another lifetime ago.

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I thought I had already said goodbye to Derrick.

When I found out last week that he had died, I realized I was wrong. And this was harder than I thought it would be.

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I hadn’t seen Derrick since … my wedding, maybe, almost 17 years ago? I have a more definite memory of my last contact with him, although I don’t recall the date. It was a message on AOL, and he asked about a mutual friend; immediately after I answered, he was gone. After a couple more attempts to get him to respond — and a few more passing weeks — I understood that I wouldn’t hear from him again.

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I was mostly OK with that. That Derrick wasn’t the Derrick I worked with at The Post, or the one who had been one of my best friends when I returned to Athens. I was largely insulated from that Derrick, although I know that wasn’t the case for everyone.

derrick me

And in that respect, I’m lucky: the memories I have of the real Derrick — the one I knew in Athens, the one in these pics — I get to keep for the rest of my life. I remember meeting him, in R.J.’s office, not long after I returned to school following my Army-sponsored field trip to Germany; I think we were both a bit dubious of each other, but it was quickly clear to me that Derrick, who was editor of The Post that year, was the real deal: smart, talented and driven. I figured out something else a little later on: Derrick’s prickly exterior wasn’t as prickly as it appeared to be. If you were willing to weather a bit of abuse — and maybe give a little back — you were in.

derrick me tight

And I was. For the three years I was in Athens following my return from the Army, Derrick was one of the best friends I had. And like everyone else, I learned a lot from him too, even though I was the old guy coming back to Athens and The Post when I finished with the Army. He was so smart about journalism and about running a staff of kids who were just figuring out how to make a newspaper work. He could be intimidating — even to me, a little bit — but without fail, he’d stop and help anyone on staff figure out a writing question, a difficult source, a bit of political juggling. He wanted to be better, and he wanted that for everyone who worked for him.

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We are the sum of our experiences and the people we share them with. I wouldn’t be me if I hadn’t had that time with Derrick. I owe him. For all the time at The Post. For all the pitchers of Lowenbrau Dark at The Union. In the pink house. Above Campus Sundry. All over Court Street. For Ren and Stimpy:

For Ween:

And for that goddamned awful song he insisted we play at every single staff party so we could pogo around someone’s living room (and if anyone remembers what song that was, let me know?).

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This is the Derrick I knew. This is the Derrick I’ll remember when we attend his memorial service in Mentor-On-The-Lake this afternoon.

This time it’s for real. Goodbye, my friend.

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30. rare.

 

I’m watching the Browns play the Ravens in a Monday Night Football matchup that actually sounded decent when you looked at the schedule back in the summer. And this question occurs to me: Which is more unusual: the Browns scoring a touchdown or Uncle Crappy successfully finishing a National Blog Posting Month?

And we’re not going to find out today … because both just happened.

I can’t speak for any progress being made by the “professional” football team in Cleveland — actually, I can, but we’re going to save the angry #factoryofsadness rant for another time — but I’ve had a blast coming up with 30 blog posts this month. I’m not going to go back and look, but I can say with certainty that it’s been at least several years since I completed a full NaBloPoMo.

This also felt familiar, once I got into it. I often did these in November — that used to be the regular NaBloPoMo month — so the rhythm of the month definitely came back, especially with Ohio State’s regular season reaching a peak and reaching Thanksgiving, one of my favorite posts of any year.

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And we had some new stuff too, especially with the adoption of Mr. Charlie, who has been passed out on the couch after an especially vicious mousie-hunting session.

This has been fun. As much fun as I’ve had here in quite a while. Blogging sometimes feels like a chore these days, and I definitely felt that way when I fell behind about halfway through the month. But I’ve also re-discovered the process that makes daily posting possible; even if I don’t keep this up every day going forward, it’s nice to know that I still have it in me.

It’s also nice to know that you guys are still paying attention. I’ve always known that consistent production of semi-coherent content is the best way to gain and maintain readers — do I do this enough that I’ve actually kept any of you guys around? — but it’s cool to have that reinforced. As I said yesterday, you’re the best part of this whole operation, and I’ll keep writing if you keep reading.

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The cat is awake, and that’s all I got for the month of November. Thanks, yinz guys, for your help. See you in December.

29. twelve.

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Twelve years. That’s how long this blog has been alive. True, the health of Uncle Crappy (the blog) has been shaky for the past few years — I don’t think I even noted its birthday in 2014 — but, much like Uncle Crappy (the person), it is going to be around for a while.

I write for me. I write about things that interest me, that are bugging me, that I want to share with, uh, you. And to my never-ending amazement — and my never-ending gratitude — there are plenty of yous who keep coming back and reading, even when you’re not seeing a post here for weeks — or months — on end.

For that, I thank you. And I promise this — I’ll keep going if you keep showing up.

23. i’m talking to you.

If you and I have:

  • Had a beer
  • Watched a game
  • Attended a tailgate party
  • Cooked for each other
  • Gone to a yoga class
  • Gone out for dinner
  • Raved about music
  • Played Cards Against Humanity
  • Compared tattoos
  • Met for lunch
  • Spent the weekend at each other’s homes
  • Seen a concert
  • Caught up at a reunion
  • Talked on Twitter, by text or even on Facebook or Snapchat
  • Taken a walk in the rain or snow
  • Discussed beer, mead or cider
  • Laughed so hard we cried
  • Sipped a glass of whiskey (or whisky)
  • Hung around a backyard campfire
  • Traded blog comments
  • Cheered each other’s successes and lamented our failures
  • Been there for each other, even in seemingly insignificant ways

…in the last year, I so am thankful to have you in my life.

Happy Thanksgiving, yinz guys.

namaste.

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A lot can change in the course of a year.

That was something our instructor talked about a bit at the outset of Tuesday night’s yoga class.

What’s changed for me in 2014? Let’s start here: I was in a yoga class — in a beautiful, candlelit studio — on Dec. 30, about six months after my first tentative attempts at practicing at the Point in May. And that’s not something I ever would have predicted.

But. Yes. I’m still practicing. And it’s made a huge difference.

A remarkable set of unrelated things converged in May to set me on the path I’ve followed since then. On Pittsburgh Marathon day, there was a discussion about music and running and trance — and the suggestion from a friend that I was of the right frame of mind to give yoga a try. A couple weeks later, there was a job offer that came with one terrifying catch — I had to give up tobacco, completely and cold turkey, immediately.

And there was Venture Outdoors Festival, which, among other things, hosted free demo yoga classes at the Point all day long. The same friend who said she thought I would like yoga on marathon day offered to meet me for a 30-minute class or two.

I wasn’t immediately hooked. But I was interested.

While at the Venture Outdoors event, I grabbed a pamphlet from a South Side studio; it offered outdoors classes every Saturday and Sunday during the summer for five bucks a session. To me, that sounded like the perfect opportunity for me to figure out whether or not yoga could be a thing.

I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the first few classes, but it felt great taking in the stunning view of the city from Mount Washington or spreading out on the grass in the South Side Works. But after a couple weekends, I started coming away from the classes feeling … lighter. Steadier. Things that would normally bug me — especially without the nicotine drip I’d relied on for years to smooth out the rough spots — didn’t have the same kind of grip on my mind and my mood. I found myself feeling disappointed when one of the outdoor classes was rained out. And I found that I was showing up enough that the instructors knew me by name.

And they — Ashley and Paul — were both there once I walked through the door at the studio for my first classes there, along with a group of now-familiar faces — other instructors, the other students who show up regularly for our session first thing every Saturday morning and the couple that runs the studio. The space was immediately comfortable, pretty much what I had hoped a yoga studio would be. And the best part? Before I knew it, I was part of the community that revolves around that space.

Having that kind of support — in that kind of space — makes this process easier. And I need the help: Remembering to breathe. Stretching out my creaky old body as I look for new strength and new length. And — eventually — finding that spot where I’m balanced in crow pose and can hold it for more than a few seconds.

There are other, more important things than trying to avoid (literally) falling on my face. Learning to slow down. Being present. Expressing love and gratitude when I have the opportunity. And shedding at least a portion of the mountain of crap we all seem to collect as we move through our days. Kristi mentioned that last notion during Tuesday’s class and I’ve often felt that way, an addition by subtraction. I’m still figuring out the hows and whys, but it works. I feel it every time I leave the studio and head home.

I’m grateful for the last six months. That it was — and is — BYS Yoga. That it was — and is — Ashley and Paul, and Lynn and Jody and Kristi. That I had that first conversation with Jenny. And that Mrs. Crappy has been so supportive.

Yoga has already changed me, but there is so much more to explore. In 2015, I intend to keep looking.

24. ten.

ten

I guess it would have been understandable, given this week’s circumstances, if I had forgotten what today was (besides Thanksgiving, of course). As it is, I nearly missed it.

It? That’s the 10-year anniversary of Uncle Crappy.

(Uncle Crappy the blog, that is. Uncle Crappy the person has been around for much, much longer.)

I know I just posted something about being thankful just a few hours ago. And I know I’ve written this before, but it bears repeating: Nearly all of the friends I have in Pittsburgh I have because of my various Internet endeavors — and nearly all of those stemmed from this blog.

Thank you, for reading, for commenting and for sticking with Uncle Crappy — uh, both of us — for the last 10 years. I have no idea whether there’s another 10 years of Uncle Crappy to come, but I hope you’ll keep coming back to find out.