Shindig

For the longest time I’d wanted to host a party of my own, and I finally threw a little Halloween shindig at my house this past weekend.  It’s the first of many to come, as I’m turning this into an annual tradition.

The idea for a Halloween party came to me last November when I noticed all the decorations in the store were 50-90 percent off.  What better time to start stocking up for next year?  Then I realized I could combine my desire to throw a bash with my love of Halloween, so I stocked up on discounted party supplies as well.  I packed all that stuff away until this September.

Autumn was approaching and I was waffling.  I’d wanted to have a party, but I wasn’t sure if I was ready.  Even though I’ve been living here for ten years, I still had a lot of work to do on the house and yard.  I finally pulled the trigger on the first of October, creating a Facebook event and inviting everyone I could.  That was just what I needed to spur me into action.  Unfortunately I waited a bit too long, because the weekend before Halloween was even more popular than I realized.  I was in competition with a lot of other parties and other invites had already gone out.

No matter.  Regardless of how many people ultimately came, I was determined to show those who did a memorable time.  I got to work immediately, and since my party was outdoors I had a lot to do.  I rushed to reseed a good portion of the lawn.  I condensed my enormous woodpile.  I fixed the broken Adirondack chairs.  I rented a jackhammer to bust up concrete pilings left over from a deck that was taken down years ago.  If anything, I was finally crossing off long-neglected items on my to-do list.

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Then I started shopping for more decor.  Last year I’d bought 30 bags of spider webbing and figured I’d use those and some strings of lights to make everything look festive.  But I wasn’t satisfied with that.  I wanted more.  So I bought a couple dozen headstones to make a cemetery:

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I still wasn’t satisfied.  First I had to glue on bigger stakes, because the little plastic ones that came with them were useless.  Then I wanted more, but not at full price.  Instead I decided to try making my own.  I’ve always considered myself an arts n’ crafty little bastard, but never really put my skills to the test before now.  This was a chance to cross another item off my endless to-do list.  So I went out and got some foam board and went to town:

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Not bad.  But they needed some color.  And snark:

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Much better.  I ended up with nearly 40 tombstones in all. But I wanted more.  So I took some leftover wood that’s been lying around here and finally put that shit to use.  I made an archway for the cemetery, from which I later hung webbing and lights.  I also made a path through the cemetery using rolls of wooden fencing:

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Pretty good.  But guess what?  I still wanted more.  I made trip after trip to every store selling Halloween stuff, looking for good deals.  Finally I scored big at Home Depot:

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Hey, I needed more bones for my graveyard…  Plus I needed skeletons to hang from the trees and another one to go in a wheelchair.  I hung more lights in the front of the house, eventually using 20 boxes of 21ft strings of orange.  I put out plastic pumpkins, scarecrows and hay bales.  I stretched webbing between all the trees in the front and hung giant spiders on them.  But I.  Still.  Wanted.  More.

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I was envious of others who had those big spooky figures in their yards.  Animatronic witches and goblins and zombies and whatnot.  A family in my old neighborhood had a plethora and they used to hold a spooky walk-thru in their front yard every year.  Sadly they stopped one day, citing financial hardship.  It’s been over 15 years, but every October I still drive past their house, looking and hoping that they’ll bring it back.  But then I started thinking I could just do my own spooky walk-thru instead.  I’d already invested in a couple of climbing figures and hanging ghosts, but I had nothing life sized.  Once again, I decided to try being crafty.  I bought mannequin heads, PVC pipe and black costume fabric and started experimenting:

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Not bad for 30 bucks, and I later added skeleton hands and a scythe.  I was pretty pleased with the results, but some re-engineering is needed after seeing how it functions outdoors.  I still had space to fill outside, so I bought one more big item at half-price:

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The final result:

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With that I brought my decorating to an end… apart from the luminaries I used to make additional paths through the cemetery and into the backyard.  And the lights I hung on the fence.  And the fog machine I had running.  The funny thing is, this isn’t even half of what I ultimately wanted to do, but my guests were sufficiently impressed anyway.  The headstones in particular were a big hit (note to self).

In the end I only pulled in about 13 people.  (Ooooh, spooky!)   I could have easily pulled in twice that had I sent out my invites a little sooner.  Holding my party on the weekend of the 21st would have been even better, since there was less stuff to compete with.  Another note to self for next year, which I’m already planning for.

I spent 200 bucks on food and drinks – definitely more than I needed to, but better to have too much than not enough.  (I’d also forgotten that people typically bring stuff with them too.)  I had burgers, hot dogs, beer, soda, marshmallows, cupcakes and a big bowl of candy.  Next year I’m thinking of adding pizza, lasagna, baked ziti, potato salad, etc.  I’d also like to add more lights and a heated tent (even though we had a perfect warm night this year).

When all was said and done I must have forked out nearly 500 bucks after buying all the extra decor and party supplies and stuff I needed for the yard.  That’s part of the reason why I’d never held a party until now: the cost.  At least, the cost of putting on the kind of party I’d envisioned.  But now that I’m in a great place financially, money is no issue anymore.  Plus a lot of those were one-time costs since I’ll be reusing this stuff next year and beyond.

It was definitely a learning experience for me, as far as what logistics to improve on. It also helps me to be more social and have things going on in my life.  I’d barely finished decorating and setting up before the first people arrived, so I was a bit stressed and frazzled as a result, but I did my best to be an attentive host.  The whole affair lasted about five hours, and by the end of the night we were down to a handful of people.

My buddy Tim got into a heated political discussion with three others.  I could see him getting visibly agitated.  Oh boy.  I knew ten minutes in advance that it wasn’t going to end well, and I was right.  He accused them of romanticizing their struggles and wanting to commit genocide.  Finally he stood up, bade me adieu, called the others cocksuckers, and flipped them off before walking away like George Jefferson. Classic Tim fashion.  I got a kick out of it, as did the others.  We cracked up as he burned rubber down the street.  And what was the argument over, you ask?  Universal basic income, of all things.  When it comes to politics, some people just have no chill.

And that provides a great segue into the subject of my next post: politics and dating.

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Boo

I knew it was too good to be true.

Let me rewind a few weeks:  Not long after I joined Instagram, I started combing through other users who’d tagged themselves at my gym.  I followed a few of them – men and women alike.  One girl went to my gym, albeit at a different location.  It wasn’t long until she followed me back and soon after that we started messaging, swapping workout tips and discussing our progress.  She suggested working out together sometime, but I was about to depart for California.  When I get back, I promised her.

I didn’t go on Instagram to find someone, so this was an interesting turn of events!  Was this a real possibility…?

I was a bit under the weather upon my return, so last weekend was out.  In the meantime I had another idea.  How about a haunted house this weekend?  I made it clear that it was a date.  She was totally game, agreeing to it right away and joking that she’d probably be sharing my shirt.  And she liked that I’d chosen something unique.  Conversation was fun and flirty up until that point.

That was last Saturday.

Sunday night she posted an Instagram story.  She had gone out pumpkin picking with some guy.  I didn’t see him, but I saw his shadow while he was filming her goofing off with the pumpkins, pretending they were kettlebells.  Well… okay.  That didn’t necessarily mean anything.  Could have been a friend or family member for all I knew, but I made a mental note of it all the same.

Tuesday night she posted another Instagram story.  One of the clips was of her flipping through the pages of a new workout book.  I noticed “To Katie” scrawled on the inside cover.

“Awesome book!  Gift?” I messaged her.

No.

“Oh.  Autographed?” Maybe the guy who authored the book signed it for her.

No again.  “What’s with the questions lol.”

“I saw ‘To Katie’ written inside…”

“You’re very observant lol.”

I guess I am.  And I wasn’t asking out of suspicion, just genuine curiosity.  However she never did say who gave it to her, which seemed a bit evasive.  I didn’t press the issue beyond that exchange, but I did make another mental note.

Thursday night arrived. We’d still been chatting throughout the week, but not as much nor as flirty as it had been in the weeks prior.  I couldn’t put my finger on it but something felt slightly off.  Then I saw her latest Instagram story.  I swiped through and suddenly I saw some guy’s mug, captioned with “three days late but here’s my #mcm.”  (Man Crush Monday, for those of you who don’t know.)

Dafuq?  “So who’s your man crush?” I asked.

“Oh that lol.  It’s just a dare.”

“A dare?”

“Yeah a nice guy I talk to on here.  Into #gymlife and all that too.  He sent me this pic on here and I told him I’ll post it on my stories.  He said no you wouldn’t, so I did lol.”

“Gotcha,” I said.

But no matter which way I turned it, I couldn’t swallow it.  I’m not stupid and I can connect the dots.  It was time to tell this chick to pound sand, because I wasn’t going to be played like a sap.  I was busy all day Friday, but I messaged her Saturday at noon and gave her the standard, vague “something came up” line.

Unsurprisingly, she messaged back with: “Okay.  I actually can’t make it either.” LOL.  Of course not.  Probably doing something with this other guy.  So that’s that.  Another one bites the dust, but it was worth a shot.

Instead I called up a couple of friends and the three of us had a blast at the haunted house.  I jumped a few times, but for the most part it was hard to be scared when I knew to expect people hiding in the corners and such.  It was still pretty cool.  At one point we walked across a gangway inside a spinning tube, and we were dizzy and disoriented as fuck afterwards.  A couple of rooms and hallways were completely dark and we had to feel our way through, and it was those times that I was startled by horns and loud noises like firecrackers.   And naturally we made Samantha walk in front, because she scared the easiest and was great entertainment as a result.

And with that I crossed another item off my bucket list.  We did the haunted corn maze last year, but I wanted to do a proper haunted house.  So that’s done.  Next up I’d like to go apple picking while there’s still a little bit of time left and before everything’s picked out.  Hey – there’s still the rest of the weekend!  And the invitations to my Halloween party have gone out.  A few people have RSVP’d that they’re coming, but it looks to be a small, intimate gathering.  Well… gotta start somewhere.

New

I replaced all my furniture last week, and it’s like being in a new place right now.  And since I acquire so much for free in life, I don’t mind paying it forward by giving a lot away too.  This time I put a mountain of stuff out to the curb: a bed frame, a table, lamps, sofas, books, kitchen and bath supplies, a snowblower, a wood chipper, a bicycle, computer parts, Christmas decorations, electronics and miscellaneous items – you name it.  I posted it on Craigslist and it was all gone by the next morning.

So that’s more stuff off my list, and I crossed off a few others as well.  I went to my first bar trivia night.  I went to goat yoga (as seen below).  I don’t even really give a shit about yoga, I just wanted to frolic with goats.  Another highlight was the female-to-male ratio of 25:1.  But I was still more interested in the goats, who in turn were keenly interested in my water bottle.  No sooner had I sat down did three of them clamber over me, trying to eat the plastic label.  Talk about getting up close and personal.


Now I’m busy preparing my fall bucket list, even though it’s still technically summer for another week.  A week from today I’m jetting out to California (has it really been two years since I was there?)  When I come back I’m going apple picking, going to a haunted house, going on a haunted river paddle, hosting my first ever party for Halloween, and taking trips to Block Island, Old Saybrook and of course NYC.  And now that my car is up and running again, I’m thinking about getting a second one.  Maybe even a classic car.  That would be nice.

I’m gradually retooling this blog (as some of you have already noticed from the updated blog title).  There’s going to be a new focus over time and a streamlining of old posts.  I’ve also taken down my Descent Into Dadness blog.  It’s not getting the readership I’d hoped for, it’s not coming together the way I’d like, and I just don’t feel I should be airing dirty laundry – even if I have changed names and other information to protect privacy.  So that’s that.

And… I lied again.  I always swore that Facebook would be as far as I’d go with social media, but I broke down recently and joined Instagram.  I thought it would be a good way to document my fitness journey.  As a result I’m more inspired and motivated than ever, especially now that I know people are watching and following.  I’ve made new connections, and in fact I’m actually talking to someone new at the moment…

Stay tuned.

Quarterlife

You know you’re getting older when you start pining for the good old days.  Those days of youthful, reckless abandon.  When we felt immortal with limitless futures and endless horizons.

Christ said we must be as little children, and God knows I try.  Just the other week I fulfilled one of my lifelong ambitions by tying an old pair of sneakers together and throwing them over telephone wires.  Now it’s done, another item off my bucket list.

We were the last generation without cell phones.  We were the last ones to make the trek by foot or bike to our friend’s house to ask if he could come out and play.  We even had special knocks so we’d know who was there before we answered.

Kids today will never know the struggle of scrounging for quarters in parking lots, and searching for a pay phone to call home and say they’ll be late.  Now I see them immersed in their screens, standing at the bus stop.  That used to be me at the bus stop.  That used to be me in Walmart in August, buying my supplies before going away to college.  When did high school kids start looking like babies?

I certainly don’t look as young as I used to.  A couple of months ago I heard loud music at midnight.  I went to investigate and found 200 high schoolers partying it up, bottles of Hennessy at their feet and clouds of marijuana smoke overhead.  I thought I could pass myself off as part of the crowd, steal a drink or two before heading back home.  Then some dude asked if I was looking for my daughter.

Ouch.  Then again, what did I expect? I had my first gray hairs before my first sexual experiences.

I miss the days when I could walk down my old street at midnight and find my friend sitting on the curb in front of his house, smoking a cig or nursing a beer.  We would call up another friend, then another, and another… all of them still up at the late hour and down for anything.

We’d hang out until 4AM.  It didn’t matter that we had to be up for work at 6AM.  We were invincible.  Now we’re older, another decade closer to yelling at kids to get off our lawn.  We still work the same jobs, but now we have keys.  Now we have responsibilities.  Now we won’t come out past 10PM.

I miss when we did things spur of the moment.  Now everything is planned.  Hanging out requires consulting schedules and making appointments.  House parties when the parents are away are a thing of the past.

I remember Tim’s dad pulling into his driveway with his motorcycle and leather jacket.  Donny’s mom yelling at him, “You go through girlfriends like they’re fucking water!”  Victor’s parents laughing and swing dancing at the block party.  My friend’s parents were vibrant and full of life.

Now they stoop a little, move a little slower.  Others have had heart attacks or were diagnosed with diseases.  My own father has cancer.  None of our grandparents are left, they’re all long gone now.  Our parents – our last line of defense before facing our own mortality – are endangered.

Outside my front door are two more pairs of sneakers tied together.  On my bulletin board is a list of places to go and things to do.  And sometimes I’ll wheel my bike out of the garage at midnight and race up and down the streets, eventually finding myself in my old neighborhood.

I’ll stop outside my old house, gazing at the window of the room I used to sleep in.  Like Doug Spaulding who came back home to kill Ralph Underhill, I’ll call my younger self out to play.  Then I’ll pedal away, my tires humming along the pavement and the wind whistling through my ears as I tear up and down the hills, savoring how wonderful it is to be alive.

I may not be able to return to the days of my younger self, but at least I can still travel with him in my heart.

Unexpected

#42
I lied.  Apparently I’d only disabled my Bumble profile, not deleted it.  I should have known that, given that the icon was still on the screen.  Derp.  But imagine my surprise when I was notified recently of a new match and message.  I must have swiped for her before I disabled things.  I liked what I saw, and I liked our conversation even better.  When an opportunity arose, I asked her out.  We met tonight.

I went into this date feeling good and without expectations.  I was neither pessimistic nor optimistic, and I didn’t breathe a word to anyone lest I jinx it.  I’ve been especially happy and confident lately, in the best shape of my life, and killing it at work.  There were the usual flutters of nervousness as I approached her, but they dissipated quickly.  We had the same nerdy and geeky interests, and conversation flowed easily and with plenty of laughter.  Unfortunately the place I’d chosen was hosting a “Wine Down Wednesday Karaoke Night” and it was noisy as fuck.

As we neared the end of our meal I suggested going somewhere quieter.  Most girls I’ve dated would take that opportunity to call it a night, but she didn’t.  She was game.  Another good sign.  We walked down the road to an ice cream place for dessert, and she treated me since I’d paid for dinner.  Bonus points.  Meanwhile I was admiring her from head to toe.  She looked good in her pictures, but even better in person.  Damn.  We strolled around town with our treats, eventually grabbing a bench to people watch and continue our conversation.  We swapped adventure stories, compared travel plans and talked about family.  It was relaxed and comfortable and felt right.

After two hours she called it a night.  She lived at home with the parents and grandmother, and since the parents were out she was worried about her grandmother being home alone late at night.  Hmm.  Okay.  I couldn’t stay out much longer myself – tomorrow is hell day at work and I need all the sleep I can get.  We bade each other goodbye and I gave her a hug, just as I’d greeted her.  We each expressed what a good time we had and a desire to go out again.  I promised to get in touch soon.

I’d wanted to go for the kiss, but the moment didn’t feel quite right and I didn’t see how I could do it without it being awkward.  That should have been a sign right there, and I had a funny feeling all the way home.  And I was nearly back home when the texts starting coming in.  Ping.  Ping Ping Ping.  I sighed and wondered what the story was going to be this time.  Finally I got a chance to read what she’d sent me, and I was right:

“Hey. Thanks again for a really nice evening. I want to be honest with you, because I think you’re a great guy… I don’t think seeing you again would be the best thing for me. See, my boyfriend and I broke up a few months ago, and I thought I was ready to start dating again. But as I walked back to my car I kind of just broke down and started crying. I miss him, even though I don’t want to, and I’m realizing now I’m not emotionally ready to see other people. I feel so bad, because I genuinely had a nice time with you – and I don’t want you to think I’m making this up, because I’m not. I’m more of a mess than I thought I’d be. My feelings for him haven’t gone, and I’m just really sad. I’ve deleted my Bumble account because until I get my shit together, I can’t be dating anyone. I’m so so sorry. You are really sweet, please stay positive about this dating crap we have to go through. Thank you again for dinner. It was fun talking with you.”

Christ.  Another long-winded way of saying “you’re a nice guy but you just don’t do it for me?”  Then again, maybe that really is the truth.  She did mention that I was her first Bumble date.  So who knows.  All I know is that I didn’t even bother responding.  I’m deleting her texts and number and moving onto the next girl… whenever and whoever that may be.  Disappointing, but that’s the way it goes.

Independence

While my neighbors were busy blowing shit up and lighting things on fire, I thought it would be a good opportunity to sit and reflect on things.  It’s been a year since my breakup and I’m single and loving it (for the most part).   My current status doesn’t look like it’s going to change anytime soon, and prospects are nil since I jettisoned online dating.  (Good riddance).

A fellow blogger is preparing an anthology on handling breakups and recently asked for my thoughts on the subject.  I’ve been rejected countless times, but I’m 4-0 when it comes to dumping vs. being dumped…although it was a close call with Rebecca.  I ended up blocking her on Facebook.  I’ve tried being friends with exes in the past, but it never seems to work.  I don’t think I’ll bother trying in the future.  Cutting off all contact seems to be way forward, otherwise it’s hard to move on.

I was supposed to go on my first Meetup in months this past weekend, now that work has calmed down and I have free time again.  I’ve been absolutely killing it at work this year.  The past two months were my biggest months ever, financially.  I’m on track to make 10-15K more than I did last year, and my goal is to earn a similar increase next year as well.  I’ve certainly worked long and hard enough for this and my efforts are finally paying off.

However, the Meetup – a group hike on the beach – was canceled due to questionable weather and nesting piping plovers.  Better luck next time.  There are plenty of other upcoming Meetups and I’ve already signed up for goat yoga (which is the latest craze).  I’m not really into yoga, but who doesn’t love baby goats?  Besides, it looks like a lot of fun.

In the meantime I continue to work on myself and do my own thing.  I’ve made progress on some of the items listed in my last post.  I booked my trip to California in September.  I bought a new car.  I donated four bags of clothes and picked up some new ones.  My new bed is on the way.  Half my living room is full of stuff for a garage sale.  I completed a couple more landscaping projects around the house. I’m even looking ahead to October and planning a Halloween party.

And while I’ve been slacking on the blog front (namely Descent Into Dadness), my journal is still going strong.  There are some sizable gaps here and there, but I try to write in it every day and it’s been going strong for 25 years.  That’s right, it goes all the way back to 1992.  I’m still in the process of transcribing all my handwritten entries into one big Microsoft Word file.  At last count I have over 1.5 million words – the equivalent of two Bibles.

It’s a real trip going back and reading old entries.  One of my favorite things to do is read entries from the same day last year, then five and even ten years ago.  It’s interesting to see what’s changed.  One thing I have noticed is a greater maturity of expression than I had two or three years ago.  I give more thought to what I say now and how others may perceive it.  And while I’m still a raging horndog, I don’t converse about sex and dating as much as I used to.  I cringe reading some of my old online conversations.

Anyway, that’s about it for now.  I’m busy doing my own thing these days (as if I know anything else).  I’m excited for the summer and all the possibilities it holds.

Stay tuned.