Tuesday, January 29, 2013

My Cousin Eric

One of my earliest memories of my cousin Eric was when he was 3. My aunt and uncle were over, and Eric spent the day following me around the house. Everything I did, he wanted to do. Everything I touched, he put his hands on. Because of a laundry list of issues, he barely survived childbirth, and as a result early in life had trouble speaking, so when he called my name, “Cousin Phillip” came out as something like “Cousin Quiquop.”

I was much more socially awkward as a kid than I am now, and while I don’t remember exactly how I said it, after an hour or two of having an extra shadow who couldn’t pronounce my name right (or simply call me Phil) I turned to him and said something like, “Will you leave me alone?”

Out of the corner of my eye I saw my mom, who made a beeline to me and pulled me aside.

“Stop being mean,” she said. “He’s following you around because he looks up to you. You’re the oldest cousin. You need to set a good example for him.”

At that moment I felt like the world’s worst cousin.

Since then I’ve tried to set a better example. And though I haven’t always succeeded, I’ve had a lot of fun with Eric over the years. We played street football in front of my grandfather’s house, where it was his mission to beat me deep on a post pattern, and eventually, when he finally got the better of his older cousin, it set the stage for the leveling of the playing field and some epic one-on-one battles that would’ve made a matchup between Randy Moss and Darrelle Revis look like a game of patty-cake. We argued about our respective house rules for the game of Asshole. We went out to bars and partied and took turns designated-driving each other home. Once he helped me move a sofa into my apartment. It was a difficult to negotiate the angles of that particular apartment, and we decided we couldn’t celebrate any other way than with beer and vodka. He gave the red Solo cup its due long before Toby Keith. We celebrated and complained about the opposite sex. We cheered when the Boston sports teams won championships and threw stuff at the TV when they lost. This past Thanksgiving we watched the Patriots pummel the Jets, and when New England scored 21 points in a span of less than a minute I turned to Eric and said, “This could get ugly.” And he responded, “You mean it isn’t already ugly?” And I laughed and had to post his comment to the Twittersphere.

His difficulties at childbirth meant he had his bouts with illness throughout his life, but time after time always pulled through. A couple of weeks ago I was scrolling through Facebook and noticed he was sick again. And I didn’t think twice about it, because he’s always been a warrior and always pulled through.  

Last Monday I’m running the store I work at because the manager is on vacation. My cousin Elena calls me. She’s a texter, not a caller, so I know something’s up. But I can’t take the call because I’m in the middle of work and I have 11 other things to do, so I bounce it to voice mail.

Two minutes later she calls again. And that’s when I get the sinking feeling in my stomach.

I call her back on my way home and my intuition is right – he’s probably not going to make it. I want to drive out to Brigham & Women’s to see him. I’m not a doctor and there’s really nothing I can do to help. But I’m an only child so the cousins are as close as I’ll ever get to having siblings of my own. Factoring in traffic and the bad weather and trying to find parking and/or waiting for the T, it’d take me at least a couple of hours to get there and that’s probably being generous. I get home and I can’t move. It’s snowing out, and I’m battling a nasty flu bug, and I’m exhausted.

A couple of hours later, Elena calls back and it’s the call I don’t want to take. Eric’s passed on. Again, I feel like the world’s worst cousin, because I’m at home instead of the hospital.

It’s taken me a week to write this, even though I knew exactly what I was going to say from the beginning. I think part of it is because deep down inside, I feel like if I write this, then it’s final and irreversible, even though I know that’s a silly way to think. It never truly hits me that someone has passed away until after the funeral, because there are always pictures of the person all around you and after the funeral is when you realize this person is never coming back.

Today I found the inner strength to finish it. I like to think it was Eric telling me it’s OK. Because that’s the kind of guy he is. He'll be missed, and yet he'll always be around.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Walking the Walk

Apparently I have a distinctive walk.

I am not announcing this without evidence. I say this because recently I walked into a room and someone shouted from the next room, "Phil!"

"How did you know it was me?" I asked.

"I can tell it's you from the sound of your walk."

Having a walk that people recognize on sight is enough to make you paranoid. You become self-conscious and start thinking about the way you walk, which makes your walk that much more distinctive, for the wrong reasons.

It's another thing to have someone say they can tell your walk because they can hear it. Are my boots wicked loud?

It's a good thing I'm not a spy. I'd be a lousy one.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Twitter & Me

I have a dysfunctional, love-hate relationship with Twitter.

I love it because I have random thoughts while watching TV and it allows me to express these thoughts. I've become a serial livetweeter of NFL football and reality dating shows.

I hate it because random people will follow me, and then I follow them back, and I get subjected to relentless tweets about their business/agenda at the rate of 100 tweets per second ("Maximize Income From Your Tweets! Would Earning $1,000 a Week from Tweeting Be Enough For You? Find Out How You Can Get 75,000 Followers On Twitter!")

I bring this up now because I just crossed the 100-follower plateau on Twitter. One of the things I'd like to get back into this year is building a platform for myself. It seems like increasing my Twitter followers would be consistent with that.

In the past, the people who mass-tweet about getting 75,000 followers a week on Twitter would get on my nerves, and I would stop following them, and they would stop following me. I'm sure I annoy people with my livetweeting "#Seahawks 24, #Redskins 14" or something similar. (In fact, one of my best followers tonight called my chronic livetweeting of The Bachelor "appalling." And he's right. It is appalling. I am appalling.)

I'm going to be more patient with Twitter. Bring on the overtweeters. I wish I could unsubscribe to someone's Twitter overposts, the way you can unsubscribe to someone's Facebook news feed when they chronically post narcissistic pictures of themselves or political statements.

But in Twitter, like in everything else in life, I have to take the good with the bad.

On Behalf of All the Massholes, I Apologize

At my part-time job, in between running around like a spy with boxes, I observe a lot. It's a good job for people-watching.

For example, I'm doing my thing with the shopping carriages when I hear a car horn honking madly. I turn around because I feel like I just missed a road rage incident, and I see some guy in he road, who apparently nearly got hit by a pickup truck. He's pissed. He's also, I can gather from the accent, from the South. He sees me, and I can't remember what he said verbatim, but it was something about how people here in Massachusetts aren't much for hospitality, which is true.

I shook my head and said, "I'm sorry."

"Don't be. It wasn't you."

"I know, I'm apologizing on behalf of my state."

The thing that makes this all the more bizarre is the guy in the pickup truck in question is also cranking this song at full volume.

Two things have become clear to me thanks to this incident.

1) I frequently need to apologize on behalf of the state of Massachusetts

2) If you're cranking soul ballads while involved in a road-rage incident, you deserve to be sentenced to death. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

It's Not For Women...Maybe?

There's this series of commercials for Dr. Pepper 10, which declares that the diet soft drink is "not for women."

Well, today I saw a woman purchasing a 20-ounce bottle of Dr. Pepper 10.

I hope the police didn't drag her into an alley and beat her to death, because I strongly support a woman's right to acquire Dr. Pepper 10.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

On Making Last-MInute New Year's Plans

It dawned on me Dec. 28 that I hadn't made any plans for New Year's Eve.

Big problem. Some nights I'm perfectly comfortable relaxing at home in front of the TV or the laptop. New Year's Eve is not one of them. New Year's Eve is a lousy holiday to spend at home twiddling your thumbs. I don't necessarily have to party or go to FirstNight or Times Square. But I want to do something social.

Part of my falling asleep at the switch was because the past three years, I've had ready-made plans for New Year's Eve, as my MFA program always has a big bash to ring in the new year. It's the New Year's party that has everything -- champagne, music, debutantes, sea monsters. Not to be missed.

But that was not an option for me this year. Suddenly I was in scramble mode. I made a few calls.

And luckily, I was able to secure some plans.

It was a wild time. Much liquor was imbibed. A pair of tongs were thrown and opened a nice-sixed chunk in the wall. The police were called twice.

No sea monsters, unfortunately. But another successful New Year's Eve accomplished.