fringe benefits

The new establishment just three doors from my favorite sandwich shop advertises on the sign over the door, “Social Axe Throwing.”

Below, a small card in the window offers “Free Firewood.”

admission: I may not ever become a rock star

I don’t think that it’s particularly surprising to the reader or to any random stranger meeting me for the first time that I am not currently nor will I ever be a rock star.

The revelation here is that I’m having to admit to myself that I will not become a famous musical performer. Or, a musician of any caliber whatsoever. It’s the fact that I have a playlist in my head — mostly covers, embarrassingly — that changes from time to time. And, it’s hard to admit, I have in the back of my mind a scenario that I may, in some public setting or at some concert, be called upon: Does anyone know how to block out this chord progression in G on this piano? Or, we’ve been looking for someone to sit in with the band to do this cover of Only Living Boy in New York, and you look like just the person. And: We were lucky enough to have Adam suggest to us that we could make our dreams come true with this rendition of Rocket Man, and fortunately he’s here to play along tonight, so Adam come on up to the stage …

None of these things will ever happen.

The neurosis is not so much in the fantasy as it is in the belief that lingers. If you walk by some evening when I’m alone, listen closely as you approach the driveway. I could be improvising on a bluesy version of Rocket Man, seeing if it works in E-minor as well as the original G-minor; or I could be trying to hit the notes as I sing the lines, “Half of the time we’re gone but we don’t know where; we don’t know where.”


On flight 2478, the cohorts of rows 21 and 22 contort faces at the 10-month-old of 20D, making him grin and squeal. We play our role to keep him entertained.

From 20D, the 10-month-old looks back upon the audience in rows 21 and 22, open mouthed smiles and drool to make them laugh. He does his best to keep them occupied during the 1 hour, 38 minute flight.

25-year rake

When we were first married, new homeowners, there was the long list of requisite tools and hardware. One by one, we assembled hammer, pry bar, shovel, pipe wrench, level, drill, rake.

I remember specifically getting the rake. I had a choice between the 5-year rake, the 10-year rake, and the 25-year rake. Apparently, rakes and their family of garden instruments are rated according to how long they’re expected to endure. Instead of horsepower or speed, you pay for longevity.

I went for 25 years, seduced by the solid yellow handle and the sturdy tines, but also by the immortality it promised. At the time, I thought that this was forever. In so many ways it was, because it was the extent of my own lifetime. The 25-year rake was a commitment into the future. It was a statement. It said that I was willing to pay more money on the gamble that I would still be raking the dirt in the garden of our home a quarter century (my entire lifetime’s duration to that point) into the future.

Today I was looking at that rake, grading out the gravel for the back patio. It’s the third property that this rake has worked upon. It twists a little to the left, and I can see that it’s looking into the horizon of its lifetime limit. And here we are, rake in hands, still pulling out stones and smoothing grades, even as specks of rust start to settle in.