Sunday, April 24, 2011

You can go home again, but who wants to?

As much as I complain about Boulder or just about anything, I forget how beautiful it is here. Flying back to Minneapolis this past week was like going back in time to a winter in the Middle Ages or how I would imagine the Middle Ages would be if it had The Mall of America. The cold air hit my face the way my fingers would hit a slant six engine block while ratcheting out a rusted spark plug in January.

It was my mother-in-law’s eightieth birthday and we flew out to celebrate with the family. I like my mother-in-law and she happens to be a wonderful woman, but she still smokes. I became rather sensitive to cigarettes while growing up with a smoker. It has gotten to the point where I can pick out which drivers are lighting up even with the windows closed while doing seventy on the parkway.

We were staying at her place for the weekend. I was just getting out of the shower and I grabbed a clean towel lying next to the sink. But the more I dried myself the more I could smell cigarette smoke. Where was it coming from? With a look of horror I realized it was third hand smoke. Third hand smoke is the residue left behind by a smoker, and is usually trapped in fabrics. Even though the cloth may be washed several times, in this case towel, it still has remnants of tobacco in it. I was slowly coating my epidermis with a veneer of tar and nicotine. I’m such a hypochondriac I pictured myself getting skin cancer and I had to re-shower several times. It was as if I was trying out for the Meryl Streep’s role in the Broadway production of “Silkwood”. When I asked my wife for a roll of paper towels to dry off she thought I finally lost my mind. That all changed after her shower. But the worst part is I became addicted to the towels and found myself with a two and a half showers a day habit by the end of my trip. If I stayed any longer I probably would have stolen a washcloth to keep in my desk.

Italians are a rarity in Minnesota along with much of the mid-west. As such people felt like that had to serve me pasta at every meal in order to be polite hosts. It’s mid-west pasta though, which means egg noodles with white cream sauce, chicken, pork, seafood, and three types of cheese. I know I must sound like an ingrate. I don’t mean to. It was very generous and thoughtful of everyone. Between the nico-towels and the heavy sauce, however, my weight was up, my blood pressure was up and my life expectancy was down. It was a matter of survival to get out.

This past weekend my son came out for a visit from New York. I dropped him off at Denver Airport for his trip back and I headed home to finish this piece. The first thing that crossed my mind was “Thank God he doesn’t write a blog.” I could only imagine the horror stories he is telling his friends about his visit with me. I don’t think my fragile ego would handle all the public complaints with any amount of grace or dignity. Of course by next week my fears will be a dim memory and I’ll be back writing, maybe with a little more compassion. I know I start with good intentions, but by the end of the week I’m once again an apoplexic mess.

Anyway, here is the watercolor I gave the old gal for her eightieth birthday.

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