There are five general categories of things that I love more than anything else in this life:
No. 1 – My kid. While she’s certainly not perfect and even drives me a little crazy sometimes, I will always be her biggest fan. I made her, after all, baked her in my body like it was an Easy-Bake Oven and she was a tiny angel food cake.
Second only to my kid I love my family and friends, and goodness knows I’ve been fortunate to have some really special people in my life – including my sister and my niece, and my first cousins on my mother’s side: one is a podcaster extraordinaire (check out his podcast “Meanwhile at the Podcast”, described as “a show about pop culture, fandom, and the fun stories of everyday life” [http://meanwhileatthepodcast.libsyn.com]) and the other is a dad of two kids, the younger of whom I only know from Facebook (but I already adore her) and the elder I last met when he was barely walking. I miss my cousins.
When we were growing up, and especially when my grandparents still lived in New York, we saw them a lot, and always spent holidays together. I remember vividly the night before my cousin George was born. Much of my extended family had gathered in the basement of my grandmother’s house in Queens Village to celebrate the 90th birthday of my great-grandmother, which included the whole panoply of second cousins and first cousins once removed. My aunt hadn’t come to the festivities, however, due to the fact that she was ready to give birth, and in fact she did the following morning – on Christmas Eve of 1967.
But now my cousins live in the D.C. area and, while we follow each other on social media, we haven’t seen each other in years, which is really a shame.
Some of my closest friends, too – people I love like they’re actual family – are long-distance and visited much too infrequently. One of the things I’m most looking forward to for my retirement is being close to one or more of them so that we can hang out on a regular basis. They are fun and fascinating to be around, and I cherish the time spent together, especially given that it’s so infrequent.
No. 2 – Music of all kinds (as long as there’s a melody). I’ve been accumulating my collection since I was four years old, although I had a devastating loss following Superstorm Sandy in 2012 when all my best LPs – hundreds of them – were warped and waterlogged and lost forever. (I lost a lot of unreproducible cassette mix tapes, too.) I’m still kind of old-school when it comes to my current collection, although I’m not a vinyl collector (I do have a few remaining second-tier albums and also took a box of my soon-to-be-ex-brother-in-law’s albums that he was going to just THROW OUT (the horror!), including a stash of Pink Floyd LPs that I’m very excited about). Streaming music just doesn’t do it for me, although I certainly appreciate the variety. I mean, I listen to the radio – WFUV, 90.7 on the terrestrial radio dial – all day, every weekday while I’m working from home, and in the car on local drives. But I want to OWN my music, to be able to listen to it on demand, in my own flow and combinations, wherever I might be located (as long as there’s a listening device). My classic iPod is battered and suffers glitches such as songs that end prematurely, but as far as I’m concerned it’s the greatest musical storage invention of all time, and incredibly portable. I still buy CDs when I have Amazon gift cards, not to mention thousands of downloaded iTunes, which I then back up on recorded “mix tape” CDs with names like “The Never-Ending Collection” and “Nan’s Favorite Gift Is Always Music” (a not-so-subtle message to anyone who is thinking of buying me a present for my birthday or some other gift-giving occasion), which I catalog in a Mix CD inventory so I know exactly where to find any single song in my miscellany at any given time. I’m kind of obsessive about it and only regret that I don’t have more time to enjoy the full variety of my music (basically only on weekends and long drives).
I also regret that I no longer have any good buddies in close proximity with whom to share my music. Back in the day, communal music listening was a huge part of my life, but no longer. I haven’t found any new friends who love musical exploration as much as I do. There is a lovely couple I’ve become friendly with lately – I went to high school with the husband, who is a guitarist in a really entertaining CSNY cover band named Four Way Street, for which I’ve turned into quite the little groupie, and I also really like his wife; we all share political leanings as well as a love of music – but unfortunately they live miles away and we haven’t reached the point of socializing outside of band performances, where it’s not always so easy to communicate amidst the noise and crowds.
In any event, music for me has always been somewhat of a solitary pursuit, but one that I take a great deal of pride in sharing with like-minded, open-minded folks.
No. 3 – Animals, especially cats, and especially kittens. There is nothing cuter.
My daily involvement as a volunteer with the local animal shelter / rescue organization Posh Pets and being the foster parent of over 30 creatures over the past few years is a testament to that love. Even though the never-ending clean-up of poo and pee and vomit can be exhausting, the incessant barking gives me frequent headaches and the cost of pet food (and wee-wee pads and paper towels) is bank-breaking, I get a warm feeling inside when one of my fosters goes to a permanent home where they will be loved and doted on. When I pet my cat Savannah, or cuddle a puppy, or a kitten makes biscuits on my belly, or on quiet afternoons when all the dogs and cats are in their respective beds enjoying a siesta, it’s the pinnacle for me of peacefulness and joy. Companion animals are deserving of better than we give them. They trust us; they depend on us; we are their world.
No. 4 – Hockey, especially New York Rangers hockey. Such an exciting game – there’s no greater value for your entertainment dollar, as far as I’m concerned.
I’m far from a stats wonk, and I have no interest in assembling a fantasy league team. I just like to watch the games, and I really only follow the Rangers. Once the Rangers get eliminated in – or prior to – the playoffs (which has sadly happened every year since the blessed year of our Messier, 1994), I just immerse myself nightly in the glorious spectacle that is playoff hockey and perhaps a favorite will emerge over the course of no less than four grueling best-of-seven series that I think is deserving of the ultimate team prize, the Stanley Cup.
I appreciate the personalities of hockey players and enjoy watching their reactions to things happening on the ice, and I’m also fascinated by what they do for fun off the ice. (One of the best things I ever watched on TV was the HBO Series “24/7” that followed the Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers in the days leading up to the NHL Winter Classic in 2011. Uncensored and hysterical, it was a coveted insider look at what hockey players say and do during games and at home.) Hockey is an incredibly human game. Hockey players come in all sizes, from 5’6” mini-mighties like Mats Zuccarrello and Marty St. Louis, and the prototypical tiny tough guy, Theo Fleury, to giants like the 6’9” “Big Z” Zdeno Chara or the man-mountain goalie for the Dallas Stars, 6’7” Ben Bishop. Even though, as a general matter, the players seem to be getting bigger and younger, there’s still room in the game for small and old(er).
I feel sad when the Rangers lose a lot, and I get frustrated when they don’t SHOOT THE DAMN PUCK, especially when they’re on a power play. If I were a coach, I would preach the following: Get the puck out of your zone, then get it deep into theirs. Think shot first, always. You can’t score if you don’t shoot. I’m not as clear on defensive strategy, but that would be my simple but effective offensive game plan every time.
I spent my youth talking hockey with my dad, and my college years being a valued member of the Trinity College hockey coaching brain trust, as team statistician. (A precursor to today’s “video coach,” I had the best overview of the action from my perch on the highest bleacher seat at center ice, and I memorialized every shot, goal and penalty in my trusty spiral-bound book, which we analyzed after every game.) The players undoubtedly wondered about my motives for spending so many winters hours traveling with the team, but Coach John Dunham knew the real reason I was there was a pure love of the game, and he was the only one whose opinion mattered.
As a college graduate, I was certain I would have a career in the sports world (well, hockey was the dream, but I would have settled for any pro sport in those early days). Thanks to an unfortunate life path divergence I’ll expand upon in some future post, it was a dream deferred and, ultimately, denied, because it’s way too late in life now. In law school I seriously considered pursuing a career as an entertainment lawyer, and my Sports Law professor (who gave me an A) was a former trustee of the New York Islanders so I might have had an “in”, but it wasn’t meant to be, and I ended up as a summer associate at the firm where I’ve been ever since, dealing with aviation finance transactions rather than rinks and stats and sticks and pucks.
Even if it’s not my career, I can (and do) still love hockey from the confines of my own couch and occasionally even decent (but never great, which is always a huge disappointment ) seats at Madison Square Garden. For a few years I even had the income to be a proud partial-season plan owner, with all the perks that came with it, such as an outing at Bowlmore Lanes in NYC with my kid, where we literally rubbed elbows with Brandon Prust (her favorite player at the time) and Rangers’ TV color man Joe Micheletti.
(An aside: My kid also counts among her favorite things in life items 2, 3 and 4 above, but not so much item 5. Which is . . . )
No. 5 – The written word – both to read and to write. Right now I literally have four books going, from Rachel Maddow’s Blowout to James Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to read any of them to the end and will in all likelihood have to return one or more of them prematurely to the library, to be re-borrowed to finish at some future date. I am so jealous of a recently retired friend of mine who just published on Facebook his 10 favorite books of the year. (Obama, too, always brags about his prolific reading lists. How does he find the time??)
As for the writing part? Well, here I am . . . staying up past my bedtime while trying to keep up with my weekly posts for this re-boot of “Life Considered”. I maintain my dream of a wider readership (when I actually write something worthy of wider reading, that is). And one of these days – probably in connection with my next residential move, which will involve considerable down-sizing – I’m going to have to cull through the decades of blathering journals I’ve been hoarding to see if I can find a nugget or two or three that might be the genesis of something publishable.
You know what I’ve concluded as a consequence of this analysis of my favorite things? I NEED TO RETIRE. Because once I do, I can indulge more deeply in all these things I love.
Some adorable kittens. (Impossible to get them all to stay still!)