I am at the gym, straddling my graphite and titanium steed, aka: the exercise bike. On this moon-shot sleek beast I am peddling hard, months into the regimen, 35#s down and 15 to go on my way back to a 200# weight not seen since the last century. Pat, on her own journey, sits next to me, eyes locked on the road ahead. She has in ear buds and travels to tunes, and she says something to me, softly, and even though this room is quiet I don't quite make out the words. Leaning closer to her I present an ear. It is unfortunate that she sometimes feels the need to punish me for my diminished auditory sense.
She yells into my ear: "THEY KILL TO EARN THEIR LIVING AND TO HELP OUT THE CONGOLESE."
The threatful words bounce around the room violently. I look to our right to the folk on the treadmills, their trudging backs to us, to see if they react. They don't. I can make a couple of assumptions. One is that they are all armed, probably with small automatics, carrying concealed in state of the art under-the-boobs lycra rigs and aren't worried - yet. Another would be that they are all also approaching deafness and haven't noticed the desperate character behind them, shouting into the void. I begin to relax, and then I notice they are all watching us via the floor to ceiling, wall to wall, mirror which they face on their morning trudge. Shrinking further into the saddle I move from peddling hard to peddling furiously. As if I can get out of there just ahead of the sure to be approaching well-buffed YMCA Safety Squad (licensed by Homeland Security as an Elder Care Civilian Contractor.)
An hour later, 15 miles along, I coast to a drenched stop. All the walkers have gone. Pat has left for the showers. I am alone in the room, the trip worthwhile in sodium-loss alone.
How many ways to define aimless? The personally kindest would be to say of myself that I am simply waiting. I can be generous in that vein. Let's not belabor the point - for what? Waiting isn't always about one of the 'w(himsy)' words: where, why, what, when... Sometimes I think waiting is a natural function and without sin. How long does one wait - how long do I wait? for the unknown, not even certain if anything at all will ever be manifest beyond the quotidian stuff: I am awake, I am asleep, I breathe, my heart beats, I eat and later evacuate my meal. Some days this is my life, and I half-heartedly wonder why.
Sixty-eight seems a possibly uncomfortable age at which to be waiting, but I don't seem to be worried about it. That is marginally worrisome only if time has actual mass. You might think of snow, or wind, as gentle and soft, but as with waiting, their weight can be extreme. Gentle at first, then accruing, the number of my allotted days grows shorter - is that a function of time or a biological progression quite beyond measure in moments and seasons? I have fewer days during which to wait, and my competence dulls. Does time do that? I cannot believe that time is the enemy; I even have to wonder, at times, if time even is. Time might be a solution in which I am immersed, even dissolved. This solution is spilled across the face of a star, our sun?, and steam becomes spilling without lapse or interval. Me as steam. Everything is happening at once. No time at all. That makes as much sense to me as yesterday, today and tomorrow.
But I cannot talk about it; my only frame of reference is time. I need a new frame of reference. My agnostic self says, there might be god - as a frame of reference, but oh, what a seedy character he is, or is not. I watch the GOP boys in Iowa and down south, vying with one another to have more god than the next liar, and I realize that with the right campaign I could sell dog shit as candy and the demand would absolutely outweigh the supply. Time is on my side.
Are the whimsies just a construct of our culture? It seems that in other cultures I might be waiting without any sense of expectancy, any obligation-to-the-future, any sense of breath-wasting and wrong-doing. Wrong-doing, when it involves mainly ourselves, not impinging directly on the well-being of others, should be our affair and ours alone. Sin is built into our brains along with the letters of the alphabet and Arabic numerals as we grow into awareness. Dogs are probably happier, except happiness is another one of those constructs, and if you go seeking it you will find it elusive. Less elusive is that next butt to sniff. Not being a social sort I sniff very few, and I wait.
Satisfaction is much more my style than outright happiness, though that viewpoint does make others edgy, even irritated. Others want passion. The big feeling is sought. Extreme is the new norm. If it isn't extreme it does not count. Subtle sucks. If a word is over two syllables, or eight letters, your choice, then it has died in its uttering, d.o.a. on the wind, probably cannot be texted. Does not properly profane. Words of beauty or complexity are passe. We didn't have to wait for that; the young have iconoclastic brains that smash at our treasures while building their own. The old city supplies the stone for the walls of the new. We all wait to see what the architecture will be; will we even comprehend it? What will brains that interface with machines wait for? Ephemeral becomes de rigueur. Byte the aged carne until it bleeds its memories.
Having slipped from a semi-lucid explaining of why I have not been writing into a rant against prevailing cutting edge culture, or at least some part of how the young approach this life, I do have to confess to rambling. I did not mean to write. People ask me to write. I open the keyboard with my fingers, and this results. Keyboard-block hammered into language by an irritated brain. If I go narrative maybe I will approach a straighter line.
My kids visit. One explanation would be that my kids don't have kids, and Zoe is only a few miles away. Pat's kids have kids, and maybe their kids will visit someday. I even visited, driving the old Honda down to the Bay Area last week to gift it to Amber. (Can gift really be a verb? It seems rather slick and phony. Is it possible to be an Indian-gifter? Is that a politically incorrect enquiry? I sure the hell hope so.)
So, we have gifted Am, who is doing well at sort-of single-motherhood. She works at WallyWorld. She will start school in a few days and will train in a medical program that should offer decent employment after a few months schooling, and passing a state board exam. The kid has screwed up royally but seems bent on making her life work. What more can be asked? Most often good advice won't buy lunch at a soup kitchen - why bother? She deserved wheels, palpably in touch with this earth.
We fuck up, then we make it right. Each of us, to some extent, wrote that screenplay when we were young, and acted in it and directed. Somewhere around 40, the fabled midlife crisis, we think back and wonder at what we have done. If you find yourself in that quandry let me assure it gets better. As you approach 70 you don't recall as much of it as you once did, the bite is softer, the sun as warm on your cheek as it ever was. Your errors blur like watercolors left out in the rain.
Unless you fret. Pat frets. The things she forgets plague her - termites in the attic, that soft chewing noise that is your memory being eaten away at. She does not want to outlive her mind; neither do I, but I live with the assumption that somewhere along the line into senility I will realize I have drifted too far into the nether world of the grinning, the drooling and the smelly pee-drippers, and I will take evasive action. Evasive action sounds nimble and quick, and very effective; I like all that.
The drive to California was a two day event. I stopped the night in Yreka, had a Mexican dinner, got a bottle of rum, and bedded down in a Motel 6 to read a paperback mystery that cost ten dollars at a drugstore. Boys night out. Running wild. Left the rest of the bottle of rum for the motel maid in the morning and drove on south.
Blacky Honda started acting funny before noon. Water in my last tank of gas, I thought. Little burps of nothing at high speed. 'Cough, cough!' says Blacky. Around Fairfield Blacky refused to run at much more than an idle. Nor more coughs, just tired sighs. Drove slowly to a Honda dealer and $300 and a couple hours later I was on my way again. When I went to show the papers from my last workup, done at the dealership in Tacoma, I found them missing, along with title, registration, the whole works. Pat called the motel. The maids claimed not to have found the papers. They probably thought I wanted the rum back and went mum. Am has the car now. She has a letter informing any concerned party that they can call me to confirm she has the car with permission. I recall being in a house without paper and writing it on a piece of shoe box.
Weeks later and I feel at least slightly impelled to write. Perhaps the enzyme that catalyzes the words-to-fingers chemicals in my neuroelectric spider web is the passing of Shay; I stood over her and perhaps her soul passed thru me. She went this morning on a stainless table at the Affordable Animal Clinic, which isn't as bad as it sounds. Shay needed to go and it was quick and without even the parting shudder. She hadn't been having fun the last two weeks. Had lost a quarter of her body weight, stopped eating, couldn't walk on her own. She needed the release, and it hasn't left the gaping hole in me that the loss of Waldo, almost two years ago, did. I told her goodbye and left intact.
Such was not the case with Waldo; I still eye his little box of ashes on the mantle with the art pottery in sorrow. It's still that sort of sorrow where you wish the gone-one had never even been born, at least somedays. I really hate grief. I never grieved for my father, but Waldo - how can a dog leave such a vacuum in his wake? This is a question I have been struggling with since his death. I spend more emotional energy on thinking about dogs than I do about all the five billion of us, the intelligent ones, stumbling down the pike. Such has been my mind for some time now, and I simply cannot fathom the connection, its strength, its durability, its buzzing drone in my blood that is the dog-human interface. I am surely bent. But I am surely not alone in my bent.
My own children are far more tied to people than I am. They have social matrices I never quite established, not enough to gather and take comfort in. My pack is Pat and Rose; thirteen year old Sgt. Rocky Cat is still here, still an independent operator. (In Iraq they would have called her a contract employee, quick feet and steely eyes for hire; a fast claw in a tight spot, willing to kill for tunafish.) And neither of my children quite approve of Rose. She will be two in April and is really a shining light in my life; rowdy and boisterous and sometimes open to censure. In about 8 years I will be doing this again, this making appointments for a friend, this loss. I really do hate grief. I will wish someday's she had never been, but in the meantime she is and all is well. It's the one day at a time dog companion plan. The Zen of snuggling and romping and sharing delight in the way flesh is warm and a nose cold.
Later in the day, driving down Sixth, we passed the Affordable Animal Clinic on one corner and the local taco wagon on the next. In my usual way I mentioned that in another culture Shay would already be in the tacos. Pat gave me a look and thanked me for sharing. I hope she isn't put off; I really like that wagon.
My own headline for the beeg kennel club showdown last noc:
Cunningly Crafted Cotton Ball Wins Westminster.
That's what happens when non-dogs win dog shows. Pomeranians???? (Pat says it was something else, equally noncanine.)
Social matrix? The group of like-minded women who surround and maintain one of their own thru all life's vicissitudes: Support Ho's.
We have arrived at mid-April. Taxes are due tomorrow, and I haven't even loaded TurboTax into the toaster yet. Hey, there is always tomorrow. Except tomorrow I am supposed to go up to Zoe's and haul stuff down here. And I haven't been to the Y since Pat left. I do play with Rose and remember to eat my tofu.
Speaking of which I have just completed a great lumber rack in the small spare bedroom and am getting the hundreds of feet of red oak from Maine planed and up off the floor. Although I was alone I felt a bit of a sight: cutting boards with one finger wrapped in a toilet paper and electrical tape bandage. Where is the real Band-Aid when you want one? Had I sliced and diced a digit on some great whirling steel machine? Was I in need of the flesh-detecting saw-stopping technology California is thinking of requiring on table saws? How they can make something that will cut oak and refuse to slice a hot dog is beyond me.... But no, ever the wimp I had nicked a finger slicing tofu. Could anything in the wound-category be more pitiful? Makes paper cuts sound manly.
You are asking where Pat has gone - I can see that, but I may not be qualified to answer as she stopped emailing me as soon as she checked into her luxury cabin on board the cruise ship in Seville. I know she will visit multiple ports in the Med, archaeological adventures for the well-dressed, and will end up, in two weeks, in Venice where she is booked into an hotel for a week. Sometime after that I think she will come back to Tacoma. She misses me - right?? Have to admit it is a bit quiet around here with her not trying to burn down the kitchen and cursing the computer. Rose misses the action and thinks we may have time-warped into a retirement community.
We first took to the idea of her cruising the Med on her own a few months ago. It was not an easy sell. While wanting with all her heart to see something of Europe, of the world, she was not about to go alone. "I am 75" she kept whining. "Get over it, Forsey." I told her. "You are lucky to have lasted this long with your temperament." It is all pretty cool and I imagine she is loving it. The cruise is for university alumni; most on this voyage are Cal and Yalies. Her cup of tea; smart people - or at least educated, and some will have a sense of humor, I hope.
Is it possible to be in Granada and email-hell at the same time? Probably. She isn't real comfortable with the tablet she got for the trip yet, but she did get off three communications before falling off the radar with Amelia. I will check often.
and I am rewarded....
It's 4 AM on the C II and I got on the ship"s computer with bare
minimum of cursing. Everybody complains about the antic behavior of
the system, not just fat-fingered moi. I'd write you ten times a day
if I could, life-boat boys be damned. Somehow my hundred minutes has
dwindled to 33, something silly about logging off the sx after using
it. I'll spend another $45 if I have to. Haven't had a chance to get any
Euros yet so I couldn't even buy a gelato in Seville. Today we hit
Motril and bus up to Granada; maybe I can score some local moolah.
Socializing is going OK even though everybody is filthy rich. I've
dined and held my own with a patent attorney, the owner of a
publishing house, a history prof, and shrewd wives who travel with
expensive jewelry. Apart from needing to eat more prunes, I'm
healthy. Gym consists of 3 machines I've never seen before that appear
to be broken. I'm on my way to walk briskly about the deck and
inspect the Med by starlight. We passed Gibraltar in the dead of noc.
I will post this and let it go. Maybe more will follow. I am almost in the mood to write. don e.
And now it is several months later, again, and i am actually going to get this year-long compilation together and send it out. The catalyst for all this is my finishing up Dr. Varnum's Scorpion Cabinet. Maybe I was just waiting for a project to intrigue me to get me unstuck. Now all my waiting is for glue to set.
Pat announced that she needed a medicine cabinet in the main floor bath - if possible I never give her credit for simply wanting something; what she 'wants' inexorably grows grander in my mind by the minute as I recognize that whatever it is she "will" have it. "I am here but to serve" I say with obsequious groveling and grind into action (Uriah Heep high on oak) - her view of this dynamic might vary, as will your gas mileage. I pointed out that the large mirror already on the wall behind the sink needed to stay, and that I could make a medicine cabinet and stick it on the wall somewhere else. The final version of the cabinet is too large to hang inside the bathroom, so it will go in the hall - what the hell, it is fine furniture!
I used oak I brought from Maine and some ebony a buddy sent me. Since i worked without plans, as usual, the ebony sort of found its place as I went along. I did start with a basic size and had to draw out the finger joints before I began cutting. The idea was to practice my skill at some Greene&Greene style design; if you aren't familiar with these arts & crafts architects do a google image search.
Since I still have the fireplace mantle and abutting bookcases to do in the living room, waiting for their own inspiration for over a year, this would be a fine project for honing my G&G design and joinery arts. Varnum is the author of a 1916 book, Industrial Arts Design; I liked his tome so much I gave him credit in the cabinet's name. The scorpion part came when Pat saw the ebony hinges I designed and said "Scorpions" - with a hint of censure?
No metal in the cabinet. It is all glued-up with dowels and biscuits and mortises and tenons and pins. Don't know that G&G would own up to parentage here, but the finger joints and ebony plugs and cloud-rise finial are from them. The proportions are Fibonacci. While Varnum doesn't use Fib's name he does mention the basic ratios of 2:3, 3:5, 5:8, etc. The actual Fib ratio is 1:1.62. I used this ratio where I could: cabinet height to width, door height to width, vertical to horizontal door frame pieces by width, finger joints length to width, hinge short pieces to long piece. The Fib ratio is most pleasing to the eye and is also called the Golden Ratio. Another one of those things that seems hard-wired in our brains. I like the look of the cabinet and hope the finger joints and hinges aren't too exaggerated; the main caveat would be my skill at joinery. Sort of first year apprentice level, if that.
The other major news is the new puppy. Fubar is a rescue pit-x off the kill line at a local shelter. A sweeter dog I have never owned, and that is saying a lot. Pat really wanted another boxer, but I held my ground on getting a rescue pit and she is quite happy with him. He is 9 months old and somewhere over 50#. He might be a pit/boxer; hard to tell.
FUBAR, if you weren't already aware, is a WWII G.I. acronym: FuckedUpBeyondAllRecognition. We truly did not use this in an attempt to shock or goad. Let the testosterone-driven advocates of all the bloodsports have their day with the terminal mindlessness of Chainsaw, Havoc, Grinder and Chopper. It was his misfortune to come to us saddled with the name of Goober. We just could not deal with that but didn't want to make him learn a new name. The phonetic choices were coming down to Hooper, Cooper and Trooper when Fubar popped up and became the immediate winner. While it doesn't really say anything about his personality it has come to fit him. Oddly enough, in this jaded age when we introduce him people seem to find his name rather racy; maybe just inferring the F-word has a cachet that uttering it aloud has lost. (Fubar-the-word's running mate Snafu - SituationNormalAllFuckedUp, has actually gained such wide acceptance that even new's anchors can be heard using it.)
Zoe moved all her stuff into storage in Tacoma, gave a bunch of furniture to us, and is in Bali. The Tacoma beach scene seemed idyllic, but it wasn't NY. And the Big Apple is all she will settle for. I would say she is a slow learner, but I have learned not to make such statements in regards to her preferences.
And Ara has taken a position, not just a 'job', as Controller at a regional medical center outside Atlanta. Natty and Ara will wed in September at his mom's vineyard and be all moved south by November. Very exciting times for the kids. (I think a controller is sort of an actuarial hitman, though my understanding of how accounting works is limited.) Healthcare is a jungle.
I will sign off here. For not wanting to write I have put an awful lot on the page. Our best to all of you, don and pat, rose, fubar and rocky. (people and dog pics posted below, but i cannot get them to move up the page, so scroll down if you like)