The Hook

AH YES, ONCE AGAIN I AM OFF IT.

Is there any feeling more satisfying

or relieving than being off some hook you didn’t want to be on, usually involving something you don’t want to deal with? There are hooks you hang your coat on, hooks you latch your screen door with, hooks you catch a fish with, and there are the grappling hooks that snare you for life.

I’ve just been let off twice.

I called my uncle I live downstairs from to see if he was ready to visit my mom at her senior facility. He, her younger brother by seven years, goes every afternoon to spend an hour or two with her, “because she’s alone, and I don’t want her to feel forgotten.” I go with him or my sister several times a week, but sometimes, as has been the case all my life, I just can’t get myself out of the house. I was set to go today, but she’s just been taken in to physical therapy, and he’s going to skip it.

Aaaaaaaaah.

Getting out of bed, my roommate Molly once told me, is the hardest thing I do all day. That’s good, right? Because then nothing harder will happen to you all day. And truly if that’s the hardest thing you endure, your life is blessed for sure. First of all you have a bed that is under the roof over your head.

AH YES, HOW OFTEN

have I let myself, or gotten myself, off the hook? Every chance I get. There are hooks everywhere you look and some you can’t yet see. Once I set my alarm for 5:30 and again 6:00 to keep an early appointment.  The cats woke me around five anyway, awaiting the tick-tick-tick-tick-ticking of kibble bits cascading into their feed bowl. So I could have stayed up and taken a shower.

It's empty, human!
It’s empty, human!

But I went back to bed to await the 5:30 alarm, hit snooze, hit snooze, hit snooze again until the 6:00 alarm. Then I scuffled to find my appointment slip, and calloo callay o frabjous day, the appointment was for the next day! Back to bed, back to bed, back to bed!

St. Francis Hotel display window, San Francisco. How cozy. Now if they would just get that bus outta there.
Do not disturb! St. Francis Hotel display window, San Francisco. How cozy. Now if they would just get that bus outta there.

I try never to leave anything to the morning. Before sleepytime I iron my clothes, gather my effects, place needed items strategically by the door, but there were some papers I still had to print out for the appointment. But lo! Behold! Now I didn’t need them till the next day, a whole 24 hours leading up to the next last minute. Life is good! As long as I don’t have to live it.

The former friend

who announced I was the most neurotic person she ever knew (you mean besides yourself, beeyatch?) was right on target when she called me a “horizontal personality.” I am never truly comfortable unless and until I’m lying down. Preferably in front of a movie or something that demands no response from me. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, will I strut and fret my hour upon the stage, then go back to bed.

BED!

Is there any solace greater, any arms more embracing, than your own bed and bed covers? “I love bed,” I would sigh to my amused friend Larry, as if the bed and not any lover in it were my paramour. Bed is the ultimate outpost of avoidance. Therein is nothing you can’t not face.

I love bed.
I love bed.

Sometimes I wonder,

does laziness disguise itself as depression? But that is ungenerous. Depression is not a pretend hypochondriac ailment. It kills people. I liquidated a portfolio of valuable real estate properties in Portland, Berkeley, and San Francisco just so I wouldn’t have to get out of bed.

At age 61 I had to set up a Go Fund Me campaign to move back east to be near my mother. I had just lost my job in Portland and, consequently, my apartment was next in line. How did I ever summon the energy to gather my crap and transport it 3000 miles–well, it just had to be done–but boy did I crash once I got here! And though I love the smile of surprise on my mom’s face when she sees I’ve arrived, I was happy when my uncle let me off the hook and once again I did not not have to raise myself from my default prone position to confront the outside world. Thank God who does not exist!

THE OTHER HOOK

I got off of today

was pretty damn silly. I will be attending a live-stream performance by Opera Philadelphia (“Land of the Free. Home of the Bravo.”) of Puccini’s Turandot at Independence Mall this weekend. It was scheduled for tomorrow and I wondered if my little folding lawn chairs ever made it here from Portland. Just thinking of hunting for them was tiring, so when I got an email that the event is postponed until Sunday on account of rain–yay!

It’s odd

I keep myself so house-bound when my biggest kick is traveling the world. But as Lauren Sharon Schwartz put it in Not Now Voyager: A Memoir, “The stillness and stasis of bed are the perfect opposite of travel: inertia is what I’ve come to consider the default mode, existentially and electronically speaking. Bed, its utter inactivity, offers a glimpse of eternity, without the drawback of being dead.”

The life I chose instead of a husband. No regrets. I've always slept on one side of the bed with whatever I'm working on beside me. I never bother to put it away.
The life I chose instead of a husband. No regrets. I’ve always slept on one side of the bed with whatever I’m working on beside me. I never bother to put it away. After all, I pretty much live there.

♦ ♣ ♥ ♠

My head aches, my eyes burn, my arms and legs have given up, and my face in the mirror has a grayish cast. The bed, across the room, calls in its unmistakable lover’s croon, Come to me, come, only I can make you truly happy, oh, how happy I’ll make you, don’t resist, remember how you moan with pleasure the instant we touch….
– Lynne Sharon Schwartz, Fatigue Artist

 

A Knotty Dilemma

ONCE UPON A TIME

at Burning Man

a nearby burner helped me erect my shade structure. As we worked at undoing the knots in the guy wires, I told him the story of the mother who had her own foolproof method of judging her son’s three prospective brides. She gave them each a knotted skein of yarn and asked their help in untangling it. The first yanked here and there impatiently and finally threw the yarn on the floor in disgust. The second concentrated for a few moments and abruptly concluded she couldn’t do it, and the third loosened and followed one thread all the way through until the mass fell easily apart and she smiled as she handed it back to the mother. “That, my son,” she said, is the wife for you.”

I love that story!

I think of it when a knotty dilemma comes up. Is there some way to break through to the heart of this matter and have the problem fall apart like a relieved sigh?

My mother might find a thin gold chain at the back of a drawer, wadded into an impossibly tight knot, and give it to me to untangle. It would have a shiny, sweaty smell, and excite me: Gold chains linked you to the great fairy tales and myths, to Arabia, and India; to the great weight of the world, but lighter than a feather. – Anne Lamott

In packing to travel to the next phase of my life, I encountered the very skein of yarn that might have challenged the three bridal contenders. Now and then I decide I’m going to get good enough at knitting to wear something I made without embarrassment, or become an expert crocheter like my mother. But I have a hard time holding my own attention at things I need to improve at. I tend to spend more time on and apply more energy to things I’m already good at. Part of it is my tendency to “crash,” i.e., drop whatever I’m doing and blink at the darkness while remembering how to breathe.

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For instance,

I bought myself a ukelele for my 60th birthday; it was a “60 after 60” thing I thought I’d pick up on as part of later-in-life new horizons. But when I discovered how hard it was (for me) to change chords, I, knowing myself, sold it to pay my electric bill. I knew I wasn’t interested enough to put in the time required to get good at it. Same with pottery. My instructor told me, “You’ll make 1000 bowls before you’re satisfied with one.” No, deary, I won’t.

Children and lunatics cut the Gordian knot which the poet spends his life patiently trying to untie. – Jean Cocteau

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If a sailor expert at every extant knot

had made a career of tangling this yarn it could not have been more convoluted. If all three of my cats had pounced on this, wrestled each other and united their 12 paws of claws to confound me, it might have been easier to unravel. Some interloper, rogue element, banshee or succubus entered my lair and fucked with me.

Even though I knew

it was pointless, that I could have cut the mess apart, that I could have recrocheted the piece in less time, that I didn’t even want to continue the piece, that there were any number of better uses of time, I had to unravel this yarn, I just had to. It took me several evenings of dogged Netflix-binging obsession to work it out, and I did, but there was no great satisfaction in it. I just had to prove to myself that I am that patient, thorough, determined, marriageable, heart-of-gold gal that won’t give up. (That was a joke on myself. The very last thing I am is marriageable.)

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Not that that has ever mattered to me. After growing up with front row seats to my parents’ marriage, I never once imagined my own wedding day. ~shudder~ But I do believe many problems can be deconstructed by looking at the individual elements, how they interrelate, and finding a path to resolution. They may be less convoluted than you think.

Now if I could just untangle my brain the same way…

 

♥ ♣ ♠ ♦

Keith Haring, as seen at The Political Line, De Young Museum 1/15, San Francisco c. Keith Haring Estate
Keith Haring, as seen at The Political Line, De Young Museum, San Francisco, January 2015, © Keith Haring Estate
When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.
– Franklin D. Roosevelt

A Screaming Came Across the Sky

IT WAS THE SOUND OF SUNDERING MYSELF FROM FACEBOOK

And then, the silence.

You could hear it. Peace descended upon the earth with a great silence like the inherent silence of the Apocalypse. (As Jack Kerouac described what would happen if men fell to their knees and begged forgiveness of their women—a line deleted from the original 1951 scroll of On the Road.)

A year ago I decided I’d had enough of Facebook. The bald shock that registered on a friend’s face when I told her I had deactivated my account lingered a bit. Is that a big deal? I asked. Only because I was pretty active on there, she clarified.real life

If I’m active on there it’s because I spend many hours online most days editing photos on PicMonkey and posting them to flickr. It’s my job I don’t get paid for. And when you’re online for long periods of time, you want to distract yourself from the task at hand every so often. Or always. Five minutes on Facebook is a nice online break from being online. Except when it turns into an hour every time I get a case of the fuck-its (A condition whereby you’re content to spend nine hours on YouTube watching a cat flush a toilet–Dana Carvey) and don’t want to be responsible for creating my own mind food. Now and then one needs a social media cleanse, a high colonic of the mind.

Everyone likes to be served.

Here! Instead of planning and cooking and eating a nutritious meal of your choosing, here’s an instant plate of junk food handed to you piled with ideas you don’t have to have yourself. Kind of like the free cell addiction I acquired instead of dealing with renting my Portland house out and moving to Berkeley.

It’s my understanding that all games of free cell–open-faced double solitaire–are winnable if you make the right moves. You’ve got to look at the big picture and map out strategies. Free cell is one of my McDonald’s substitutes. I don’t eat meat so I need to replace it with other junk food. All the crap out there, says comedian Jim Gaffigan, is someone’s McDonald’s, whether you read Us magazine, or track Jennifer Anniston’s love life, or weigh in on Beyoncé’s new haircut.

When I was planning my move from Portland to Berkeley in 1996, I racked up 148 games of free cell that I won by in some cases starting over and changing my moves. I would never go on to a new game till I’d solved the one at hand. There’s a satisfaction in seeing a course of action to a “successful” conclusion, of solving the puzzle and watching the auto-play pile the remaining cards into suits–let the game do the rest of the work!

And it’s relaxing.

It engages my mind and problem-solving faculties just enough to occupy me but not challenge me too much. But mostly free cell is a time waster. He who kills time, as Thoreau put it, slays eternity, and I am a serial killer. I could just as well be surfing the web for Kate Middleton’s or Kate Upton’s last outfit, flipping through Entertainment Weekly, or contemplating whether I should lose respect for Benedict Cumberbatch for appearing in Star Trek into Darkness. But mostly I play free cell as a distraction from something I have tired of doing, something, usually, of importance or at least time-dated urgency. You know like when the taxes are due and it’s suddenly crucial that you clean your oven.

As one who was arrested in the anal stage of psychosexual development, I do derive pleasure, feelings of justification, perhaps, at watching things fall into place and summarily wrap themselves up, as when you remove the one remaining obstacle to victory and you can sit back and declare, “My work here is done!”

At my age (I summited the hill quite a while ago) one is advised to keep one’s brain active. Mahjong is another mental and visual dexterity-enhancing time waster. But however relaxing and/or stimulating these pursuits are, they’re still junk food. I prefer I’d spend the time in nourishing pursuits, not repetitive ones.

Clearly I have nothing to prove to myself,

but time-wasting is a manifestation of my time-honored practice of avoidance–procrastination that feels like doing something that is so clearly nothing. À la Facebook. [Time does not honor avoidance. Time spits on avoidance. -Ed.]

Of course it’s not exactly nothing, you are communicating with people who mean enough to you to take them on as Facebook friends (which inherently is worth a nickel minus five cents), but it’s a trade-off. We abandon more personal interactions and more time offline for the convenience of mass announcements. And also, one feeble set of ears hearing what we have to say is not enough. The whole world needs to know what we’re thinking. It’s that important.

The programs Freedom and AntiSocial turn off the internet or social media for a specified amount of time, but they’re like a Flintstone band aid on a blood-gushing wound. I sought to heal that wound—the rift between myself and my life as I used to live it. It used to be I never turned my computer on unless I was going to write something—never to surf the web or consult the Oracle of the Book of Face or even check email—certainly not for entertainment or something to do. I joined Facebook when it was still not all that pervasive, but it started happening that you wouldn’t hear about stuff going on around town because people were posting it to Facebook as the default manner of announcement. Why didn’t I hear about that? I don’t know [I did my duty] I posted it to Facebook…

Political rallies or local events might pass you by because you weren’t on there. Kind of an “it’s-how-people-communicate-now” vibe and aren’t you with it? If everybody played by the same Facebook rules, it would be cool to know about that upcoming fundraiser, who has signed up to go, and the person among them that you either do or do not want to see. To know for sure that if they are there, you would either go or not go. 5000 is the Facebook friend limit, but a great many of those 5000 turned off your feed as soon as they added one more digit to their friend total.

Initially I joined Facebook

in order to write a column, “I’m Not Really on Facebook I’m Just Spying on Those Who Are” (not available at this time). A friend shut his account down as soon as he had a child. Good on him! It might feel like you’re taking a stand. I’m not wasting any more time on Facebook! But it’s no moral crusade; it’s just a choice. We don’t have to buy into the inevitability of social media even if it does surround us. We sign up for it. We willingly devote our time to it. We derive enjoyment or emotional support from it or use it as a crutch or outreach or publicity tool. It saves stamps and smartphone minutes. We control our use, and now and then I choose to control mine by ceasing it.

When I first shut down my account, I had been on Facebook complaining about Throwback Thursday. “I would like to take the nitwit,” I had posted, “who thought of Throwback Thursday and throw him back to last Thursday.”

Someone quickly responded, “Aren’t you just a ray of sunshine.”

“How does the Internet,”

I continued, “co-opt something as basic as a day of the week, and convince the world they all need to be doing and thinking the same thing on it?”

Another friend weighed in, “Much ado…”

In the scheme of things, it is nothing. If you enjoy it, go ahead and enjoy it. No harm, no foul. Not the crucial issue of our time. But it strikes me as some feel-good sheeple group-think thing. It’s Thursday! Everybody gather ’round, rifle through your lives and share it with the others! Come ’round! Wiggle your ears! More s’mores!

Source: karoshiga

Maybe we should wear a looney-toon hat

on Thursdays in case we go outside, so fellow throwers-back will know we are participating in the throw-back, just to reinforce that it IS Throwback Thursday, that whatever else we do that day, fear not, we will be sure to throw back. The first friend suggested I needed a break from the internet and I realized she was right.

Deactivating your Facebook account is not that satisfying—all one need do to reactivate it is log back in. Still my immediate response was physical, mental, and emotional relief. Something cracked wide open. I used that phrase to describe the line from the George Pal film “The Time Machine,” “He has all the time in the world.” It cracks everything wide open. Marcia Gay Harden said it to Ed Harris in “Pollock,” “You’ve done it, Pollock. You’ve cracked it wide open.”

I’m wary and weary of this age of homogenization,

this let’s-all-be-on-the-same-page mentality, experiencing and reacting to and discussing the same things at the same time. There are too damn many pages! Facebook. Facebook Live. Twitter. Instagram. Instagram Live. Reddit Snapchat Foursquare Google+ LinkedIn Tumblr Pinterest Periscope YouTube Vimeo Vine Skype Meetup Tinder (“Tinder is how people meet. It’s like real life, but better.”)

How does one even define real life anymore? Is there any interaction between people that hasn’t been coded? What happens anymore that doesn’t go through an app? Photography is not what it was, as seen through the framework of Instagram—the resulting picture is not so much a free-standing result of photographic choices but an “instagram,” an instance of application use. I’ll crop my photo square if I want to after I see it.

One has to shield oneself

against overexposure to unfiltered information. It’s practically radioactive. It weakens and sickens one over the long term. I have turned off Yahoo as my home page so I don’t boot up to that day’s filler crap.

  • DJ Tanner (aka Candace Cameron Bure) just chopped off all her hair, and she looks SO chic. OMG, girl! Could you be more fabulous?
  • Kelly Ripa’s 10 Most Probable Co-hosts, Ranked From Most to Least Liked (Most: Morris Chestnut [who he?]; Least: Fred Savage)
  • The Do’s [sic] and Don’ts [sic] of Wearing Eyeliner
  • Chris and Liam Hemsworth’s Dad is a TOTAL hunk but we are not surprised
  • Brock Turner Going Free Is the Best Thing to Happen to Rape
  • And oh yes, the President of the Philippines called Obama an SOB.

The greater part of the click bait we click on we would never investigate if we had to trouble ourselves to look it up. All that info is waiting for us there on the web. You’re not going to take the time to search for how to dip a t-shirt into Portland cement to create Halloween lawn ornaments, but you might click on it (I did–to see what it is people will SO be doing after learning this trick). My mind is cluttered with things I didn’t need to have seen. Clutter—as in a room of suffocating stuff you should just get rid of. Don’t rearrange it—ditch it!

Facebook is always there

for one’s use. Go on it, go off it, whatever. But I’ve been ensconced in such childish and churlish confrontations and misunderstandings with folks (many of whom I’ve never met), I’m tempted to throw the baby out with the bath water.

I’m conflicted about Facebook

because of carbon dating. I’m so old I date back to the days of carbon paper, mimeograph machines and white-out, party lines, telephone exchanges, and two-digit zip codes. Face-to-face relationships were the norm at one time. Getting a phone call and not knowing who it is. Someone showing up at your door. Meeting someone through a “personal ad” used to be an embarrassing anomaly.

In other words, I’m a fuddy-duddy. I prefer the way things used to be.

When a friend wanted me to meet a friend of his via Facebook, I forced the issue. I forced us all out of the house to meet at a coffee shop. Haven’t seen either of them since. I still use and like Facebook because I find lost friends, meet new ones, get turned on to a lot of creative output and new information, but I don’t like the changes in personal communication it has wrought worldwide. Other than emergency and volatile political situations, I don’t see an inherent value in the 21st century status quo of being constantly communicative, constantly up on the latest means of following people around online.

There is a need for Facebook, or it wouldn’t exist. But is it healthy? Is it enabling us to distance ourselves from each other?

Look at this: Are you sure you want to deactivate your account?

FB deactBecause your 179 friends will no longer be able to keep in touch with you.  What arrogance! It reminds me of a sing-songy Time magazine ad that claimed “Time lets you care” about current events. As you see folks are crying, screaming, and pleading with me not to go. But if Facebook is the default way to interact with people in the modern age, what a pathetic statement about today’s human relations.

What about Fear of Missing Out?

You are always missing something, and always will be. Even if it’s all you do you can’t keep up with the pace of social media—the danger is it does turn into all some people do. There are levels of engagement, and you’re in control of them—until you’re not. Then you might as well face it, you’re addicted to Facebook.

The Checking-in Phenomenon

What is that about? Why track your minute movements throughout the day and broadcast them to your friends at large? X is with Y at Z. You’re already with the friend you want to be with, enjoying a personal interaction. “Hey everyone else: I’m here without you. I’m sharing this with someone else, but you still have to know about it.” Is it an invitation for anyone reading it to join you? I doubt it. I saw one such posting of a crowd of friends at a concert I would like to have been included in. That has probably happened to everyone. “We didn’t think of you when we made these plans, but here’s a smiling selfie for you to enjoy.”

My subtle commentary on the matter was to post that I was at a gas station with a friend. Who could possibly care? One mundane post covers them all. Though some bored soul might ask, “Oh really, where are you going?”

One brilliant guy, a chemist and teacher and an amusing conversationalist, would post along the lines of “Stopping for a bite before the show,” as if we’re keeping a logbook of his movements. Hold on, I show a gap between 7:10 and 7:14. What were you doing? Walking to your car? Let me get that down. I was about to unfriend him for being boring despite his advanced education (how does one work that?) but he beat me to the punch. (Don’t you hate it when someone unfriends you before you’ve had a chance to unfriend them?) Do we think people are that interested in our minute-to-minute activities? Do we think we are that interesting? Do our egos need such constant bolstering? It’s great news for stalkers, though.

THE CONNECTED GENERATION

I guess I am one

who doesn’t need to know everything about everything everyone I know is doing at any given moment. But I am also one who values solitude above constant companionship. I treasure my own place, my own silence, my own bed, my own insistence on doing whatever pleases me at any time. Some folks must enjoy constant worldwide fraternizing, but as a homicide detective put it in “The Fall,” “Modern life is such an unholy mix of voyeurism and exhibitionism. People perpetually broadcasting their internal and external selves.”

As soon as I graduated college and was on my own, I decreed that I would never wait to do something until someone wanted to do it with me. That’s how I ended up by myself on the Trans-Siberian Express. I routinely attend concerts and events by myself; it usually doesn’t occur to me to invite anyone along. I go to movies by myself so I won’t have to talk about them later. I recognize that most people don’t want to be alone, they want companionship and family on a daily basis. I realize most people have a greater capacity for talking than I do for listening to them.

But some of these people don’t know how to be alone, or how to enjoy their own company. And Facebook is somewhere to meet up with others needing something to do.

People sound off,

lament, announce an event, or post random observations instead of calling a friend, because then only that friend would know about it. That’s not nearly enough attention being paid to us. Not to say I haven’t participated in these practices myself, because they’re the accepted language of Facebook and you fall into the rhythm.

There’s the passive-aggressive cry-for-attention post—some obscure, mysterious statement begging to be asked what it’s about.

Fuck, shit, crap.
Never gonna do that again.
Everything’s going to be fine.
Only three more days…

Prompting responses like: Are you OK? Hugs! I’m here if you need me. You are beautiful. Stay strong. Etc. Sometimes you feel like you’re constantly ministering to people. Are people not getting this support from the humans in their lives, or do they just want more? Is our need for validation so pervasive?

Did I miss keeping abreast of my friends’ daily lives while deactivated? Even if so, I’d rather live my own daily life. It’s like the voices in my head stopped talking. It took a while for the reverb bouncing around my skull to settle down. Anyway, we know who our true-blue friends are, and those who are mostly avatars–the madding crowd we invite into our homes. It’s hard to resist taking advantage of a platform to say anything you want. But you don’t know who’s turned your feed off, who’s not “on” that day, who’s not paying attention. In a way it’s still yelling into a void, though the world be at your feet.

Diamond Dave
The Dave Wave, Diamond Dave, Dolores Park, San Francisco

When my attention gets too scattered by stimulus on the web, I eliminate the option to choose from it. Say I click on 50 links in one day. 45 of them are trash. But I still went through the motions and have nothing to show for it. Look at your browsing history, if you want to be appalled. There’s groovy stuff out there, no doubt. But it’s in you, too, waiting to manifest.

I’m in an insulated bubble of privacy,

writing offline in Word at midnight, crickets sounding off at the window. No one knows where I am, what I’m thinking, what I’m doing, reading, eating. Freedom! Have we forgotten what that feels like? How much time do we spend showing off to people, some of  whom we don’t even care about, because we’re on a public forum?

The Misfit Cafe
Is where I take my tea
When I’m trying to impress others
Who don’t impress me

 – Mayor Jones, Postcard Pomes, 2001

I, of course, am the biggest show-off of all, a writer.

LIFE AFTER FACEBOOK

If you’ve read this far, you wouldn’t have read this far if I hadn’t written this far, and I did so in the beatific space left by the expulsion of social media. But my cold turkey experiment of last year didn’t work. Facebook is a facilitator of friendship but it is not a substitute for friendship. The sad fact is, I don’t stay on Facebook because it’s the de rigeur way keep up with my friends. It’s because if I leave, they will not keep up with me.

♥ ♣ ♠ ♦

face deactTell me you remember you are still a human being…Have that conversation, that glance, that touch. Be a healing conversation, one filled with grace and presence.

Put your hand on my arm, look me in the eye, and connect with me for one second. Tell me something about your heart, and awaken my heart. Help me remember that I too am a full and complete human being, a human being who also craves a human touch. Omid Safi, “The Disease of Being Busy”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glory Glory Hallelujah!

GLO-RY GLO-RY HALLELUJAH!

Glo-ry Glo-ry Hallelujah, His truth is marching on.

I turned 61 this year, 2016, and I’m throwing myself a party and providing the band. The band is playing Glory, Glory Hallelujah. There’s a trumpet, a tuba, a piccolo, a bass, a drum, and a chorus. It’s one of the only songs it knows how to play. For variety they might hazard a verse or two of Yankee Doodle Dandy, Glory H robustly picking back up without missing a beat. They’ve added cymbals.

I call the band “My Brain.”

It plays songs in loops, having started on Thursday, April 9, when I posted on Facebook, “Why is La Marseilles coming through my window?” Odd enough, but it played continuously and repeatedly, enough for me to check outside for who is so in love with the French national anthem they play it all the livelong day. I went outside, but the music wasn’t any louder and I couldn’t pinpoint a direction it was coming from.

The band played on.

It was a curiosity, but not loud enough to disrupt my attention, though I could make out every note over the whir of the refrigerator. If I watched a movie I would forget about it. But later on in my bedroom, there it was again, His glorious truth marching on like an army of ants. I remembered that I’d fallen twice recently, tripping down some outdoor stairs and again on the street, landing both times on my head (I don’t fall often but when I do I fall on concrete). Most alarming though was that while on the phone with my pharmacy, I without notice lost control of my speech and couldn’t form a sentence. I thought, balance problems and garbled speech, Jesus Christ, am I having a stroke?

I had already been to my doctor about the falls and loss of balance and random myoclonic tics and the alarming tongue-tied phone call. He surmised a mild concussion. Well that makes sense, but when the auto-play patriot channel kicked in, I went back to him and requested a referral for a neurologist. Could be nothing, but my dad had Parkinson’s disease.

The referral was denied by the Oregon Health Plan; the 24/7 livestream soon ceased. But what was left was the realization that until I hit my 60s, my vision of my future never allowed for catastrophic events like illness, natural disaster, and the utterly unforeseen. I have myself traveling the world to the bittersweet end, which I will meet with wry acceptance. The panoply of things that could go wrong has expanded exponentially with every birthday. Sixty’s still young to be contemplating how much time is “left,” but I have to wonder how long long-range plans can be.

Luckily, I’ve got a solid base, finally.

Since my best friend Donna succumbed to breast cancer in 2012 life has been a series of losses. After her death and a year-long depressive episode, I lost my San Francisco apartment, along with San Francisco itself, and later, back in Portland, my job, my apartment and Portland as well. Around that time, my mom had moved into long-term care, and friends helped fund my trip back to my hometown of Philly. No matter how dark the world can be, friends keep the home fires burning.

I’ve always operated at my own pace, though the current generation seems to have hitched a ride on the speed of light. And as I approach early retirement in the next year, I don’t bother to reflect on what I did or didn’t achieve in my working years or my childbearing years. I blossom in the fullness of time. I’m traveling at about 10 mph on the information superhighway. The internet is an invaluable resource and the biggest succubus of life force ever. When worlds collide!

I’m glad I grew up

when there was only one reality. What I’m looking for you can’t find on the internet. It is to know that when the blue screen fades into sleep mode, I am at peace with myself in the silence.

Glory Hallelujah indeed.

♦ ♥ ♣ ♠

Desperate Measures
“Desperate measures,” says a mom in the long line at SFO, Christmas 2010

“The Internet is a great place to get on the net.” – Bob Dole

Goin’ to Cargo City

CARGO CITY, HERE I COME.

Goin’ to Cargo City, Cargo City here I come.

They got some pretty little kitties there and I’m-a gonna get me one.

There’s my pretty little Zzyzzy curled up in a plastic crate labeled Live Animals, nestled away in a corner of the United Airlines cargo building! A ball of fur wrapped in a riddle of fear inside a mystery of confusion inside the enigma of a cat carrier. O the humanity! O the felinity!

Don’t be glaring at me, you brought this on yourself.

O Zzyzzy!

He’s always been a scaredy cat. When I sold and vacated my San Francisco flat, he’d hid behind the dryer but I was able to sniff him out. With two shifts of husky moving men commandeering my Portland apartment in my latest post-haste departure from an overrated and overpriced American city, he picked the dishwasher. But I have no idea how he accessed it, the space was not visible to me, and he was nowhere to be found as I was leaving town for a cross-country move back to my hometown of Philadelphia. Break my freakin’ heart, Zzyzzy! Take me from hyperventilating about an exciting road trip to gut-churning anxiety about leaving my beloved pet behind in the city I couldn’t wait to get out of.

But I could do nothing else.

There was no obvious hiding place left in the empty apartment, he wouldn’t answer my frantic calls, no one else had seen him, I couldn’t find him on the grounds. Zzzzzzzzy-zzzzzzzzy! Zzzzzzzzy-zzzzzzzzy! Finally, it was time to go, and I just plain had to. So I piled Zazu and Zahra into the truck and hopped in with the craigslist total stranger who’d emailed me three days before that he’d love to drive cross-country with me. Famous first words. We were several days on the road before my apartment manager called to say they’d found my cat, who’d peed it up on the rug in my absence, but it changed the tenor of my trip from panic to relief and joy.

Oddly, approaching my driver’s house before we left, I ran across the “wishing tree” on upper Hawthorne, whereon folks hang their wishes on ribbons. The first one I encountered read “I wish for a kitty.” Wow, me too!

I wish for a kitty
Serendipity!
Here was my big chance to put it out to the universe. I wrote on one of the banners provided, “Bring back my Zzyzzy to me.”

It worked!

The sickness of soul had weighed more than the 300-pound overage we had to get off the truck  before the mudflaps cleared the road. So before I even left we’d had to unload and sort through dozens of boxes of books, clothes, shoes, dishes, oddments, making split-second decisions about what to keep, donate, or trash–something I’d meant to do at home.

All’s well that ends well!

Cats do not take long to bounce back from misery, whether from five days in a confined space crossing 3000 miles overland, to flying the same distance and changing planes in San Francisco. After the initial period of adjustment, once the kibble and litter and safe spots are established, they go back to wanting their bellies rubbed. My own self, after I’d arrived in late July, I went from eagerness to get my new home together to exhausted relief that I am no longer at the mercy of the rental and job markets.

SO HERE WE ARE.

Lying around with the air conditioner humming, the lemonade sweating, and the cats snoring.  I love new year’s eve, but September 1st has always been the real first day of the new year to me, the jump-start of everything after summer torpor. I’ve called it “the most hopeful day of the year” and am obsessively compulsively obligated to quote myself for as many Septembers as I have left to do so. This year it marks the reincarnation of The Ax Files.

THE ORIGINAL AX FILES

appeared on www.sfbulldog.com from 2005 to 2014. At this time, they are passing through a wormhole in the space-time continuum and will emerge on this site sooner or, well, later. The Bulldog, still under the purview of beloved curmudgeon h brown, is often wrong but never silent.

Why is life so unfair?

♦ ♣ ♥ ♦

A cat is a puzzle for which there is no solution. Hazel Nicholson
A puzzle wrapped in a riddle inside a mystery inside an enigma inside a cat carrier.