which brings me to the point of all of this name dropping and self congratulating.
Some Guy had a lot of time to think this weekend. Maybe it was sparked by my interaction with the fancy folks in my life. Maybe it was the 5 hour drive from Austin to Snyder. Maybe it was the drive back. Perhaps Some Guy spent 12 hours in the Scurry County Jail alone in a cell. Perhaps the time sitting alone in a field taking in the scenery around me as I waited for birds gave me time to collect my thoughts in a way that my usually hectic life here in Austin doesn’t afford. Perhaps it was the substance I drank from the innocuous clay jug with the three “X’s” on the front of it.
Regardless of the vehicle that took me there, I realized in a profound way what I am indeed thankful for in my life this weekend and despite the fact that I won’t leave you laughing in your seats this week, I’d like to share just a few of those things with you. Besides, I have two killer stories lined up for the next couple of posts which should have you spitting your beverages on your computer screens. I the meantime, I would appreciate your indulgence.
We throw around this word on a daily basis like pills at a Charlie Sheen pool party; however, we hardly ever stop and think about its true meaning. As I’ve alluded to in many past posts, I’ve been through some rather dark times in my life—the most recent of which were brought on by my own arrogance and stupidity. It’s during these times when I’ve learned which people in my life are there unconditionally.
It’s often tougher to appreciate a true friend under everyday circumstances; however, there are times like this weekend when I have been lucky enough to realize in real time the value of true friends.
While contemplating these moments I recalled a time in my life when I made choices that ultimately let down a large number of people I considered to be my friends. To be fair to those people, I’ll own the fact that during the time I’m about to recount, my life took a very sharp turn off what appeared to be a very solid road. I was selfish beyond measure. I lied. I cheated. My life literally collapsed around me.
Granted, under the circumstances all of these people had a right to their first reaction. All of them had a right to feel disappointed, angry, frustrated, deflated, shocked, or whatever other emotion bubbled to the surface immediately after discovering what was, in fact, a harsh truth to discover. However, what was heartbreaking about the entire situation for me is what happened after the dust began to settle.
Ominous, vague allusions aside, what happened is something that taught me one of life’s most valuable lessons. Shortly after the big explosion I began to receive emails from several “friends” essentially telling me that our friendship was over. They all ended with very Edward R. Murrow-esque themed “Good Night and Good Luck” salutations.
After contacting a friend who didn’t send me an email I later found out that a family member of mine held a conference call about me and directed everyone to abandon me in the name of setting me straight. To this day, that is one of the most painful things that ever occurred in my life and it has a profound effect on how I treat both the people who abandoned me and new people I bring into my life.
Before you reach for an aloe-infused Kleenex and weep for my misfortune let me share some perspective. I think most people fall into the realm of the former friends who chose to abandon me. Most people carry with them their own group of issues and limitations and setting those aside for the sake of anyone but themselves is a Herculean task, especially when a betrayal of an extremely personal nature has occurred. When a person who is respected for a certain quality acts in stark contrast to that exact quality, the person who held him in high esteem is bound to have a strong reaction.
It’s difficult to swallow a tennis ball sized helping of pride and most people choose to pick up that tennis ball and hurl it toward the guilty party. That’s a hell of a lot easier than dealing with whatever issues we carry around with us on a daily basis. It’s much easier to blame someone else for everything even when only part of what that person has done is responsible for whatever emotions erupt. In that regard, the reaction of these folks didn’t surprise me.
As I’ve said, I deserved the first reaction. It’s what happened afterward that stuck with me. The friends that stuck around were the ones who were able to overcome their initial reactions and look at me as an entire person rather than viewing me through the narrow telescope of the worst time of my life. I’ve since forgiven in the truest sense all of the people who walked out on me. However, I have no desire to have a relationship with any of them anymore.
The good news is that after sting of being hit by those tennis balls began to wear off, there were people left in my life that chose to remain there rather than walk out. It is this group of people who I was with this weekend. These are the people who I laugh heartily and unapologetically with even though the joke is aimed squarely at me. These are the people who have keys to my car, my house, and I trust with my deepest secrets. These are the people for whom I will stop anything at any time of day and at any place on earth just to pick up the phone when I see their name on my screen. These are the people who make me feel loved and I am thankful for all of them. There is good in everything and everyone. When that good is directed openly and honestly at us, we should learn to embrace it unconditionally. Doing that often helps us find the good in ourselves even when it is obscured by terrible things.
I was in Vegas recently and was talking poolside with a guy named Bill I met because we shared the same cocktail waitress. Ménage a tois imagery aside, Bill and I struck up a conversation about my beloved home state. Bill is a New Yorker through and through and made his living deep in the heart of the action on Wall Street. He enjoys fine foods, expensive wines, exotic cuisine, foreign cars, and recently refurnished his swanky Manhattan loft. After talking with Bill for a few minutes, it was clear the guy was loaded. What happened next, however, was quite telling.
After some discussion about New York, Bill turned his attention to Texas. After testing the waters with “you all ride horses to work and wear cowboy hats” comments Bill could tell I wasn’t amused. I’ll give him credit for recognizing my lack of receptiveness because he asked me, “What is it about Texas? Everyone I meet from Texas has a thing about that state.”
I’m not sure about “everyone” but here’s what it is to me. Every child in a Texas public school is required to say the Pledge of Allegiance and the Texas Pledge of Allegiance before school every morning. Every child in a Texas public school is required to take a Texas History course early in his education. We know the state nickname, the state bird, the state tree, the state flower, and we learn about the men who fought and died to give Texas its independence from Mexico. We celebrate Texas Independence Day on March 2 with the same zeal we celebrate the Fourth of July. We learn that Texas was its own country before joining the United States and we learn every river that defines our borders and every battle that made it that way. We are taught from a very young age why Texas is Texas and we’re taught to love and respect it.
Granted, that sounds like indoctrination, but there is a distinction to be made. Texas is a fiercely independent state and it’s big too. Texas is bigger than France and unlike living on the East Coast like my friend Bill, it’s entirely possible to drive for hours upon hours and never leave the state. Texas feels like its own country and it’s comforting to know that by living here I’m a part of something bigger than myself. Texas is not just some place to put up a house and find a job. Texas is home and that mentality is ever present in its residents, especially in Austin.
With rare exception, every person who lives in Austin feels lucky to live here. That’s a special thing to encounter and as someone who has traveled all over the country for extended periods of time, I have yet to find a place like it where that mentality permeates everyday life. The people are wonderful, the hills and lakes are comforting and peaceful, the food is great, and, of course, Lone Star Beer is made in Texas.
I suppose if I had to explain it to the ones of you who are reading this and rolling your eyes, I’d say that the Texas Pride thing is tantamount being a Red Sox fan in Boston or a die hard Cubs fan in Chicago. It’s something you carry with you wherever you are and I, for one, smile each time I return home from a trip and raise the airplane window shade on descent to reveal the Austin skyline. I love it here and I’m thankful to be a Texan. I’m also thankful that guys like Bill can appreciate that.
MY SPECIAL LADY FRIEND
I’ve never directly addressed this particular subject in my blog. In fact, it’s a subject—among others—that I’m extremely reluctant to discuss on the pages of the Internet. Contrary to the emotions and musings I share on this blog, I’m an intensely private person and I don’t share a great deal about myself beyond my aforementioned circle of close friends. I’m not distant or unapproachable; however, I’m careful about sharing everything with everybody. In short, there are plenty of tickets available to the DP Theater but very few people get a back stage pass.
While contemplating the people in my life during my downtime this weekend, many things occurred to me; some of which were frankly difficult to admit to myself. The truth is that I’m an extremely flawed person. I’m moody, sometimes selfish, obstinate at times, and often in a dark place. I’m hypercritical of myself and tend to store a lot of that burden deep within myself rather than asking for help carrying it. I suppose all of this is tempered (even hidden) by my giant personality and sense of humor; however, that also makes me tougher to handle when that sense of humor goes into hiding for a while.
To set the stage, let’s just say that the horrible events to which I’ve been referring above are a major sign post in my life. For the past five years or so, it’s been difficult, if not impossible for me to completely and totally open up to anyone in any sort of long term, meaningful way. I’ve had flings, dalliances, short romances, and even walked away from what could have been constructive relationships all in the name of getting my head on straight.
I’ve struggled with my station in life and grappled with my personal demons. I’ve been in denial, denied nothing, drank myself into oblivion, stayed sober for months at a time, talked to no one, talked to everyone, wandered around, stayed in seclusion . . . you get the picture. I’ve struggled. It might surprise you to know that many of what I would consider my funniest and most creative blog posts have been written through tears in the middle of the night. I’m not sure how that works. It just does.
Throughout those times, it’s been rare for me to find a person interested in shouldering the consequences of my actions and accepting me for exactly who I am today. During the recent past I’ve—as they say here in Texas—gotten my sh*t together—and am today a much happier—albeit still flawed—person. I’m focused, back in great shape, positive, and open. I’ve gained perspective and realize what I want out of the rest of my life and I have accepted myself for who I am. I understand and realize my limitations and own the talents I’ve been given. I’ve realized only recently that coming to grips with every word in those last two sentences is the only way for me to truly appreciate another person in my life.
Now, it’s not important how, why, or even where we met. We met and, like other people in my life at the time, I chose to know her without the commitment or responsibility of letting her get to know me emotionally. In short, like the majority of the people in my life since the big explosion, she got a ticket to the theater and not backstage.
Thinking back to when we met, I remember several things about her that struck me. She had a natural, almost understated beauty about her that didn’t require any accoutrements. She was dressed simply yet what she wore seemed suited exclusively for her. Her eyes were sincere and positive to look at and her smile lit up her entire face. Her laugh was contagious and occurred often. She was quiet, yet confident and had a knack for listening intently. She was warm and open and emanated a certain intangible femininity through small mannerisms that intrigued me and captured my attention. She smelled nice too.
Now let me say that these are all qualities I both look for and have found in other people. In fact, when asked I’ve told other people I’ve seen the same or similar things. After all, these are the things that I find attractive in a woman. However, I’ve rarely, if ever, found all of them in one person and, despite my conscious efforts to deny it, these were all voluminously present in her. In short, she was an attractive broad and I dug her.
Our relationship was long distance, which under many circumstances spells imminent doom. However, keeping in mind where I was emotionally and what had happened in my life, the distance was actually a positive in that it gave me small doses of time to both get to know her and slowly open myself to her. In short, there’s no way it would have worked if she lived in Austin. I simply wasn’t ready. We saw each other on occasion and began to talk regularly; however, we both avoided “The Talk” as we both had issues and other people to deal with. We both knew—I think—that we were interested in knowing more, but we were both oddly comfortable with the distance and perhaps afraid of a committment.
Fast forward to present day. The truth is that I’ve made many mistakes in the relationship—regardless how that’s been defined over the time we’ve been seeing each other and what level of commitment was expected. I’ve been selfish at times, confused, scared, and she’s been forced to bear the full weight of my shortcomings. In response, she’s been inexplicably patient and unflinchingly kind to me. She has never been jealous or controlling and she’s always been able to set aside her own pride in the name of giving me the time and the room I need to figure things out.
She makes me laugh and she’s a big fan of the blog and in spite of the fact that I have an overwhelmingly female audience she has never once asked me to acknowledge her or made any effort to mark what she can rightfully claim as her “territory.”
In spite of my mistakes, she has remained a consistent, positive presence in my life and has demonstrated a true ability to forgive me when I sincerely apologize. She’s stood up for herself and has set reasonable expectations for the future. Most importantly, she has unselfishly looked past my inability to accept my own feelings--often at her expense--and has helped me understand that her feelings for me are unconditional. She has allowed me to be a better person on my own terms and for that I am indescribably grateful. She also laughs at my jokes.
Often when we realize we have someone in our lives like that it’s often too late. Fortunately for me, it isn’t. I’ve been through quite a bit in the last few years and my time alone this weekend has helped me amalgamate those events with the people currently in my life. I’ve realized unequivocally that I want all of those people to remain in my life, especially her. In short, Some Guy in Austin is officially off the market. I’m thrilled that I’ve finally learned to listen to myself and I’m lucky to have a person in my life who has been patient and supportive enough to let me figure that out for myself.
Well, there it is. It’s amazing what a person can discover sitting alone in a field with a case of 20 gauge shotgun shells and a six pack of beer, isn’t it? When I shared the subject of this with a close friend she told me that I was going to lose a large portion of my audience. That’s crossed my mind too, but the truth is the truth, Readers, and my Special Lady Friend has earned the right to let the truth see the light of day.
Thank you all for reading this week. In exchange for indulging my metamorphosis this week, I promise to deliver big next week. I’ve got a couple of stories in mind that should do the trick. Thank you again to everyone involved in the John Wayne Film Fest this weekend and thank you to those of you reading this that made a donation to the fund. Please keep Austin and its residents in your prayers. Take care of each other. In the meantime, if you need me, I’ll be writing love letters. DP