Thursday, January 29, 2015


The good news is that she wants to eat. The bad news is that she wakes me up to see what I will do about it. Cooder has moved on from Greenies obsession and is mostly enjoying roast turkey. I am glad there is something that pleases her. I do wish it wouldn’t cause 6:00 a.m. cravings the way that it does. That early morning deep sleep can be some of the sweetest.

Monday, not manic.

The workers are still laying pavers and what not next door. The rhythmic ring echoes down the street. We have another week of this. The trains are hauling and braying in the distance. The sun is not knifing through the opening as it usually does here. 

I usually have Netflix or something going by this time, 8:11 a.m., as I do my morning job. I thought to have some quiet and do some writing, but the concrete saw going next door is not particularly conducive to matutinal musing. (I would have though it was matuDinal with that 'd' instead of a 't'.)

Yesterday, I headed to my old stomping grounds, Beachwood Canyon (which is beneath the Hollywood sign) to visit my friend, MN. She had lost her two kitties within the last year or so and wanted to go replacement cat acquiring. There's an excellent adoption cattery/kennel out in the San Fernando Valley, a no kill shelter where they actually go around Los Angeles county and rescue animals on the euthanasia list. We didn't end up with any cats, but we had a nice time looking at them and had a fun lunch at The Bear Pit: Missouri BBQ

Missouri is not one of the "barbecue states" to the best of my knowledge. That's nearly like saying "Minnesota barbecue" or "New Hampshire barbecue." And the turkey sandwich was excellent. 

The street where she lives. #1

As I have mentioned, I always like to have something with me to read in case of emergency. I picked up a novel that has probably been kicking around my house for 20 years, Shirley Hazzard's The Bay of Noon. This is off of my current reading list, but the first page had something to grab me: 

When I was a child I used to be filled with envy when adults recalled events of twelve or fifteen years before. I would think it must be marvellous, to issue those proclamations of experience — "It was at least ten years ago" or "I hadn't seen him for twenty years." But chronological prestige is tenacious: once attained, it can't be shed; it increases moment by moment, day by day, pressing its honours on you until you are lavishly, overly endowed with them. Until you literally sink under them.

A centenarian has told me that memory protects one from this burden of experience. Whole segments of time dropped out, she said: Of five or six years, say around the turn of the century, all I can remember is the dress that someone wore or the color of a curtain." And I would be pleased, rather than otherwise, at the prospect of remembering Naples in similar terms — a lilac dress Gioconda wore one morning driving to Caserta, or the Siena-colored curtains of an apartment in San Biagio dei Libra. But memory, at an interval of only fifteen years, is less economical and less poetic, still clouded with effects and what seemed to be their causes. The search is still under way in unlikely places — too assiduous, too attenuated; too far from home.

The street where she lives. #2

Wednesday night.

I am also making my way through Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. I think I came across it on some Flavorwire list or something, and also two or three people I know mentioned it warmly on Goodreads and there it was at the library. I would recommend it, although the New York Times Review did make some salient negative remarks. However, she is a good writer and it is more or less easy for me to overlook those negatives.

She was thinking about the way she'd always taken for granted that the world had certain people in it, either central to her days or unseen and infrequently thought of. How without any one of these people the world a is subtly but unmistakably altered place, the dial turned just one or two degrees.

Hell, yes! Disturbances in the field. Holes in the fabric of being and consciousness. Life stretched thinner, less resilience, less bounce, less give. 

The street where she lives. #3

Friday, January 23, 2015


(Mom's cat mug collection, #1. Made in Germany.)
Well, we mostly didn’t bicker today, so that is some kind of milestone, right? On the other hand, Mom was gone for a good four hours or more. And maybe some of the discord came from the stress of cats being sick almost from the time I arrived … a mere two weeks ago tonight. Now that Max is gone the stress of worry is replaced by grief.

Mom finally admitted that she is really grieving Max. Of course for me, that is “Duh” … there is so much shock, disbelief, and reality … well, way more than calibration … overhaul going on, I am not sure that Max’s passing has really sunk it.

And watching a show like Homeland, where there is some much distrust and manipulation of reality and relationships might have added to some timbre or tint to my overall current experience. I am in some kind of sensitized numb state.

I felt a little bit wan (sort of washed out in a Gwyneth Paltrow way, prone to mewling) and punk today so I took it a little easy. I did get down on my hands and knees to clean the kitchen floor which was dingey beyond my ability to tolerate it. It needs more scrubbing, but I made a marked difference. I get an item or two crossed off my list every day, although the list continues to grow as well.

Tomorrow, more shopping and cleaning and repotting plants. Also, I am making dinner (chicken with citrus sauce, quinoa, and coriander carrots, I think) for our friend PAS. We are all going to watch The Grand Budapest Hotel. PAS and I will drink gins-and-tonics.

I do feel as if I have taken my Mother by storm. I think she has been keeping it together, keeping herself together, and now I am in the picture, but who knows for how long. When and where can she comfortably give up control, relax, and be taken care of? And when might she be on her own again? These are big questions I think neither one of us really thought about. I know I didn't. She is defensive and, in some ways, a bit mistrustful of me. 

It may sound stupid on my part, but I really didn't realize how time has taken a toll on her. She was always so young and positive. (The next morning.) As I was falling asleep, I remembered (not intentional) short term memory loss is an issue in aging. That's not something you would notice just speaking to someone on the telephone. Now that I know this is what is going on, I can revert to patience and not just wonder if she is being spacey or annoying. 

The old tabby has some claws, still, and is prone to some poking and sarcasm. She remembers how to dish it out. And we have laughed. 

Different birds here, more songbird-y. The background noise is of the swish of the freeway, the occasional train whistle, and the workmen laughing and cutting paving bricks next door. 

You can't spend promises.
— William Holden as Danny in Texas (1941).

Today's poem from A good one.

What Is

or is true as

A pure river

Conditions for the equal good
to be as wise and fortunate

at the start

Lost in the pursuit

Under a white oak
two children sitting back
to back on a plank swing, calling

The hand
that touches the earth 
to witness

Presses the metal latch, opens
the screen door out from home

sunlight, pond water silence
damselfly at rest on a frond

Having come with you

this far into the drafty air

Thursday, January 22, 2015


There I have gone again, waltzing into a situation without really, deeply imagining what it will be like. And I suppose that has its good points and its not so good ones. The situation at hand is living with my mother. While I thought that just being in a place I dislike so intensely would be the challenge, the day-to-day of readjusting to her, and her to me, has obliterated those thoughts for the moment.

Mind you, I do not blame her for this. I am sure my all-guns-blazing-New-York-get-it-together-and-get-it-together-now vibe is disruptive to the way she has been thinking and living alone since Carl (the brother) died. And there was some kind of milestone as I think we went the entire evening without substantial bickering or disagreement.

The memory of an 88-year old is a challenge in itself. While my mother is not particularly wifty, or much more wifty than she has ever been, I cannot ascertain whether she is forgetful, not observant, or just doesn’t bother to remember. I know this is not unique to someone in her age bracket, but it is not something I have had to really address before. In this way, it is likely good for me to be around as I question her often. Then I happened across this New York Times article about the brain and memories which is quite in the vein of my explorations with my mother.

And the Max death has hit us both hard, reminding us all too clearly of mortalities: my father, her boyfriend, Verne, my brother Carl, and in the not too distant future, herself. For me, notwithstanding my complaints about or tussles with her, losing my mother is unthinkable. Only it isn't. It is the elephant in the era. 

And the other thing that is weird, or another thing, is that we got along so well over the telephone. We were so close. (We probably ARE close, it just doesn't feel that way). I think I intimidate and bully her, although, on most occasions, that is not my aim. Somehow, I am taking away her power in ways I do not at all mean to.

Meanwhile, I just had an intense attack of vomiting. There I suddenly was, retching up the California strawberries I had consumed scarce an hour before. And all I could think about was Max, just two nights before, puking his death bile in the bathroom as he struggled to his end.

And just for the record, Max probably had more than pancreatitis. That was probably a secondary infection to something greater, some kind of cancer or something. The meds we administered did nothing. He looked terrific and acted completely normal until boom! he slept for two days. It started a week ago Tuesday and by the following Monday night, he was gone. 

Someone wondered how it came to be that Emmylou is here as well. In my desperation to settle here somewhere, my friend Roz suggested that I just call Jet Blue and ask them to help. I had to push my way through a couple of layers of workers (just doing their job, but not being particularly helpful or even giving me accurate information about one person with two cats), I found a supervisor who was able to assist me. It did cost more money and delay my departure, but it was not egregiously (there's that word again) expensive. 

Emmylou is happy as ever here, although if we are here until hot weather (it was 80 yesterday), I think she will be less enamored. There's an enclosed backyard and she can run around with Mom's remaining cat, Ariel. Cooper is also comfortable, taking an occasional stroll outside, and finding many sleeping places to her taste. 

(Ariel with Max on the day he took ill.)

But we miss Max.

The Blue Bowl

Like primitives we buried the cat
with his bowl. Bare-handed
we scraped sand and gravel
back into the hole. It fell with a hiss
and thud on his side,
on his long red fur, the white feathers
that grew between his toes, and his
long, not to say aquiline, nose.
We stood and brushed each other off.
There are sorrows much keener than these.
Silent the rest of the day, we worked,
ate, stared, and slept. It stormed
all night; now it clears, and a robin
burbles from a dripping bush
like the neighbor who means well

but always says the wrong thing.

Jane Kenyon