Tuesday, October 3, 2017

CLOSE THE BULLETS

All this awfulness just takes the life force out of me. Another white dude loses his shit and kills a bunch of people for no — not that there is ever one — apparent reason.

Just a quick addition before I get back to regularly scheduled tasks, even at 11:00.

I had a shit day. I know this is not a rarity among feeling humanity. I kept thinking that I should be able to function on the schedule I have set up for myself to get tasks accomplished to get out of town. But I could not. That fugue state I mentioned in yesterday's post? Well, I had a "lite" version of it. I kind of knew what needed to be done and where I was, but I sure-as-hell had a hard time getting any part of it done. I still haven't folded the towels, but I may just get that in before I fall asleep.

I wrote recently a bit about my personal World Trade Center attack experiences. But on December14,  2012, just a couple of weeks after I lived through Hurricane Sandy, I got to be close to another shooting disaster. Louise and I were driving from Brewster up to Connecticut to work on Monsterwood with Jason. We noticed, on the drive through Connecticut, that a lot of official looking vehicles were streaming in the other direction. As we were working through the drive, we did not pay particular attention, nor did we turn on the radio. But there was a vibe.

When we arrived in Ledyard, happy to see our co-conspirator, we learned the truth of that strange flotilla earlier in the day. We learned that some fucknut had murdered a bunch of children and their protectors. Although I might have remained standing, some inner part of me collapsed onto the floor. My heart and psyche left the premises. I was not entirely focussed on the business at hand.

Oh wait. My heart and soul were broken. Shattered. Demolished. Shredded. Dismembered. I did not sleep that night. And when I drove back to Brewster late the next day, my peregrinations took me through SANDY HOOK, it being a mere 20 miles away. Jay, my host, is a newspaperman in Connecticut. I cannot remember him being home for a day or two. I cannot remember much of anything. I was pierced, shocked, and laid too low.

And since then there have been many many other mass killings. Wait! Not by white men, surely not. Not by cops afraid. Not by white guys walking into black churches. Not by white guys walking into movie theaters. I must be mistaken. Surely morality, sanity, and humanity would work on ways to curtail this behavior.

My gentle readers of this blog are in no way deserving of any jeremiads. However, if one has not been pretty damn close to some of these events, they might not have the same visceral reaction. One has to wonder how close the bullets need be fired.

N.B. I have had some wine.

Monday, October 2, 2017

WHERE WOULD YOU BE RIGHT NOW?


So many days have felt like the most awful morning for all of us, November 9, 2016. I still remember waking up, feeling as if my brain and spirit were violently barfing, while my innards dragged behind me. And I was still in bed.

This may shock you, but the trauma of the World Trade Center collapses was far less than the putsch of the Trump and the Triumph of the Kochs. I was within three miles of the towers. I heard the planes overhead. I heard the flotillas of ambulances racing down Seventh Avenue. But the day after Trump was elected was worse.

We depressives can get into something like a fugue state, a dissociative disorder, where we barely know what's going on. I have really only experienced this once that I can clearly remember. The past year has felt like a mild, mental-wool-covered year.

It's so bad today that Janet has turned off the tv and gone to sit in the garden even though it is a cool and overcast morning. I wonder what she still understands as her short term memory is completely gone. She watches endless repeats of Rachel Maddow, Bryan Williams, Shark Tank, and HGTV shows. That's what she can follow, I think. But this is getting to her, all this disaster. And the big disaster.

Is anyone working on a new vocabulary of despair, insults, and dystopia? Shitgibbon is my go-to if I can remember it. All the air and vitriol has gone out of every word of dismay, astonishment, outrage, and slander at my disposal.

And then in my head, all I can hear is a somewhat regrettable song by The Doobie Brothers, Long Train Runnin' ...

Down around the corner, half a mile from here
See them long trains run, and you watch them disappear
Without love, where would you be now
Without lo-o-o-ove
You know I saw miss Lucy down along the tracks
She lost her home and her family and she won't be coming back
Without love, where would you be right now
Without lo-o-o-ove
The song doesn't really quite make it intellectually or lyrically, but that chorus works.

We are so fucked.




Coda.

I wasn't going to include a poem, but I randomly opened to this.

STAR BLOCK

There is no such thing
as star block.
We do not think of
locking out the light
of other galaxies.
It is light
so rinsed of impurities
(heat, for instance)
that it excites
no antibodies in us.
Yet people are
curiously soluble
in starlight.
Bathed in its
absence of insistence
their substance
loosens willingly,
their bright
designs dissole.
Not proximity
but distance
burns us with love.

— Kay Ryan, The Best of It: New and Selected Poems, New York, Grove Press, 2010.

FEEL IT ACCUMULATE

Has it ever happened to any of you that while reading a biography or a memoir that you became so entranced and beguiled by the protagonist that when that person met the demise you knew was coming all along that you kind of went into shock and mourning, even when that person had died so many years before? (Now that is a Proustian sentence there.) There was a book about Will Rogers (can't quite remember the name) that quite devastated me at the end. I tried to write it in my mind as a novel, so as to soften the blow of loss. Did not quite work. And now I am feeling a bit of sadness for Randolph Bourne. Worth a scan of his bio. A heroic fellow to be sure.

Now on Sunday.

The light and temperature have significantly softened and lowered. We already have blankets (as well as cats) on our beds. I am in countdown to New York mode, making lists in my head and trying to set dates while there.

Last night was the semi-regular cousins dinner. Since returning to California, I have reconnected with my cousins and first cousins once removed. As we all like to eat, drink, and chat, we try to get together, taking turns cooking with the challenge of making something that we personally have not made before. This time, it was Shelly's turn. She made an outstanding Persian meal with some amazing apple-rose-puff pastry at the end.





At least a week later ...

I am not sure where this week went. But up there are some snaps of our dinner.

The week has been a challenging one. I try to stay optimistic-ish however this has been the all-around "heaviest" year I can recall. I suppose a good aspect is that I am not devastatingly depressed, although there have certainly been moments. Somehow, I have managed to access, more often than not, that tiny crack of light and wrench it open to get a bit of other perspective. Other times, a bit of a nap helps.

This might come as a disappointment to some of you, but I have adopted two practices that somewhat fall within the "bliss ninny" range. Besides the looking at the crack of light, I try to accomplish three tasks a day. I know that sounds lame but when despair and indecision team up, it is hard to figure out where to start or stop. Those three things might be get up, swim, write the blog. In general, this rule of three has led to accomplish more than that. Baby steps, kids.

The other: when I am skidding on the slope toward the edge, I try to take a moment to remember 3 (that number is working for me) things that are not bad, possibly, in fact, good. Like 1) Mom still alive and knows who I am; 2) good cats; 3) people like my blog writing. Whatever.

So, I will save my meditations on the darkness and difficulty and just find a poem for good night.

THE OTHER SHOE

Oh if it were
only the other
shoe hanging
in space before
joining its mate.
If the undropped
didn't congregate
with the undropped.
But nothing can
stop the midair
collusion of the
unpaired above us
acquiring density
and weight. We
feel it accumulate.

— Kay Ryan, The Best of It: New and Selected Poems, New York, Grove Press, 2010




Friday, September 22, 2017

MAKING SELF-ABSORPTION SEEM HEROIC

Butterscotch woke me up underneath the covers.
I thought we were down one cat, Oona, star of yesterday's post. (The cat above is Butterscotch.) She generally comes when I call but neither did she respond last night or this morning. She has been so reliable that I was sure she was gone. When it started sprinkling this morning, she appeared on the breezeway roof which is netting. There is a hole that she sticks her head through and there was that head along with some of her signature crying.

Still very stormy looking, although I can see a patch of blue. Idris/Ry/Wynonie/Elvis is messing up things on my desk. Janet is late for going to the Senior Center again.


They gots no respect for the laptop.

Much later.

'Twas not a good and productive day. Besides the usual rounds of aging parent absence of meaning, I've another friend whose despair knocks me out. Not that I don't get that despair. But the hopelessness and general inability to reach someone in that kind of defensible state is very painful, as are the challenges it presents to those near and dear to them.

I tried to nap with no success. I tried listening to two different audio books with only minimal success. The day went by. I am still here. And I am going to bed. I am not even going to try to clean up this html.

THE SIN OF PRIDE

turns out not be a sin at all, but in the guise
Of self-esteem a virtue; while poetry, an original
Sin of pride for making self-absorption seem heroic,
Apologizes again and shuts the door. O Small
Room of Myself, where everything and nothing fits,
I wish the night would last forever as the song assures,
Though it never does. I make my way not knowing
Where it leads or how it ends—in shocks of recognition,
In oblivion deferred, too little or too late, consumed
By fears of the forgotten and of the truly great. Morning
Brings a newspaper and a ordinary day, the prospect
Of a popular novel, though it's hard to read. I write to live
And read to pass the time, yet in the end they're equal,
And instead of someone else's name the name I hear is mine—
Which is unsurprising, since all our stories sound alike,
With nothing to reveal or hide. How thin our books
Of revelations, the essential poems of everyone
Mysterious on the outside, but with nothing to conceal—
Like the stories of experience I go on telling myself
And sometimes even think are true, true at least to a feeling
I can't define, though I know what I know: of a mind
Relentlessly faithful to itself and more or less real.

— John Koethe, 1945. Published on Poem-of-the-Day on 9/20/17.

Thanks to SMS for his 3:15 am missal.





Thursday, September 21, 2017

HOW TO READ A BOOK.1

"... I was wrong in my twenties, when I thought that Middlemarch had nothing to teach me about being a stepparent—and not just because I was being too literal-minded about what was represented in the book and what wasn't, and failed to see how Eliot's intelligence might illuminate situations she had not explicitly described.

A book may not tell us exactly how to live our own lives, but our own lives can teach us how to read a book. Now when I read the novel in light of Eliot's life, and in the light of my own, I see her experience of unexpected family woven deep into the fabric of the novel—not as part of the book's obvious patter, but as part of its tensile strength. Middlemarch seems charged with the question of being a stepmother: of how one might do well by one's stepchildren, or unwittingly fail them, and of all that might be gained from opening one's heart wider."

— Rebecca Mead, My Life in Middlemarch, New York, Random House, 2014


Later that day


It is 1:43 pm and this is the lousiest time of day for me. I really lose my impetus to do anything, even exist kind of. This dolodrumdolor is not made any more inspiring with the continued overcast, but thankfully cool, weather.

I see some many chores that I tell myself, each night, that I will get to it tomorrow. And yet no. So, I am seeking to redirect some of my logy energy (wait, I am pretty sure that is a classic example of an oxymoron there) to head back to productivity. Perhaps I lack the requisite priority list. And goodness knows I can have the focus of a squirrel. I am going to see if I can't get the vacuuming done, but that is always a challenge due to the necessity of disturbing a sizable number of sleeping felines.

Pushing on ... did some laundry, did some vacuuming only to find Janet had spilled quite a bit of red wine and not mentioned it. Cleaned that up some.

Butterscotch jumped on the window sill that I sometimes open for the kitties (not so much now that there is a kitten). Instead of jumping out to puke up some freshly eaten kibble, she puked right on the window sill narrowly missing my David Lindley autographed copy of the Cooder/Lindley Family tour. About twenty minutes later, the same cat tried jumping through the same window with a (mostly) dead mouse in her mouth. No wonder she throws up.

And then goodnight ...

It was an eventfully small day. Things were accomplished, things left undone. Deep in a swimming groove and very near my biweekly goal, I was visited with a charley horse that caused me to stop in mid-stroke. And you know what, those lifeguards are watching as he down on the edge of the pool asking me what was wrong immediately. I can only imagine how boring it is to watch a single lap swimmer in a huge pool because I am bored by doing it. 

Anyhow, some one/thing else took possession of me as I went back to swimming, kicking with just one leg. My arms are now strong enough, and I am plenty buoyant (spell check doesn't know that word) so I was able to swim in the partially disabled state. I am more amazed that I didn't just get out of the pool. Must have been the endorphins as I finished my lap (minus half a length) and also did my kicking. 

At least Emmylou and Oona are still outside, but I am headed to bed. I have to find a new book as I finished Middlemarch today! Now it is your turn.

FULL MEASURE

You will get your full measure,
But, as when asking fairies for favors,
there is a trick: it comes in a block.
And of course one block is not
like another. Some respond to water
giving everything wet a little flavor.
Some succumb to heat, like butter.
Others give to steady pressure.
Others shatter at a tap. But
some resist; nothing in nature softens up
their bulk and not personal attack works.
People whose gift will not break
live by it all their lives; it shadows
every empty act they undertake.

— Kay Ryan, The Best of It: New and Selected Poems, New York, Grove Press, 2010

I missed telling you about a baby girl, more than six months but less than a year, sitting on the edge of the pool, learning to jump in. She absolutely quivered with excitement and delight at the little exercise her mother and her swim coach were singing to her. She jumped into the water with pure joy and no fear. If only we ...

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

DIFFUSE AS HOPE

Public service announcements before we begin our program.

1) Jason Rosen, creator of the Monsterwood project I have been working on since time began, is running a Kickstarter to fund the illustration for our next volume. Please check it out and participate if it looks interesting to you. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/518077727/monsterwood-book-2-awakening-a-fantasy-graphic-nov?ref=discovery

2) Let me know if any of you are tired of Kay Ryan. I will look for something else. I find her perspective a nice little shock of art and recognition.

3) No one is taking me up on a different name for Idris? No one liked Wynonie or Elvis better?

Thanks.

With only a minuscule amount of caffeine coursing through my body, I got a little closer to that epiphanic musing yesterday about being anti-tidy. There is some nasty level of denial and indecision interacting with the a low self image/not caring about oneself, therefore not caring about one's environment and a soupçon of fuckyou(myself)ism.

Later that day.

Well, whatever creativity and interesting thoughts I had are gone. It only takes a little bit of Janet being obstinate to break my heart again. I know. I should be tougher. I suggested that she watch This Is Us. She went through a litany of inane questions and obstinate (yes, again) about the purpose of the show. But she can watch hour upon hour of Shark Tank, Fixer-Upper, any Trump crap. It is as if she doesn't want to be engaged in anything.

Yes, I am dispirited.

HOPE

What's the use
of something
as unstable
and diffuse as hope —
the almost-twin
of making do,
the isotope
of going on:
what isn't in
the envelope
just before
it isn't:
the always tabled
righting of the present.



— Kay Ryan, The Best of It: New and Selected Poems, New York, Grove Press, 2010

Right down the street from these bananas, there was a thoroughly dead Chihuahua as calm as could be on a front lawn. I just don't see many deceased dogs. I thought about taking a picture, but someone was likely to be very sad so I decided to respect that. It was strange though. And across the street there was a lawn sign that said "Pray to End Abortion" and I thought yes, just do that, stay at home and pray and pray and pray until something.




ONE CONNECTION





Espresso in a cat mug. That will start your day. Although mine was started several hours ago when I rushed Janet to a doctor's appointment that is not until Thursday. As we were near my fave thrift store and we had some time to kill before dropping her at the senior center, we indulged. I scored:

  •  beautiful probably 1930's Paden Pottery oven proof covered baking dish;
  •  vintage Sears knitting wool that is probably from the 1960s;
  •  Rhino Records cajun and zydeco CD;
  •  Dave Alvin's King of California;
  •  two t-shirts, one for each of us;
  •  a small decorative plate that matches another I have in my collection.




Not the worst way to start the day. Also, it is cool and overcast, at a nice 70 degrees.

I had some epiphanic metaphor or insight to the Syberg female curse of not having a natural inclination for tidiness. But I lost it. We could really use some OCD on that score. It is our indecisiveness or a missing gene that makes us care more about ourselves and our environs.

Idris' name is possibly in flux. I have also been considering Ry (Ryland) and Wynonie and Elvis. Any thoughts? Influx? He managed to get out a cat window. I had to rush out to the potting bench before he found the courage to jump all that way down. Last night, Oona deigned to play with him, the two running up and down the hallway like so many kitties before them.

Later that same day.

Whatever ruminations I might have planned to impart here seem to be gone with the wind or wine or something. So this will have to be it for now.

A HUNDRED BOLTS OF SATIN

All you
have to lose
is one connection
and the mind
uncouples
all the way back.
It seems
to have been
a train.
There seems
to have been
a track.
The things
that you
unpack
from the
abandoned cars
cannot sustain
life: a crate of
tractor axles,
for example,
a dozen dozen
clasp knives,
a hundred
bolts of satin —
perhaps you
specialized
more than
you imagined.

— Kay Ryan, The Best of It: New and Selected Poems, New York, Grove Press, 2010







Sunday, September 17, 2017

POSSIBLE THAT WAITING

Big night in the television land. I keep getting emails from various publications telling me to watch the Emmys. But I am thinking about Ken Burns' Vietnam documentary that begins tonight.

In certain ways, WWII never ended in this house. My father loved being in the Navy, being part of something big and important. It was his identity much more than father or husband or any kind of employee, although he did work for the Naval Civil Service for 20 years or more after the war. There were ALWAYS books about war around. He read them with dedication and unflagging interest.

I had come here to live for a bit after some sojourn around. As I pulled up to the curb, I could hear the crashing of bullets and airplanes drifting across the front yard. The war was on and my father was watching it, again. The soundtrack from Victory At Sea was well-worn around Summer Avenue.

And when it wasn't a historical war, well, there was Vietnam every night. My oldest brother somehow missed the draft. But he was the right age to hang around with friends who had been there and back. One of them in particular was pursuing a degree at USC, so going over to Tommy's for late night burgers was a regular occurrence. I was never ever invited to go along.

 I was about 14. My parents would go to bed and the bro and his friends would be up late. I must have been in early high school. I  usually hovered around the edges of the living room,  listening to their stories about 'Nam, early-ish 'Nam like '63-65. I distinctly remember one of them talking about walking point. I had no real idea of what they were talking about, I just liked to listen. I imagine they kept the stories clean enough to tell in front of me. After all, they needed me for the fourth hand in Hearts or Spades that they played into the night. I won often enough, just from not being aggressive. They would get mad and call me a vegetable. I ignored them.

Plus, I had nubile girlfriends who came around as well.

So, inasmuch as I enjoy the fashion show that the Emmy's provide, it seems kind of insulting that this important documentary is on at the same time. I know that it doesn't matter much, with streaming and on demand. And I don't always like what Ken Burns does ... like enough slow down shooter moves over still photos, okay? You did not invent that. But I have always been fascinated with Vietnam. It is one of the only places in Asia that I really want to visit. This seems like a solemn event.

I have been neglecting the garden, but I've mentioned that before. The bougainvillea are taking over. The orange one I planted this year is skyrocketing up what passes for a trellis, onto the roof of the breezeway. Another crop of (Kit's) cosmos are in the vegetable garden, splashing color among the browning corn stalks. And, wonder of wonders, my potted lime tree has its first flowers!



And then there were a couple of songs that at the time seemed out of place, given that we were a nation at peace: Soldier Boy and Navy Blue. I sat in the bathtub (one of the only private places in our house) and listened to this, wondering what it was all about. The songs have changed but the pondering haven't.

PATIENCE

Patience is
wider than one
once envisioned,
with ribbons
of rivers
and distant
ranges and
tasks undertaken
and finished
with modest
relish by
natives in their
native dress.
Who would
have guessed
it possible
that waiting
is sustainable —
a place with
its own harvests.
Or that in
time's fullness
the diamonds
of patience
couldn't be
distinguished
from the genuine
in brilliance
or hardness.

— Kay Ryan, The Best of It: New and Selected Poems, New York, Grove Press, 2010











AND SO IT GOES

Reading is sometimes thought of as a form of escapism, and it's a common turn of phrase to speak of getting lost in a book. But a book can also be where one finds oneself; and when a reader is grasped and held by a book, reading does not feel like an escape from life so much as it feels like an urgent, crucial dimension of life itself. There are books that seem to comprehend us just as much as we understand them, even more. There are books that grow with the reader as the reader grows, like a graft to a tree.

This kind of book becomes part of our own experience, and part of our endurance. It might lead us back to the library in midlife, looking for something that eluded us before.

— Rebecca Mead, My Life in Middlemarch, New York, Crown, 2014

Gosh, it has been a bit of awhile. I had friends visiting another friend nearby and I had to take advantage of their proximity to hang out. More on that anon.

In the midst of this, or actually, at the outset, we acquired another kitten. Enough with the cats already. His current name is Idris, but we shall see about that. More on this, too.

I need to try to get some sleep and get a fresh start.





Friday, September 8, 2017

AT OUR LEFT THE ELF




Cats ... can't kill them, can't always live with them. I never want to kill cats, really, or have any of them ever die, even the ones I don't know about. However and that said, it is a bit of a trial to get some of them into the house in the later evening when their nocturnal silliness kicks in. Butterscotch is happily ensconced behind me in the work/guest room that I have started cleaning up (it's not that bad really). Ariel and Vera Paris are happily asleep in the here-and-there ... but as for Emmylou Irene Patsy Clownpaws and Oona Minnie Pearl Moonlight, well, there are of a more savage sort and they like their outside nighttime prowl. Also, they like me to chase them around the streets, calling in a mournful way.

Again, taking care of the aging is not an easy task. The short term memory loss is staggering. The most mundane facts or issues must be addressed anew again and again.

Next morning.

I had to give that up and go to bed. Janet is unnaturally concerned about Oona all the time. Oona is addicted to me. And here I sat, thinking and writing, when an braying began at the front door. Janet was on the other side of the house calling for me to help her get the damn cats. Very most obnoxious. She does this all the time. She always derails my trains of thinking.

And then, as a reasonable bedtime approaches, I am out in the front yard and down the street, trying to lure Oona close enough so that I can catch her and get her into the house. She thinks it is one of our games. I lie down in the driveway as if I am sleeping or dead to see if I can lull her into an interested proximity where I can grab her.

I was too pissed off at her to let Oona sleep on my pillow.

Now I can see her having a late morning nap in the garden beneath the yellow grape tomatoes and a very large lemongrass plant. As I think of it, I was not sure that particular plant was going to make it. It's huge now. there is a pool of white there. She looks like the last patch of unmelted snow.

For some reason, Bette Midler's version of Hello In There was wafting through my head this morning. I remember listening to it repeatedly as a college freshman with Kim, Laurie, and EJB. Now, when it is more about me, it feels devastatingly sad. Stop and listen if you have the time. Here. Beautiful piano by Dick Hyman. (No, I did not make up that name. He's an old school New York session musician.)

Maybe if I listened to this daily, I might be more patient with my mother. Who know, maybe even with myself.

As the weather is clement enough for moving around, I should make hay while the sun doesn't shine too warmly.

THE TEST WE SET OURSELF

An honest work generates its own power; a dishonest work tries to rob power from the cataracts of the given. — Annie Dillard

If we could bless human,
if we could stand out of the range
of the cataracts of the given,
and not find our pockets swollen
with change we haven't—but must have—
stolen, who wouldn't.
It isn't a gift; we are beholden
to the sources we crib—
always something's overflow,
or someone's rib hidden in our breast;
the answer sewn inside up
that invalidates the test we set ourself
against the boneless angel at our right
and at our left the elf.

— Kay Ryan, The Best of It: New and Selected Poems, New York, Grove Press, 2010








Thursday, September 7, 2017

BONES IN THE THROAT

Very very hot peppers but not neon.


On the other hand, there are the slings and arrow of (not) outrageous fortune and falling out of favor and fortune and men's eyes. Yikes. Those are certainly concepts for the middle aged to consider.

At the moment, there are two cats who would prefer to be sitting on this keyboard. They do not care if I am trying to think or work. At least our five cats are no longer fighting with one another. There is a neighbor cat who regularly tries to get in the broken window and kill someone, usually Emmylou who sleeps on the bookshelf beneath the window.

Sigh.

Depression, down in the crazy dumps, can hit a clinically depressed person (and maybe you others?) at random times. I have been feeling substantially relieved that someone has offered me a place to live and regroup after Janet's demise. That means the world to me. His sincere and much-repeated offer finally sunk it and I accepted it. A whole level of anxiety left me (not to worry, there is more). So, my overall mood has been a tad better.

For those of you who have yet to deal with it, aging ... on their (maybe slow) way out parents are an unbelievable heartbreak. Every little regression means so much. Can I let that one slide? Or does that cognitive behavior need to get up to some speed again? If she loses this, when will she lose that?

And then there is yourself to consider. Are you looking at yourself a-not-too-many-years in the future? Is macular degeneration in my future? Given my reading addiction, will I lose that comforting skill so soon? Janet has no patience for finding narrative shows to watch anymore so resorts to hours of CNN, MSNBC, Shark Tank, and home improvement shows. There's not a lot to follow and keep track of from even week to week.

If I were a better caregiver, I would watch more tv with her and engage her more. But even keeping the minimum of household tasks and cleaning and having any intellectual life of my own is kind of more than I can handle. A couple of friends who have similar depression/overwhelmed issues and I have come up with a "Three Thing Per Day" rule to get us through the most unproductive days. It does give us a bit of an attainable goal. Particularly if two of those things are some combination of get out of bed/make the bed/drink coffee.

Well, this is probably enough in this vein for one post. It's pretty much always on my mind and in my reality, but a change here and there is good. Back to sweet sleep while listening to Middlemarch.

Post-season SFS pool. I was all alone.


CAUGHT

If something
gets caught
like a bone
in the throat
it isn't right.

We know this
with fish:

it isn't polite
to cough.
Our life
is at risk.

But there are
so many wrong thoughts
we refuse to release

massaging
our own throats
like pâté geese.

— Kay Ryan, The Best of It: New and Selected Poems, New York, Grove Press, 2010






Wednesday, September 6, 2017

ACCOUNTING FOR THE UNACCOUNTABLE

Forget cats looking for territory on the bed. I am laying on my stomach and some cat, didn't see which one, decided my back and butt were the perfect perch for a good bath. I think she is stretching out now, whoever she is.

I am unaccountably tired tonight. Except that there is some accounting for it, I think. I am going to attribute it to (she stepped off and it was Butterscotch) all the dancing I did on Sunday night. I got into the pool after having the usual self-argument (this is how you say this in Sinhala ස්වයං-තර්කය)  about not swimming. And, for the first time in maybe over a year, I hit my swimming zen. I swam a mile a little more than it usually takes me to swim a half mile. I didn't really get tired, as much as I was concerned about over stressing my left shoulder. Amazing. But now I am extra tired.

On the other hand, it was my intention to get to sleep earlier, and as the spirit moves me, I think I will try to take a dive, here at 10:00 ... and having not watched any tv.



Tuesday, September 5, 2017

IT WAS LOVELY



The cats, mon, the cats. Even with a good dose of cat nip, they are still looking for territory on the bed. Oona wants to sit on the computer lap table, but that won't fly with me. Butterscotch is just looking for a cozy spot on the edge of the bed. They are all happier, as am I, having had the house sprayed and all with fresh applications of flea poison. I'm still getting a few bites, but things are better.
Will you just look at that bad attitude? She hates all of us who thwart her desires.

There was a point today where I thought I would write that I was in a good mood ... I know ... so rare.     I did have a remarkably, noteworthily fun weekend. But then I came back to the Springs house and the mom and the grief and drudgery and ... well, gentle readers, my mellow was harshed,

I slept quite late on Sunday, however, the operative word there is slept. As we know, successful capture of the elusive sleep cycle is cause for a least small celebration. This did set me back from leaving for my overnight in Ventura by a good two hours. I have been neglecting the garden as I have mentioned, and the hothothellhot weather demanded some plant kindness so I did a good water.

I got to Ventura just before gig time. DH met me at the hotel she had so kindlygenerouslywondrously obtained for me. Before we hit Amigos Cantina to see The Tossers, we stopped by a terrific new brewery, Leashless. Likely, it is dog friendly. The beer was superb, worship the brewers good. And Deb and I had time to do a smattersplatter of catching up before we hit the dance floor at Amigos for the next two hours.


So much fun. The Tossers only play British music, but, as we all know, that is a rich vein. I don't even know what they were playing as we walked in, but we were dancing before we entered the bar. I don't dance enough. And neither do you. You are called upon to pogo, even though your knees would prefer you didn't. I was a sweat monster, even given that I was wearing a fairly light sundress (it's polyester though, and I am pretty sure that was engineered to suffocate people). The vibe was stellar. The dance floor was never vacant.

I was asked to dance by men several times. This was quite odd. I really can't remember the last time a stranger asked me to dance. I demurred a bit, not to reject them, but because I need a breather and I am a bit shy in those interactions. They looked so rejected that I relented each time and gave them their money's worth.

There's such an adrenalin and endorphin high you get from good dancing and great music. Not so easy to come down from. JF and DM and I went out for their dinner and breather after the show, but it was a solid crash by 10:00.

Okay, time for bed and Middlemarch. This poem is not particularly related to these ravings, but I found it a good one.

GREEN BEHIND THE EARS

I was still slightly
fuzzy in shady spots
and the tenderest lime.
It was lovely, as I
look back, but not
at the time. For it is
hard to be green and
take your turn as flesh.
So much freshness
to unlearn.

— Kay Ryan, The Best of It: New and Selected Poems, New York, Grove Press, 2010





Sunday, September 3, 2017

POLISH AND BALM

And so another day of heat draws to a close. Today was cooler and just a bit muggy. Fortunately, I was indoors at a baby shower, so it was cool and featured lovely food! Here were my gifts. 





The bib and baby placemat were said to be 80 years old. I would wear a pair of these booties for sure. My cousin (first cousin, once removed) Tauni is having a boy that will be named Leonardo. (His dad is Italian.) My other excellent cousins made lovely baby gifts, stuffed animals and the like. I was out of iPhone battery, so no snaps of their stuff. Here's the back of my head next to Janet. Hair looks good, right? 








 And here's Tauni.




POLISH AND BALM

Dust develops
from inside
as well as
on top when
objects stop
being used.
No unguent
can soothe
the chap of abandonment.
Who knew
the polish
and balm in 
a person's
simple passage
among her things.
We knew she
loved them
but not what
love means.

— Kay Ryan, The Best of It: New and Selected Poems, Grove Press, New York, 2010





Saturday, September 2, 2017

AT THE MERCY OF CONDITIONS

Weird. I find getting a pedicure or a manicure weird. In some parts of the world, not having a pedicure is déclassé. You can feel a little naked without one, almost unfeminine. An outcast. The whole culture of those salons, though. Most of the nail salons I have been to have Asian workers and most all of the recipients are white women. I really dislike having my nails done, even when I am with a friend and can focus on her. Having someone touch you while you ignore them feels like a loss in the struggle for equality. And then they try to trick you into services you don't really want like a full leg massage or other niceties. (Doesn't Nicety sound like a 19th century British name for someone trying to rise above being a governess? Or a Hawthorne character?) I feel resented and maybe that is deserved? Or hostility for being one of the pampered? I appreciate their service as I have no skill in the female grooming arts. Janet frequently asks me if I have combed my hair. I suppose she doesn't like the bed-tousled look. Then again, her hair is so thick on top she often sports a Woody Woodpecker air.

Manicures are wasted on me unless I am really trying to impress someone. For many weeks of the year, there is telltale garden dirt here and there in the crevices of my hands, notwithstanding my scrubbing. Being in the pool helps float it all out.

Much later. And time for bed, even if I leave with no substantial thinking. 

Fortune smiles upon us a bit in cooler weather for the next few days. It was silly hot all over California, best I could tell. 

COMING AND GOING

There is a 
recently discovered
order, neither
sponges nor fishes, 
which is never
at the mercy
of conditions.
If currents shift,
these fleshy zeppelins
can reverse directions
from inside
their guts are
so easily modified.
Coming versus going
is therefore
not the crisis
it is for people,
who have to scramble
to keep anything
from showing
when we see
what we can't see
coming, going.

— Kay Ryan, The Best of It: New and Selected Poems, Grove Press, New York, 2010







Friday, September 1, 2017

CONSTANCY IS ESSENTIAL

Yes, early. it will most certainly need to happen early in the day. Opening the back door right now is like sightseeing at a blast furnace. If we keep the doors open and the AC and fans on, it is tolerable but when you go out it feels a lot hotter than 105. Ms. Hughes reports that it is 114 in Palm Springs and MUGGY. Tomorrow it will be a bit hotter here, but then drops down below 100 and into the low 90s.

Just what you wanted, a weather report. 

After my laps, I did some kicking on my back. As I had on my sunglasses, I had the leisure and vision to watch two birds playing high in the sky. I have no idea what kind they might have been, but they enjoyed dancing together and then soaring off by themselves. The sky was clear blue, with only these small, to-my-eyes black birds taking sweet advantage of the day.

I was going to write that the heat today felt like the hot iron that is just this side of burning the fabric you are working on. And then I recalled the word "scorching"; that's how it felt and smelled. No metaphors needed. 

It is still 80 but it certainly feels hotter. 

The folks at the Senior Center enjoyed the watermelon, which was uncommonly good in my opinion. I have two yellow watermelons in the yard, but I don't know that they are ripe yet. I am pleased that there is another yellow squash of harvesting quality and still another butternut squash on the make.

ALL THE FRUIT IS RIPE

All the fruit is ripe, plunged in fire, cooked,
And they have passed their test on earth, and one law is this:
That everything curls inward, like snakes,
Prophetic, dreaming on
The hills of heaven. And many things
Have to stay on the shoulder like a load
Of failure. However the roads
Are evil. For the handcuffed elements,
Like horses, are going off to the side,
And the old
Laws of the earth And a longing
For disintegration constantly comes. Many things however
Have to stay on the shoulders. Constancy is essential.
Forwards, however, or backwards we will
Not look. Let us swing
As in a rocking boat on the sea.

— Johann Christian Friedrich Hölderin, translated from the German by Robert Bly, lifted from World Poetry: An Anthology of Verse from Antiquity to Our Time, edited by Katherine Washburn and John S. Major







Thursday, August 31, 2017

IN WHICH IT GETS TOO HOT

Well, the flea poisoning man came today. It has been hellacrazy this year. I finally couldn't stand it anymore, plus, my sheets have many tiny bloodstains from me scratching in the night. Emmylou and I are both allergic to fleas, so it is worse for us. Does this fall into the category of too much information?

Much later that day.

It's still hot at 10:30. You know, the sun, that really shines brightly. And at this latitude, it can just be piercing, even late in the afternoon, early into the evening. At the most excellent (good prices, good merchandise) farmer's market in Escondido yesterday, it would not let us be, let us escape. Plus, Escondido being on the way to the desert, it was quite warm. And not enough trees. Let me repeat, not enough trees. There was, however, an excellent bread vendor (the addictive kind of bread), and meltingly good watermelon. 

That said, Escondido has some interesting "old town" parts, fading away. There was a cool fabric store, going out of business, of course. There was an old main street where the dead department stores and dress shops are now empty. There are a few businesses trying to repopulate with what is currently "cool" ... a good coffee shop replete with requisite teenagers arguing about art and the meaning of life, and nice craft beer shop with good food and good prices. I was sorely tempted to drag MW into the bar to play with locals in trivia. (Maybe that's a good gig for me: trivia ringer.)

In other news, today was "payday" by which time we are scraping for cat food and coffee. This necessitates a trip to Costco for the best deals. I chose a new location (Lakewood) only to find there was a huge used book/cd/dvd store right behind. Of course, I could have spent hours but was able to contain myself reasonably.  I found a nicely priced volume of the Cooks Illustrated The Best Soups and Stews (Janet's favorite winter food and yes, I know, I do not need any more cookbooks). I already have my eye on hot and sour soup, which looks reasonably easy. There were some pretty great $1 cds ... my favorite find being Blossom Dearie!



This one is a gem! It's likely good that I did not know about this emporium before now, but it is a good place to kill some time. And who knows, maybe a good place to sell albums ... and a hell of a lot closer than downtown LA.

While I was driving down the coast to Escondido yesterday, I spent some time thinking about our constructions about ourselves. Specifically, I was thinking of my albums which I sold two summers ago. I still feel as if I own them. But, clearly, I do not. I think about specific records which were likely quite valuable. I think of the records that did not make it to cd or even downloadable. Fuck, it hurts. But what is the mechanism by which possessions become part of a person? This does not seem very Buddhist. 

Well, I should be reading Middlemarch instead of fooling around with Halt and Catch Fire or my other wastes of time.

BLACK POSTCARDS

The calendar full, future unknown.
The cable hums the folksong from no country.
Falling snow on the lead-still sea. Shadows
                                       wrestle on the dock.

II
In the middle of life it happens that death comes
and takes your measurements. This visit
is forgotten and life goes on. But the suit is
                                  sewn in silence.

Tomas Tranströmer, translated from the Swedish by Joanna Bankier, lifted from World Poetry: An Anthology of Verse from Antiquity to Our Timezzt, edited by Katherine Washburn and John S. Major


























Tuesday, August 29, 2017

TO MOVE WITH PURPOSE

I am not really anywhere this late morning. Although I took sleeping medication and had not overly indulged in anything, I did not sleep so very well. And a strange melange of songs rattles around in my brain: The Weight, Valerie, and Ooh, Baby, Baby. If any of you can see a connection between these, please let me know.

So, the plan for today is to, at long last, drive down to Escondido (almost San Diego) to visit MW and pick up some garden irrigation equipment for next year's garden. You know, the one I say I am not going to have next year? Speaking of which, I should go out and finish deep watering as it is heading toward 100 this week.

So, keeping this short so I can get on the road. Here's a good poem from this week's New Yorker.

PROJECT

Your clock's been turned to zero,
though there is no zero on a clock.
Your skin is petal soft no matter
how old the starter kit was —
but you will get tired or bored.
That's when the clock starts up.

Your parents want you happy,
but we also want you to set you down,
to get back to our old lives.
How will you turn against us
once you figure this out?

You're about to discover intention.
There are four stuffed animals
in front of you on strings.
They are targets.
You won't understand this for a while.
You flail your arms.
Sometimes you make one bounce.

Are humans the only creatures
who must learn
to move with purpose?
Is that why we harp on motive,
why we think of earth
as some god's handiwork?

— Rae Armantrout, 8/28/17 issue

This is what happens when you ignore the garden. Each of these are well over 4 pounds.



Monday, August 28, 2017

SEES TO THE BOTTOM OF TIME

TO SAY FOR GOING TO SLEEP

I would like to sing someone to sleep,
by someone to sit and be,
I would like to rock you and croon you to sleep
and attend you in slumber and out.
I would like to be the only one in the house
who would know: The night was cold.
And you would like to hearken within and without
to you, to the world, to the woo,—
The clocks call striking to each other,
and one sees to the bottom of time.
And below a strange man passes yet
and rouses a strange dog.
Behind that comes stillness. I have laid
my eyes upon you wide;
they hold you gently and let you go
when something stirs in the dark.

— Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by M.D. Hester Norton


Why oh why oh why oh why is the sleep you get just before you wake up the deepest, most delicious, and most restful? Another of life's unfathomable mysteries? 

Happily for me, after a week or so of no sleep medication, I was able to pick up a new prescription. I had been in a "waking up tired" mode. (If you haven't listened to that song, you really should.) Sleeplessness 

Digression alert ... or digression from digression alert ...

... shouldn't there be a better word for sleeplessness than that which defines the negative here? Google translate gives us versions of insomnia in French and Italian. German is schlaflosigkeit which undoubtedly better describes the state, and looks a lot like I feel. Finnish is unettomuus, and that, too, is far more descriptive than sleeplessness or insomnia. I could go on, but you might not be quite as amused at this kind of digression as I am. Yusuzluq is how the Azerbaijanis say it.

... and then there is the problem of remembering what you were on about when you digressed. 

Just sayin' that sleeplessness for me can be a significant problem. I don't make good decisions (and here there is evidence that I rarely do anyway, which would be another rabbit hole of digression) and cannot focus on much besides relieving my exhaustion.

Contrary to popular belief, .... that was a good start for a sentence of which I have now forgotten the main thought ... oh! I don't nap so well anymore. Maybe Janet is using up all of the nap vibes in the house as she will take three or four naps on a day she is just around the house. That said, a bit of a lie down can be refreshing. 

A person can spend a fair amount of time getting lost on Google translate. (Why is there no word for sleeplessness in Hebrew?)

And so we gird our mental loins (don't think too hard about that) and prepare for the onslaught of a 10-day heat wave. Janet, having lived in California her whole life, is fascinated with the extreme weather that is found in other places. She has been glued to Hurricane Harvey, which I suppose is more interesting than her (annoying) obsession with Shark Tank or endless repeats of Don Lemon, Rachel Maddow, and Brian Williams. She has a difficult time following almost any movie or tv show these days. I wonder if the endless repetition of the news programs makes them easier to follow. Hadn't really thought about that. 

This would be a good moment for me to switch my sleeping schedule as when it gets really hot, around 3:00 or 4:00 pm, the heat becomes so oppressive and disorienting that productivity is a Sisyphean task. Also, the back of the house, where I mostly lurk, stores heat, I think. The heat can be oppressive far into the night. And if there is gardening to be accomplished, it will most certainly need to happen early in the day.