Suzanne Olsen's Humor Blog - I don't offend some of the people most of the time

Tag: Friends

My Advocate

My advocate, Laurie, helping me celebrate
My advocate, Laurie, helping me celebrate my first published humor article.

At the end of this morning’s Mass our priest gave us a homework assignment. He told us to think about a person who has been an advocate for us. In his sermon, Deacon Bill defined the Advocate, or the Holy Spirit, as a comforter, counselor, friend and companion. 

Lots of people have been one or more of those to me, but if I have to choose just one, it’s my friend Laurie. I’ve dumped my troubles on her in the most boring and repetitious ways and she’s given me support when she’d probably just as soon slap some duct tape over my mouth.

The best thing is she’ll listen and do it quick. You don’t get much phone time with Laurie, she’s always busy, so you’ve got to launch right into your whining – get right to the point about what a jerk someone has been so she can (a) agree with you and (b) pile more on, even if she’s never met the person, and (c) give her tidbit of either advice, “the person is a jerk, you gotta just walk away,” or sympathy, “the person has always been a jerk, I don’t know how you stand it.”

Catching Crabs in Chesapeake Bay

When I was in 9th grade, I was lucky enough to get invited to go with my girlfriend, Carole, to Baltimore to visit her family.

That was when people threw a mattress in the back of a station wagon so the kids could wallow around and be comfortable for a long trip. It was about an 8-hour road drive from Tennessee, and there were 9 of us in the car – Carole’s parents, their six kids and me. I could write about that alone, except I want to get to the good stuff.

When we got there, she and I went to Uncle Bill’s, and the rest of them went somewhere else. Uncle Bill and his wife, Aunt Edna, lived on the Chesapeake Bay. Literally – we walked out their back door and crossed over twenty yards of grass to the edge of the water, which was about two feet down from the bank.  They had a small, partially covered dock with an aluminum boat hanging in the middle of it.

Uncle Bill took us out the next morning to catch crabs. He tied a chunk of fish to a string and tossed it into the water. Pretty soon a crab must have grabbed hold of the fish and took off with it, because the string started moving away from the dock. “We got one,” Uncle Bill said. Then he started pulling the string in slowly through the murky water, and soon you could see the crab coming into view. “If you pull gently, the crab will hold on almost up to the surface.” He told Carole to grab the long pole with a net at the end. “When you see the crab coming up to the top, swoop the net under him,” he said.

From the moment the hazy image of the crab came into view about a foot or two below the surface, Carole and I started screaming and jumping around like we’d seen a tarantula. The crab let go and fell out of sight.

“You girls try it this time, and don’t scare him off.” We fought over who was going to tie the disgusting bait on the string and who got to do the net. Finally we decided to take turns. I pulled the next crab in gently, and Carole swooped the net under him. We screamed again with him crawling around in the net, but Uncle Bill just laughed and told us to dump him in the boat behind us. Soon we were catching enough crabs by ourselves to keep us entertained for hours.

Over the course of a week, we were together 24/7, and were starting to get on each other’s nerves. Plus, it appeared that Uncle Bill favored me – I joked and teased with him because he reminded me of my grandfather – and I think he found me amusing. Whatever the reason, Carole and I ended up getting into an argument about who was going to do the net. Neither wanted to tie bait. “Well, it’s my uncle’s house so I should get to do the net,” she said. “Well, he likes me best, so I should get to do it.” I snapped back. These statements pissed us both off, and we started scuffling on the narrow dock. With the pushing and shoving, we lost our balance and fell arm in arm into the water.

We surfaced and screamed bloody murder, because these were brown, murky, crab-infested waters that stretched as far as the eye could see. Plus it shocked us – it was salt water, which I’d never experienced before. We scrambled back onto the dock and started laughing. Uncle Bill came out and told us it was completely safe to swim in there, and we could touch bottom. “Your screeching and thrashing scared off all the crabs in a hundred miles,” he assured us.

We jumped back in with our shorts and t-shirts, screaming and splashing around to make certain the crabs stayed away. When Uncle Bill went back in the house, we decided to be naughty and go skinny-dipping. You couldn’t see into the water at all, and it wasn’t like a beach where there were people around. This was literally in the backyard of many cottage-type houses, and no one else was ever around. So we flopped our clothes up on the dock and took turns doing daring stuff like touching a foot on the squishy bottom. We got braver after awhile and decided to touch a hand on the bottom, which meant we had to do a surface dive, which meant our bare bottoms were exposed to view for a few seconds.

I’d never skinny dipped before. It had never occurred to me to do it. So it was quite exhilarating. We touched the bottom with our hands over and over, going at the same time so we didn’t expose ourselves to each other. People couldn’t see us from their houses, or at least we couldn’t see them because of the bank. We felt we had our own private bay. Boats passed on occasion out in the distance, but far enough away they couldn’t see us. What a fun time we had – and we didn’t fight again after that. We were sisters in scandal.

Months later, when we were back home, I overhead my mom and dad get into a tiff because he had Playboy magazines. “I only get them for the articles,” he explained. Of course this aroused my curiosity, because I didn’t even know what a Playboy magazine was. I found a copy hidden under a pile of stuff in their bedroom and was shocked to see the foldout and other pictures. But what caught my eye the most was a letter to the editor with a grainy, zoomed in picture of two creamy white butt cheeks poking out of murky brown water. The caption read, “Great White Spotted in Chesapeake Bay!”

I just KNOW that was me!

Tightrope Inspiration Falls Short

If you read yesterday’s post, and I’m sure you did, you’ll know that I was all excited about watching “Man on Wire,” a story about a guy who crosses between the World Trade Center towers on a tightrope in 1974.

I was inspired by his leadership – how his friends supported and helped him propel this crazy dream to completion. I turned the TV off and wrote the blog right after he’d completed the walk and been arrested as a trespasser but at the same time hailed by the media as a wonder.

I thought of my life and how I had, at one time, led my friends on adventures – road trips to Myrtle Beach and Fort Lauderdale and Key West with very little money and sometimes no transportation – camping and hiking trips through the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone, and several road trips across country, one from Florida to Oregon and others starting in Tennessee and leading to both coasts. I don’t think about them much, but I really should write some books because many of these adventures were pretty entertaining. However, I’ll have to wait until my children are adults, if you catch my drift…

So I left the blog and turned the documentary back on, and lo and behold, Philippe Petit fell from grace in my eyes. (How do you like that “fell” pun? Actually, they say when you have to explain or point out your jokes, they weren’t that funny in the first place…)

How did he fall from grace? As he was walking out of the police station to the hoards of media, a pretty little thing came up and put her arms around him and said she wanted to be the first to help him celebrate. A tightrope groupie, I guess you’d call her. I wonder if she had dreams of being a groupie and went down the list: rock band groupie? No; political groupie? No; tightrope groupie, YES!  All of the above, hmmm, maybe I should check this one…

So Philippe’s accomplices – one of which was also arrested, and the others on his team, and his girlfriend who had pretty much abandoned her own life to be his love interest and athletic supporter – were all waiting for him totally jubilant about his (and their) success and wanting to jump up and down and high five each other, they were left to anxiously look down an empty hall or await a knock on the door while he goes off with this groupie and bounces on her waterbed for awhile (which is shown in the film – I’m not sure if they used a body double, but this Philippe liked being in his birthday suit, I think). He calls his friends and girlfriend on the phone to tell them he’s being “interviewed” and will catch up with them as soon as he can tear himself away. There are many jokes I could make right here, things like, “Cheah, more like enterview!” but they’d all be puns of some sort, but I’m not sure you’re up (get it) for that.

Nothing happened to him legally with the trespassing charge. He was even asked by New York’s attorney general to entertain some kids with juggling for publicity. His other arrested friend, however, was kicked out of the US, for good, I presume.

On the flight home, he tells the friend who appears to be his closest one, “Well, for our next trick…” and his friend says, “Nope, don’t count me in, enough is enough.” These aren’t exact quotes, but the gist of it, and who can blame him? He and the crew did so much work and had so much at stake – what if Philippe had fallen? – and didn’t really get anything from it except the joy of giving themselves over completely to Philippe’s whimsy and have him abandon them at the time of their mutual success. The movie doesn’t say, but it appears Philippe and this friend had a falling out because the friend appears to have regrets during his last interview.

I think it could be said without a robust argument that men seem to let the little head do the thinking for them at the worst possible times. It happens constantly – it’s in the news daily – just think Tiger Woods. He’s the example handiest right now but there is a list that could circle the globe a million times. So Philippe’s fall is not shocking (that I continue using the “fall” pun is, however).

He even admits in the movie that he “betrayed” his friends and girlfriend. I liked her a lot. She never once says a negative thing. Even at the end she describes how she could see Philippe’s life changing as he became famous, and that it was time for their love affair to end, and surprisingly she was ready for it to end, too. I want to be like her, having tact and grace, but I’m negative and a b-word. I would not have been so kind.

I said yesterday I wanted to be like him. That’s no longer true. I was like him, on a much smaller scale. I had friends who went along with my adventures, and I don’t think they were disappointed. I’m still in contact with my old friends, though distance separates us and the contact may only be through Christmas cards. When we get together we talk about the present, but mostly we remember the things we did and wonder how we survived them.

The movie ended with Philippe alone in his yard walking on a tightrope. All the scenes prior had his friends splayed around in the grass. What has his life been like since 1974? Did he find taller buildings to conquer? Wider distances? I’d never heard of him when it happened, and haven’t heard about him since, but I live in a vacuum. It gets pretty dusty in there. Get it? Vacuum.

It was an amazing feat, and I still recommend the movie, but his story is just like life. It has its ups and downs, highs and lows. When we’re on top of the world, it’s exhilarating, but sure as the sun rises, we’re going to fall (pun) sometime in the future, and it’s nice to have a safety net of friends to cushion us.

Copyright © 2021 by Suzanne Olsen