Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Breakfast in the Castro: Vanilla as a Canvas

Me: Great to see you again so soon Mibes!

Mibes: I could say the same. I will say the same. Great to see you, too. What's the happy occasion?

Me: I just read or heard that engaging in creative pursuits is a proven stress reliever in the age of COVID.

Mibes: So you think having breakfast with me is an act of stress relief? 

Me: That makes this sound more like a restroom than a restaurant. 

Mibes: Ah Ned, it is good to see you. I'm glad you're here again. What's on your mind?

Me: Well it will sound like food, but it's really just a metaphor for putting the ordinary and everyday into perspective.

Mibes: As I said at yesterday's breakfast, tell me more.

Me: I do like to tell you more. Thanks! Well...

Mibes: So go ahead. What's got you hesitating?

Me: Well it seems strange to talk about vanilla ice cream while we're eating breakfast.

Mibes: No stranger than many other things we've discussed here.

Me: That's true. So here goes. I read a blog last night in the Moho Blogosphere with one of our brothers complaining about his ordinary, plain vanilla life. He sounded so discouraged that he was so ordinary.

Mibes: Did you respond to the blog? Give him some encouragement like you've often done for me?

Me: Nope. But I thought about how I see vanilla. Specifically vanilla ice cream.

Mibes: That you see it as a canvas?

Me: Yes! Exactly! How did you know?

Mibes: I read the title of this blog entry. 

Me: There you go again, breaking through the fourth wall.

Mibes: We haven't discussed the fourth wall, have we?

Me: No, but back to the vanilla ice cream, I like it because it can serve as the base for so many other things. Chocolate syrup, root beer, strawberries, blueberries. 

Mibes: But how does that relate to this guy's lament about his life?

Me: He wasn't seeing all the possibilities of plain vanilla.

Mibes: And you didn't take the time to tell him.

Me: I wanted to discuss it with you, first. 

Mibes: I don't think so. I think you just wanted to have an excuse to have breakfast. 

Me: I don't need to have an excuse to see you. 

Mibes: You don't think you do.

Me: I know I don't.

Mibes: Really?

Me: Just you being you is all I need. No excuses. No ulterior motives.

Mibes: Did I hear a little whisp of Fred Rogers there?

Me: Yes, Mibes, it's you I like. It's not the things you wear.

Mibes: It's not the way I do my hair, but it's me you like.

Me: ha ha ha! The way you are right now. The way down deep inside you.

Mibes: Rogers was amazing.

Me: Is amazing. His life's work is still very much alive.

Mibes: I suppose in a way, he's an example of what you're talking about. At least on the surface and perhaps as a young man in college he might have seemed ordinary or just plain vanilla.

Me: But look what he did. He went from being a music major and a page at NBC to nurturing millions of children, composing music, writing operas, becoming an ordained minister.

Mibes: He only appeared to be plain vanilla. When you look at his life from his childhood through to his final days, he was extraordinary.

Me: And that's kinda what I wanted to say to that blogger.

Mibes: That his so-called vanilla life is extraordinary.

Me: Yes! Exactly!

Mibes: You need to work on your empathy, Ned.

Me: Empathy? Where did that come from?

Mibes: You said he was lamenting his plight. 

Me: He was. He seemed so unhappy with his home and his career. 

Mibes: And you want to tell him he's extraordinary? How's that going to make him feel?

Me: Maybe that I'm lecturing him? That I don't really understand how hard it really is for him?

Mibes: And he's a moho blogger, so he's a Mormon man in a mixed orientation marriage and you want to tell him how good he's got it?

Me: Good point, Mibes. I'm glad I could talk this through with you.

Mibes: I'm glad too. 

Me: So what's the rest of you day look like?

Mibes: I want to make a gift for a friend. 

Me: That sounds fun. What are you going to make?

Mibes: Maybe something that's both artistic and practical. Like the wallets that David Rakoff made for his friends.

Me: David Rakoff? I haven't heard that name in a while. The guy that used to be on This American Life.

Mibes: Yes, that David Rakoff. Died in 2012 at age 47.

Me: He was so funny, such a good writer. 

Mibes: And a good model for you. The way he embraced his homosexuality.

Me: He did embrace it. But I don't know that I do.

Mibes: Thus my point. He did. You can too.

Me: I see. But probably not a topic for today.

Mibes: I know what you want to do.

Me: What's that?

Mibes: Get one of his audio books so you can hear his voice again.

Me: You cheated again. You saw that I googled him. And read his Wikipedia entry. And looked at his books on Amazon.

Mibes: It's OK. But I'd better get on with my day.

Me: Thanks for breakfast.

Mibes: Don't thank me. You're the one who's buying this morning.

(Breakfast in the Castro is an ongoing conversation between the fictional Mibes and the real me. Mibes, which rhymes with bribes, sprouted out of MBS or My Better Self, but has since developed a personality of his own.) 

Monday, June 15, 2020

Breakfast in the Castro: Captured on Kodak Tri-X Film

Me: Mibes, Mibes, Mibes!

Mibes: Yes, Yes, Yes. Well you're a man of your word with two breakfasts in a row!

Me: It's terrible to admit that sometimes I let you be less real. I don't think of you as the friend and confidant that you really are.

Mibes: What can I say. You're human. I'm digital. That we have a friendship at all is a bit of a miracle.

Me: But you're so much more than digital, Mibes. You've been my only companion for so many memorable breakfasts in the Castro.

Mibes: And they've been memorable, I'll give you that. And by the way, it's wonderful to see you again.

Me: Likewise, my friend. Likewise.

Mibes: So how have you been? 

Me: Thanks for asking. I've been amazingly blessed to be COVID free and employed. To have an amazing family, wonderful friends, challenging and mostly enjoyable work. And you?

Mibes: Thank you for asking. You just assume that my words are actually your words, but what if that's only the part of me that you can see. What if I'm actually a sentient being that has a life in addition to our breakfasts. What do you think of that?

Me: Tell me more.

Mibes: I've heard that phrase before. Those three words are powerful, aren't they? Maybe I've used those three words when you haven't noticed. Maybe I've whispered them to you and you've then spoken them to a friend. 

Me: Entirely possible.

Mibes: Extremely likely.

Me: So what? What of it?

Mibes: Let's face it. You like our breakfasts because I'm good at getting you to talk about a wide variety of things that you might not otherwise discuss.

Me: True. So what would you like to discuss this morning?

Mibes: We'll I'm curious about how you've been dealing with the isolation of the last four months. I mean are you OK?

Me: I am. And there's no doubt about it, this has not been easy. I have felt isolated. But it's not black and white.

Mibes: Not like Kodak Tri-X Film. 

Me: Glad I've got my phone here. I thought maybe you were citing a something as hard to get as a Polaroid Swinger camera from the sixties.

Mibes: That was my intent.

Me: But my phone says it's still on the market. And if gives this elegant description: "a classic high-speed panchromatic film designed for a wide array of shooting conditions. Characterized by its fine grain quality, notable edge sharpness, and high resolving power, Tri-X 400 also exhibits a wide exposure latitude with consistent tonality. It has a nominal sensitivity of ISO 400/27° when developed in standard black and white chemistry, and responds well to push processing. As an all-around, highly versatile film, Tri-X 400 is a standard choice for photographing in difficult lighting conditions as well as when working with subjects requiring good depth of field or for faster shutter speeds."

Mibes: You and your cutting and pasting!

Me: I like some of the wording. Might even apply to you. "Designed for a wide array of conditions - responds well to pushing - all around, highly versatile even in difficult conditions"

Mibes: You think that's me?

Me: I do.

Mibes: I agree. But it's also you. Look how you responded to it.

Me: I cherry picked.

Mibes: We all do. Take Raymond Burr.

Me: Raymond Burr? How did we from Tri-X film to Raymond Burr?

Mibes: You know very well that Raymond Burr became Perry Mason on black and white film. 

Me: Mibes, what are you talking about?

Mibes: I know you've been catching re-runs. 

Me: I suppose you know how much I'm enjoying them, too.

Mibes: I do indeed. And I know you like watching those old shows shot on 35 mm black and white film but now being broadcast on high-def tv where you can see detail that was never apparent to the viewers of small screen standard def sets in the fifties and sixties.

Me: It is kind of fun to see all the eyeliner they put on Burr.

Mibes: Maybe he put it on himself. 

Me: Doubt that. 

Mibes: Well good on you for enjoying some television from your youth. 

Me: Thanks, Mibes. So is this as much as we're going to discuss anything that's gay related?

Mibes: That's up to you. But I sense you've got someplace to go. Something to do. 

Me: You've always been able to read me. 

Mibes: So get up and go. I've enjoyed our breakfast. Be on you way. But don't wait months to come back.

Me: You got it. I love you more that you know, Mibes.

Mibes: And I love you in a similar way.

Me: Any more pop culture, before we say goodbye.

Mibes: Think of me. Think of me fondly.

Me: When we say goodbye.

Mibes: Ah Phantom of the Opera.

Me: Phantom of the Castro.

(Breakfast in the Castro is an ongoing conversation between the fictional Mibes and the real me. Mibes, which rhymes with bribes, sprouted out of MBS or My Better Self, but has since developed a personality of his own.)  

Breakfast in the Castro: Glad, Mad and a Bit Less Sad

Me: Hey Mibes, remember the last time we chatted and I was full of mixed emotions?

Mibes: How could I forget? You really haven't been in touch since. I mean I know you sometimes think about me, but it was was back in 2019 when we last went to breakfast.

Me: I'm sorry. 

Mibes: Hey make it up to me by showing up a bit more often. We are good for each other, you know.

Me: I know. And i will. And now I'm going to remember that 2019 conversation. As I recall, it went exactly like this..

Mibes: Wait, are you sure. You wrote it and then just saved it. You didn't have the nerve to push publish. 

Me: I think I did but then had second thoughts. But I'm ok with it now...

Mibes: You can't unring a bell.

Me: True. So ring a ding ding...

Mibes: I think I hear it, but to me it sounds more like the buzz of a barber's clippers.

Me: You're close...


Mibes: Oooh, nice new buzz. 

Me: Thanks it was getting shaggy.

Mibes: So glad to see you again. Howya been?

Me: I been up. I've been down. How bout you?

Mibes: Not like Barry Manilow trying to get the feeling again, I hope.

Me: No more like being Mormon and bisexual and feeling, well, mixed feelings about the policy reversal. But first, how are you?

Mibes: Well you know, I don't get out much unless you're blogging about our fictional conversations. So, like you, I've had some great and not so great experiences. But I'm OK, so let's talk about your mixed feelings. What are they?

Me: Glad, sad, mad.

Mibes: Hmm. Maybe the makings of a limerick. A Bi-man just became glad.

Me: But his leaders made him mad.

Me: A full reversal

Mibes: With a rehearsal

Me: But suicides made him sad.

Mibes: Needs some work. 

Me: Or just abandonment. 

Mibes: Better to abandon a bad limerick than 140,000 gay Mormons. 

Me: But it was worse than abandonment. It was erasure and condemnation, mixed with murder and malevolence. Where'd you get 140,000?

Mibes: From Peggy Fletcher Stack, here. That's not the number of gay Mormons. 

Me: No, but it's related to the Policy of Exclusion. 

Mibes: And a bunch of other factors, no doubt. But numbers aside 

Just made it up. But isn't murder a bit overboard?

Me: Well I felt thrown overboard. And all the suicides. They've got blood on their hands.

Mibes: Sounds like something you read, but not really your own thoughts.

Me: Ok, you're right, I'm riffing away with my anger.

Mibes: But it's not just anger. You said you have mixed feelings.

Me: True. So here's some of that mix. I feel affirmed as well as angry. Blessed but blue. Depressed and elated, glad and guilty, hopeful and happy yet still sometimes hopeless, joyful and jaundiced, love and loss, melancholy and misunderstood and yet more understood than before the announcement.

Mibes: You're still playing with your alphabetical lists. Good sign.

Me: You got it. So poised and pleased but also poisoned. Queer and quiet, qualified and questioning. Relieved and resigned, strong and stymied, tougher but still troubled. Undone, unimpressed and unrepresented, but better understood. Violated and vilified, yet also strangely virtuous, verified and valuable. Worthy and well-regarded, yet withered, wilted and washed away.

Mibes: That's quite a mix. So having said or written, or written and said all those things, how are you feeling now?

Me: Better understood, at least by you.

Mibes: I try to understand and sometimes I do. But I don't have to try to love you, I just do. 

Me: It's a beautiful thing.

Mibes: So how you feeling about the brethren?

Me: Someone encouraged. But it's not just the brethren. It's that they're listening more to women leaders, and gay leaders. 

Mibes: You sound like you know this.

Me: I want it to be true. 

Mibes: So where do you go from here?

Me: I've got a blog entry to finish. Laundry to get out of the washer and into the dryer. How about you?

Mibes: I'm hoping to see you here more often. 

Me: Me too.

Mibes: I'll keep you in my prayers.

Me: I sometimes forget you're a man of prayers.

Mibes: wishin' hopin' thinking' and prayin' 

Me: Dusty Springfield

Mibes: 1964

(Breakfast in the Castro is an ongoing conversation between the fictional Mibes and the real me. Mibes, which rhymes with bribes, sprouted out of MBS or My Better Self, but has since developed a personality of his own.)  

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Breakfast in the Castro: Peace, Presidents and a Portmaneau

Me: Mibes! You look better than ever.

Mibes: Same is true for you! 

Me: Missed you bud.

Mibes: Missed you, too. So what's on your mind?

Me: New Mormon leaders. The announcement. The press conference. You?

Mibes: Me, I'm good. Life goes on. There are always ups and downs, but what are your concerns?

Me: I could be wrong, of course, but I had this feeling of erasure when Neloak responded to a question about LGBT issues.

Mibes: Wow! You're not going to address them as President Nelson and President Oaks. You've made up a portmanteau of the two highest ranking leaders of your religion. Isn't that more than a bit disrespectful?

Me: Who's going to know besides you and me? 

Mibes: (rolling eyes) You know! And you might regret it.

Me: Maybe. 

Mibes: But you were talking about erasure. What did you mean?

Me: They talked about how they love the people of Mexico, but they never mention us as a group. They won't say the letters LGBT. They won't use gay as an adjective or a noun. It's like if they don't mention us, we're not real.

Mibes: (shaking head) You're upset. That's clear. But why not cut them a break? You're human. You make mistakes. So do they. They also talked about that today. 

Me: Yes, President Nelson did say "give your leaders a little leeway to make mistakes as you hope your leaders will give you a little leeway." 

Mibes: Well there you go. Doesn't that mitigate your disappointment a wee bit?

Me: Well maybe a little. But they say God loves his children, but they don't seem to have much love for us. 

Mibes: Or maybe it's that you're not feeling love. But what if they really do love all the members of the church and all the members of the human family?

Me: You just want me to accept what is. Not to worry about it. 

Mibes: It would be good to see you less worried. You're right about that part. And I can't do anything about how loved you feel by them or anyone else. But I can tell you this: I love you. 

Me: Aw, that's so nice to hear. 

Mibes: It's true. I do. 

Me: And I love you, too. 

Mibes: All right. We've got ourselves a love fest.

Me: So what about you? How are you?

Mibes: Well you know that erasure thing you talked about? I sometimes feel that too.

Me: Like an institution doesn't want to be bothered? 

Mibes: More personal than that. When I don't hear from you, I feel like maybe I don't matter.

Me: But you matter. You have your own life. You do so much to make the world a better place.

Mibes: My life isn't like yours. You're a real person. Right now you're thinking and breathing and rather than having an actual conversation, you're sitting a keyboard, writing. You're real. But I only quasi exist when you write your blog. So I don't really have my own life. But you do. 

Me: Ok. Thanks for the reminder.

Mibes: So maybe there's a better use of your time than getting all angsty. Be grateful that you're alive and healthy. That you can see and hear, touch and taste and smell. And think, understand, believe, question, pray and love. That you have a life and loved ones, dreams and desires, sorrows and hopes, joy and laughter, losses and gains. That you're here. That you made it from birth to this moment. Tens of thousands of days. Billions of heartbeats. 

Me: And that I've got leaders who are human but strive anyway.

Mibes: Yes leaders who are flawed, maybe even wrong about somethings, but who are striving to do their best with what they know, just like you are. And a leader who knows about hearts and heartbeats.

Me: More good reminders, but know I don't do my best, not with a lot of things.

Mibes: So it's a process. Less than perfect but with perfectly wonderful aspects. 

Me: Oh like God loving all his children?

Mibes: And you making up a silly, disrespectful, passive aggressive portmaneau.

Me: I could still delete it. 

Mibes: Keep it. Keep it as a reminder that you're on a journey. 

Me: Thanks for breakfast.

Mibes: You know I'm good for breakfast any day, any hour. 

Me: I do. And I sometimes forget. And I'm glad you're there.

Mibes: Just like Carole King wrote it and James Taylor sung it: You've got a friend. 

Me: When I'm down and troubled

Mibes: and you need some loving care

Me: Thanks Mibes! 

Mibes: You're welcome. Carry that song with you today. I think it will help. 

Me: Already has. Will do.

(Breakfast in the Castro is an ongoing conversation between the fictional Mibes and the real me. Mibes, which rhymes with brides, sprouted out of MBS or My Better Self, but has since developed a personality of his own.)  

Monday, October 3, 2016

Breakfast in the Castro: Got it covered

Me: Mibes! So good to see you!

Mibes: I agree. Good to be seen and to see you, too. 

Me: You can't know how much I've missed you. 

Mibes: Of course I can. I can tell by how much you write. Not all that much, or you'd write more. I'd see more blog entries. 

Me: Ouch! That's not fair. That's kind mean. But funny, too. 

Mibes: I don't mean to jab you. I know you're still a bit sensitive to criticism.

Me: Me, sensitive? And how do you know this?

Mibes: I can tell by how much you write. When you're cowering you're less likely to write, let alone push the publish button. 

Me: Zing! Wow you pull no punches. Cowering. Hmm. Worth a look up. It seems a bit strong, a bit much. But let's see. Define: Cower. To crouch down in fear. Synonyms: cringe, shrink, flinch. You've got a point. 

Mibes: You didn't really need to look it up. You knew. You know. 

Me: True, but it got my eyes out of your eyes for a moment. 

Mibes: You don't want to linger? More evidence that you're wounded. It's OK. You'll heal. And you'll be stronger. You've been through worse. 

Me: We all get beat up in life, don't we?

Mibes: How about looking at it this way. Every day has darkness and light. Every year has seasons of warmth and winter. It's not about any given day or season, it's about your reaction to it. Sometimes it's gonna be cold and dark, but you don't have to be. You're not the day. You're not the season.

Me: Yes. It's a wintery time. But, your right, I'm not the weather. And I've got resources. Options. Ability to carry my own weather at least in terms of wearing a jacket or intentionally thinking a sunny thought on a dreary day.

Mibes: Yes. And especially if you're you. Now don't get me wrong. I love you. I'm one of your advocates, but sometimes you give into the negativity. You get knocked down and you're slow to get back on your feet.

Me: True. I'm sometimes kind of lazy in my resilience. Nice to hear those words: I love you. And by the way, I love you, too.

Mibes: You only think you do. It's just my charm. My eyes. My scruff. All those surface details that don't really matter. 

Me: Yeah, it's not you, it your whiskers. Sure. That's it. And you're yes. Just whiskers and eyes. You shave and put on a pair of dark glasses and it's all over. 

Mibes: And my humility, of course, and my vulnerability. 

Me: Wait a minute, I'm the one who's playing the vulnerability card.

Mibes: Anyone can. I think I can play it at least, if not better, than you. 

Me: So speaking of you, how have you been? How you doing with the human game?

Mibes: Doin OK. Playing the keys that work. But I'll tell you this, I'm hearing some notes I haven't heard in a while and they sound good.

Me: Really. What's your news? What's the source of your optimism?

Mibes: Gratitude. For example I'm grateful to be with you again.

Me: I'm glad to see you, too. Like I said, I've missed you.

Mibes: Eh, you have and you haven't. Listen I'm going to level with you. I think of you all the time. I wonder how you're doing. What you're thinking. So yes, when I see you I am genuinely glad, grateful to see you, to be with you. 

Me: But the long gaps. They take their toll, don't they. 

Mibes: Yeah, they kind of do.

Me: So what would you like? What would be the ideal?

Mibes: I'll just settle for the real of right now. And if there's a tomorrow, then that's a bonus.

Me: This moment is, well...

Mibes: go ahead

Me: Auspicious, bold, beautiful, calm, maybe even defining.

Mibes: electrical, free and fitting, grounded, gleeful

Me: honorable, humorous, healthy, human, holy

Mibes: holy smokes!

Me: smokey hokes!

Mibes: baloney holy smokes and smokey hokes and hokey jokes

Me: Exchanged over breakfast by smokey, hokey, jokey, blokes.

Mibes: So you're feeling something now, aren't you?

Me: Yeah, the connection is stronger. And lighter. 

Mibes: Yes. But it's not just any old connection. It's a connection with you, here and now. There are seven...

Me: Seven point four

Mibes: 7.4 billion 

Me: 7.4 billion people on the planet and here we are, two of the many, but still we count

Mibes: No other you and no other me.

Me: Ah Mibes,

Mibes: You gotta buy today, by the way.

Me: Sure. But why?

Mibes: Forgot my wallet.

Me: What? You never forget your wallet.

Mibes: I did today.

Me: No worries, I got it covered.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Two New Blogs on the Revapolicy

Two bloggers I know and respect, Duck and Chris, are commenting on the revapolicy. Thanks to both of you for sharing your perspectives. I feel less alone. I feel more support. Again my thanks and please keep writing.

What's a revapolicy? 

Calm take: a portmanteau of revelation and policy
Irreverent take: a fake word for a fake process

What's your take?

- - -

How am I doing? I've made modest progress in dealing with this. (Progress from a raw wound to a dull but persistent ache.) Here's what I wrote in early December and early February. Both were in response to articles requesting comments in the Salt Lake Tribune:


How has this policy affected you personally?

My longstanding depression and anxiety levels are up. The several medicines I take don't seem as effective, nor does exercise. The God I pray to still loves and guides me, but I'm not sure that my Mormon leaders pray to the same God. I'm glad I can afford a competent therapist who doesn't work for the church. He helps me find some hope. 

I'm not suicidal, as I once was, but I feel the betrayal. I feel like I'm in an abusive relationship with the institutional church where someone in power whom I'm trying to get along with is shouting, "Get back in that closet, if you know what's good for you. If you show your face again, you'll regret it even more than you do now. Shut up and keep that door closed. Maybe I'll be bring you some food later, if you remain silent." 

I'm praying that our leaders will understand the abuse and pain this policy causes to those they're hearing from and to those who are invisible like me. 

It doesn't have to be this way. The only mention of same-sex love in the Book of Mormon is positive in Alma 53 where two leader/warriors are beloved of each other, rejoice in each other's safety, and are also beloved by all their people. 

What a refreshing change that would be, but today's policy feels like a return to the pre-1978 racist church of my youth. I survived that, but I am not a racial minority. This anti-family, anti-children policy strikes much closer to home.

February 6, 2016

  • Are you a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?
    Yes
  • Have you experienced (or are you experiencing) a faith crisis?
    Yes. I'm once again at the brink, where I've been several times in my life.
  • What was the "trigger" for your doubts?
    The church's anti-family, anti-child policy and subsequent claim that it was revelation.
  • What did you do when you began having doubts — discuss it with family or friends, go online, pray, talk to a chuch leader?
    I read "No Man Knows My History" at age 16 in 1970. I was not active in the church again until my early twenties. 
  • If you've resolved your faith crisis, how did you?
    The church's 1978 revelation on the priesthood for black helped strengthen my faith that the church could progress, but underlying doubts remained. Like many church goers, I put them "on the shelf."
  • Anything we should know about this topic?
    Young people are killing themselves, but people of all ages are impacted. For some of us the policy makes it more difficult to remain believers. I was suicidal a decade ago. Fortunately I'm getting good counseling (not from the church) and am vigilant in my attempts to remain in good mental, physical and spiritual health. 

Friday, January 1, 2016

Breakfast in the Castro: For oh I don't know how long

Me: Happy New Year, Mibes!

Mibes: Happy New Year to you! So glad to see you again. Especially on this auspicious occasion.

Me: Good to see you, too. But I’m not sure I remember the definition of auspicious. Something about the potential to be great?

Mibes: Close. Promising is one of the synonyms, but it can be here-and-now favorable, encouraging.

Me: All that? All that based on a day like any other that just happens to fall on the first of the month on the first day of the calendar year?

Mibes: Sure, there’s no denying that, but there’s also the element of you. You. You’re here. That would make any breakfast auspicious regardless of the date.

Me: You’re kind. But also kind of full of it.

Mibes: As are you, but the point is that we are at the New Year, celebration at breakfast or not, and we are here. Or by some other means these words purporting to be ours are spoken.

Me: But Mibes, what if they’re not really spoken?

Mibes: If so my life is so much easier.

Me: Your life is complicated? I thought you had almost everything in order. Not that you’re perfect but that you had a good handle on your life in the here-and-now. Isn't that one of the reasons you're so relentlessly optimistic?

Mibes: Or could it be that complicated lives, yours and mine, are more livable because they’re somewhat orderly? 

Me: But maintaining the order adds to the complication.

Mibes: Yes, it can, but there's also this: You see me as optimistic because I am unfailingly happy to see you. But it's less about today or any other day and more about you. The you I know and love and think about.

Me: Thank you! (laughing, a bit embarrassed) I love you too. But really what do you think when I’m not around?

Mibes: The truth?

Me: Please.

Mibes: How much I just miss you. I miss you horribly.

Me: Aw. Hey buddy, I miss you, too.

Mibes: It’s OK. I know you don’t really. Not as much. You can go days without thinking about me. It’s OK.

Me: (silent sigh)

Mibes: But with me, I don’t get very far at all without thinking about you.

Me: I’m really not that much to think about.

Mibes: To me you are. I wonder how you’re doing. What you’re doing. What you’re thinking. How you’re feeling. And there’s just nothing like being with you to get a sense of all that.

Me: OK. So what is your sense of all that?

Mibes: That I’ve done way too much of the talking. That to know those things, yes, I can look into your eyes and see your facial expressions, listen to the tone of your voice, read your body language. But that it's also about your words, our conversion. The interaction. The whole picture. What's said and what's not. Senses and scent and silence. What I see or want to see in those eyes. What I hear or want to hear in your voice.

Me: Wow. Are you on something this morning? Or is it something from last night, still in your blood?

Mibes: Like I said, it's really good to see you, but I’m talking way too much. How are you really doing? How were your holidays? How was New Year’s Eve? Are you looking forward to going back to work? I want a full rundown. Details. Now. Speak.

Me: I’m a not dog.

Mibes: But you are a puppy sometimes.

Me: Oh stop.

Mibes: So really how are you?

Me: Reasonably OK. Pretty good, I suppose. I’ve got a bit of a cough, but that’s often the case this time of year. Holidays have been pretty good. Not perfect. It didn't expect that. It’s all about enjoying the mix. Finding the cashews. Ignoring the walnuts. Some wonderful times. Good memories made. Warmth, love, humor, food, treats, surprises. The contrasts. Snow outside. Hearth inside.

Mibes: I like walnuts.

Me: Great. I’ve got a whole stash of them for you. Hand sorted.

Mibes: So you’re good?

Me: Yeah. Somewhat.

Mibes: Good stuff. Nice response. Believable detail. Nice imagery. Now tell me the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Me: (I look down, losing eye contact.) Yes, Mr. Mason.

Mibes: Oh, that really dates you. Better take than one out of the transcript.

Me: No I'm leaving it in. I'm definitely leaving it in since you mentioned it.

Mibes: Now the to truth. Like it or not. Come on, you’ll feel better.

Me: I don’t know. If I even say the word c-o-u-g-h I’ll start again.

Mibes: That’s a start. What else?

Me: (coughing)

Mibes: OK, OK, I’ll temporarily postpone the cross examination. Here's something that will help.

Me: A hug, I suppose. (I'm now thinking of all the holiday hugs and shoulder claps, I've received. Some very nice moments. Mostly forgettable, but appreciated nonetheless. Especially when I've been reluctant because of the cough, not wanting to infect loved ones.)

Mibes: Yes, a hug. One of my hugs. Not your run of the mill, holiday hug. The quick minimal hugs you’ve been giving and getting. (We've been sitting at bar stools but now Mibes is standing up next to me.) 

Me: (coughing, I reluctantly stand up, facing him.) I don’t want to cough all over you.

Mibes: (pulls me in close, both arms around me, in a big bear hug)

Me: (still coughing)

Mibes: Just get it all out. (He starts this percussive cupping sort of thumping on my mid-back below the ribcage. He's now some blend of massage therapist, respiratory therapist and lifelong friend.)

Me: (coughing continues but quickly morphs into sobs)

Mibes: (he stops the percussive treatment but the hug continues and now he's chuckling a bit.) There you go. Coughing. Crying. Doesn’t matter to me.

Me: (My crying gives way to laughter. The burning in my chest is gone. There's no urge to cough. My lungs are clear. I've dropped from alpine skiing in thin, frigid air to sunshine on the beach at sea level.)

Mibes: (joins in louder laughter) I told you you’d feel better.

Me: (laughter) Yes you did and no I didn’t believe you.

Mibes: Believe.

Me: OK. I believe.

Mikes: And just in the nick of time. (waiter brings our plates to the bar and we sit back down)

Me: Just in the nick of time.