I think if I’ve learned anything about friendship, it’s to hang in, stay connected, fight for them, and let them fight for you. Don’t walk away, don’t be distracted, don’t be too busy or tired, don’t take them for granted. Friends are part of the glue that holds life and faith together. Powerful stuff.

~ Jon Katz ~

Yesterday afternoon was good. Exceptionally good. We had good friends over for a few hours. We ate, drank, and talked at length about everything under the sun. We simply  enjoyed one another’s company. Such afternoons are precious reminders that, no matter what else is going on in our lives, spending time with people who really matter can boost one’s spirits and make the world feel like a better, more welcoming, happier place. Friends who share one’s sense of humor are among the most spectacular gifts. Spending time with people whose values align with one’s own almost certainly spur the formation of close, strong, solid friendships. One of the group (there were only six of us) came a little early and shared her writing, her newfound passion that clearly reveals the depths of her creativity and her emotions—and her innate talent and intellectual breadth. All of us shared experiences and opinions and ideas—the things one does in the company of friends. It may be too much to wish for, but I wish we could gather more often and even more casually. Though the “preparation” for the event was not extensive, we made dips and prepared munchies and such that were good to have. I think a bag of chips or crackers, alone, could be adequate. It’s not the food that makes the experience; it’s the people. I feel extremely fortunate to have those people in my life. Friends can make all the difference.


My handyman worked diligently yesterday, replacing outdated light fixtures in the garage, the master bedroom closet, and the crawl space under the house with new, energy-efficient, brighter LED light fixtures. He will be back Monday to continue checking off items on my to-do list. Replacing difficult-to-use metal closet rods with long, smooth, wooden dowels will be high on his (and my) list. I’ve finally come to my senses; it’s best to hire someone to do things one is capable of doing but that require more motivation than one is capable of bringing to bear. Plus, the recently-exercised skills of a handyman who makes his living doing such things make the jobs go faster and the end-produce function better. I do not like to part with the money, but I’m much happier to have the work done than to stew over not having it done.


My IC will put her house on the market this week, thus culminating my efforts to convince her to move in with me. Between now and the time buyers take possession, we have a lot to do and a lot of decisions to make. Our work will include determining how to merge two households into one; which furnishings to keep, which to sell or give away, etc., etc., etc. The tasks seems daunting, and they are, but I am sure we will manage.

Yesterday, during our gathering with friends (I don’t want to call it a party, because it was not a party, but I think “gathering” is not quite the right word, either…I don’t know), we talked about people of our ages deciding to create multi-family communities in which everyone has the privacy of individual living space but in which everyone is a part of a cohesive group that is available to help and support the others. Co-housing, in other words, without the vernacular and structural formality. I still love the idea.


My IC and I are exploring the idea of living in a different place.  A place with ready access to walkable neighborhoods that offer restaurants and bars and entertainment and museums and…all the stuff of big city life without the big city. It’s early in the discussion, but we’re having fun considering different places. So far, we’ve talked a little about Flagstaff, Arizona and Tulsa, Oklahoma and Fayetteville, Arkansas. There must be hundreds of other places that offer strong possibilities. Among our criteria (though nothing is carved in stone) is access to a Unitarian Universalist church; it’s not so much the church itself that is a draw, it’s the fact that such a church is apt to draw the kind of people with whom we might want to share our time.

In an ideal world, we would find a place that offers all the tangible elements that would draw us in, but also would be as free as possible of right-wing rednecks and hillbillies. I don’t mind centrist or left-wing (within reason) rednecks and hillbillies, but their counterparts are off limits. I do not want to be around people who subscribe to conspiracy theories and truly believe that aliens or Democrats plan to destroy the Earth by infecting us all with COVID or by operating child pornography rings out of pizza parlors. Sheeeeesh! It givces me shivers to think that these people are running free, spreading their miserable lies with abandon.


For most of my life, whenever my wife and I decided to move, for whatever reason, we did not include criteria in our searches that might lead us to people with whom we held shared values or interests. Our decisions were based more on costs, housing styles, access to grocery shopping, and other things that did not overtly include “people-related” matters. Since moving to Hot Springs Village, though, it has occurred to me how critically important it is to be around people whose commonalities make life more comfortable and fulfilling. In the Village, I found that the UU church and the Democratic Club were the two best sources of like-minded people. Though I joined a writing group and belonged to a painting group for a while, they fed my need for “technical” affiliation but not for “emotional” affiliation. The difference, I suppose, is that “emotional” affiliation is stronger because it includes one’s personal beliefs or values.

If only I’d come to that realization many years ago, our lives might have been far happier and more fulfilling. That is not to say that we were not happy; we were. But we were, in large measure, the only anchors to one another’s happiness. We had no one but each other. That was good, of course, but it was lonely in many ways, too. If only I’d known.

At any rate, we’re exploring our options. And we’re considering how extremely important our friends are to us. If we leave, we must find ways to keep strong our important connections with the people who matter to us. We must keep our friends close, whether near or distant.


I’ve written before that one of my favorite books of poetry from my youth is There are Men Too Gentle to Live Among Wolves. As much as I’d like to be as gentle as those men, I’ve come to the conclusion that There are Men Too Stupid to Live. Period. Once again, I’ve proven myself among the latter group, though at the moment I’m simply a stupid observer. The active and deeply stupid participants are the local men and women who—frothing at the mouth and screeching like wounded banshees—post on NextDoor, spouting idiotic conspiracy bullshit. The most recent nonsense says the Biden administration is intentionally releasing COVID-positive illegal immigrants into border communities along the Texas-Mexico border. These moron posters don’t bother to manufacture any reasons the administration would do this; they just spew lies saying outright that Biden and his supporters intentionally are spreading COVID, “as promised” in Biden’s campaign rhetoric and policy statements. I am convinced nothing can be done to rehabilitate these stupid spewers of such obvious lies. Instead, the humane thing to do would be to throw these men and women into industrial-sized meat grinders and feed the grinders’ output—post sanitation, of course—to farm animals.  End of rant. End of admission that I can be just as stupid as the stupid people I consider reprehensible scum (but I’m not lowlife scum, but they are).


Hugs are important to me. Long, leisurely, casual hugs. I think I’ve called such things by another name in the past: embraces. I like them. They make me feel like I’m really connected with a person. Except when the subject of the hug/embrace is uncomfortable with either the physical contact itself or the length of time it takes for the “connection” to take place.


I’ll close this post with another quote by Jon Katz. I do not want to lose my way, nor do I want anyone I love to lose theirs. The fact that I gravitate toward isolation and privacy does not change the fact that I want and need good people in my life.

It is difficult to see ourselves as we are. Sometimes we are fortunate enough to have good friends, lovers or others who will do us the good service of telling us the truth about ourselves. When we don’t, we can so easily delude ourselves, lose a sense of truth about ourselves, and our conscience loses power and purpose. Mostly, we tell ourselves what we would like to hear. We lose our way.

~ John Katz ~

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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