Dear Friends and Family …
I finally saw Steve Martin live.
Better than that I saw Steve Martin and Martin Short at Red Rocks with Rosemary. Steve is my personal hero. I have a lot of people that I look up to, but I’ve loved Steve Martin since his very first comedy album, “Let’s Get Small,” from 1977. His stand-up persona was perfect. He collects art, writes books and late in life, started a Grammy award-winning musical career. It was great to see him at last.
Here is the one bit that I think would have worked in his act in the old days.
He is sitting on a comfortable chair with his banjo and he notes that he grew up in an era of protest singers, like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Pete Seeger. “This doesn’t usually happen, but recently I sat down and wrote my own protest song. The words just flowed right out of me. I wrote the song in 10 minutes. I guess that’s because this is a subject that means so much to me.”
And then he launches into the song …
“Let’s Keep That Minimum Wage Right Where She’s At.”
That made me laugh really hard.
At the end of the show the two returned to the stage and explained that they were reminded by officials from the venue that they were contractually obligated to do an encore, so they finished with the song, “Ten More Minutes to Kill.”
Rose and I saw James Taylor at Fiddler’s Green and that was nearly a religious experience. Hearing James Taylor singing one of his classic songs, to me, is like viewing a masterpiece in a museum. I felt grateful to be there.
Sam and I had great seats at the Paramount in downtown Denver to listen to Neil Gaiman read from his books, like “Norse Mythology,” and answer questions. He spoke about working on his new TV series, Good Omens. It was inspirational for Sam to hear Neil’s story about following his passion.
Keeping with the theme of stage performances …
Sam starred in “The Music Man” as the very funny Mayor Shinn in the spring. Earlier in the year, he performed in Ramantics, which is a collection of sketches. He sang “Greased Lightning.” It was cool to see the football coach come up to Sam after the show and give him a big hug. “You were the best one up there.” Sam was named the “Male Thespian of the Year.”
Sam attends Pikes Peak Community College and is a host at the Denver Biscuit Company and builder of soft serve creations at Frozen Gold, the cool, new place downtown. A Sam highlight of the year for me was when he and I went to the Renaissance Festival. We shared our first beers together.
I was fortunate to see Gina singing live with her concert choir in the spring and her acapella group in the fall at Pacific Lutheran. One day Gina and I were done eating our tacos at the taco bus and we weren’t sure what to do, so I googled ‘state parks.’ You should try that if you are ever in doubt as to what to do. We visited Dash Point State Park. We walked on the sand and looked at the clams on the Puget Sound. The sun was out, and it was beautiful.
Gina leaves in January for her semester abroad in Trinidad and Tobago with her school, Pacific Lutheran.
Carli spoke at the Conference for Holocaust Education at PLU. She is a history professor at Brooklyn College at 23. Her presentation dealt with the memories of U.S. Army nurses who witnessed the liberation of a concentration camp in Austria. She did good. It was emotional at the end. I had tears in my eyes when the person next to me asked me if I was related to the speaker and I said, “Yes, she’s my daughter.” I’m so proud to be able to say that.
Carli is taking a vacation in the new year to Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm with her friend, Sarah.
Earlier this week, Rose won the spotlight award at her BNI networking meeting, singing a commercial for her swim team, the Falfins, to Bruce Springsteen’s Santa Claus is Coming to Town. She’s popular in that group. Rose and I stayed at a nice hotel on the water in Tacoma during the peak of fall colors in the Pacific Northwest. We went for a walk in a spectacular park and took a lot of photos of leaves.
Back home, we visited Frisco, a town situated between Vail and Aspen, I told the woman in the Visitors Center that I loved the town and wanted to move there. She replied that a lot of seniors live there. Apparently, they have an active senior community. Later, we went to get ice cream and the dude scooping the ice cream asked us if we were retirees.
You must be talking to my wife, I thought. I guess my white chin hair wasn’t doing us any favors, plus, how many non-retired couples get ice cream in the middle of the day on a Tuesday?
With Sam graduating from high school, I talked about taking him on a road trip to California. Somehow that morphed into a vacation to Moab for me, Rose, Carli and Gina. Sam was getting trained for his new job and, well, one thing led to another and he stayed home, watching the dogs.
Fortunately for Sam, our trip to Moab, Arches National Park, Dead Horse Point, and Canyonlands was awful. Didn’t enjoy one minute of it. It was hot, dusty and archy. Seen one arch, you’ve seen them all.
Well, there were a couple enjoyable moments. One night we had a little picnic in our giant suite, I mean, our tiny, cramped, barely-enough-room motel room. We had brie, vegetables, salami, strawberries, wine … it was wonderful. And once I had a few glasses of wine in me, we piled in the car and drove back into the park at Arches at nighttime. We drove up and up, deep and far, until we were in the middle of nowhere, away from the lights of Moab.
I parked on the side of the road, had everyone get out of the car and cover their eyes.
“Now we’re going to count to 100, so our eyes can adjust.”
When I lived in Minnesota, I remember going out on the lake at Scott’s cabin. We tied Scott and Mike’s boats together, drank beer, listened to music and stared at the Milky Way, which was completely visible, massive and impressive in the night sky. You felt like you could reach up and touch the stars.
In Moab, that was not our experience. We saw some stars, but not a million five feet from your face. We did have a lot of fun trying.
On our way home from Moab, we drove to Glenwood Springs, home to famous hot springs, one of my favorite places.
We got a room at the historic 100-year-old Hotel Denver, as we are getting settled in our room, Carli has an announcement. She reads from her phone. “This hotel is haunted. Ghosts have frequented rooms on the third floor.”
We’re on the third floor. Naturally.
Carli begins freaking out. The girls see a light blinking on the blow dryer; they don’t like that, so they unplug the blow dryer. Rose is not taking the situation seriously. She’s egging on the spirit world. Now I’ve seen enough episodes of Ghost Adventures to know that you do not do that. You do not invite spirits, especially demons, into your realm. You simply do not do that.
You don’t taunt happy fun ball or demons.
Once you open a portal to another dimension, well, that’s a kettle of fish, a can of worms, a barrel of monkeys you do not want on your tab at the Hotel Denver. Because it’s not going to be fish, worms or monkeys, or some adorable little girl who went missing in the Civil War and needs to find her way to the tunnel of white light.
You open a portal and you’re talking unclean spirits. Bad news. Death eaters. Suckers of souls.
So, I just sat quietly in a comfortable chair. I told Rose, ‘You’re asking for it.’
Then I addressed any spirits within the sound of my voice and reassured them that we meant no harm, no disrespect. We’d only be staying the night and then we’d be on our way.
It’s about this time that the girls notice that the blow dryer light is blinking again.
The screams were deafening.
Of course, Rose had surreptitiously plugged the blow dryer back in.
When everyone calms down, we go into town for dinner and take in the sights.
Before you could say Beelzebub, we were back in the room and to be honest I don’t think we talked about ghosts before turning in. That much.
I was sleeping like a baby, when I woke up. It was probably 3 a.m., but I’ll never know because I didn’t open my eyes to check. I have a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that something or someone is standing at the end of my bed. I think he probably won’t do anything if I don’t open my eyes. So, I go with that.
Gina begins talking out loud completely asleep. Seriously. I’ve never heard anyone speaking in tongues or channeling an entity from the other side, but it kind of sounded like that.
Meanwhile, Carli is employing the ‘keep your eyes shut’ strategy. She hasn’t slept a wink. It’s the middle of the night and she’s praying for the sunrise to hurry the fuck up.
Rose, the non-believer, is having a nightmare. A violent, violent nightmare. Arms, legs thrashing. I let it go on for a few minutes, you know, just to see if her head’s going to spin around, but then I grab her.
“Rose, Rose, wake up, wake up.”
Now we’re all awake and Rose explains that – in her dream – something or someone had grabbed her leg and was pulling her out of the bed.
May the bridges I burn light the way.
On Sept. 6, I was called into my boss’s office for a meeting. He wasn’t in there. “Should I come back?” “No, no, you need to sit here.” The HR lady had skyped in on a laptop to tell me I was being laid off. She said it wasn’t performance-based, the position was being eliminated.
“Ants will escort you to your car.”
I should explain, “Ants” is a nickname for the HR assistant Antoinette. The HR lady wasn’t suggesting that a parade of tiny ants would lead me to my car, that would be ridiculous.
Anyways, that’s the deal now. I don’t have a job; we’re paying for health care month-to-month.
What does it feel like to be laid off at 55 with three kids in college while suffering from a chronic, progressive disease that requires monthly medication?
It feels like sitting on a lawn chair in your front yard and watching someone burn down your house.
Of course, I mean that metaphorically, as in, I built my career over 25 years from the ground up with my own two hands only to have someone try to knock it down. Rose actually did watch her house burn to the ground when she was 12. That’s way worse than losing your house metaphorically. I just lost my job.
I joked to Rose, “I’m worth more dead than alive,” quoting Mr. Potter from “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
“Look at you. You used to be so cocky. You were going to go out and conquer the world. You once called me a warped, frustrated old man. What are you but a warped, frustrated young man … why you’re worth more dead than alive!”
Rose quickly explained that I’m not worth more dead than alive because our life insurance policy had just expired.
Son of a bitch!!!
But don’t worry about us. We’re going to be alright. I’m lucky I have friends and family who love me.
In these last few weeks, I’ve encountered many people, just in my circle, who are experiencing far worse things than my little career interruption. You never know what people are going through. It’s good to be kind to one another. Sometimes a kind word, a sympathetic ear is all a person needs to get through another day.
Sometimes, you just need a new perspective. For me, I had an epiphany recently shopping on Amazon.
I was on Amazon shopping for underwear and I couldn’t decide which size to get. But then I read a note in the sizing info that read, ‘if you are unsure what size to get, go with the larger size.’
And that advice has made all the difference.
I visited Carli in New York just a few weeks ago. We looked at the big Christmas trees at Bryant Park and 30 Rock and visited the Brooklyn Museum, but my favorite moment came at the beautiful and historic New York Public Library, where she studies and does research. Carli gives me her headphones, the ones she wears when traveling around the city. She puts on some music and we walked around this crowded shrine for knowledge and books.
It was the Vince Guaraldi Trio.
A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Merry Christmas everybody.
Charlie | Rose | Carli | Gina | Sam | Kirby | Rocky
© Snyder Family Holiday Letter 2018