On My Outrageous Friend…

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My Outrageous Friend…

She didn’t know who I was the last time we talked, but she managed to carry on a conversation with this stranger who called to wish her a happy birthday. Now a phone conversation is beyond her grasp.

My friend, my outrageous friend. I may be lost to her; she will never be lost to me. Too many memories, experiences shared. And doesn’t every serious person need an outrageous friend, a window into thinking, behaving, as we thought we never would, but always, covertly, longed to.

Cookie was that for me. We laughed until our sides ached, doubled over with breathless delight. I accepted and cherished her idiosyncrasies that placed her family in paroxysms of fury and sometimes despair. She had a flair for the dramatic, all right, and no compunction about indulging it. Many times I stood beside her, figuratively if not literally, sometimes picking up the pieces. I was happy to do it.

She loved me, that I know. She thought I was wonderful, perfect, smart. Well, who wouldn’t want a friend like that? I confided in her like no other, and she always took my side. I can hear her pithy, salty responses, always delivered in that memorable Baltimore accent. “Well, you know he’s an asshole, don’t you?” “That fucking bitch. I knew it the minute I laid eyes on her. You know she’s just jealous. Can’t stand in your light.” “I can’t stand to be in the same room with him. He makes my skin crawl. I’ll tell him. You want me to tell him? I will. He won’t know what hit him.”

It didn’t matter if it were an affair of the heart, a work issue, or an in-law kerfuffle. She was there, always, and always on my side. As I was for her, throughout her scrapes and tussles with life. She liked living on the edge, and would do what she could to make sure situations turned out that way. I was close, yet far away, enough to look at them with a wry and loving indulgence, and, most times, help her figure out a logical, reasoned exodus even if she seldom took it.

For so many years we lived far apart, as I moved to Chicago and then to North Carolina. We did manage to meet in between every year. Now I wonder why we didn’t do that more often. Our last time together, when she was who she was, we spent hours in a bookstore, going up and down the aisles pointing out books we had read, wanted to read, a reader’s frenzy. We laughed, and I wonder if she knew it would be our last time when we were really together.

She called me when she first received the diagnosis. She cried; this time I had no words or plans that could make it right. I continued to call, not often, but I kept in touch as she became more and more out of touch.

Until this weekend, when the recording said that her phone had been disconnected. I contacted her daughter. “Mom is in a nursing home. She’s happy, well fed. She doesn’t know where she is.”

But, for me, she will always be in my heart.

http://www.cynthiastrauff.com

On Why I Love the Yankees…

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On Why I Love the Yankees…

October is here; it should be time for the World Series. In fact, the World Series winners should have been decided. But no. Now the season runs into November, while most baseball fans have tired of the game and moved on to Netflix. Bah, I say. Let us return to the days when we had a worthy number of teams – say, 1954, the year that the Orioles returned to Baltimore (sorry, St. Louis Browns). Yes, that was the year when teams were located where they should be. We don’t need baseball in the South or on the West Coast. The beginning of the end, 1957, when the Dodgers – well, I won’t deign to even write about that.

Now, I love the New York Yankees. Always have; always will. And not without reason, both subjective and objective. So, if you’re still with me, I’ll tell you why.

First, objectively, as a former Baltimorean, it is well embedded in my memory that the current Yankee team started in Baltimore. Yes. While the original Orioles of the National League was disbanded in the late 1890s, the team was reincarnated as an American League team in 1901. Then, as a result of a “misunderstanding” between the scrappy Oriole manager John McGraw and the League president, the Orioles morphed into the New York Highlanders, who, as all baseball aficionados know, became, in 1913, the New York Yankees.

Therefore, I maintain that supporting the Yankees is really a manifestation of loyalty to the city of their birth.

Second, subjectively, and this is close to my heart, the night watchman at my dad’s business was a Yankee fan. I knew this before I even knew what baseball was. Dick Young was his name. I doubt if he could read or write, but he had the wisdom of an old soul. He came to work early, and often arrived at the same time as I when I took the bus to the shop. He had his radio; later he had a TV, and knew how to get those Yankee games in those days before internet coverage was even dreamed about. He smoked cigars (King Edward Imperials)  , and would give me the boxes when they were empty. That’s where I kept my baseball card collection, so the mingled scent of bubble gum and tobacco infused the assemblage. Now, all these years later, one box remains.

I treasure it; I treasure my memory of Dick; I treasure the New York Yankees.

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PortraitS – A Chapbook….

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PortraitS: A Poetry Chapbook

Longing, nostalgia, plants dreaming deep, characters facing life or choosing to do anything but look inward.

How to describe those portrayals? A disillusioned therapist, an agnostic priest, a bitter war widow, an abandoned wife, a forgotten war hero….

None are outwardly connected; their backgrounds and personalities are divergent and ofttimes contradictory. Yet it is their yearning for understanding and love that unites them in that eternal search.

PortraitS is here. I hope that you will consider reading it. I hope even more that it touches your heart.

And now for the commercial: you can purchase it directly from my website: cynthiastrauff.com

And so it goes…

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On Mountains, History, and Private Property…

Image result for image grandfather mountain

On Mountains, History, and Private Property…

This was my view from my porch last week. Each morning I sat, coffee steaming in the cool morning temperatures, and looked out at Grandfather Mountain, said to be named by early settlers who saw the face of an old man’s profile in the outline of the peaks against the sky. The Cherokees, who were here for hundreds of years before, called it Tanawa (famous bird), but it appears that, as so often happens, settlers eclipse Native Americans.

Somebody owned this mountain, at least until about ten years ago when it was, sort of, donated to the North Carolina Park Service. I say “sort-of,” since the attraction side of the mountain (a walk across a swinging bridge and the opportunity to see animals that don’t realize that they are on display) charges a hefty fee of $20 to enter. Now all proceeds do go toward the maintenance of the mountain, but I can’t help but wonder how much of the huge parking lot and resultant facilities would have to be maintained were it just a mountain. (Oh yes, I developed quite a curmudgeonly attitude during that week.)

And now I move on to gated communities in those mountains that are somehow owned, remembering a few hundred years, when the mountains were just there – to be seen, explored, when the Cherokees, who had no concept of “private property,” lived off and respected the land. On this trip, I was incensed to find one gated community after the other, gates closed for what, I’m not sure. To keep out whom/what? For surely the bears and other animals whose habitat we have hijacked with our need for vistas to comfort and ease the stress of our days can walk right around them. So, to keep the gargantuan SUVs from what, befouling our golf courses set at 5,000 feet altitude? Is this what we have become? That we can appreciate the land only while sitting in our Adirondack-styled rockers, sipping our Makers’ Mark bourbon and enjoying the land that our forefathers worked, while making sure those who once lived here were sent West and put on reservations?

Well, I guess so. And the irony is not lost on me that I, in fact, was sitting in such a gated community while my husband and I rented a condominium that gave us this gorgeous view.

Cognizant dissonance, you say? I’ve got it in spades.

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