Death makes angels of us all, even fish

Tragically,  death has crept into the Crowley household yet again.  This past week I have been mourning the loss of one of my fish, Foxface.  This was his name because, well, he was a Foxface.  Monday night he had not a care in the world, swimming around smiling, eating, swimming some more–little did he know Death’s messenger was on his way.  I first discovered the deceased upon returning Tuesday morning from boot camp.  Originally I suspected one of those Islamist extremist ass bags or an ex-girlfriend were to blame, but as the day went on and I ran some water tests I found out that it was I who held the title of “Murderer.”  He left us at such a young age, still so much of the tank yet undiscovered.  Out of deep respect for their friend, the other fish in the tank abstained from eating his dead carcass, which made Katherine and I, and I am sure Foxface, happy and relieved.  Foxface, I know that Kurt Cobain said you don’t have any feelings, and I know that hurt you, but you are free now my friend, swimming in that big ocean in the sky.  Do not worry old pal, when I go to get Foxface #2 tomorrow, he will never hold a candle to the times we had: you, me, the cleaning sponges, Phillies game in the background as you swam like a madman (or madfish) because you thought I was trying to catch you, but I was just trying to clean the tank.  Ahh Foxface, you are irreplaceable, kind of.

Foxface and his friend "little guy" May 2008

Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Macbeth, Act V, Scene V

The first seven weeks of my training has come to an end.  I really can’t believe how fast time slips through your fingers. Mortality, it is the joke the God’s have played on us.

I just applied for my new passport since my current one was issued ten years ago this April and is about to expire.  I smile as I remember the day I went to take that picture at a Penn State post office.  The picture, not only captured my anticipation but also my bad style sense, my grey J. Crew roll neck sweater almost as cheesy as my smile.  This was in preparation for my first trip abroad with a girlfriend from college.  We were graduating in May and leaving soon after.  She assigned me one duty, get my passport.  It cost 50 bucks or something which was like 300 in college.  I just remember feeling like it was my ticket out of my past and into the world.  The drunkenness of youth, where every radio song is written for your life and every experience is new, every idea is your creation.

I have to admit, I was pretty nervous to send my passport in for renewal.  I checked the website five times to make sure they would send my old one, my first one, back.  Ages 22 to 32, how much has happened.  Stamps on my passport represent not only my travels; but my loves, my hopes, my passions of the period.   I look in there and see my first trip to Europe fresh from college, Ireland with an college friend, Italy at the beginning of Katherine and I, England numerous times in search of myself and a connection with my heroes, South America, the honeymoon, Australia.  It is all there, all ten years in that tiny book for 50 bucks.

Speaking of England, some of my best friends live there.  They lived in California for my first five years but decided to move home a couple of years ago.  They are one of the greatest families, and as a young couple Katherine and I really look towards them as mentors for a good marriage and strong family.  Their two boys are like little nephews to me and I keep telling Katherine I want our sons to have English accents. Even when my friend Mark called the other day and left me a message he said, “Sorry we haven’t spoken in a while mate, we’ve been here, there and everywhere.” The fucking English even quote The Beatles when they’re leaving voicemails.  Awesome.

The Phils are even loved in England

England, as I mentioned before has been the country I have most frequently visited.  This has a lot to do with many of my favorite writers being English, their homes are there, their inspirations etc…  Also, I am a huge Harry Potter fan.  No shit.  I don’t dress up or anything when a new movie comes out but I would, if Katherine had not threatened divorce.

I have been lucky enough that for the past two summers I have gone and taken a class at Oxford University.  The experience of the first summer was something that I can not explain through words.  It was the third best time of my life. It was a feeling, a liberation, a finding.  It was the month before I was to be married and life was changing.  I was stressed out.  I flew in early on a Sunday morning and after collecting my luggage got on the Train for the two-hour ride from London to Oxford.  Even then I could feel that this trip was going to be different, like the layers of stress were pealing off my tired soul with each chug of the train and each farm that was passed.

Arriving at Oxford, awake 23 hours

First night after dinner cocktails

I studied at Christ Church both years which is pictured here.  Oxford University is made up 38 colleges.  Percy Shelley, the great Romantic poet and husband to Mary Shelley attended University College which is about a ten minute walk from Christ Church, until he was expelled in 1811.  My professor thought it was funny that every morning before class I would run down to Shelley’s school to sit with the sculpture of him.  She would always introduce me to her fellow faculty members as “This is the boy who goes to see Shelley everyday.” It was probably a “silly American” conversation at their dinner table but I didn’t care, they were the ones who expelled him but now praise him as one of their schools elite.


Shelley drowned while sailing off the coast of Italy. He washed up on the shores of Viareggio. Found in his ripped clothing was a copy of his friend Keats' poetry folded in his pocket.

My time at Oxford that first summer made me remember who I was and what direction I wanted to move in.  As my friends and I sat up late at night, beers in hand, surrounded by spires and steeples, poetry dripping from our tongues, I realized something, I was a fucking nerd and I was ok with it. Those days flew by, the walks, the talks, the rain, the sounds of the English city life, and I remembered once again to seize the day.  Who knows when your card is to be pulled, Shelley and Foxface sure didn’t.

Especially now, as I get older I want to live more.  People say stop and smell the roses, I do that shit, literally. It is hard not to get caught up in our business lives: the bills, the lawn, the stupid bullshit we get so entangled in and forget that we only have one shot to live, one shot to taste everything, see everything, feel everything.  I want to live my dear friends and not waste a drop of my youth.

Live! Live the wonderful life that is in you! Let nothing be lost upon you. Be always searching for new sensations. Be afraid of nothing.  -Oscar Wilde (The Picture Of Dorian Gray)


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