Thursday, October 30, 2008

One of my best essays (I think so, anyway)

I won’t be blogging on Saturday; two of my girlfriends from college are coming to town and we’re going to beautiful Sedona for the weekend. It occurred to me that I’ve known these girls for over 30 years, and when the three of us were hanging out together in dive bars in downtown Plattsburgh, some of my dear girlfriends here in Las Vegas hadn’t even been born yet. What follows is an essay I wrote over a year ago about one of these precious young gals.

"Unhappy Friday"

Sharee greeted me with her full-of-the-devil smile as she loaded the coffee urn with a package of high test. "Good morning, Lindalicious!" she sang.

The "licious" part of my name is apparently a reference to a hip-hop song, so the twentysomething kids here tell me. As one of the oldest drones in this IT company—just marking the big 5-0—I'm flattered to have been given a nickname with such a young and flirty connotation. Better than "Crotchety Old Bat."

"Good morning, Ree-Ree," I answered. "Happy Friday! You going to the pub later?"

Sharee ran her fingers through her fuchsia-streaked hair, and then shimmied her sturdy build, momentarily turning the corporate kitchen into a late-night dance club. "Yay-yah!" she boomed.

Kristin, Sharee's best friend, works in the cubicle across from mine and my first order of business that day was to confirm Kri's happy hour attendance. "Oooh, yeah," she nodded.

Good. With the important stuff out of the way, I sat down to review the user interface guide I'd been working on for the past few days. With my usual zeal, I click… click… clicked through the application, making sure I captured the step-by-step processes and wondering, for the millionth time, if God would be so cruel to put someone on this earth with the explicit purpose of writing software documentation.

This job is better than the last one, I have to admit. No more schlepping 24.8 miles every morning to the northwest side of town—what a pain in the ass that was. The traffic conditions were rarely favorable; usually I'd sit trapped in an automotive cluster, bitching about being late for work because some idiot had to smash his car into a jersey wall, the 20-point rise in my diastolic blood pressure more of a concern than the possibility that someone might have been seriously injured. No, this job is much better. It's a lot closer to home and the guy I report to has no discernable mental problems, though I'd still rather be lying poolside counting the minutes until Guiding Light.

Click… click… click…

As always, I was thankful that day for the occasional distraction of Sharee's voice resonating throughout the cube farm. Whether she's gabbing about her plans for the weekend, the latest diet she's trying, or stories about her identical twin who works on the first floor, it's inevitably more interesting than the task before me. I get a kick out of my young friend and admire how she talks openly about her partner, Kimberly, just as others speak of their spouses. And why shouldn't she?

Click… click… click…

Lucky for me, my 2:00 functional spec meeting wasn't nearly as boring as it could have been due to a piece of lunch that got caught in a back molar, which gave me something to play with. I appreciated the distraction, and when my tongue finally dislodged what I determined to be a piece of chicken, I enjoyed a minor sense of accomplishment followed immediately by, so now what?

Afterward I headed back to my cell block, ready to announce that a mere hour and a half separated us from Guinness time. But as I neared my desk, I saw Sharee in Kristin's cube, her body heaving with silent sobs, too overcome with emotion to emit a sound. Kri held her in a tight embrace, a futile effort to console the inconsolable.

What the hell?

I approached them, maintaining a respectful distance so as not to interfere. As I expected, Kri gave me a nod that communicated, "I'll tell you later," and so I retreated.

I hope she didn't get fired, I thought, though it wouldn't have surprised me. Loud, colorful personalities who occasionally address customers as "you guys" generally don't go over well in the corporate world. Hmm… I knew Sharee had a wild night out earlier in the week and she called in sick the next day. Maybe that did her in.

Poor thing. It's only a stupid job, sweetie, I tried to psychically communicate to her. You'll find another one, a better one. I'll help you write your resume. You'll be fine.

Goddamn it, why did they have to get rid of her? My psychic communication shifted to corner office. Sharee's young—can't you give her a break? She's only a few steps down her career path, and she tries hard. Christ, I could think of five other people I'd ax before her.

We all mess around, I reasoned. The kids are always on MySpace and I never miss a day without checking the online obituaries of my home-town newspaper because—God forbid—what if someone from high school died and I didn't know about it?

Oh, no… What if someone died?

With that thought, I sharply reversed my initial position and hoped Sharee did, in fact, get fired, though somehow I knew at that moment it wasn't so.

I discretely tried to assess the situation in the cubicle ten feet away and through a fringe of vision, I could see Kristin leading our coworker toward the exit. A few minutes later she returned alone, her face drained. My eyes pounced on her for information. Tell me I'm wrong, they said.

"Sharee's dad died."

"Had he been sick?" I asked, as if the pain would somehow be diminished had she seen it coming.

Kri shook her head. "No. He was killed in a motorcycle accident. On his way home from work. She's going to try to get a flight to Portland tonight."

We stood enveloped in a fog of sympathy, with nothing more to say. Kristin returned to her cubicle and shuffled papers, as did I.

My heart ached for our precious Ree-Ree as I thought of what she'd face in the days ahead—the trip home, the funeral arrangements, the exhaustion from the flood of tears—and I remembered when I got word of my own father's death. I was working on the road; my sister tracked me down at my hotel to deliver the news. "You're kidding!" I cried, as if her sense of humor suddenly took a sadistic twist.

A day can take the most unexpected turn; sometimes you go to bed to a picture that has no semblance of what you woke up to.

One of the software developers from the other side of the building breezed by on his way to the weekend. "Going to the pub, ladies?" he asked. After checking each other's reaction, Kristen and I nodded in unison.

At four o'clock we logged off and headed across the street.

Life goes on.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Winter may be the best time for writers

Novelist, poet, and short-story writer John Updike has a piece in the November/December edition of The AARP Magazine (no comment) entitled “The Writer in Winter.” He reflects on about what it’s like to be as a writer at an age that is older than many of his idols lived to be.

Early in the piece he states, that “memories, impressions, and emotions from your first 20 years on earth are the writers’ main material; little that comes afterward is so rich and resonant.”

Really? I don’t buy that.

Updike also says, “By the age of 40, you have probably mined the purest veins of this precious lode; after that, continued creativity is a matter of sifting the leavings.” I don’t buy that, either.

Soon after I turned 50 I wrote a blog on my MySpace site and listed all the things I accomplished or lived through during my years between 40 and 50. This is what I came up with:

I witnessed the birth of my grandson.
I buried my father.
I threw up for the first time in 15 years.
I got divorced.
I fell in love again.
I got married on a hotel balcony in Sedona.
I lost a pregnancy.
I moved from New York to Wyoming.
I taught yoga to senior citizens and young people with Down Syndrome.
I watched the odometer of my car mark 100,000 miles.
I giggled and flashed my breasts at the camera as I stood beneath Mount Rushmore.
I frolicked on a New Zealand beach on Christmas Eve.
I moved from Wyoming to Utah.
I got divorced. (Again.)
I moved to Sin City, alone.
I was a hospice volunteer.
I performed stand-up comedy for the first time.
I did a split on a bar in New Orleans.
I flashed my breasts from my hotel balcony on Bourbon Street.
I told hotel security I would never do such a thing and that I'm a grandmother.
I took a job selling timeshares on the Las Vegas Strip.
I got fired for not selling timeshares on the Las Vegas Strip.
I got another job.
I watched the odometer of my car mark 150,000 miles.
I got pulled over four times and never got a ticket.
I rode on the back of a motorcycle through the desert.
I walked off a job because somebody pissed me off.
I got another job.
I witnessed my mother's marriage at the age of 71.
I lost two good friends, and held the hand of one of them an hour before she died.
I wrote a book.

Sifting the leavings? I think not! The first 20 years of my youth were nothing compared to the 10 years that are supposed to usher in middle age. And I have a lot planned for the next 10 years. A lot!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The gift of a quiet morning

This weekend I have no obligations; my social calendar is blank and I have no writing deadlines to meet. Of course, there are always a million things that I could do, but for today and tomorrow, there is very little that I have to do. To me, a day free of any agenda is truly a gift.

It's a beautiful morning here in Las Vegas (well, Henderson). I woke up around 8:00, which is another gift; usually my alarm blasts at 5:26. The sun shone through my window, which I'd opened last night before I went to sleep. How wonderful it was to lie in bed for a while--looking out at the blue sky, palm trees, and Black Mountain-- with nothing prompting a need for me to move.

When I was damn good and ready, I got up, made some coffee, and checked my email. Then I put on my bathing suit and soaked in the morning sun on my balcony. I lazed in an Adirondack chair, sipped my coffee and read yesterday's paper (the Friday paper is the only one I have time for these days, and sometimes that lies unread).

I thought about how wonderful it is to live in a place where you can sit out in a bathing suit in late October and how lucky I am to have a balcony in such a beautiful apartment complex. A friend of mine asked if I feel like I'm on vacation living here, and I said I really do.

This is a wonderful place. I'm glad I took the time this morning to enjoy every minute.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Quick lesson in punctuation: apostrophes with nouns ending in s

In a previous post, I wrote about Boss’s Day. Why did I write Boss’s Day and not Boss’ Day? Because according to the Associated Press Stylebook, for singular common nouns ending in s you express possession by adding ’s.

Examples: The actress’s voice, the hostess’s invitation

However, if the next word begins with an s, then just add the apostrophe without the s.

Examples: The actress’ smile, the boss’ seat

BUT… for singular proper nouns, use only an apostrophe. (Why do they have to make it so hard?)

Examples: Agnes’ book, my Guinness’ smooth flavor
Exception: St. James’s Palace (Don’t ask—this is why people hate grammar.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

10 simple ways to project self-confidence

Recently a couple of women have commented to me about my seemingly strong sense of self-confidence. I probably shouldn’t say “seemingly”; I really do have quite a bit of self-confidence. Let’s face it; you have to have balls of steel to do stand-up comedy, which is my personal final frontier. Any other form of public speaking is a breeze for me, but to get in front of people with the sole purpose of making them laugh… after five years, I’m just now able to approach the stage without breaking out in hives.

By nature, performers have to have self-confidence, but writers also need it. Building your author’s platform requires you to be able to put yourself out there. This isn’t easy for some writers, who were perhaps drawn to writing in the first place because by nature, writing is a solitary endeavor.

I’ve looked into this topic a bit and conclude that whereas self-esteem is the belief in your worth or value, self-confidence is the attitude that gives you the ability to project that belief to others. And while I’m certainly not trying to pass myself off as a psychologist, I’m happy to share some strategies that work for me.

So here are 10 simple ways to project self confidence, according to your friend Linda Lou:

1. Improve your posture. I can’t stress this enough—this is the single most important thing you can do to project self-confidence. The way in which you carry yourself communicates so much about how you feel about yourself, which in turn tells the world how you expect to be treated. Remember this: people treat you exactly how you ask to be treated. Good posture tells the world, “I would never expect you to mess with me” and it’s especially important if you’re in a business meeting or other type of situation where you need to project a sense of authority. Trust me on this. People approach me in stores all the time asking for help as if I work there—even if I’m in jeans and have my pocketbook slung over my shoulder.

Try this: Stand straight and pull your shoulders back and down. Exaggerate this stance if you have to, to really get a sense of how this feels. Now imagine a string at the crown of your head that’s being pulled up to the heavens. With your shoulders back and down and your head lifting to the heavens, now elongate your spine. Visualize creating space between each vertebra. Now tighten your abdominal muscles. Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, let this be your mantra: “Shoulders back and down, head high.” Consciously make it a point to maintain this posture, whether you’re sitting, standing, or walking. I guarantee the results will be amazing!

2. Fake it till you make it. In other words, act as if you already are how you’d like to be. Think of how you would carry yourself and interact with people if you already were a best-selling author or whatever it is to whcih you aspire.

Try this: Think of someone you admire—how does that person carry himself or herself? How does that person speak? In your next social or work situation, try to emulate that person’s style. In college I had a professor whose presentation style I really liked, and when I had to give presentations myself, I’d act as if I were she. Now before I perform comedy I watch a recording I have of Louis C.K., because I dig his style.

3. Get in shape. Sorry, but there really is something to that mind-body connection. Even if you commit to a mere 20 minutes a day, you’ll notice a difference in how you feel and how you carry yourself.

Try this: Take a beginner’s yoga class. Many yoga studios offer a free introductory class, so you have nothing to lose. Be aware that yoga teachers are like snowflakes—no two are alike. Don’t be turned off to yoga if one experience doesn’t work out for you; try another class. And you don’t have to take classes forever; once you learn the basics, you can buy a couple of yoga DVDs (I have a few I highly recommend) and practice in the privacy of your living room. I think yoga is the best exercise you can do, the closest thing there is to the Fountain of Youth, and the best way to improve your posture.

4. Don’t be afraid to say “no.” Every time you agree to do something that you really don’t want to do, you erode a little bit of your self-esteem. Tell the kids you’ll give them a ride after Oprah, or when you’re damn good and ready. Don’t worry about appearing selfish; people will respect you more when you’re not afraid to let them know you value your time.

Try this: Say “no.” Simple as that. No apologies, no explanations.

5. Put some effort into your looks. Never, ever leave the house without at least a little bit of eye make-up or lipstick. (Guys have it so easy!) Even if you haven’t even showered and just want to make a quick run to the grocery store, throw on a baseball cap and take 30 seconds to put on some lipstick. Every time you set foot in public, you’re presenting yourself to the outside world, and you’re going to present yourself with more confidence if you look good.

Try this: Ask your daughter or a younger friend for beauty and fashion tips. If you’re on a budget or want to try out a new style without making a huge financial commitment, browse through the racks at Marshall’s, T.J. Max, or Ross Dress-for-Less (my personal favorite!)

6. Do something nice. There’s nothing that will make you feel better about yourself than knowing you’ve done something nice for another person.

Try this: Find a way to surprise and delight someone. Check out my earlier blog for ideas.

7. Get yourself a personal theme song. Remember Julie Andrews belting out “I Have Confidence” on her way to the meet the captain and seven children? (This is probably the corniest thing I’ve ever said, so let this stay right between us.)But theme songs are a lot of fun and I swear they work. I have two, but I can’t tell you what they are—these things are personal!

Try this: Think of a confidence-building song that puts a bounce in your step. Play the song in your head while you’re walking down the street--or anywhere--with shoulders back and down and head high. You can't help but feel a bit ridiculous, and people will wonder what's behind your sly smile. They'll never know, of course!

8. If someone gives you crap, pretend you’re reacting to an Alzheimer’s patient. Don’t say a word, just give the person a sympathetic look that says, “Clearly you’re out of your mind, but I know you can’t help it.” This will prevent you from reacting emotionally, which puts you at a disadvantage and is exactly what your perpetrator wants.

Try this: Imagine a person saying something totally inappropriate to you or making a demand that you’ll no way in hell comply with. Practice your “You must be insane” look, and don’t forget to add a sympathetic smile.

9. Sit still! People who fidget do not give the impression of being in control and you’re probably driving other people nuts. Calm that wiggling leg, stop dangling your shoe off your toe.

Try this: Next time you’re in a meeting, or just talking with someone, consciously relax your hands and face (this works wonders at the dentist, too). And don’t forget to sit up straight, with shoulders back and down.

10. Never say anything bad about yourself. This is especially true in the workplace, where everything you say can and will be held against you. Instead of saying, “I’m sorry I was late” say, “Thank you for waiting for me.” In fact, whenever you can, take the opportunity to boost yourself. Last week I sent out a company-wide email asking for announcements and story ideas for next month’s newsletter. My opening sentence was “All the great feedback I’ve received on the employee newsletter is very much appreciated, but it’s really up to you to supply me with the content.” See how I sneaked in a pat on my own back? Pretty smart, huh?

Try this: Make a conscious effort to become more aware of what you say about yourself. Self-deprecating humor is fine, but only if you have enough self confidence to mitigate it.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Boss's Day brouhaha

Today is Boss's Day. The girls in the office have been aflutter all week. (I think this is the first time I've actually written the words "brouhaha" and "aflutter.")

I'm not into it. Don't get me wrong, I like my boss. I really like him, and with my authority issues ("You can't tell me what to do!") that's really saying something. Jack's an easy guy to work for; he's good natured, has a jaunty sense of humor, and plays fairly.

But Boss's Day? You gotta be kidding. I have trouble buying into those holidays created by the card companies. They can't tell me what to do.

I had a different boss in a different company vertical last year, another guy whom I liked a lot. A different set of girls were all aflutter; one brought in pies from Marie Callendar's to celebrate the momentous occasion. After all the brouhaha (now that I'm using these words, I can't stop), I marched myself into his office.

"I just want you to know," I began, hands on hips, "Pies are nice, but I'm the only one who thought to wear a miniskirt."

I think I'll go find something cute to wear to work today.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Childhood interests carry into adulthood

I want to point out that the creative pursuits I wrote about in my last blog—my writing, Internet radio show, and comedy— all have roots from my childhood and early adult years. As a little girl I was an avid reader and loved to write stories. I wanted to be like Louisa May Alcott and was so enthralled with the story of her life that I decided I, too, would become a tomboy, a term I imagine these days is politically incorrect (is it now “pre-lesbian”?) Anyway, for my tenth birthday I asked for a football. And nail polish… you know, in case the tomboy stuff didn’t take. It didn’t; note the tiara.

As I mentioned in my first blog a couple of months ago, when I was nine years old, I sent my favorite jokes to Johnny Carson. I was an extremely timid child, so I never would have imagined the performing aspect, but still, the seeds of what would someday lead me to doing stand-up comedy had been planted.

Ballet recitals and cheerleading helped me get over my shyness during my high school years, and both in undergrad at SUNY Plattsburgh and grad school at RPI in Troy, I did a weekly radio show on the campus station. WRPI was a 50,000 watt station and I had a morning show, the first of the day, meaning I had to turn on the transmitter. All by myself. I never really felt comfortable with the technology and breathed a sigh of relief to see the red lights on the transmitter turn to green, and I have to admit that if the Emergency Broadcast System ever issued an alarm on my watch, we’d all be dead.

My point in all this is chances are the activities you enjoyed as a child and young person reflect true interests that bring you joy in adulthood. But along the way something else gets your attention, or maybe someone told you that’s a stupid way to spend your time and so you dropped that interest and took up something else.

I know I’m going to sound like an old person, but I have to wonder about the kids today who spend so much of their waking time in front of the TV and the computer playing games. What kinds of seeds are being planted? What talents are they cultivating for tomorrow?

And what did you like to do as a child? Do you ever do that now? Would you like to?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

What's happening in Lindaland

I have a lot going on these days, in my creative life, anyway.

Wednesday night marked the first Aging Nymphs broadcast with my new co-host--my Harley-ridin' sister, "Lori Biker." This weekly Internet radio show airs at 8 p.m. Pacific time, 11 p.m. Eastern on It’s a light, kind of silly, gabfest by and for women who act somewhere between their age and their shoe size. Surprisingly, many, if not most, of our listeners seem to be men. The show’s a vanity project, but it doesn’t require much effort and truly brings me joy.

Also on Wednesday, my latest article posted on This is a neat website that provides a perspective of what it’s really like to live in Las Vegas from the viewpoints of ten local writers. I’m honored I was chosen to be one of those ten.

Thursday after work I stopped at Barnes and Noble and for the first time, I could walk into a book store and actually see something I've written in print! I have a short essay on my misadventures in post-divorce dating published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Divorce and Recovery. Though it’s not exactly the book I always dreamed of contributing to, I really am proud to be included in this anthology. (But why did they have to put a bird on the cover?) It’s a feather in my cap (d'oh!) as I build my author’s platform, which I’ve talked about in a previous blog.

Next Friday night at 9 p.m. I’ll be doing a set at the Royal Resort on Convention Center Drive, just off the Las Vegas Strip. Sometimes I still have to pinch myself; I do stand-up?

On top of all this, yesterday I got an email from an agent from a very prestigious literary agency in New York. He says my memoir “certainly sounds like a gem” and he’d like to see the first 50 pages. I’m cautiously optimistic; I’ve had previous requests for partials that never panned out, and this agent admits that “the memoir market is especially difficult at the moment.” But still, it’s a step in the right direction. Keep your fingers crossed!

So yeah, creatively things are coming together. Now it’s time for work life and the love life to get in gear…

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Something has to change (Part 2)

It's been over five years since I became single again, and still, I wake up on my side of the bed. It's 5:10 a.m. I click off the alarm with a pathetic sense of superiority, having prevented the assault of the "BEEP," "BEEP," "BEEP" scheduled for 5:26. It's pitch black out.

I lie there for a few minutes, resisting the day ahead of me. Eight hours in a cubicle. Writing cover sheets to TPS reports. No meetings to break up the day. A laugh here and there with co-workers, but mostly lots of gazing blankly into a screen, my mind far, far away. I won't have my life back until 4:20 this afternoon, when I'll return home and click on the TV to catch the rest of Oprah. That's 11 hours from now--half a day away. In the meantime, I feel like the star of my own commercial for Amnesty International.

I head to the bathroom to pee and weigh myself. Super--up a half pound, even though I've been diligently exercising every day. Muscle weighs more, I rationalize. I may have to give up beer to drop the weight I want to get rid of, but that's a quality of life issue.

As my decaf brews, I sit at a kitchen table that used to be my father's and check my email. I see my ex in New Zealand is online and send him an instant message. No reply. It's 1:30 in the morning there; he probably went to sleep. I have no side of his bed, but he's offered to make one for me.

How can I refuse?

Then I'll be able to give up beer.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

My rock and roll weekend

I missed my Saturday blog last weekend. I didn’t bother to lug my laptop to Cleveland and thought maybe I could grab a few minutes at the business center at the hotel, but blogging was not in the cards. No, last weekend was all about rock and roll.

What a wonderful time I had catching up with my friend Bob and his family (see last Thursday’s blog for background info). Unfortunately, Bob’s band, Looming Larger, didn’t win the competition at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and I really thought they had a decent chance since they were the only band with a full set of original music. I’d hoped the judges would extend them extra consideration since it takes a hell of a lot more effort to write and arrange original compositions than play a classic rock hit that you’ve had about 40 years to work out, but evidently they weren’t hip to my line of thinking.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, planted right on the edge of Lake Erie, is a must-see for anyone who loves rock music. Expecting it to be little more than a glorified Hard Rock CafĂ©, I was pleasantly surprised. Although there were the same types of costumes and guitars displayed behind glass, the sheer number of artifacts is amazing (and they display only a fraction of the collection) and the many multimedia exhibits won’t disappoint. Well done! (But no mention of Warren Zevon? How could they?)

After spending $1.2 million in the gift shop (kids, guess what you’re getting for Christmas?), I strolled several blocks back to my hotel and thought of how Cleveland reminded me of Buffalo—lots of beautiful architecture, yet one can’t help sense that the bloom is definitely off the rose.

My stop at a CVS along the way confirmed my analogy, in another way. In one of my first blogs I related how a Walgreen’s clerk in Las Vegas who couldn’t fathom why I didn’t want a bag for my tiny tin of Altoids was typical of the bizarre customer service behavior I’d experienced in Buffalo. Same goes for Cleveland. After purchasing a mere tube of mascara, I smiled at the clerk and said, “That’s okay. I don’t need a bag.”

“It’s a courtesy!” she snapped. I noticed I got the same vibe from a lot of people in that town.

Upon leaving the store, I was momentarily scared shitless, fearing I’d seen Death coming for me, but it was only a woman in a black burka. Whew!

I didn’t get to see much else during my brief stay, but if you ever have the chance, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame alone is definitely worth the trip. And reconnecting with dear friends? Priceless.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Yay! Another year older!

Tomorrow is my birthday; I’m going to be 51.

Birthdays bother some people, not me; I've never worried about getting older. Save for some almost imperceptible crow's feet, my skin is still smooth and wrinkle-free. Thanks to years of ballet and yoga, my body remains somewhat thin and toned. Somewhat. Oddly enough, for someone as vain as I am (that Carly Simon song was, in fact, about me), I don’t worry about losing my looks. I figure that happens as soon as I open my mouth.

If I found any birthday to be disturbing, it was my thirty-fifth. After all, at 35 you're old enough to be president and I remember feeling terribly inadequate since I was in no way mature enough to assume such responsibility. And though at 51 I’m still not exactly presidential material, my concern now is that I no longer have all the time in the world; if I don’t get things done soon, they may never get done at all. I’m 51. Shit! My life is half over. I’ve told you before, I plan on living until 102.

Whatever--I have a very fun weekend planned. I’m flying to Cleveland tomorrow to watch my friend Bob play in a battle of the bands competition at the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame on Saturday night. I worked with Bob at GE in Connecticut from 1997-1999, and he’s one of my very favorite people on earth.

A good-looking guy, Bob loved to hold court at lunchtime with his harem of female co-workers, telling stories of his rambunctious youth and extended adolescence. By his own admission, he could have easily amounted to little more than an incorrigible partier, but by his late forties he somehow found himself in a life that included a gorgeous wife, two beautiful little kids, and a decent position with a world-class conglomerate.

“When I was a kid on Long Island,” he started one noontime off, in his signature deliberate manner, “during the summer I mowed lawns at a cemetery.” Bob paused to savor the attention from his adoring fans. “And one day, I’m mowing along and I come across a grave that says ‘Hiscock.’ That was the guy’s name.”

We tittered with anticipation of the story unraveling into something bawdy.

“And underneath his name,” he continued, “there under ‘Hiscock,’ it says—I swear, this is true—‘In God’s Hands.’” With that, Bob crossed his arms and sat back, pleased with his ability to make us we roar like prepubescent boys.

Five years ago Bob found out he had a tumor in one of his lymph nodes. It was a secondary tumor; the primary was in his throat, unusual for someone who never smoked. He and his wife, Wendy, went through hell for several months and, thank God, Bob’s been cancer-free ever since; his recovery has been a miracle. But during that dark period, I bet they could not have imagined there would ever be a time when they would travel to Cleveland so Bob could play with his band at the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame.

It’s almost become a clichĂ© to say it, but every day really is a gift. How can anyone possibly be bothered by a birthday?

(Photo credit: Wendy VonDerLinn)