How do you relax?
August 4, 2017

Working for a big company wasn’t my thing. I hated it. Most of what I remember was the endless, unrelenting quest to keep -- as Dave Barry would say -- the blame balloon afloat.

It doesn’t bring out the best in people. Ever notice that? The amount of time spent assigning blame seems inversely proportional to anything good happening.

After a particularly rough week on my new job with a big company, I confided in someone I’d interned for at a manufacturing plant the year before. Let’s call him Frank. “Come down for the weekend,” he said. “It’ll be great.” He didn’t have ulterior motives that I was aware of. He knew my boyfriend, for one thing, from Steve’s internship at the same plant the summer before mine.

So I made the drive from my apartment in Minneapolis to Frank’s house in Iowa City. He was watering his plants when I got there. He offered me some aspirin and a glass of wine. This might’ve been when I started taking aspirin in anticipation of a headache, but whatever. We talked. Then he suggested I take a nap while he got steaks ready for the grill. The pampering was soothing.

We had fun just making salads together. “Maureen,” he announced. “It feels so good to have you here because you’re the one person I don’t feel like I have to entertain.” Can you imagine? Is there a sweeter thing in all the world to have said about you, that you’re easy to be around? To have it come from Frank, a guy I loved -- well, I was healed before the salads were on the table.

Another guy I’d been pals with at the plant came by later, and the three of us joined Frank’s neighbor in that gentleman’s garage. Then the three (or four) of us returned to Frank’s place to listen to Billy Joel albums (yes, I’m that old -- though I hear albums are making a comeback). We talked and talked, may or may not have had another glass of wine, and made plans to recreate the weekend again soon which of course we never did. Frank and I remained long-distance telephone pals for years, though. He was my oasis.

Most of my real and imaginary vacations are in Manhattan. But once in a while, when I’m especially depressed or discouraged or lonesome, I head back to Frank’s kitchen in Iowa City. A few minutes into the reverie it feels like I’ve been to a spa. It occurs to me I could find someone on Facebook to find Frank, but I don’t want to -- and not just because Present Day Frank couldn’t possibly live up to the romanticized version.

I won the friendship lottery in him once upon a lovely time, and it’s a gift that keeps on giving.