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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Chow Mein & Tears

Of all the people I have baked with throughout my entire life, nobody-nobody-nobody has made this craft more enjoyable than the Widow Lundeen.

During the 5 or 6 years that we hung out together, I'd be willing to bet that a couple hundred bottles of wine were emptied, ten digits worth of scones were made, and over 100 religious trinkets were handed over to me as a sign of gratitude.

The widow was on a fixed budget, and I'd often get nervous that she was spending money on me that she didn't have. One night she stopped by my house unexpected and as I opened the door...she was holding a huge portrait of Pope Leo the XIV or XVth....I don't quite remember, but it was framed in a gaudy gold plastic frame that gave one the sense that it may have been purchased at the Vatican gift shop around a 1/2 a century ago.

"Widow Lundeen" I smiled "You can't go around wasting your cash on these beautiful trinkets. This sure is lovely, but not enough where I'll be able to enjoy it if I think that you might be siting at home eating cat food for a week."

The Widow just grinned, then stood silent w/o crossing the threshold into my house....and finally issued a confession that I couldn't tell if it was sincere or complete bull**** ....

"Who said I paid anything for this. Nobody ever expects that an old woman would steal objects related to Christ."

At that point she didn't stick around to see my response. Instead she just stormed past me, headed straight for the kitchen, and parked herself on whichever wooden chair sat closest to my wine rack.

Throughout our friendship, I experienced joy like I have never felt with anybody else.

I'm not saying it was better or worse, but it was different because everyday I hung out with the Widow, it was like God was smiling or something, because just like a Disney movie or a religious postcard from the 1950's the sun was always shining, and our dispositions were pristine.

It is my most sincere belief that providence had brought us together.

But....But, every story like this usually has a "But" huh?

Every time we popped a cork, or pulled something from the oven.....there was always a 50 pound weight of trepidation on my heart.

As our friendship grew, and I received the privilege of meeting the members of her family, I realized that her life's journey came attached with some peculiar intangibles, starting with her deceased husband.

Very seldom would the Widow bring him up, but one evening after pouring a few bottles of Chianti out by her garden, I asked what the Father of her children was like. Her response was shocking, because a couple things that you need to know about the widow (and I mean this quite respectfully) is that she looked like, and talked liked the stereotypical "Old Lady".

She always wore modest-floral pattern dresses that were covered with long sleeve / pastel sweaters, and much like the "Old Women" that frequent church basements across the globe....foul speak was never an option in terms of her vocabulary.......

"He was an evil sadistic bastard!" she blurted out "And it should come as no surprise to anybody that knew him that he would take his own life.....he was crazy!"

So there was an anger there the came to the surface with the same speed that helium baloons hit the clouds when released on windy days.

The Widow continued........

"The thing that terrifies me the most is that my children have half of their DNA coming from his bloodline......and that is a concern to me."

I won't comment on the Widow's only son. I've met him several times, and I sure did like him, but I just don't know him well enough to add to this story.

The oldest daughter, whose name escapes me...maybe because it appears that it is too hard for the remaining family to speak about her, died of a drug overdose several years back.

As all of you know, people deal with grieving in different manners, but sometimes I think how we grieve may be affected by how our love ones are lost.

Some people choose to bring drama into their life, but other folks (like the Widows eldest) simply inherit it.

Then there's one more kid in the family, her name in Nico, and I'll bet she's about 10 to 12 years younger than me.

Like her sister, she pursued a life of punk rock-art.....and heroin.

It hasn't been pretty, Nico "Fell Off the Horse" pretty hard and has spent the last 5 years doing everything in her power to stay clean. In addition to making daily visits to the methadone clinic, she talks to a therapist and doesn't ask a single thing from this world.

Nico just strives to stay clean and smile once or twice a day, but all the chemistry that lives within her body wears her out, and often times when I've had conversations with her, she'll nod out in mid sentence.

The whole Lundeen Clan started off in Manhattan, so on several occasions Nico would call me last minute to say that her and the Widow had found reasonable air fare and the 2 of them would head out to NYC if only they could find somebody to take care of her Pomeranian Quee - Queg.

As much as I hate not sleeping at my house, I'd often times agree to pack a bag and move into the Widows estate (Nico and the Widow live together)where I would spend 10 to 12 days with a dog that pissed on more hydrants,fence posts and telephones poles in the history of the entire K9 pissing nation.

I most certainly wouldn't provide this service for anybody else, but for Nico....I didn't mind it because she is like a little sister to me.

Well......now enters the boy, a guy Nico's age named Matt.

Matt is a good looking guy, maybe 5' 9" 170 pounds with long brown hair (not hippie length, but Brad Pitt length) and he is shy, sweet and madly in love with Nico.

Now I usually don't describe any guy as sweet, but Matt is, and that's that.

He's lived in NYC his entire life and like many people is struggling with issues of his own.

The Widow explained to me that he suffers from level 10 O.C.D., ya know....to the point where he can burn through a bar of soap in one visit to the bathroom.

But when he and Nico get together......Sweet Polish Christ, it's about as sweet as a fuzzy bunny and a happy duckling falling in love.

However.....there disabilities have isolated them from the world.

To make matters worse, from the time I first met the Widow Lundeen until today, she has suffered from memory loss, dementia, Alzheimer's....something like that, so for the last few years.....

Poor Nico would do her best to take care of her, but then she would crash (or worse yet...relapse with "stuff") and the failing minded Widow would almost instinctively care for her offspring.

Sometimes in life evidence smacks us in the face. For me.....the Catholic in me, the "Born Again" in me, or whatever strands of compassion that God weaves into our heart.....all of these features wanted to find absolute resolution for this situation.

Over the years, every time we got together and celebrated life....in the back of the mind I felt as if I knew the outcome even before it was played out, ya know, it was liking kicking it with Romeo and Juliet during chapter 4 of their romance.......you know the conclusion, but do they?

So lets get to now.

Not to long ago the Widow lost the remaining mental faculties that one needs to be able to exist in the world w/o supervision.

People got together, choices had to be made, and the Widow was taken to a convalescent home to live out the remainder of her years.

As much as I love this family, I decided to back off and let them decide how things were to be worked out. In addition to her children, the Widow also has sisters in state, and that's that.

I was told that Matt was flying in from NYC and moving in with Nico, but what next......I'm guessing that the Widow stock piled massive debt, surely the house would be going into foreclosure...but who knows?

Well, I called Nico for the first time in months last week, but Matt picked up her phone.

He informed me that she was in treatment and the sheriff had served papers and the 2 of them will have to be out by July.

Klecko sat speechless, the day I had always dreaded had transpired and I felt helpless.

I so badly wanted to cushion the impact of Matt and Nico.

It's bad enough that she has to remain in a place where all she can do is pray that her med's will get balanced, but then you have Matt, a guy who knows virtually nobody in this city, sitting alone in a run down house, without any resources trying to concoct an idea that will bring even the slightest amount of security to the woman he loves more than himself.

"Dude....this sucks" I said in a soft voice "How bout I swing by tomorrow night and take you out for some chow mein?"

It was agreed upon.

So when I showed up, I just kinda let myself into the house, Nico's new puppy-Pom named Deedle (after my Chihuahua) bumrushes me licking my ankles until Matt enters the kitchen walking off balanced and zombie like.

From the look in his eyes, I can tell he is nothing more than freaked out, overwhelmed, despondent, terrified and probably 1000 other adjectives as well.

Their home has become a series of piles that are beginning to take over the interior of every room in the house.

Matt grabs a hoodie and the 2 of us jump into the bread truck.

As I pull away, neither one of us has thought of anything to say, but there still are some noises taking place.

First off, my companion hasn't buckled his seat belt, and as I'm driving down West 7th, my little breadtruck-seatbelt alarm is blaring........

BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP.

I've never had a passenger push these boundaries of seat belt non compliance before, and I begin to wonder if the alarm would eventually realize it's just wasting sound. My passengers eyes are glazed over, but he's staring straight ahead.....I think he hears the alarm but simply might be using this medium to alert me that he just doesn't much care about much.

So we drive down the street, past the steak house, past the brewery, and then finally up to the door of Golden Chow Mein where I pull over.

As I unbuckle my seat belt and move my left hand towards the door handle....Matt spoke......

"Is that Lou Reed's "Magic & Loss" playing?"

I answered "Yes" and explained how for the last several months I've only been listening to Lou Reed and Velvet Underground CD's, and then I began to open all the honey holes a bread truck provides and within seconds Matt had a pile of Discs about a foot tall sitting on his lap.

CLICK..........CLICK..........CLICK............CLICK

He slowly examined each and everyone of them and gave a running commentary as to how each one of these projects placed on his personal rank list.

Now a smile began to form, it was just a momentary reprieve from all the stress he'd been dealing with, but reprieve none the less.....

"You know, I don't have my record collection anymore. Its good to see these. I saw Lou in concert, but that was about 10 years ago."

Then Matt stopped and gave the "Blue Mask" C.D. a double take while commenting......

"I'm not sure I know this disc....do I?" he asked himself.

I chimed in that it is not only the worst Lou Reed disc ever, but simply one of the worst discs ever!

For the first time Matt laughed out loud...."Yeah, he sure can record some great throw away songs huh?"

So we go in, I order chicken almond ding, and my guest decides to get some tofu low mein that Nico had recommended to him in the past.

There's a huge billboard sized menu on the wall of the dining room of where we were eating, Matt's giving it the once over, he still seems lethargic, but at least he's had a few reasons to smile tonight.

"I've never had chow mein in my life, can you imagine that? he boasted without boasting. So I ordered a "To Go" order so we could cross that off his bucket list.

And while our food was being prepared Matt began to explain the rules of where Nico was getting treatment, and how her cut loose date was scheduled for a week from then, but he was hoping the goverment might show mercy and extend her stay until there was a little more certainty that her chemistry had been leveled off.

We discussed the house being taken away. We discussed the fact that the Widow Lundell still has a matted 19 or 20 year old cat living at her home, and how if and when he and Nico move together it would be an added pressure to find a place where an untrained - yappy Pomeranian would be tolerated.

These were all key components that will affect the mindset of his girlfriend, so as he throws these options out into the air, I get it.....he's simply talking out loud, hoping maybe some karma-angel will be flying by, and who knows? Karma angels have been known to volunteer for lost causes before right?

As I drove Matt back to the Widow's estate, it was agreed upon that I would join him on the next evening that Nico was allowed to have visitors.

As we pulled in front of the house, he thanked me profusely, grabbed his Chinese doggy bag and prepared to hop out.

Forcefully I grabbed his arm and said......

"Aren't you forgetting something?"

He look puzzled and I pulled Lou Reed's "Blue Mask" CD off the dashboard and handed it to him.

Once again....there was a smile.

"Ah Klecko, I can't take your Lou Reed CD."

Then I began to laugh and replied....."After you hear the track called THE DAY JOHN KENNEDY DIED you'll trudge through snow banks to make me take that thing back."

We both shared one last laugh, and I thought to myself.....how bizarre, this guy is in the midst of his life, and his girlfriends life free falling. Everything is falling apart at the seams, and logic would dictate that this story might not conclude with a butter fly kisses and monkey hugs ending, but even with that said....when people try to survive, sometimes it's the strangest things that will keep them afloat.

Things like Chow Mein and Lou Reed.

Polish Christ......Please Hear Our Prayers.












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