Saturday, March 15, 2014

Off Season Post: Reflections from 30,000 Feet

Hello, Readers.  I suppose a “surprise” is in order.  Yes, Some Guy has found Some Time to write last week prior to the big (and probably anti-climactic) Bachelor finale while your DVR’s were bristling with anticipation. 

So, what was the occasion, you ask?  When I began to write this I was somewhere over the great state of Colorado at a cruising altitude of about 30,000 feet traveling around 498 miles per hour—at least that’s what my Flight Checker told me.  My usual modus operandi from my comfy and well-earned 1A seat is to throw some Red Dirt music (Google it) on the iPod and then slumber away until I’m inevitably awakened by the slowing of the plane on its approach into Austin Bergstrom International Airport in my beloved Austin, Texas.

Below is the fruit of my labor on that flight. 

Normally I sleep on planes.  Like Pavlov’s dog, there’s something about grabbing a seat that makes me sleepy.  Not just any seat.  Usually a right hand aisle seat is my preference when I book because I’m left handed and I can’t stand being crowded on my left side.  Even in first class, I feel most comfortable with a clear left side—another one of my quirks.  Even Mrs. Some Guy knows to walk to my right and sit to my right.  Normally, however, I sleep.   

Today, I’m in a different mood.  I’ve spent the last 4 days with my twin brother and 4 of my closest friends in Vail followed by a quick one night stint in Denver due to the fact that their airport is closer to Kansas than it is to downtown Denver.  It might even be in Kansas.    

I suppose the nature and substance of the trip can collectively be described as what most of you would refer to as “A Guys’ Trip,” but it occurred to me up here in the deep blue something that---for me anyway—the one or two times a year that I’m fortunate enough to find the time to get away and meet up with my friends in such exotic locations as Vail, Vegas, or New Orleans these trips amount to more than ritualistic male bonding sessions involving a lot of jokes about the (alleged) filthy reputation of one’s mama and binge drinking. 

Granted, there’s no shortage of the former or the latter; however, even that aspect of the trip has its own unique, albeit distorted, value.  Before I get to my point, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the spouses on the other end of the cell phone.  It’s worth noting that there are three options in response to the question,

“[Insert generic platitude] we’re thinking of heading to Vail in March for a few days, is there any problem with that?”  

The options include: 

1.         No f*cking way;

2.         I’m not comfortable with it but you can go.  However, from the date of this notice to a date well past your return that only I know, I will passive-aggressively inject my hostility into every aspect of our relationship; or

3.         I don’t understand these trips but I understand and love you and I respect your friends.  Go, have fun, and please check in to let me know you’re safe. 

I’ll only speak for myself and not the others, but it’s fair to say that while I am lucky (and I mean lucky) to have a spouse who currently subscribes to Option Number 3, not all of the guys do. 

Thank you, Mrs. Some Guy.  These trips—whether you ‘get’ them or not---are invaluable to my sanity, peace of mind, and, in turn, invaluable to the effort I gladly put into my role as Mr. Some Guy.  And yes, I took my wedding ring off and put it in a safe place when I went to bars so I wouldn’t scratch it.  I’m kidding.  (She hates that joke.)

Now, let’s get to the point:  Friends.

Christopher Hitchens wrote, “[a] melancholy lesson of advancing years is the realization that you can’t make old friends.”    

Now, I know my usual perspective is the male/female relationship, but humor me here for a bit and let me explain how these male friends I’ve known for the better part of my adult life (and in the case of my twin, 9 months before it began in earnest) and I can derive great pleasure in insulting each other in the most debased and inappropriate ways, sticking each other with large bar or taxi tabs, laughing uncontrollably at legitimately painful injuries (we’ll get to that later), and simultaneously strengthen a shared love for one another that none of us—if our lives depended on it—would openly admit, much less be able to articulate. 

The truth is that there are many people who, at certain times in our lives, stand squarely in the center of our world.  These people enter our lives regularly and they are the most important thing in our lives at the moment they occupy that precious space.  

However, with age, experience, and exercise of the introspection necessary to gain perspective it becomes abundantly clear that the majority of these people’s influence over our lives is temporary and that it is more often their departure from our lives rather than their presence in them that holds significance. 

First girlfriends, mean bosses, chatty co-workers, and casual acquaintances have profound influence over our daily lives; however, their importance in the grand scheme of our lives often dwindles over time as we hit each stepping stone and land, firm footed toward the next phase of our lives.

The conundrum is value, I suppose.  And what seems to be the problem is one of both perspective and myopia.  Most of us live our lives within the confines of our immediate perception and fail to even consider the possibility that there exist infinite possibilities over the lip of the horizon.   

The harsh emotional accessories of life we bear like tumors are inevitably heavier than the problems they portend. The value of these temporary people, these harsh emotional accessories, is always defined by the power they possess over us.  They are like heavy overcoats.   

There are many heavy overcoats in our lives.  Friendship is not a heavy overcoat.  It is a freshly washed cotton shirt or a favorite playlist on your iPod.  It is beef stew on a cold day or a cold beer on a hot one.  It is soft while life is hard.  It is a safe place to fall.    

This is why friendship cannot be undervalued.  It cannot be dismissed, nor should it.  The people in our lives we can call true friends are rare:  old friends more rare. 

I have been blessed with a small group of friends like this and I am grateful for the limited, but meaningful time I carve out of a 365 day hustle to spend with them.   

“Seek not the favor of the multitude . . . But seek the testimony of few; and number not voices, but weigh them.” ― Immanuel Kant

Kant, like Hitchens, understood that there are precious few people in our lives who actually matter.  And when you’re lucky enough to find them, they are worth holding on to forever.  

C.S. Lewis put it another way in The Four Loves.  “I have no duty to be anyone's Friend and no man in the world has a duty to be mine. No claims, no shadow of necessity. Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art, like the universe itself (for God did not need to create). It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”

For those of you who care, the difference between the philosophies of Lewis—a towering Christian apologist---and Hitchens—an ardent and unapologetic atheist—is about as subtle as the Grand Canyon.  Yet, friendship is their common ground.  Perhaps I’m overstating it, but I find the irony very telling. 

I spent the better part of the weekend in various stages of a beer buzz wandering through Vail Village defending my mother’s honor.  There’s something very liberating about being truly known by the people around you.  Under normal circumstances that’s tantamount to walking into a crowd naked; however, because the trust of many years of friendship is there, there is no fear.  No shame.  Just security.  There is a happiness that grows out of knowing that no matter how severe the attack on one’s maternal roots, there is, as I said before, a safe place to fall. 

I won’t belabor the point.  Rather, I’ll end with an anecdote that I believe sums up perfectly what I’m trying to communicate here.

As y’all know, I grew up in the Lone Star State—southeast Texas to be exact.  The closest thing we have to snow on Christmas down there is those Styrofoam packing pellets protecting our Christmas gifts.  

I also didn’t grow up with any money.  Ergo, I’m not a snow skier.  However, the Mrs. is quite the ski bunny and I’m what would probably be described as “the outdoor, adventurous type” if I were to create my Profile or whatever it’s called.  She talked me into trying and I enjoyed the hell out of it.  Still, although I’m athletic, I’m not a good skier . . . at all. 

Flash forward to me all geared up riding a gondola up to the top of Peak Something in Vail with a pair of poles in one hand and a set of rented skis in the other.  My friend JV grew up in Golden and, as such, is more comfortable on a set of skis than he is in a pair of loafers.  My closest (and oldest) friend has lived in Colorado for the better part of 10 years in addition to skiing in college.  My college roommate (not Lenny, but the other one) grew up in Minnesota and has snowboarded for over 10 years as well.  In short, I was like a virgin partying with a few of well-seasoned Corinthian women at the local brothel.

That's me in the back there.  

I made it from the gondola to the ski lift and we all took off down the mountain with me bringing up the rear.  They quickly disappeared into the fog.  Oh, did I mention it was snowing too?  As I tried to remember my ski instructor’s mantra “French fries to speed up, pizza slice to slow down,” I tried the ole, side to side technique to get down the mountain without incident.  I’m a jump in and learn later kind of guy and my rationale was that the more I sucked it up and just went for it, the easier it would get for me. 

As I gained confidence, I gained speed down the mountain and decided to French fry it rather than pizza slice it down a semi-steep but hardly daunting section of the run.  I made it about halfway down before I heard my college roommate yell as he went flying by on his second run.   I knew the others wouldn’t be far behind.  At that moment I turned and instantly felt my skis stop abruptly in the snow.  The only problem with that is that my body didn’t stop with them. 

I landed squarely on my left shoulder and heard the unmistakable sound of my ribs cracking inside my body before sliding to a stop and thanking God that I didn’t land on my head.  

Then the pain started. 

As I lay there in pain, looking skyward, my friend JV skied up next to me.  “Are you alright?”  “Yea, I think so.”  “Come on, I’ll get you down the mountain."  And he did.  For the next few minutes, ribs tightening, I stayed on the capable heels of  my friend JV until he got me safely to the gondola. 

“I’ll find everyone and we’ll meet you at Vendetta’s for pizza.  You sure you’re ok?” 

“Yes (wince, wince), I’m good.”

After some pizza, we walked back to the condo to meet my brother—also a non-skier who (wisely, in retrospect) opted for Facetiming with his kids and listening to his iPod over landing face first in the snow at top speed.  

My oldest friend conveniently happens to be an ER Doctor.  We’ll call him CG.

SGIA:  Can you look at me?  I think I broke some ribs. 

CG:  (Laughing) Yea, JV said you ate sh*t. 

SGIA:  (wincing as he examined me)

CG:  Nothing is sticking out.  If they’re cracked there’s nothing you can do anyway.

SGIA:  So what am I supposed to do?  Give me your medical opinion.

CG:  Take some Midol and drink through the pain. 

JV:  Here (handing me a beer).  Maybe you can sue someone.

Twin of SGIA:  Pussy.

College Roommate:  (Hysterical laughter) How are you going to bang CG’s mama tonight? 

SGIA:  I suppose I’ll have to give up my spot in line.

Twin of SGIA:  Dibs.

All:  Laughter

And so it went for the rest of the weekend and beyond.  For the record, I opted for ibuprofen over Midol and I did “drink through the pain.”   Actually, the real pain didn’t set in until my flight on the way home.  It still hurts . . . a lot.   However, the broken ribs are much like the other tribulations that have entered my life since these friends have been in it:  temporary. 

These friends, however, are not.   Well, until they all find out I’ve been banging their mamas. 

Call a close friend today and thank that person for being in your life.  Take care of yourselves and the people around you who actually matter.  In the meantime, if you need me, I’ll be trying not to breathe, sit, sleep, or sneeze.   Please don’t let me sneeze.  DP


  1. DP, not to get all mushy on you, but we're glad to call you a friend! Hugs and Kisses to you and the Mrs. XO

    1. HM, Mushy is fine. You know what friends do? They visit each other! Book your flight. There's bbq, beer, music, and 3 giant lakes waiting for you here in Austin. DP

  2. DP, thanks for a great post. Great to see you here so early in the off-season. Sorry about the cracked ribs, I know they can be very painful. At least you did it doing something manly. My husband cracked his while leaning on a deck railing to fluff up a duvet. Try explaining that to the guys at the bar!!

    1. Alderlea, Man, I can't believe you outed him. I assume it was you who wanted the duvet fluffed. I'm sure you're still ashamed. By the way, I have a very manly looking scar on my hand. The problem is that I got it when I burned my hand taking cookies out of the oven. DP

  3. DP,

    I totally agree with your views on friendships, enjoyed reading the blog because this subject is very dear to me. As a matter of fact, I am headed to L.A. on Friday for a long weekend get together with some of my best friends. Just like guys enjoy a "guy trip", we gals look forward to it the same. We laugh, we catch up, we shop, we eat, drink, and have a wonderful time. I get back home with my batteries recharged.
    By the way, you were right on the money with your Bachelor finale recap. The guy is a tool, and Nikki's brain must have been washed away when she went blond. Your point of view was very insightful, wish a lot of single girls could read it and learn something from it.
    Thanks for giving us a new post so soon into the off season. Sorry about the ribs, I'm sure it was painful.

    1. Liana, Girls weekend in LA? Invite me next time. I'm happy to pop out of the cake if you're in a pinch. DP

  4. 1. Old friends are the ones that you can not see or talk to for a really long time, and then when you do see's like yesterday they lived next door. Not as profound as Lewis or Hitchings, but there you have it.

    2. If you don't know how to ski by the time you are 20, it's gonna suck big time.

    3. Man, you can write. You CAN seriously write. This is a off-season treat

    4. And last, and I'm not sure why I am moved to say this...just wait til you have kids. If there's one thing that forges friendships its sitting together on the side of a ball field.

    1. ann, Agree with 1 and 2. 3 is flattering but I just jot down what comes into my head and then spell check it. I'm no Shakespeare. As for 4, I'll give you the advice my law school evidence professor once gave me. There are many facts that cannot be proven by evidence . . . except in a court of law. I'll leave it at that. Thanks for the comment. Glad you enjoyed the post. DP

    2. I a'rrriddy knew you could write, DP. Enjoyed the post mightily. You wrote something that has stuck with me through life, and right now it really matters. Good friends are few, old ones rare. I can count maybe four of those, and one of them is irreplaceable. Macedonian Hussy

  5. Fantastic off-season post! Love the mix of hilarity and sentiment. Also, just read the final (thank goodness) JP post. Excellent analysis as always! Happy Off-Season! Looking forward to thanks for writing!

  6. Hey DP…long time no comment! Even though I haven’t commented/emailed in a while, I’m still here and you are still one of my favorite writers. Thank you for this post. It was beautifully written and has special meaning to me. Just last Friday I was talking to one of my dearest friends and thanking her for her love and support over the last 18 years. We have always found a way to be there for each other which can be a rare thing. You definitely need to cherish these relationships and spending quality time together is a part of that. My parents set a good example for me in this respect, as well as many others. Growing up, both of them would take weekend trips with their friends; they still do just not as much anymore. It gives you a chance to get away and unwind. No matter how much you love your spouse/significant other, everyone needs that time.
    I’m very sorry to hear about your ribs. I hope you are better soon and can keep the sneezing to a minimum until you are. I can’t remember the exact date but I know you’re getting close to celebrating your one year anniversary. So, Happy Anniversary and wishing you two many more to come!
    Denise in Alabama

  7. I'm a Denver girl and totally agree about the airport...I often say that you land in Kansas and taxi in because it takes so long. Loved the post and feel the same about my girls from college. Life wouldn't be the same without them even though we're all scattered. It's about the commitment. :) Happy off-season.

  8. Thanks for the off-season goodies. Loved hearing about your friends and trip, but sorry about those painful ribs. Your post inspired me to pick up the phone (as opposed to texting) my BFF in Denver and thank her for the years of friendship. Your prose on friends is do eloquent. And BTW, my friend is a total ski bunny and I'm a ski turkey. Last time we skied, I just plain old gave it up in favor of the bar.

    Please keep up the off-season stuff!

    Marti in Dallas

  9. Had to thank you for this delightful surprise! Never expected an off season post this soon!!! So sorry about your poor ribs. Not sure how long it takes for an injury like yours to heal, but hopefully soon! As stated before, I enjoy your off-season post so much, almost wish you would give up the Bachelor and Bachelorette posts so I wouldn't have to watch the shows. Feel better.........
    B in NY

  10. I am a big believer in good friends and solo vacations with ones friends and without ones spouse and children. I wasn't always that way- early in my marriage (I got married at 22)- I was a bit choice number 2. Now that I am older and wiser I am choice 3 all the way. I make time to take a trip with friends at least once a year- it recharges my soul.

  11. Didn't realize there would be an off season post this soon. I am away from home and browsing my normal sites and found this-sorry it took me a few days to see this.
    You nailed it about friendships and it's fun to see a guy who treasures his friendships like girls do. My twin and I have a trip planned in October with good friends and it will be like we saw each other yesterday instead of months ago -we can just pick up and talk so easily. Not only does it recharge the soul, we leave with fun memories to sustain us until we can be together again.
    Sorry the rib injury kept you from sleeping on the flight back. I always kid my husband that he has a Boeing Butt Button that activates the minute he sits down on a plane-he is asleep before the wheels retract.
    Sal in Utah

  12. This is for Mrs Some Guy's eyes alone. Back before the day, I suggested that you have Some Guy tattoo his wedding ring in the event that it could get 'scratched'.
    What happened????????????
    B in NY

  13. What a beautiful and eloquent post, Some Guy. I read your blog for Bachelor recaps so this was a treat. As a college girl this made me a little less anxious and a lot more excited about the years to come with friends from grade school, college, and the years beyond (and of course with my sisters!).

    On an unrelated note: YOU HAVE A TWIN?!

  14. Oh SGIA, this made me giggle. I love that you share so openly about your friends. It's so true. Get a core group and stick to it thru thick and thin! And don't faceplant into the snow. hehehe