On Peter, on Cape, on writing , & a coming wave – by, Smerkle Grumpy

Once in a blue moon Peter lets me write a piece for his blog. Mostly he goes for long walks with his dog, Charley, while I tap out words on this here keyboard. We don’t talk much about what I want to write but he knows there are times I think it’s important for those who’ve been knowing him for some time, or reading him for some time, to get a peek at just how he’s doing. That’s where I come in. I like to overview him from time to time.

Now he’s doing pretty good in Berkshire County these days. He does have this idea of moving to Cape Cod in his head. A dumb thing to say, I know, because where else would he have an idea but in his head?

Anyway, first things first.

This coalition of his, this Kahrmann Advocacy Coalition (named after Peter’s father, Sanford Kahrmann, not Peter), is gearing up to become a 501c3 with a board of directors and all that hoopla and that’s damn good news if you favor equal rights for folks and bad news if you don’t. I was in the room a day or two ago when Peter lit into someone who answered the phone at  New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office  (He’s New York’s version of Chris Christie, you ask me. A bully). Woman gave Peter her first name but refused to give her last name saying they didn’t provide last names and without missing a beat Peter said, “Thank you for confirming I’ve reached the governor’s office.”

He fires those rounds so quick you wonder if folks realize they’ve been hit.  Not a whole lot makes Peter mad but when he is mad you’d have to be in a coma or gone to the next world not to notice.

He’s writing more than ever before in his life now and that is making him feel good and if you’ve been reading this blog you know he just did a lead part in a play and that was damned good for him. More than I think he realizes at the moment. Anyway, with him at his writing and, as always, reading up a storm, he’s begun to think of moving to Cape Cod. He told me once the proper phrase is people are “on Cape,” not “on the Cape.” Said he learned this from a woman he fell in love with. You’re on Cape or off Cape. No need for the.

It gets confusing.  Last week I asked him, “Why Cape?” He said it was okay to say, “Why the Cape?” and I said him and these Cape people need to sort out once and for all what their where they stand on the word the because the rest of us are busy stumbling over syllables and are just fine with the word because we use it a lot. I think he might still be smiling over that one. Anyway, he said he’d been thinking about the Cape because he went there as a boy with his father and family and it’s a place his father loved and the last place his father felt happiness before he died. It’s a place he (Peter) fell in love and almost married the woman and, the underpinning of it all, he misses the ocean. I always forget that when he was a boy both sets of his grandparents lived by the ocean. One set lived right on the water, they even had boats. This was in Rumson, New Jersey. And his other grandparents lived in Ocean Grove, New Jersey, just blocks from the ocean. And then, later in the seventies, Peter lived right on the ocean in Seagate, Brooklyn.

The coming wave I was thinking about when I picked the title for this piece is the wave of change. Change is coming for Peter but what’s nice to see is how clear and peaceful he is about it. That’s a good thing. He disengages quickly from  fight pickers or folks who, sad to say, are addicted to conflict, usually without realizing it. He keeps the door open for some who don’t have an active presence in his life. Even that Cape Cod woman. I asked him why he doesn’t lock more doors, I asked him about this yesterday or that day before. I can’t remember, and it doesn’t matter. I liked what he explained so I asked him to write it down.  Asked him to write it down. So he did. Here it is:

Sometimes people disengage from you, sometimes you disengage from them. Sometimes there are some barbs inflicted.  Anyway, it would be unfair to them and to me if I judged someone or someone judged me on poor disengagement skills. I’ve certainly absorbed some clumsy and mean disengagement techniques but they don’t deserve so much influence over me that they rob me of remembering and valuing what was and very well may be wonderful and extraordinary in someone. The very reasons I loved them and still love and care about them, in some cases. No, I’m no one’s pin cushion and am not available to absorb barbs, and hold myself and others accountable. But if healthy ways of loving someone or helping someone in life make themselves known, I’ll act on them, even if the person never learns I had a hand in helping them. I’m fine with that.”

I like Peter. No, that’s not right. I love, Peter. A young man not long ago said Peter is one of the kindest and most loyal people he’s ever known. That’ true, except of course if you start denying people their rights. Then all that changes.

Anyway, let me publish this on the blog now. I can hear Peter and Charley coming back. Peter’s laughing. Charley must’ve said something. Yeah, I know; dogs can’t talk, but they sure can communicate. Just ask Charley.

Peace out!


The Bottom Dropping Out

We are walking on the beach when the bottom drops out. It comes from out of nowhere. One minute I am walking along doing just fine,and the next, all my strength is gone. I feel like I’ve been unplugged. I am light headed. Christine immediately notices the change. She later tells me I suddenly went pale, started sweating, looked worried. I was worried. I was scared.

The very steep set of stairs leading off the beach is maybe 100 yards away. It feels like 100 miles away. I know I have to get out of here, get back to the car. I need to sit down. I’ll feel better, I think, if I can just sit down.

Walking slowly towards the foot of the stairs things aren’t getting easier. I want to lie down on the sand and sleep. I want to sleep in the worst way. I don’t lie down on the sand and go to sleep because I am suddenly afraid if I do I’ll never get up.

Christine gathers up our shoes at the foot of the stairs and we begin our ascent. As I start climbing the stairs I decide I will not stop climbing until I reach the top. I don’t care what happens. If I collapse, I collapse. I will not give in. I am not volunteering for whatever it is that is taking a run at me.  Am I making the smartest decision? I didn’t care then and I don’t care now. It was the decision I wanted to make and so I made it.

I know I’ve been sick for a couple of weeks and my sleep has been sporadic and while I had been feeling better, it is clear I tried to do too much too soon. That’s the way it is sometimes. It’s kind of like when your eyes are bigger than your stomach. After not being well for awhile your mind is often ready to take on a level of activity before your body is.

In the car I am feeling safer. We get to a roadside food place. I eat and drink a bottle of juice and feel a little better.

Later I rest. Talk with Christine. Quietly thank God I am still alive. Remind myself (as if I need reminding) that the days are numbered for all of us. And, I remind myself once more that no matter what, I should remember to live. So should we all.


Bound for Cape Cod

Called the Cape of Keel by early Norse explorers, Cape Code is a peninsula that juts out from the easternmost edge of Massachusetts.  Punctuated throughout by lighthouses, those magical sentinels that have saved lives and sent many imaginations to wonderful places, it is no wonder writers and artists gravitate to the Cape. Provincetown, or P-Town as its called (an unfortunate name in my view because it occurred to my mind that there may be a UTI epidemic there) is, I am told, an enclave of creativity and, well, fun.

Like most Americans, if not most people, Cape Cod brings the Kennedy Compound to mind. But for me it also brings playwright Eugene O’Neill to mind and, last, and first, my father. My father loved Cape Cod. In fact, he had just arrived in Cape Cod in the summer of 1969 when illness struck and killed him in less than a week. So, I suppose, in some way I will be finishing the vacation he started.

My father and I and, for that matter, all my family, loved the beach, the ocean. When I was a boy one set of grandparents lived in Rumson New Jersey and the other set lived in Ocean Grove New Jersey. Both locations are on or near the ocean. Few things are as extraordinary as the beach, in all seasons. In the mid-seventies I lived in Seagate, a peninsula off the tip of Brooklyn. My apartment was right on the beach. Doesn’t get any better, except when I went out the front door one morning and found a dead sand shark at the foot of the steps. Even dead sharks scare the hell out of me.

And so I am looking forward to this time on the Cape. Time to walk the beach, get some writing and reading in, do a bit of reflecting, reacquaint myself with Horseshoe crabs (I love those dudes) and, of course, hope I don’t run across any sharks, dead or alive.