Friday, February 19, 2010

Jury Duty

"But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government."

- James Madison, Federalist No. 10

I’m on a jury in County Superior Court, on a civil case involving a dispute between a homeowner, an insurance company, and a construction company. It’s been going all month and yesterday we were told by the judge that the parties estimate they will be done presenting their various cases early in the second week of March. Then the judge has a day or two to give us instructions. Then we can begin deliberation. I am instructed not to discuss the case with anyone, but I don’t think I’m violating that admonition by confessing that I’m tired at the end of the day.

I live barely 2 miles from the courthouse, making it possible for me to go home for our 1.5 hour lunch break. We start at 9 and end at 4:30, so it’s not exactly a long day, and we go 4 days a week at the most. But for a retiree who has given up mental work for gardening, I’m finding the effort of focusing, paying attention, making notes on testimony I think is important, and sitting in a comfortable chair for up to 3 hours at a time is surprisingly hard work. I’m used to staying up late and sleeping til 9:00. This is cramping my lifestyle, giving me less time with my cat on my lap (which is as good as any blood pressure medication you’ve ever had). It’s making me miss important Olympic coverage like curling (kidding: has there ever been a more boring sport?) not to mention The Daily Show, and making me cranky in the mornings. Make that crankier.

It’s also preventing me from blogging, keeping up with e-mail, wasting time surfing the web in search of signs of intelligent life, going to the veggie garden weekly, and generally goofing off. The good news is that at $15 a day, I’ll soon be wealthy beyond my wildest dreams.

I suppose there is also an unintended benefit of “working” again in that it drains my energy to a sufficient degree that I’m too tired to yell back at the hypocritical politicians on the evening news. I don’t have the energy to tell members of Congress to stop acting like ten-year-old boys on an unsupervised school playground and do their damn jobs. (BTW, preventing the other boys from doing their jobs isn’t their job.) Which I suppose is just as well, since my rants never seem to change things anyway. You guys will just have to get health insurance legislation passed without me.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Baby It's Cold Outside

Per me si va ne la città dolente,
per me si va ne l'etterno dolore,
per me si va tra la perduta gente.

Through me the way into the suffering city,
Through me the way to the eternal pain,
Throuigh me the way that runs among the lost.

Dante, INFERNO CANTO 03 Mandelbaum Tr.

The poor east coast! Sorry about the snow. Brought back delightful memories of my childhood in Suburban Washington DC. Shared memories with grown and dispersed siblings. I’ve been in So. Cal too long. I’d love to be there now. Snowed in and walking down the middle of the divided highway to the neighborhood grocery store to buy canned food and stale bread.

I have to confess I’m feeling no pain here: sunny and in the mid seventies F. Afternoon breeze near the coast taking on the faint fog of a chilly night as the wet wind blows inland from the Pacific ocean.

Went out with J to get our faces threaded. We go to these Indian ladies in a half empty shopping mall, doing henna tattoos and using sewing thread to twist it around their fingers and snip off my ‘stache and shape my eyebrows. I paid $35 to get my whole face threaded. Along my hairline, I now have a tidy line of demarcation. The benefit is that a lot of what went was gray hair. I felt some especially long wild hairs yanked out of my chin. Gross.

The lady who did me, Saba, was extra patient because I couldn’t hear half of her instructions to me about where to pull my lips tight, my hairline straight etc. Not to worry, I’m an old white lady: I tip good. She did mention that I should consider coming more frequently…

While waiting for J to finish, we observed two independent groups of local high school girls – one set waiting to start, the other waiting for their friend to finish. As they sat in the waiting area, texting to friends naturally, they realized they have friends in common and knew who each other was. An interesting example of how the Internetz is keeping them all hooked up. Also an interesting example of the kind of small town community I grew up in but now exists mostly in first-generation immigrant communities. In this case, girls of obvious Mexican descent, speaking accent-less English. You wouldn’t find that in the days spas I’m more likely to frequent, baby.

Now, this wasn’t exactly Dante’s Inferno-painful. But the cocktail at BJ’s after went down particularly well: Jack Daniel’s and butterscotch liquor with smooshed sugar on the rocks. Think I’ll have another and toast family and friends suffering the eternal pain trapped in suffering snow-bound cities, without electricity. Thank goodness for iPhones.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Long Sonata of the Dead

“All I know is what the words know, and dead things, and that makes a handsome little sum, with a beginning and a middle and an end, as in the well-built phrase and the long sonata of the dead.”
- Samuel Beckett

Notwithstanding the foregoing however, I am trying. I’m not loling and whatnot all the livelong day. I have my dark nights of the soul, and even some dim winter afternoons when time seems to stand still and my heartbeat sounds like part of a scary movie soundtrack heartbeat. Frankly, when you live in a place where ten inches of rain in one year is becoming the norm, and you live there most of your life, you tend to go mildly insane when it rains nonstop for one whole week. Which, by the way, if you want to comment about how we don’t have friggin’ seasons here in So Cal, you’ll be dead to me.

Today was sunny and me and Tech Support Guy took our respective cats out into the backyard on their respective harness leashes. Once they’d rolled in the rain dust spots on the sunny concrete patio for a sufficiently long enough time to get thoroughly dirty, we went a’walkin in different directions.

My yard looks so neglected. Like the names of dead things: everywhere I look are signs of abandonment and dead things. Here’s the thing. When we go out, my cat walks me, and I let her. We took an unusual route for me, across a rather precarious dry waterfall. I saw a pretty pattern of shadow on the rocks facing east. Like the deeply toothed wing of a blackbird in flight. It was. A robin-sized bird of mostly gray feathers lay belly up against the rock, his left wing nestled next to the rock and slightly splayed like he was gliding on a warm current. Although I saw no evidence of cause of death, I admit I looked away fairly quickly. I prefer to believe he looked for a sheltered spot to die where he wouldn’t be desecrated by evil skunks or gophers.

There was the end of that life’s story, but it was a moment of beauty. Perhaps I heard the beginning of the long sonata of his death. Sometimes, I think I can hear snatches of the song while I sit with my back to the winter morning sun, smelling all the rain drenched new growth. I’m pretty sure this morning that I heard the beginning of the long sonata of this new year’s life. I was watching Lily roll around so gloriously in the warm dust, rolling onto her back, curving her spine up and sticking her chest out, spreading her arms and legs apart, rubbing her tiny backside in the dirt. She’s about the middle of her life (9 years this summer). She’s pretty limber for a middle aged female.

So there we all were: beginnings, middle and ends. The sum of the morning is more than a tidy sum of words. It’s part of the song we all sing together all our lives. This morning in my back yard, we got to a particularly nice part of the song.