Tag Archives: friends

Who says aging is a bad thing?

18 May
Image Source: PithyPants 2014

With Karen, left, and Rosaura, right – my college roommates!

I just returned home from a whirlwind visit to Chicago to surprise my college roommate for her 40th birthday.

Alan and I flew out Thursday afternoon and had to keep reminding each other NOT to post anything to Facebook that would accidentally reveal that we were in the Windy City prior to Saturday evening’s party. It was surprisingly difficult, which probably means I can skip any “How Narcissistic Are You?” quizzes that appear on Buzzfeed this year. (But then, isn’t that true of anyone with their own domain name?)

It started when our flight was two hours late departing. The plane’s door closed at 2:30, which was 15 minutes behind schedule. Not a big deal, until the pilot crackled over the PA system, “Well folks, the tower just informed us that we aren’t going to be able to take off for another hour or so due to some severe storms in Chicago. We’re going to have to push back because another flight needs this gate, but we’ll keep you posted.”

We ended up sitting on the tarmac at DCA for close to two hours before leaving. Passengers were remarkably calm, considering there was no beverage service offered and the air conditioning was off. Alan took a nap and had sweat running down his temples. I refrained from posting about our predicament on Facebook. It was unsatisfying.

Image Source: Terese 2014

With Terese, at Pop’s Champagne, after dinner.

We arrived in Chicago just in time to meet our friends Brian and Terese for dinner at Eataly. (We all lived in the same dorm in college 20 years ago, yet whenever we reconnect, we don’t spend much time traversing memory lane. I love friendships that evolve with time – and I love seeing a couple whose relationship has weathered the years gracefully.)

The next day, as planned, I worked from our Chicago office while Alan ventured out to explore. When we awoke to SNOW that morning, I was actually glad to know that my day would be spent at a desk/on a phone/in meetings – doing anything but being outside. (Hello, Mother Nature – it’s mid-May. Don’t you think it’s time to cut these people some slack?)

After work, we took the train to Southport, where our friends Dan and Molly live with their son Eddie. We haven’t visited them since they relocated there last July, so it was great to catch up and re-imagine them as midwesterners. Also? Eddie is now 18 months old, has a contagious grin and an awesome arm on him. He pulled out an assortment of balls shortly after we arrived and demonstrated more strength and accuracy  when throwing than I did when I played softball in seventh grade.

The next morning (Saturday, if you’re keeping track!) we met up with Alan’s mom and aunt for brunch just down the street from Dan and Molly’s house. This is VERY random, since Alan’s mom lives in Virginia. She’s driving cross country by herself to deliver a car to Alan’s brother in San Diego, and managed to time things so that she’d be passing through Chicago while we were there so we could pre-celebrate Alan’s 40th birthday together. Pretty cool, right?

After brunch, we walked to Wrigley Field, where Terese (of earlier Brian and Terese fame) had hooked us up with amazing tickets to watch the Cubs completely shut-out the Milwaukee Brewers. The weather had miraculously recovered from the day before, so we had blue skies and 60 degrees. It was a perfect day for a ballgame, and Alan’s first visit to Wrigley Field. Overall, a win. Thank you, Terese!

The Birthday Girl!

The Birthday Girl!

Finally… with these fantastic few days serving as a warm-up, we arrived at The Featured Event: Karen’s birthday party. It was great to see such a dear friend surrounded by so many people who adore her. She was absolutely glowing. It’s a good reminder for anyone who is upset about aging: The beauty that comes from decades of friendship, from knowing who you are and being confident about your place in this world trumps the effortless beauty of youth.

Or will I? Alan just told me I look old.

Or will I? Alan just told me I look old.

As I close in on my 40th birthday later this year, I’m grateful to Karen for leading the way.

I booked my ticket to Chicago simply hoping to help a friend ring in a milestone. I returned feeling overwhelmingly fortunate for all the people who make my life so much richer than it was when I was half this age.

I’ll gladly trade wrinkles for them all.

(As long as I can post about it on Facebook along the way.)

Unwanted Perspective

16 Apr
From our office window...

From our office window…

Like most Americans, I’ve spent much of the last 24 hours trying to process the Boston Marathon bombings. When there is so much to love about living, it is truly mind-boggling to realize there are other humans in this world – structurally built from the same materials as the rest of us – who not only can’t feel humbled before it, but feel entitled to strip others of that gift.

I’ve felt this way before. After Columbine. After 9/11. After the DC sniper. After Newtown…

What is new to me is how personal this attack feels. Even though the scale is smaller (at least from a fatality standpoint), this event has rocked me in ways that the others haven’t.

Maybe it’s because my company’s headquarters is smack-dab between the two explosions.

Or because I have more than a hundred colleagues (dozens of whom I consider friends) working in that building.

Or because I’ve mindlessly walked past the two bomb sites countless times in the last few years on my way to pick up lunch.

Or because my  friends were posting photos of the finish line from the office window that morning, celebrating how lucky they were to have such prime seats.

Or because it’s all too real to imagine my co-workers cowering under their desks, waiting for the third blast.

Or because I’d tried to fly in that morning but the hotel costs were prohibitively high – so I pushed my arrival back a day.

Or maybe it’s because all the news coverage shows my hotel and my office building… landmarks that previously made me think “home away from home,” when I saw them pulling into view.

I really don’t know.

Regardless of why this events hits me square in the gut, there are a few things I am certain of:

Those runners won’t stop running because a coward tried to steal their glory.

We should stop using the term “mastermind” when referring to a terrorist. Masterminds are people who find elegant solutions to difficult problems. Killing innocent people? Pretty much the opposite.

The bravery of the first responders – the people who turned to run into the smoke instead of away from it – only serves to underscore the cowardice of the person (or persons) who set those bombs.

The goodness of humanity far outweighs the few random assholes behind events like this. 

Just watch the news or check out your social media channels and you’ll see that last point affirmed over and over again:

The Bostonians who coordinated a directory of private homes where homeless runners could stay.

The outpouring of blood donations at Mass General and the Red Cross.

The stranger who gave his race medal to a first-time marathoner who was unable to finish because of the blast. 

The spectators who rose to the occasion and found themselves pushing wheelchairs and tearing away fencing to get to victims.

The locals who – walking home from their evacuated office buildings – took runners home with them and gave them warm clothes and helped them reconnect with their families. 

Life is good. People are good.

Those beliefs are fundamental differences that separate us from the people behind attacks like this.

Cling to it. Celebrate it. Embody it.

© 2013 Aaron Tango Tang

© 2013 Aaron Tango Tang

For once, I’m not the one in the hospital!

14 Jul

I’ve spent a decent amount of time familiarizing myself with the Emergency Room in DC over the last two years, between getting hit by a car, having my leg do some random swelling thing, and thinking I had appendicitis. Based on my experience there, I assumed all hospitals were a flurry of activity, with nurses racing around, EMTs wheeling people in on stretchers and Code Blues being called over the PA.

So this morning, when Alan, my friend Kelly and I went to the VA Hospital in Ann Arbor to visit a classmate who wasn’t able to attend our reunion last night, I felt like I was in The Twilight Zone. The hospital was practically empty, with gates stretched over corridors and a closed sign hanging over the window of the gift shop. We walked the entire length of the building and got up to the fifth floor with only encountering ONE person.

It very much felt like we were in that television show The Walking Dead, where only zombies and a handful of humans populate the Earth.

Adding to the creep factor? The one person we saw standing behind the information desk when we entered the building. I approached him and asked, “How would we find out where our friend is and if she can receive visitors?”

He glanced up from whatever he was doing but made no move to the computer. “What the last name?”

“Allen,” I said. Without breaking eye contact, he said, “She’s up on 5 North.”

“SHUSH!” I exclaimed, causing him to stop speaking. (I didn’t remember this but Alan pointed it out after the fact because it was rude but the guy DID shush.) “How were you able to do that, without looking at a computer or anything?”

“I’m the chaplain,” he explained. “I’ve been up a few times to visit her, but she’s had doctors in there every time I go by.”

At the time it seemed like magic, but that was before we walked through the abandoned building and realized it was like a card trick where there’s really only ever one card that can be pulled. With seemingly no other patients, of course he knew who she was and where her room was. In retrospect, I’m a bit disappointed that he didn’t head us off at the pass by greeting us with, “Your friend is on Five North,” before we even asked. I mean, I’m pretty sure she’s the ONLY patient in the place.

After we found her, we asked if she needed anything to make her stay better. Candy? Books? Magazines? She shook her head, then relented, “Actually, some kind of mindless gossip magazine like People would be great.” Alan seized on the opportunity to go scout for one, leaving Kelly and me to chat with her in private.

Some ten minutes later, Alan reappeared, holding a book and a magazine. “Looks like you were successful,” I commented, before seeing what he’d actually retrieved.

At least it wasn’t this…

“Actually, the gift store was closed,” he said. Sheepishly, he held out his bounty. A Smithsonian Magazine and a Ken Follet novel. “But I found these in the waiting room so I thought they might work.”

Well, so much for reading about TomCat’s divorce. More like the fall of Rome. Which, I suppose, is probably better reading for someone in a VA hospital anyway. Good thing we didn’t go looking for games – probably would’ve only located Battleship and Stratego.

Now I’m wondering what the cafeteria serves. MREs?

What an almost perfect day looks like…

31 Oct

This is going to be me in 40 years.

Today, in (an extended) celebration of my birthday, I played hookey was given the day off work because it’s our company’s policy to consider your birthday a holiday. (Yay!)

So what did I do, you ask?

Well… First, I woke at 6am. And listened to NPR lazily from the comfort of my soft sheets for an hour. Because that’s what taking a day off looks like, when you’re a nerd. (We nerds know how to party.)

Then I made myself a perfect mug of espresso, before hitting a yoga class. Probably not the best sequencing of diet/activity.

But also not the worst, it turns out.

Not to out-do myself, after yoga (practically starving from the exertion) I demolished a tub of bean soup — without thinking about the massage appointment I’d scheduled a mere two hours later. Um. As soon as I was pleasantly full and tipped back in my recliner, I realized what I’d done.

Slightly panicked, I chatted my sister. Her advice? Take an egg and peel it in the lobby. Why? To really stink up the joint. Helpful. Thanks.

I shouldn’t have worried. Everything turned out JUST FINE. (But I did hit the ATM on my way, lest compensation need to run more along the lines of “damages” than tip.)

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This is how you end up walking on your hands.

11 Jul

Do you remember in Peanuts how sometimes Snoopy would get super enthusiastic and end up looking like a show-off? No? Well, here’s a refresher:

Why is this on my mind? Because this weekend at the pool my friend Margaret  pulled a Snoopy.

It was incredibly hot, so we spent a fair amount of time in the water. Near the end of the day there was a group of four women standing around in the shallow end talking. Margaret and I jumped in and she challenged me to race a lap.

As we clung to the wall post-race, catching our breath, one of the girls from the group attempted a few strokes of butterfly. She clearly wasn’t strong enough to pull it off, so it petered out pretty quickly. But not quickly enough that Margaret didn’t see it.

Next thing I knew, Margaret was on her way toward the deep-end, swimming a powerful butterfly past the girls, clearly showing up the chick who had just sunk. (In her defense, Margaret was just curious to know if she could manage a whole lap, not overtly trying to be competitive.) In any case, it struck my funny bone, and by the time she reached the other end, I was snorting with laughter.

“What?” she called from the deep end. I shook my head.

About this time one of the girls tells her friends, “My stroke was always backstroke…”

And lo and behold, here comes Margaret, heading past them via backstroke, arms cranking like a windmill.

© Charles M. Schultz

I’m clutching my stomach by the time she pulls up next to me. Fortunately, instead of completing the triple-play by starting a lap of breaststroke, Margaret proposes a handstand contest.

And that’s how I found myself upside-down, holding my breath and acting like I was twelve again. I think I have a new nickname for Margaret: The Red Baron.

Not that it’s a bad thing.