Sunday, July 24, 2016

Unconventional Thinking

“There comes a time when the world gets quiet and the only thing left is your own heart. So you'd better learn the sound of it. Otherwise you'll never understand what it's saying.”

There is too much politics on the internets and too many conventions. There is too much hate. Oh yes, and there’s too much of everybody with an unfiltered emotion, and uninformed opinion, and an inarticulate scream of unfocused rage. And don’t get me started about poor grammar and shit.

I checked online to see the results of my latest EKG and the word about my heart is that the rhythm was "borderline". So I need to listen to that and stop spending time on the heartbreaking internets.

I’m going to self-medicate and have popcorn and cocktails for dinner.  Then I’m going to read some David Foster Wallace because it’s that kind of day. 

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Ask a Terrible Gardener - Boys

If you succeed in cheating someone, don’t think that person is a fool. Realize that the person trusted you much more than you deserved.

Dear T. G:

I need some advice about what I should do when guys try to make me cry. The trouble I’ve had trying to explain to boys why it’s not nice to make girls cry is that most guys are no longer conscious when I get to that part of the lecture. Besides, I can’t possibly reach every mean boy out there with my personal hands-on approach. So that’s actually not what I’m writing to ask.

It has come to my attention lately that a lot of the boys have slipped through my tutorial net and grown up to be stupid men who think women wanting to be equal is equal to women wanting to castrate men.

So here’s what I’m writing to ask. Two-part question:
Can you offer any advice about how I can school such men not to be dicks to women?
Second, can you recommend any particular action that would not provide actionable cause to bring felony murder or intentional infliction of emotional distress charges against me?

Big Girl

Dear Big Girl Who Apparently Doesn’t Cry,

While not directly related to gardening, I have decided to answer your question. First, no. I have no idea what to do about the plague of dicks. 

Given your preference to avoid tortious or felonious conduct, I will answer your second question with a question of my own. Do you?

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Friday, May 27, 2016

Operation Just Reward

"Justice is a knee in the gut from the floor on the chin at night sneaky with a knife brought up down on the magazine of a battleship sandbagged underhanded in the dark without a word of warning. Garroting. That's what justice is."
 - Joseph Heller, Catch-22

Instead of musing on the unfairness of life, I thought I’d write about lifestyle choices. In choosing to use the term “lifestyle” instead of, say, life, I deliberately set the bar of philosophical depth at about twelve inches. I mean, you could still drown in this post, but you’d have to be pretty drunk.

Now, by lifestyle, I don’t mean the latest topic of the politics of division: transgender rights and all the carefully crafted euphemisms we now tiptoe through in such discussions. Due respect, but I’d be a neutered dog in that fight.

I mean choosing the penultimate stage of life – the one we chose while we can still compos enough mentis to be as independent as possible and minimize the responsibility for our own maintenance and upkeep.

No more lawns to mow. No more stairs to haul laundry down and back. Uber and curbside assistance. Grocery delivery. A landlord to replace light bulbs. Utilities included. In-apartment laundry. Proximity to life-flight and good ER response times. Seriously? Sadly, yes.

For my next trick: an apartment on the 16th floor of a building with a steakhouse adjacent to the “controlled access” lobby. My mission is to make this the next act of my lifestyle choices. The current act began when I bought an expensive piece of furniture from my sole savings in a color that wasn’t brown. I bought a comfortable couch in green and loveseat in blue: the colors of my freedom from brown and dark wood. Then, when my spouse died on the green couch, I sold the whole house and moved out of state, leaving my former lifestyle – real and imagined – behind in San Diego. I took the couches to Seattle, but they're staying behind when I move. I’m buying a new couch in greige.

While I will dearly miss Paulo, my imaginary pool boy, I’m thinking there will be a doorman. I’ll need to find some American heartland name instead of the vaguely un-PC Hispanic name. (I love the Hispanics, and taco salads and mild salsa as much as the next pumpkin though. I have a tremendous respect for the Hispanics. Ask anyone.)

My imaginary doorman’s name will be Corey. Is Corey. If there is any justice in the world for privileged boomers who outlive their spouses and live on double dip pensions and consult their tax advisors about where to invest that mandatory 501(k) distribution, it would compensate us by providing individualized Coreys to offset our failing health. 

The world’s most entitled generation will not go gracefully into the good night, leaving behind a totaled economy, political system, effective antibiotic treatment and, well, planet. We’ll spend our children’s inheritance first. Therefore, along with my prediction that the next trend in senior living will be leaving the coasts and moving to a small Midwest urban center or a mountaintop in rural New Mexico; and that seniors will take over Uber like we took over Facebook; I have one more prediction.

Expect an uptick in “assisted” suicides and sudden deaths in my generation, as our middle-aged former latchkey children implement Joseph Heller’s justice on their clueless parents. My apartment  pictured at left has a balcony and my balance is tricky these days... Corey, help!

Friday, May 20, 2016


When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom'd,
And the great star early droop'd in the western sky in the night,
I mourn'd, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring,

Ever-returning spring, trinity sure to me you bring,
Lilac blooming perennial and drooping star in the west,
And thought of him I love.

 - Walt Whitman, Memories of President Lincoln

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

For Now

Joe Gillis: I didn’t know you were planning a comeback.
Norma Desmond: I hate that word. It’s a return!
-       Sunset Boulevard

I visited Iowa. It’s not like any other place. Wikipedia says Des Moines has extreme seasons – hot summers, cold winters. It feels so uncrowded it might as well be empty.  It feels new and clean after the moss and pollen covered surfaces here that are interrupted by ant hills.

Before I left Seattle, a rheumatologist x-rayed my hands swollen with arthritis and took some blood tests and when I returned for results after my visit to the suburbs of Des Moines, offered to write a prescription. No thanks. I know a lot about what isn’t wrong with me; and a lot about what is wrong but isn’t bothering me. I got a referral to a dermatologist next.  My skin itches and I'm losing enough hair to make a small pincushion each time I shower.  

Meanwhile, I saw EB and applied for a lease on a 16th floor southwest corner with two tiny bedrooms.  Building occupancy is a bit behind schedule. We had to wear vests and hard hats and be accompanied by a construction guy. The local news says that the most recent construction scandal/delay with the project was a complaint filed by a contractor a mere month ago. He complained of concrete dust that isn’t being cleaned up and poses a danger to workers exposed to it daily. The state is investigating, and the contractor was fired. This is just the latest in the problems that have plagued this historic building. After years of neglect, the building was to be renovated for condos a few years back. It was shut down for violating laws about proper removal of asbestos. The investor who spearheaded the upscale condo reno went to jail for a few years and then killed himself when he got out and was broke and disgraced. Funny, the sales agent mentioned neither, nor did she speak about the delay.

Back home, summer in Seattle is nicer than winter even though it pisses rain every few days and remains in the cool 60s. It doesn't rain enough to prevent plants from wilting or to wash the pollen dust off the cars. I’m going to have to figure out how to turn the outside hoses on. 

Meanwhile, I’ve been taking care of business inside. I fixed the problem of the collapsing bed by replacing 4 too-short 4” wide slats with six longer slats each 6” wide. I got some screen drain covers to catch the hair in the shower. I'm doing some leisurely unpacking, sorting, disposing, repacking of stuff in the garage. A casual observer might think they see more of a mess in the garage - but would be kicked in the nuts if disparaging comments slipped out. A casual observer would be wrong: that pile is empty boxes. The trash has been picked up. Another pile is to give away; and the final pile is to be consolidated and re-packed. So, shut up.

I’ll probably return to Iowa for the state fair sometime in mid-August. Maybe by then either the rental agent will be able to give me a precise date, or I’ll get the hint that this place is cursed and look elsewhere. I'm pretty mellow about my return.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Still Here

Step by step and breath and by breath
It’s a trail of doubt.
-       Danny Schmidt, Know Thy Place

Stubbornness is underrated as a survival skill. I was too stubborn to die recently. I don’t want to die here. I may not know my place, but I know this isn't it.

I’ve always been better at knowing what my place is not. I know it by heart, but also by seasonal allergies to pollen-producing flowers that know So Cal’s climate is not their place. Such floras however, are very comfortable after 20 inches of winter rain here in this corner of Zone 9. The pollen on the skylight is thicker than ash from a nearby wildfire. It looks like yellow snow. My nose hasn’t stopped running since things started blooming.

Examples: Forsythia that I haven’t seen since I was in my 20s. Lilacs so profuse that people trim them with hedge clippers to keep the blooms from pulling the branches into sidewalks. The plum and cherry trees lining the streets leave puddles of lovely pink and white snow blowing in the curbs. Camellias drop their rusty fist-sized flowers that gradually dry and turn a pink-brown color to complement the puddles of cherry blossoms. My flowering quince bloomed itself out before I could cut any blooms. I think that’s dogwood blooming now. There is lily of the valley beneath my font porch. M’s red azaleas are shouting down the softer pink ones. I saw a ceanothus  so covered with blooms that I barely recognized it, having only seen thirsty southern-Californian relatives struggling to be a pale imitation of a syringa.

Lilacs remind me of K who would buy me a bunch every March from up the mountain in Alpine. In my opinion, every perfume ever made from lilacs has failed. Even the essential oil is too sweet and cloying. But the fragrance of a real lilac is something that evokes the purest innocence of childhood. I have no doubt that the first time I smelled a lilac, it was in the hand of my mother and it smelled like love.

I’m going to another place. I’m going sometime in the next two or three months. I’m reinventing myself. Again. 

Before I leave here, I’m having another heart ablation, a few expensive microdermabrasion treatments from an aesthetician, and I’m stocking up on my medications in preparation for yet another adventure in switching health insurance which is related to but slightly more important than finding another health care provider and totally more intimidating. I’ll  also get another haircut before I leave this hip urban town.

I ran out of an important prescription for a few days but finally managed to set up a mail order prescription plan that enables me to never again enter the doors of the Rite Aid down the street where it took an average – not hyperbole: a freaking AVERAGE  - of 3 trips to the pharmacy to refill each of my five prescriptions. That means for the one time I got a prescription on the first try, I gave up on another one after the 4th try. A more incompetent pharmacy would be hard to find, even with my luck. When I couldn’t get my blood-thinning stroke-preventing meds recently (4 tries), I went home and contacted my prescription plan provider and they walked me through the mail order enrollment process. It took one 30 minute call to be saved from Rite Aid and certain death by another stroke.

Meanwhile, I am enjoying the smell of fresh lilacs picked from the bush in the tiny communal garden between my house and the mailbox. I have to go outside and plant two tiny mail-order lilacs in the front yard.  Then I will get mail and pick fresh lilacs and smell them while I drink my decaf latte and have homemade corn chowder for lunch.

Then, when the Spring flowers are done, I will move to a new latitude and longitude.  I can always come back next Spring. I’ll bring Benadryl and stock up on legal medications while I’m in town. Maybe get a haircut.