Last week I got an unexpected email. It was from my ex-girlfriend Shay. We broke up nearly two years ago and have had almost no contact in the past year. I wouldn’t presume to know all the reasons why this has been so, but suffice it to say that she wanted to have nothing to do with me. Her email was an invitation to have coffee. I could only speculate on her motives but set Wednesday at a coffee shop nearby to meet. I figured that if it went really badly I could just walk the few blocks back home and forget about it. 

Friday had started with the sad news that my friend Gil’s greyhound, Rufus, was gravelly ill and would have to be put to sleep. I painted this portrait and sent it off to New Jersey hoping it might provide some small bit consolation. Nothing you say when a friend is losing someone dear to them ever seems like the right thing. 

Saturday night I went to hear Marc Maron do stand-up at the Vic. His podcast has been a twice-weekly companion for several years now and I’ve seen him perform several times before. This night’s show was more scattered than others I’d been at. Like so many of us Maron was trying to grapple with the Bizarro World reality we find ourselves in in this country and coming up with no solid take on any of it. Still, I’m glad I went. The man has brought a lot of great conversations with smart people into my life and I couldn’t blame him from being a bit discombobulated. I doubt I could trust or respect anyone who isn’t these days.

Afterwards I caught a cab to Berwyn to hear my friend Kelly perform a couple Anita O’Day tunes as part of Heather McAdams’ & Chris Ligon’s annual country music calendar extravaganza. FitzGerald’s was so packed I spent my whole time there squeezed near the entrance, but it’s always a great thing to hear Kelly sing and she was gracious enough to give me a ride back to the city after. A room full of people excited about music can’t help but be a hopeful thing even amid this utter darkness. 

A block west of my place is a restaurant and bed & breakfast called the Polo Cafe. Shay and I had gone there once for their Sunday Gospel Brunch a few years ago and I had only returned one time since. But this Sunday I decided it was time to hear some hymns once again. The Polo is run by a profoundly devout Catholic gay couple. There are hymnals on all the tables and one half of the couple leads the diners in sacred song on organ, under the watchful, bejowled countenance of Richard J. Daley. It’s a unique Chicago experience which I’d heartily recommend to anyone in search of an unusual repast. 

Monday night I went to the Empty Bottle to see my old high school classmate and Coolidge Corner Theatre coworker Jason Sanford’s newish band E play. It’s great to see anyone my age still trying to do their thing and not giving in to complacency or just giving up in the face of indifference. It doesn’t hurt that Jason’s bandmate is Thalia Zedek, who’s music I’ve loved for decades. They made a beautiful racket together and I finally got the nerve to talk to Thalia. It’s always a nice surprise when someone you admire turns out to be a nice person.

At a little after 11 on Wednesday I walked over to Bridgeport Coffee and saw Shay already at the counter ordering. She smiled when she saw me, which eased my anxiety instantly. She told me that she’d decided to give herself an early birthday present by stopping being angry at people. We ended up talking for two and a half hours. I’m thankful for whatever change happened which has allowed her not to hate me any more. On our way out I asked if this meant that we could be friends now. She said that it did.

Later that afternoon I went to Bernice’s to start a drawing. I told Steve about the miracle which had just occurred to me, then went back into the garage, set up the easel and got to work.