Second week of bee school today - this is very exciting stuff! I know - curb your enthusiasm, laddy buck! Rope in that wild emotional response. Truly, though, bees are so cool; try to think of what the colony as a single organism means. It is NOT Kafka visits Tokyo - more on that place later, much warmer and fuzzier. So, I can't wait to get my hives going. Everyone in the class feels the same. Nascent beekeepers are of an ilk. (If you don't love that word, and love to use it, you ain't normal.) My two hives are all assembled from the kits and ready for their first coat of Cherry Red Satin Exterior Latex; the best of the lot off the 'oooops' cart.
Did you know they can recognize symbols? Paint a Z on the hive front and they come to know that as their own address. They have an amazing knack for navigation and one bee, at the hive, can direct the others out 2 or 3 miles and get them within 8 inches of the designated goal. GPS systems should be so good. Bees raiding your hummingbird feeder? Move it a couple of feet at night and the lot of sugar-seekers will return to Z Street and roundly castigate the scouts for bad intel.
Oh, the editor said the last letter was the best ever. I considered it so-so. I am always amazed at what moves one person more than another. It pleases me to have exceeded expectations, so to speak, but I cannot claim to any distinction for having done so. I am a verbal rambler and a gambler - oh, reminds me of something we two came up with; from the Bonhomie School of American seduction: the sort of thing T.R. might have murmured in the ear of la Cubana linda when her duenna was missing in action.
'Hail! Girl, well met.
Hell bent for leather,
and up your vent.'
Not quite Haiku.
Sometimes, and if you are discerning you will know those times, my writing is fueled by a bit of rum. I say this with hesitation as some can fuel theselves with alcohol and dive deeply into the forests of oblivion. What forest do I dive into? Not sure... I stop short of oblivion in a word-loosening glow. The pads of my fingertips itch and can only be scratched by repeated application to the crisp softnesses of a keyboard. I am a wind on the alphabet.
Some say they are impelled by loneliness and so drink. I understand being alone. Each of us understands being alone in different ways; the state is personalized by our reaction to abandonment. After the rejection of birth it all just goes downhill in a hurry. (Don't forget to write when you get work!) I seem to have been alone most of my life, though for the past almost 30 years Pat has been with me. My feelings are, therefore, a gross distortion of my reality. But it is the alone part that somehow weighs heavily, or I give it extra weight in fear and remembrance. I remember going to turn the radio on for company, only to find it was already playing; a daily exercise of looking into the void. I remember hiding under my bed waiting for....... I remember years and years of knowing my aloneness as a character flaw. Why do we recall the hard times so clearly? They are the India ink line drawings on sepia times and lackluster days. All saved in crumbling albums.
Some are bereft at loss and drink. A partner, a job, a basic feeling of sufficiency, a threadbare estimation of tomorrow. They might drink alone at night to quell the static in their head. Maybe they have failed and there is no solace. I can offer none. Those close, the family, wobble on their axes; everyone hits the slippery slope together each incanting a separate plea for whatever is deemed missing at the moment. The social fabric is stretched. Alcohol is a strange drug that some live with, and some without, and perhaps neither comfortably.
A good partner is paramount in facing down life, at least for me. Loyalty, wit, humor. What is any one without the other two? Relationships fray at the edges without the three magic ingredients. People fray at the center without support and love.
I don't know that it is common to find it all in one person. People mate with abandon when the sex is good, ah, to be young! But what is next? Ups and downs. That is all. Ups and downs. We fight thru the bogs to win the high ground and sink again to our knees in the next declivity. We have purpose, else we lose our way. Hopefully, we find steadier footing with each battle and come to realize that true affection is worth more than anything the corporeal body will ever give. Would I rather hug a woman of 72 or find myself in the bed of the freshest nubile girl? Why ask? The answer will always lie with affection won in the storm.
There comes a point for a man when he finally puts everything on the table and says "I will take care of this woman. I will be true to her. I will, with all my heart, see to her well-being, and I will do all this no matter how crazy, irrational, or indecipherable she becomes." A woman will, trust me, become all of that and more. She will test your resolve and mettle. And she will be worth loving to the ends of the earth and time if you have made that resolve and hew to it.
As for the woman in a relationship, she often seems to make that same resolve almost off-handedly. The process is more likely to be thought-out for a man. For a woman it is as if one moment she suddenly takes up the banner and you are her warrior and constant for ever after. She has sniffed the scent of forever in the T shirt you've been wearing for three days. She has bonded like a fresh-hatched duckling and will follow you anywhere. Women can do this and appear to have so few doubts or qualms about their path that it is stunning to see. Men do it more cautiously, but hopefully with the same commitment and passion. This is what we call love. In our sixties and seventies it all seems clearer, or just simpler because our choices have grown so narrowed and our expectations less wild. What clarifies it is the knowledge that someday, soon, it will all end and one will outlive the other and be alone again. It is said, in sorrow, in anguish, in anger, that one always loves more. With time those differences erode and level ground shows.
I would like to think that the closer we come to that time, that ripeness of age, then the more available and important love becomes, but I look around and see such bitter older couples floating through the social matrix. They seem almost to hate each other. Their hallmarks are intolerance and disgust, loudly, disparagingly proclaimed. How can they live like that? I truly don't know. Later in life the only answer is adoration. There is simply nothing else left, no time for anything else, new ventures unlikely to bloom and ripen. There is only love. There is only waiting for the end of days knowing you have loved and loved well and been loved.
I realize that sometimes I sound like I expect to keel over with the next breath. I don't. Trust me. I come from a long-lived line and will probably see 90 and more. But there is the getting used to what is to come, the getting used to the idea of it. It takes time. We spend our childhood wanting to be adults, creatures of independent decision and action, and we get there and wonder, w.t.f in bold letters? Even in my mid-sixties with maybe a quarter century ahead of me I look to that future and try to prepare. It is my bent. I think it is written in my genes. There is peace in this preparation. The gyroscope of self steadies as the destination becomes more evident.
Charles wrote an eye-opening piece today. In it he contrasts the almost stone-age existence of many in the world who live without electricity and running water against our own lives where we have it 'all' and can even invent new selves in virtual worlds, like Facebook, needing nothing more than our Iphone-tool and connectivity.
We would probably see the simple village, where no one goes hungry but no one has a radio or t.v., as poverty-stricken, when in truth their basic needs are met. Though they live well below what we would classify as poverty level they have an ordered and safe society. What we bemoan are the extras. The sophistications of urbanity. All the chaotic freedom of choice. Choice can be a cancer that overwhelms.
Meanwhile, even with our sophistications we see friends and family going online to reinvent who they are by what they virtually own, where they virtually hang out, and by how many virtual friends they have. It turns life into a sort of encompassing board game. Reality is superseded by the wish. No need to ever be alone; each can be part of a large crowd, or a mob, with a few thumb-punch text entries. You are surrounded by others who believe what you believe and want to do what you want to do and, hopefully, hang eagerly on your every entered text. All this warm and fuzzy connectivity can be ours for free; we are simply expected to watch ads for things to buy and respond by occasionally purchasing and we are in. Everyone can be a member. Bathe yourself in the light of the popups and jazzy banners.
Yesterday's news: a Korean couple are charged with killing their infant by letting it starve to death while spending time online raising a virtual child. I suppose they bought the virtual child many wonderful virtual gifts, toys, outfits, even foods, but the real one wasted away in the other room. I am sure they glowed with all the pride of virtual parenthood in chatrooms with other virtual parents. They probably met a lot of great new virtual friends at the virtual playground where they took the virtual offspring... but the real baby died of malnutrition. One bottle most days wasn't enough. The real baby spent too much time unconnected, no lip to nipple, no milk in the mouth.
Pat tells me I probably have readers who have lives in these virtual worlds. I think the hint is that I should not judge. But doesn't this all seem a bit strange? Hasn't some huge disconnect taken place? I can relate to all this in a way, for every piece of property I have owned I have begun to remake in my own way, my own image, as soon as I could find a hammer, a nail and a board. Look at me now: a chicken coop and birds, a greenhouse, beehives being built on the floor in the office, holes all dug for the new apple trees. These might well be the same things a person would want to 'get' in some virtual farm community. And maybe if you don't own a home, or have a place to hammer nails, or aren't up to dodging the code enforcement officer to build out back then this virtual village is where you go. It seems so dreadfully inadequate, though. Maybe next - or is it already out there and I don't know? - we will have virtual sex and not even need a messy and complicated real partner. No more tiresome cuddling after the act. No more warm washrag.
I guess I am so appalled at all this because I realize it is very much the sort of fare I grew up on but taken several notches up. Heinlein and Bradbury. All the pulp worlds that I craved and inhabited with great energy and longing were printed on pages and were mine for cheap. What could have been more utilitarian than a paperback pocketbook? Butt-curved and tattered. I lived in outer space with the aliens and the warriors. Was escapist reading seen as an addiction? Maybe it should have been. I was certainly not alone in the tangle. Blown out kids everywhere were in there with me; we just didn't have chat rooms and virtual merchandise to own. Video games are probably much the same, with the added 'interactive' feature of course. Right there on the continuum with pulp scifi. Interactivity itself is an odd construct: it implies choices of action which can lead equally to failure or stardom. I think maybe life itself has become a sort of interactive morass. So many choices are offered that few can be understood or really appreciated. When I was 17 the choices were mainly a job at the gas station, or supermarket, or going into the military. It was so simple. Somehow your roots had preceded you, you were expected, you were following a known trail which led to known destinations. Or so we thought. Of course it wasn't quite true, but it seemed already explored, somehow safe. The choices now are so bizarrely random and mixed. The world seems to appear, then vanish, in inexplicable waves of hope and despair. Nothing seems certain. Maybe nothing ever was quite certain, but it had a sheen of familiarity about it, the future did, that eased us along. Not any more.
Alcohol and grass, among other doorways, I understand. Most of us are incipient Houdinis leaving this world behind at a rapid clip for greener pastures. Or a least a small vacation. Are my greenhouse and chickenyard on the same continuum? Yes. Most decidedly, just like the neighbor's restored '57 Chevy and the old guy's Golden Gate Bridge in wooden matches that he has spent years constructing. In that sense it all has to do with the creative urge. We expand to become bigger than life. Did Leonardo da Vinci live in an alternate universe, a virtual world that existed inside his head alone. Yes. It is a near thing to mysticism, even, to a belief in God and Heaven. What is the promise of Paradise if not a virtual world, a shared illusion?
So, maybe my initial alarm at this burgeoning virtual world into which people seem to be flinging themselves like lemmings over the cliff is overblown. Perhaps this is some new act of mass creativity blossoming in brains much younger than mine which have grown up in a different matrix of short staccato bytes and information packets arriving at lightspeed, and the old hands-on guys like me, hammer in hand, are actually dinosaurs... Am I just yesterday still afoot? I truly cannot tell. All this just fell on me of a sudden, and I took fright. Evolution might be taking place right in front of me and I am hiding from tomorrow's heroes. How to tell?
The Tea Party is cutting a somewhat jagged swath in the collective consciousness of late, and the Coffee Party attempts to counter with offers of reasoned discourse. The latest meeting of the Chardonnay Party was at our house and featured sweets from Japan.
This was a simple affair. a one-box party of a discreet white known locally, in Portland, as the Choice of the Boatpeople: 3 liters/$15. No, these Boatpeople aren't Asian; they are plumper and the color of ash with a touch of skin cancer on the ears. Parties of that sort can be short-lived, so we rather rushed into the Japanese confectionary adventure.
The Party does have an international flavor and a close examination of foreign trade is only one of its pursuits. This unusual looking box of items had been traded for at the Tokyo Airport between flights, showing that the U.S. dollar is truly still a medium of exchange in the world at large - a relief to all Americans. The pieces in the box were of a varied nature, from round patty to mushroomesque to three-on-a-stick odd-kebabs. They nestled in yellow plastic in muted and vaguely soothing nearly-pastel colors and had been rolled, dusted or dropped in various substances. A very interesting display. I cannot think of why no one has ever brought back such a thoughtful gift before. None of the printed description was in English; the Chardonnay Party is somewhat provincial; we have only our own homegrown sounds and letters to communicate with. The contents were a mystery.
Each member of the Party immediately took up the challenge and slipped one between achingly-waiting lips. Opinions on the candies varied. My own favorite was when one member stated that having one of the gelatinous delicacies on the tongue was a lot like trying to swallow a testicle. Hmmmmm.... Another member of the Party, looking startled, attested 'Fuck me dead! You're right!' I refused to confess to any such knowledge in my own right, but it made me glow with pride to know that our Party, though probably never politically correct, will always be for honest opinion.
As a side issue one of the Party, the much-traveled Z, was just returned from seven weeks in Cambodia and Laos. She brought a first-hand report on the drought that has begun to dry up the Mekong but was only able to spend 24 hours with us before flitting off to Detroit, Atlanta and Germany - a rather unlikely trio of destinations but not of her own planning.
Close upon her departure came an interesting letter from New York. The intent of the letter seemed to be that a warrant has been issued for my arrest due to $1400 of unpaid parking tickets issued to Rosie the Ranger. I do recall that Rosie did spend a couple of months in 2004 living in Manhattan with the Z. We will have to discuss this soon. As the States drift toward insolvency they reach further than in the past to shore up their revenues. We may all soon find we, or our money, are wanted in places we never thought to return to. It will be hard to get anywhere by road without going through the Empire State, unless we go via Canada. I can only think of five states offhand that are available to me now. I really don't travel all that much anyway.
Delicate green heads peek thru the greenhouse dirt now. Planting commenced some three weeks back and the max/min temps inside the structure are running 85 to 25f. Peas, Kale, Lettuce and Broccoli come along very nicely from seed with soil temps in the forties. Another walloping storm has gone south of us. How can this be happening? If it gets too warm here the Moose will all have to move north. And ice fishermen keep vanishing.
The editor okays the above and says 'run the presses!' Consider it done, dear. Our collective best to all of you. don e, pat and such.