Friday, June 28, 2013

Ode to Al -- Part Deux

This is Part Two of my Ode to Alex in honor of our 12th wedding anniversary.  Al looked over my shoulder as I wrote Part One and said, "You're just really putting it all out there, aren't you."  Do you think he meant that in a positive way?

Hard to say.  Onward!

Al moved to Seattle and we moved in together.  This was our first apartment --

It was 350 sq. ft. and had mold and maggots in the windowsills.  But it was Capitol Hill and when you're young and tragically hip (and broke) like us, it was the only place to be.

This is where we were living when Alex was arrested for bank robbery.  That's a funny sentence with the added benefit of being true.

Alex was late for work one day (he was working at an elementary school assisting a student with ADD) so he was running at full speed.  In an exquisite collision of circumstance and timing, he ran past a Key Bank at the exact moment it was being robbed.

Our friends from L'Arche, who live down the street from the bank and drive great big vans, drove past and saw him running.   They screeched to a stop and threw open the side door -- "Hey Alex, you late?  Hop in, we'll give you a ride!"  Several eyewitnesses described the dark-haired man carrying a backpack who jumped into a large silver van and sped off.

Alex jumped out of the van at the school and ran across the yard.  Moments later he heard "FREEZE!" and turned to find several police officers with guns drawn.  So he dropped to the ground.  I should mention this was on the school's front lawn, in full view of the students inside.

A policewoman came over, told him he was under arrest, and put a knee in his back.  She grabbed his backpack and opened it.  Alex can still do a great impression of her face -- hard and serious as she reached into the bag but morphing into confused and skeptical when she pulled out.... a bagel sandwich. 

They brought the bank teller to the scene.  She said "No, that's not him."  Alex was then free to enter the school with mud on his clothes and a new hardcore reputation.

But wait, there's more!  Several other police cars followed the silver van back to L'Arche.  They surrounded the house and banged on the front door.  When our friend, Cecelia, answered (with several people with disabilities squealing in ecstasy because oh lordy, how they loved policemen), a policeman barked,  "Did you just give someone a ride in your van?"  Cecelia said, "Yes, my friend Alex" and the cop said, "Well your friend Alex just robbed a bank, and it's not the first time."

They never caught the guy who robbed the bank(s).  The police were too damn busy with Alex.  That one was on us, bank robber.

Alex asked me to marry him once and I said "no."  His motivations were more practical than I would have liked;  he wasn't American and there had been some hairy situations at the border when we'd taken trips to Vancouver.  To his credit, he stuck with me even after my heartless "are you eff'g kidding me?" response.

I told my Mom I wasn't sure if I ever wanted to marry him and she said, "You'll know.  Just one day, you'll look at him and you'll know, one way or the other."

That day came months and months later.  Alex was eating a bowl of cereal in his underwear and I was sitting on the couch staring at him.  And I knew.  I said, "Hey Al, do you want to get married?" and he grinned and said, "Well sure!"

So we did.

Our wedding has been described as "pretty damn memorable" because of the mix of French-speaking people and English-speaking people with a healthy sprinkling of people with developmental disabilities.

Some came down from Victoria.  Awesome.

There was a spontaneous sing-off between the French Canadians and Americans at the reception.  At another point my friend Kenneth, a man with Down Syndrome, took the microphone away from the band's lead singer and sang some stuff.  Whatever, people, it's our wedding, obviously anything goes.

(You should have seen the singer's face.  He was so unsure, like, "How do I take the microphone back from this disabled guy?"  Priceless.)

 I was just very excited about the food

I don't remember exactly what we did with our married lives before children.  How did we pass the days? I vaguely remember Alex studying his ass off and getting an MBA.  Other than that, I think we bathed in leisure time, slept a lot, and fanned ourselves with dollar bills.

We cheated mercilessly at cards

We tried to eat our friends' babies because we didn't know what to do with babies yet

Sometimes I sat up in trees because that's what badasses do

But then, the craziest thing happened.  Quite literally --

The Looshman commeth

All hell broke loose after we had Lucien.  Lucien had colic, you see, and screamed for the first six months of his life.  It was mind-numbingly awful.  At one point, Alex, deep circles under his eyes, rocked a screaming Lucien and said to me, "What if this isn't colic?  What if he's just telling us who he is?"


Lucien was the kind of kid who got put on a leash.
Here we are in beautiful Juneau, Alaska.
(Yes, I was that mother.  Back the f*ck off.)

Lucien broke every appliance we owned.
My personal favorite was the sandwich in the DVD player.

Lucien was always quiet and calm in a car so one day I decided to drive him 20 hours to the Tetons for my friend's wedding --

Which, quite possibly, was even more "pretty damn memorable" than ours

Through the challenges and stress of raising a spirited kid like ours, Al and I tried hard to stay united.  Sometimes we failed.

This is the face.  This is what it is to parent Lucien.

But we love that boy with the fierce strength of a million suns

There have been many times Alex and I have stared each other down, fuming, hands on hips, each thinking "Oh NO NO NO, this just WILL NOT DO."  There have been times of glaring at each other, "Really?  Me and you?  We're complete opposites.  How the hell did this happen?"

Well, now you know how it happened.  And you know what's happened since -- Paris and baby Coco and houses and whatnot.  And here we are, still fighting the good marriage fight.  Our union is not perfect but our happy days outnumber our unhappy ones.  I guess that's all you can ask for.

If I had to do it again, I'd still pick him.  I'd still pick the guy who owned a "What's up Doc?" shirt and a pair of frayed denim hotpants.

Happy 12th to my companion on the journey,

Thanks, Mario
You pretty much made the whole thing happen
FYI, Alex turned out just fine.  And he learned English really really well.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Ode to Al

I recently found several boxes of old photos under our bed.  The photos held events and people spanning from my childhood up to the year I bought a digital camera, at which point all photos disappear.  I should really print those damn things because it looks like my life ended in '03.

Do you remember the days when you used to take a picture and you wouldn't know how it turned out until weeks or months later when you finally had the film developed and realized it was out of focus, your eyes were closed, or your idiot brother couldn't center a photo to save his life?

Boxes of old photos tell many stories. In my case, the photos told stories of love - love between family members and neighbors and true friends, not to mention love of the romantic variety.

Man, I miss some of those guys.

I digress.  Most importantly, my box of photos told the epic tale of Alex and MJ, a love that happened between two stupid little people from different countries, different languages, different pretty much everything.

Al and I had lives before we met, of course.  For instance, before we met, I had my First Communion --

...and Alex was a good Canadian boy --

A little later, I was busy being hilarious with my family in Antelope Canyon --

...while Alex was busy wearing shorts like these on top of a mountain --


Alex volunteered at a place called L'Arche, a worldwide network of communities that care for adults with developmental disabilities.  It turns out Alex was really, really good at it --

And he wore awesome "What's up Doc?" shirts

Around the same time, Alex met a man with muscular dystrophy who needed an assistant.  He needed help getting around, especially traveling, which he loved.  Alex became his assistant and near-constant companion.  The man's name was Mario --

Mario was smart and successful and funny and charming.  He had lots of girlfriends.  He and Alex were kindred spirits.  Each considered the other his best friend in the world.

Mario told Alex he had to learn English to be successful in the world.  He told Alex to leave Quebec, to go learn English and learn it well. 

So Alex did.  He moved to British Columbia where he learned English and continued his work with  L'Arche in the Victoria community --

More bumper cars

Alex's English-learning flubs are legendary in the Victoria community.  For instance, many people still tell the tale of Alex, who stood up in the middle of the room while leading a Christmas party for people with disabilities and their parents and announced, "OK, everybody, time to rape your presents!"

Meanwhile, someone else was just a few hours south of Victoria in Seattle, also working at L'Arche, also loving where life had taken her --

It was me!!
Pat's eyes were closed.  We didn't know that until much later because of film.

Moving to Seattle and working at L'Arche were my finest decisions.  No one can understand if they haven't lived it, but L'Arche -- houses where people with and without disabilities live together -- was family.

A dysfunctional family full of utopia-visioned social-justice-seeking hippies
 and the people with Down Syndrome who put up with them

Carol was pissed off when we took this one at the Sears photo studio.  She didn't want to be there and kept trying to leave.  My bear-like friend Dirk there in the middle clamped his arm around her and they hissed at each other out of the corners of their mouths the entire time.  But don't we look happy?

Aah yes, this one.  Marjie was pissed off this time because we couldn't get her out of the car.  Stephanie's leg was pinned under Marjie and I couldn't get a good enough angle to lift her.  All we could do was laugh while Marjie muttered something about 
"being surrounded by idiots."

Neighboring L'Ache communities often have retreats together off in the woods.  That's where I met Alex.  To say our eyes met across a crowded retreat center and lingered is no lie.  The attraction was short-lived on my end, though, because soon thereafter Alex led the "icebreaker" portion of the retreat and it was totally obnoxious and inappropriate.

Alex's ideas for good icebreakers were things like hopping around with carrots between our knees then passing the carrots between our co-workers knees.  We also played Musical Chairs but if you had nowhere to sit when the music stopped, you weren't out of the game -- you just had to go sit on someone's lap who still had a chair.

This would all be fun except L'Arche tends to attract a lot of intensely introverted and shy people.  Their embarrassment was palpable.  My director, for instance, was purple-faced and couldn't look at anyone for days.  Either Alex hadn't considered his audience, or he'd considered them very seriously and decided to embarrass them all anyway. (Now that I know him well...the answer is most definitely the latter.)

Either way, if you'd told me at that point I was going to marry that loud obnoxious guy, it's likely I would have punched you in the face.

It could have ended there.  But on the last morning of the retreat, a couple hours before we left for home, I watched Alex's director run to him, put her arms around him, and say something.  And then Alex collapsed.

The retreat center had received a call from Alex's family.  Mario had died in Quebec.

Everyone was hushed as we packed our things, milled around Alex and his intense grief, and tried to say the right things.  I hugged him, told him I was sorry, and we went home to our respective cities.  

The loud guy with the touching friendship with the older guy in a wheelchair stuck in my mind.  I wrote Alex a couple weeks later to see how he was doing.  He wrote back.  Then we called each other.  Then he came to visit.  And then he was my boyfriend.

 I was thrilled

Part Two coming up. This sh*t's just starting to get good.

Happy Anniversary Al.  12 years and counting.

And P.S.  -- Listen up, everybody, Google Reader is going bye-bye July 1st.  To continue following Seattle Moxie via a blog reader, try bloglovin or feedly.  Feedly is especially great with its fancy one-button migration tool.

I'm going to miss you, Google Reader.  We really had something special.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Chicken Relay

Alex took the kids to his co-worker's pretty house on the lake for dinner not long ago.  I didn't go with them because I had plans for dinner with my old friend, Cavanaugh.  My best meals tend to happen with Cavanaugh because he's a "foodie" and insists on the finest cuisine in existence.  I'm more of a "whateverie" and would happily eat cereal for dinner for the rest of my life.

I returned home from dinner at 11:00 p.m. to find my family wasn't home yet.  They finally straggled in, both kids wired with hair pointing in every which direction, at 11:30.

Coco's eyes were wild.  She grabbed my face and pushed my cheeks into fishy-face formation, put her face a millimeter from mine and yelled, "I ATE CANDY MOMMY."

To top it all off, Lucien was barefoot.  Alex had somehow lost Lucien's brand new shoes at a dinner with only five people present  We never saw those shoes again.  Alex suspects they were thrown in the lake but he doesn't really know.

This is why Alex is rarely in charge around here.

If you guys were worried my life would become boring once I returned home after a three-year stint in Paris, DON'T WORRY.  My life is heart-palpitatingly exciting here in Seattle.

Exhibit A:  Lucien may or may not have lost his shoes in a lake. (!!)


Exhibit B:  We recently took part in a Guinness World Record attempt for largest number of people playing hopscotch simultaneously. Dreams are coming true in the Central District, yo.

Organizers of "Hopscotch CD" painted a giant hopscotch game from one end of the Central District to another.  It wound through many streets and attracted a large chunk of the community to its ridiculousness.  There were attractions along the way such as lemonade stands and massage chairs and goofy stuff like buckets overturned into "drum sets" you had to play before crossing the street.

It's almost impossible to walk down a sidewalk with a hopscotch game imprinted upon it and not jump.  Young and old alike succumbed to the magic of those squares.  Teens walking with their friends jumped. Big burly men walking their dogs jumped.  Old ladies carrying grocery bags jumped, which they probably should not have done.

Our neighborhood was hopping.

In the most exciting part, a large group of us congregated in a parking lot for the official world record attempt.  The air was abuzz with excitement -- we were about to try a completely random and insignificant thing!  When the whistle blew, we hopped at our designated court while a man with a bullhorn urged us to KEEP HOPPING.  Hop hop hop hippity hop hop hop.

When it wasn't my turn to hop, I looked around and soaked in the absurdity.  What was it about the event that attracted so many people (over 400!)?  Are we, as grown adults, that starved for whimsy?  Are we desperate to be part of a world record, make our mark upon the world, no matter how dumb?  Are we just all incredibly bored and looking for something to do on a Saturday afternoon?  If so, we should consider cycling.

And why were the vast majority of hopping people caucasian when the Central District is the most racially diverse neighborhood in Seattle?  We've got all kinds of colors of people up in here!  My working theory is white people are the most ridiculous of the races.  I'm not sure.

After all the excitement! jumping! bullhorns! whistles! -- well, we didn't make the world record.  We were 50 people short.  Oh well.  In Lucien's words, "Second place is still pretty good."

Let's hop on home, son

If all that wasn't crazy exciting enough (!!), I recently chaperoned a field trip to the Lincoln Park tidepools.  We scoured the beaches and found lots of crabs and starfish plus a bunch of other animals whose names I'm never going to remember.  Some looked like gelatinous goo.  They were very loose interpretations of the word "animal."

There are about 50 "animals" down there

Maybe you don't think the field trip sounds very exciting so far.
Maybe this will change your mind...

BAM!  Butt plug in your face

One little girl leaned in to touch the butt plug sunning itself on the beach -- "What is it?" she asked all childlike. I karate chopped her hands and pushed her forcefully away while yelling, "NOOOOOOOO."  Those are the kinds of reflexes that develop only with extensive chaperoning experience.

If that wasn't enough shredded mayhem and bone-crushing carnage in Seattle for you,  I also helped at Lucien's school for Field Day.  Lucien wasn't present; he was sitting in the principal's office.  But that's neither here nor there.

Actually, I was here and he was there

Another similarly masochistically-inclined mom and I worked the Chicken Relay.  For over an hour, I demonstrated hopping (or waddling, depending on my mood) with a tennis ball between my knees five yards to a box, where I then "laid" the egg by dropping it in.

I don't know why I bothered.  Those kids didn't listen.  You would not believe how many Kindergarteners USED THEIR GODDAMN HANDS when I specifically told them not to.

It was a long hour of chasing errant tennis balls and picking children up off the ground.  It's mind-boggling how many feelings were hurt and how many tears were shed.  I mean come on kids, it's not like this is an event to be taken seriously.  It's not like this is a Guinness World Record attempt for hopscotching.

By the end of my shift, I was hoarse, exhausted, and dammit, I missed my son.  I waved in the general direction of the Principal's office, blew my boy a kiss, and waddled/hopped to my car.  Old habits die hard at the Chicken Relay.

We had some friends over for dinner Saturday night.  We roasted some motherf*cking marshmallows over a firepit.  IN YOUR FACE HELLRAISING that's what that is.

I'll take the Fruit Loops tartare,