Haddie And Her White Feather

Haddie Cinder, purple with rage, was pushed into this world without her cooperation or say so. With hearty inhalations between her wails, she eventually turned a healthy pink, which she remained almost to her last days. Born at the very end of Queen Victoria’s reign in Nottingham, she grew up an enthusiastic believer in God, King and Empire.

Haddie was a lovely girl with auburn hair, dark blue eyes and a sprinkle of freckles across her cheeks and nose. She grew up as pretty as a rose in that midland city. Shortly after the outbreak of what would be called the Great War, she and her friends were encouraged to join the Order of the White Feather. And her friends went about the city pressing white feathers of cowardice into the hands of boys who looked to be of soldiering age and able. Haddie however was reluctant to give away the feather she held. It was thus she met young Daniel Coyne, who was just leaving the market with some groceries for his mother. Haddie and her friends were passing just as he left and they whispered to her, Oh, he’s spry. Go ahead, give him one. Go on, Haddie, do it. And feeling the pressure more than usual, she did and young Daniel, unsure of what was being pressed into his palm, blushed scarlet to the tips of his ears. He had never in his sixteen years been touched by a girl before, never mind one as beautiful as this one. When he looked at the feather in his hand, he blushed even deeper.

He returned home and vowed to enlist despite his age. He also found out who it was that handed him that white feather. He wrote her and told her he had joined the Sherwood Foresters and would be going off to train shortly. Haddie visited him before he left, because she felt some remorse about giving him the feather. Before they even were aware of it, the first hint of romance grew between them. After he spent several months becoming a soldier, he was given a week’s leave. He came back to Nottingham in his neat uniform, looking almost a man, but not quite. He and Haddie spent as much time together as they could. She gave him her picture just before he boarded the train that would bring him to the transport ship to France, a newly minted member of Kitchener’s army.

Within weeks, he was marching toward Ypres and planted in the trenches of a contended salient like a sodden potato. He wrote letters to Haddie and received them from her. The letters were full of admissions of undying love as only the very young can avow. There were days of artillery barrages when young Daniel thought for sure he was going mad. He would pull out Haddie’s portrait and just stare at it. Finally, the day came when they poured over the trench parapets and ran forward into no-man’s land. He made it to the line of barbed wire. And one moment he was there and the next he was a pink mist dampening his fellows, a scent for a second, a taste of copper on their lips. All of his worth, past and future, spent there and absolutely nothing gained.

In Nottingham, Haddie received a letter from her dear Daniel. In the envelope lay a white feather and nothing more.

Note: 14,000 Nottingham area men died during the 4 ghastly years of the First World War. Countless others were wounded or driven mad.

#middleaged #manspov

#middleageddating #lastfirstkiss #love #aging #fiction #historicalfiction

#love #sex #worldwar1 #ww1 #greatwar

#nottingham #sherwoodforesters

On Mother’s Day for the Childless

Yesterday was Mother’s Day here in the USA. I went to church early in the morning. I go alone. It’s a quiet mass and quick. At the end, ushers stood at the doors and gave a single red rose to all the women as they left. All the women. Presumably, some women were not mothers, either by choice, circumstance, or nature, but each got a rose. I suspect those roses serve as a reminder of something quite different than it does to the mothers.

Over the years, I’ve known several women who have chosen not to have children. I have never met one who has not anguished over their decision as they passed beyond their years of fertility. Some come to terms with their decision and others do not. It weighs heavily.

I also realized that several of these childless women went into “traditionally female” careers like teaching and nursing. They spent a lifetime tending to their students and patients in a way that can only be described as maternal. And some of them became stepmothers, often doing everything a mother does but entirely unappreciated. Or she might be the favorite aunt who spoils her nieces and nephews.

I just wanted to say I see you there, maybe struggling. And, yes, you deserve a rose too.

#middleaged #manspov

#middleageddating #lastfirstkiss #love #aging

#love #sex

#autobiography #memories #writing #mothersday

#mother #childless

Of Debits and Credits

Jasper Fellows wasn’t a particularly religious man. If there was a God at all, he thought, He was a keeper of a great ledger full of gains and losses and his fingers were stained with red ink and black. With no more thought than a steam machine, He’d run a line through a name, and another, and another, with no care or empathy at all, just simply calculating.

As for Jasper, he conducted his life in much the same way as his imagined God. If he differed in any way, it was that while gains didn’t bring him any great joy, losses made him miserable. If he couldn’t count it, stack it, sell it or buy it, he figured it probably wasn’t worth a second thought. He went to all the right schools, knew all the right people and did exceedingly well for himself. Jasper meant to win the race. He was about accumulation well into his forties when his life took an unexpected turn, because life does that sometimes.

One day after leaving his office, Jasper tripped on a crack in a sidewalk, falling to the ground and hitting his head. 999 times out of a thousand, a man would get up, brush himself off and be on his way, but Jasper suffered a concussion and was taken to a hospital. It was there he met a pretty nurse named Angela Stone. And Jasper, maybe because he was out of sorts, promptly and inexplicably fell in love. One minute, he was a cold, conniving man and the next, he was one degree warmer. Under her patient influence, Jasper eventually became less stodgy, less of a compiler of lucre and less concerned with the bottom line.

Time passed, because it always does and Jasper and Angela wed, had children, grew pleasantly plump. Jasper smiled easily now and it no longer looked quite so foreign upon his face. And one day, God struck a line through Angela’s name. He thought not a whit about the slash, but gave a satisfactory sigh as he closed the ledger. Jasper though, he kept Angela firmly in the credit column.

#middleaged #manspov

#middleageddating #lastfirstkiss #love #aging

#love #sex

#memories #writing

#fiction #god

The Brothers Lament

Scene: Tessa, a small restaurant on the upper westside of Manhattan with an industrial decor, softened with wood flourishes.

Characters: James, a blue collar man in his mid-50’s

William, his older brother, an executive in his very early 60’s

The maitre d’ sits them at a small table for two along a wall. There are tables to either side with couples already enjoying their meals. The brothers make small talk, as the wine steward waits to pour a full glass.

William: Yes, that’s quite good.

The steward pours and exits.

James: You look like a pretentious prick swishing the wine in your mouth like that.

William: I took a two month course after I retired. I’m now a third level sommelier.

James: You’re making my point. You forget we’re only two generations away from sheep shagging in the bogs of County Kerry.

William: My forbears never shagged shee….

James: They shagged the shit out of those sheep. What else did they have to do?

William: You’re particularly prickly today. Aren’t you happy to see me? We don’t see each other much.

James: I’m very glad to see you, Billy, especially since you’re picking up the check.

William: And generally, Jimmy, are you happy? We’ve reached this age. We’re in the third act now. Do you look back with regrets?

James: Oh, we’re having an existential discussion. I wasn’t prepared. I thought we’d just brag about the kids.

William: We talk so little. I thought we might cut through some of the bullshit.

James: Regrets? I’ve had so many, but then again, too many to mention, if you don’t mind me butchering Sinatra.

William: Sinatra just sang it. Paul Anka wrote it.

James: I hate Paul Anka. I preferred the Sid Vicious version anyway. Did you ever see the video? He shoots up the audience at the end. They’re all in suits and evening gowns.

William: No, I can’t say I have. I’ll look for it later.

James: So, yes. I’ve got lots of regrets, but I don’t unpack them. I leave ’em in the past, where they belong and strive to be happy.

(The waiter takes their orders. Grilled octopus for an appetizer. A burger for James and a NY strip for William.)

William: Did your divorce make you happier? Meeting Cassie?

James: Cassie’s been out of the picture for quite awhile and divorces don’t make you happy. They make you angry. What’s with the middle-aged angst, Billy?

William: Ive just been thinking 40 years with the same woman. 40 years between dating and marriage. Sometimes, I think I want a change. Sommelier courses can’t be all there is.

James: Diedre’s great. You can’t be serious.

William: I’m not, but still I feel like I’ve missed out and now it’s too late. You’re dating? Sex with different women?

James: yes, dating here and there. Sometimes a woman takes pity, but it’s not all wine and roses. Or I should say it feels like that’s all it is. But why is too late for you?

William: I’m falling apart suddenly. My endocrinologist says I’m pre-diabetic. My cardiologist has me on statins. My dermatologist is slowly flaying me. I’m balding on top but growing hair everywhere else. I’m losing my hearing. My knees hurt. I need Viagra on the very rare occasion we have sex. It all seems so very pointless.

James: Hmm, I guess I can’t say, at least you’ve got your health.

William: No, you can’t.

James: Well, at least you’ve got your wealth.

William: Yes, it could always be worse.

James: Diedre could have half your money. And you’d still be an old whiner. That’s worse.

(The waiter returns with the grilled octopus.)

James: Tell me, Billy, how are the kids?

#middleaged #manspov

#middleageddating #lastfirstkiss #love #aging

#love #sex

#memories #writing

#fiction #play #sidvicious #sexpistols #franksinatra #myway

Which Movie Plot Am I Living Out?

A couple of posts ago, I was writing about my experiences with the sensual Gabriella. She was (and remains) an attractive Colombian woman in her early fifties. She was curvy, but she wore it well (kind of like Marilyn Monroe when she sang “Happy Birthday” to JFK at Madison Square Garden). Speaking of movie icons, I felt as if I was wandering between different film plots during our brief relationship.

As the last few weeks of her long vacation in the US raced by, she delighted in video chatting with me, often she was nude and self-pleasuring, a la American Pie. With each passing day, I wanted to see her more. I’d like to say I wanted to see her so we could pass some pleasant hours conversing and enjoying each other’s company fully clothed. I’d be lying though. American Pie wasn’t really a movie made for my generation. I was in my mid-30’s when it came out. The whole computer thing was a mystery to me. I didn’t even own one at the time. So the idea of real time videoing, chatting, and emails was a fairly foreign concept to me. Watching it now, I realize the movie was really right about how the general public used computers. It has aged surprisingly well (compare it to You’ve Got Mail, which seems hopelessly out-of-date). Our home computers, laptops and smartphones have become the conduit and often a substitute for our social interactions.

I was thinking of Gabriella more in terms of The Sure Thing, the John Cusack movie released in 1985. I had just graduated college when it came out and at the time I certainly identified with it more than i would American Pie later. Cusack plays a young man who travels across the country to have guaranteed sex with a drop dead gorgeous coed, who he has never met. If only we could arrange to meet, I knew Gabriella and I would have earth-shaking, gravity-defying, brain-frying sex. I mean, why else was she American Pie-ing me? She was my sure thing.

Yet the days passed, until just a few were left. And then, there were no days left and she flew back to her home. We continued to chat daily. She told me she would like to come back to the US as soon as possible. Her last visit was so long, some time would have to pass before she was allowed back.

Now, I thought this was an unusual acquaintance, but pretty harmless. Things took a turn though. She told me she loved me, could not possibly live without me. When she came back, she wanted to move in with me. And she asked me, just like the sure thing did in that movie, Do you love me too? All Cusack’s character had to say was yes and she would be his. If I said yes, what was I going to get? I thought of the movie Green Card, where Gerard Depardieu and Andie MacDowell fake a marriage so he can get his green card and remain in the country. They hate each other at first, but eventually fall in love because beauties like Andie often fall for ogres like Gerard. Maybe this was all a scam to take advantage of me for a place to stay and perhaps ease her way into legal residency, but maybe it was real. Maybe she was in love with me. Maybe I was just that irresistible. Then again…

I also thought of the 1987 movie Fatal Attraction, where a crazed woman played by Glenn Close stalks Michael Douglas’s character after what he thought was a one time sex romp. That particular movie still resounds in my thoughts decades later and I don’t want to live it in reality. Do you love me too?

Erm, no, Gabriella, I’m afraid I don’t.

#middleaged #manspov

#middleageddating #lastfirstkiss #love #aging

#love #sex

#autobiography #memories #writing

#columbia #humor

#americanpie #thesurething #youvegotmail #fatalattraction #greencard


The Full Irish Breakfast

Usually, I’d invite my girlfriend over the weekend before St Patrick’s day for a day of Irish immersion. She was Greek, but loved our little tradition as much as I did. She’d walk into my house early in the morning. I’d have the Chieftains playing low in the background, just a hint of uilleann pipes and bodhrán to bring us aurally back east across the wide and wild sea to my ancestral homeland.

I’d already have my biggest skillet over a decent flame in my little galley kitchen, the whole package of American bacon spitting and hissing at me, angry at this final humiliation. The smell of it seeming to forgive me. I remove the bacon onto paper towels and then to a dish in the oven to stay warm. I keep the fat in the skillet hot and add black pudding, white pudding (each cut in 1 1/2″ lengths) and 8 Irish sausage links. I watch them brown but not burn and several minutes into it I add whole mushrooms and 4 thick slices of red, ripe tomato.

Meanwhile, Callie has put a can of beans in a pot to warm. She measures out the loose leaf tea into the infuser in my handed-down teapot. I get my tea from a place off 42nd Street in NYC that has a nice selection. She has chosen the Darjeeling and Assam mix. She steeps the tea for a minute and a half, removing the infuser before it brews bitter. She sets the table for us with my good dishes, tea cups and cloth napkins. We eat rustically, but serve it up like royalty. My father used to say we were descended from kings and God knows it might be true. Every nook and cranny had a king in Ireland once upon a time.

I unwrap a loaf of soda bread my sister has sent through the mail. She pays extra to get it there fast and still fresh. She makes dozens and dozens of loaves baked from my grandmother’s handwritten recipe and sends them to everyone she loves. Each has a cross cut in on top before being put in the oven. She says it symbolises God’s blessings and I’m good with that. To me, it’s tradition spanning the centuries. My Irish mothers passing down a simple recipe generation to generation. Callie cuts a few slices and slathers them with Kerry gold butter.

I switch the music to Sinead O’Connor’s Irish album, her lovely voice singing sweet, sad Molly Malone. I clear the skillet, put everything on serving dishes. Scramble up some eggs quickly and get it all on the table. This is no meal for the faint of heart. We dig in, washing it all down with black, sweet tea. Her dog lays near the table hoping for some scraps. She always gets something. I’ll be eating the leftovers for days. We clean up.

With that much caffeine and cholesterol running through our veins, there’s nothing for it but to go take a hike up to Hawk Watch Ridge. The dog leads the way, straining at her leash. We stretch our legs a bit and enjoy the warming sun on a cool day. Reaching the end of the trail, we take a seat on the stone outcropping for a bit and look over the valley. The hawks aren’t migrating yet, so they’re not out in numbers, but we catch sight of one gyring on the thermals, majestically surveying all the woods spread below.

When we get back, we put the corned beef in a big pot of boiling water and let it simmer away to a shadow of itself with a pint of beer added for flavor. We curl up on the couch and watch John Ford’s The Quiet Man on the big screen TV. Callie curls into me on the couch. Her dog rests sleepily by my feet. John Wayne dukes it out with Victor McLaglen. Maureen O’Hara marches home, a smile wide upon her face. And we three are a happy little trio, content in our St Patrick’s day traditions. At least for a few more years.

***The painting above is The Meeting on the Turret Stairs. It’s the most beloved painting in Ireland and can be seen in the National Gallery in Dublin. The man is going down to face the young woman’s family, who are waiting below to kill him.

#middleaged #manspov

#middleageddating #lastfirstkiss #love #aging

#love #sex

#autobiography #memories #writing

#stpatricksday #thequietman

#johnwayne #maureenohara

#ireland #irishamerican


A Chat with Gabriella

Shortly after I had begun my online dating journey, I connected with a woman named Gabriella on Plenty of Fish. She was an attractive brunette with light brown eyes. I have a weakness for women whose names end in a’s. Subconsciously, I think I’m attracted to darker women, probably a reaction against my own Irish features. They seem exotic to me, their accents sensual. Through chatting with her on the app, I discovered she was Colombian and was on the tail end of a long vacation in the States. At that point of time, she was staying with cousins about 25 miles away from me.

It was apparent quickly she had very little English and my Spanish was limited to counting to 29 and discussing whose casa it was. The Google translate app solved that problem. And we merrily messaged back and forth, traded g-rated pics, and discussed getting together. She insisted she wanted to get together, but always seemed to have plans and the time grew shorter with each passing day.

Also, with each passing day, her pictures became less g-rated. We exchanged phone numbers and moved onto WhatsApp, which allowed video chats with nearly simultaneous translation, which were often nonsensical. We’d wait for each sentence to translate, laugh, and then try again. Soon, our video chats became more visual and less oral. The last several days of her stay, she would call me in the morning while I was at work. She’d still be in bed, a blanket hiked up to her chin. Slowly the blanket would be pushed aside and it all became very American Pie-ish. She’d ask me to tell her what to do, which I would, but as discretely as possible, as I was at work. Needless to say, I became very desirous of her, practically begging to see her. And the days slipped away. Three days left, then two.

#middleaged #manspov

#middleageddating #lastfirstkiss #love #aging

#love #sex

#autobiography #memories #writing

#columbia #humor