Saturday, December 05, 2015


"It might sound sentimental to say it, but we are blessed by the dead, and we know that we are, in spite of our protestations to the contrary. They leave spaces in our lives that, for some of us, are the closest thing to sacred that we ever know."
 - John Burnside

Friday, December 04, 2015

No World Domination After Lunch Today

“Space is infinite to men without destinations.”
-       Alasdair Gray, Lanark

Operation Inherent Flaw has been an unqualified success in the sense that I’m still alive. For the first time, I went to the new orthodontist today all by myself into the big city, and I made it home.

I have a talking nav system in my car. When I programmed in the address, the nice lady - inexplicably named Louella - directed me there. Unfortunately, her directions for getting home were inexplicable. Lu assumes road are all at ground level. However, there are a lot of places in Seattle (especially when crossing between Puget Sound and the mainland downtown across a body of water I have yet to identify) where there are roads on top of roads. Lu usually detects when I miss a turn because my icon moves the wrong way on the map. But when I take a road above the road she told me to take, she gets confused and thinks I’m still at sea level on some frontage road leading to the bridge when I’m on a very long entrance ramp at a different altitude.

Or, perhaps she’s trying to kill me. All the way across the bridge across the water, she kept telling me to turn right.  She told me to take imaginary exits while I calmly stayed the course and finally un-pried my white knuckles from the steering wheel to hit the “suspend stupid guidance” button to shut her up after I made it across the bridge without taking her advice to plummet to a watery grave.  Good job, you.

I was so elated to make it home on my own that I had wine for lunch. This required me to reschedule my call to the home warranty people about the circuit breaker that trips halfway through the washing machine cycle; talk with the escrow people about the escrow snafu du jour, or call and attempt to speak to humans about health, home, or car insurance.

This decision not to interact with other humans was made after I barely get through a call from a guy who called to schedule delivery of my new mattress. I was all, I want it tonight, dude and he was all, next Wednesday and somebody over 18 has to sign for it. I solemnly assured him I was old enough to sign for a stupid mattress and in fact, by next Wednesday I should have overthrown the stupid Washington State Department of Licensing which sounds like a good name to call a place until you realize you have to go to a different place to register your car and the DOL doesn’t make appointments and their website doesn’t tell me whether I have to pass a written or road test. And plus, I have to cross the bridge and take some other 3-D route that cause Louella to attempt to murder me again to get to a DMV, I mean a DOL.

So, Wednesday then, said the poor guy. He shall taste the bitter wine of defeat when I abolish those two branches of state government. And the Department of Redundancy Department, I said after I hung up.

The wine, and the possibly unwise conversation with the delivery schedule guy about the auto licensing and registration procedure, caused me to re-think the wisdom of attempting to conquer the world before dinner. I still have goals. They are just flexible is all. Decaf latte, anyone?

Monday, November 30, 2015

Shut Up about Seasons

"What foolish forgetfulness or mortality to defer wise resolutions to the fiftieth or sixtieth year, and to intend to begin life at a point to which few have attained."
 - Denis Diderot

The sun sets by 4:30 and never makes it to the top of the sky at noon because I now live at latitude 47N and tomorrow is December.

In addition to coastal regions bordering the Mediterranean Sea, the fabled Mediterranean Climate (30-45 degrees north and south of the equator) are found in western coastal regions of large subtropical continents including Southern California, central Chile, southern Western Australia and the western cape of South Africa. I lived in a Mediterranean climate until last week.

I had to use the defroster on high to melt the ice on my windshield this morning, which I appreciated the hell out of because it gave me time to overcome the shock of needing an ice scraper. (Notice the outside temperature in the upper left corner of dash display.) When I moved here a week ago, the temperature was 43f and I was assured this is as cold as it gets. (Insert insufferable joke about how now I live where they have seasons.) Just because meteorologists in San Diego rarely use the term wind-chill factor, doesn’t mean they don’t, quotey hands, appreciate it. Despite what some people think, there are seasons in Mediterranean climates. They are slightly subtler than a blizzard or a hurricane; and the understated charm of warm sunshine cannot be overstated. The beauties of the swirling grey fog at noon escape me.

Basking in the breeze from my Dyson heater, and in the glow of my full-spectrum light bulb I’m taking a break from unpacking boxes and wondering what the hell I was thinking moving here alone this time of year as we head into the colder, shorter and darker days of the year.

While the industrial strength grease prescribed for my anxiety-induced hives has begun to stop the blistering and itching, I was unable to obtain a simple blood test to determine whether the elevated levels of rat poison in my blood have subsided, because the people at the anticoagulation clinic were, let’s just say, uncompassionate. I was denied a test this morning despite a referral I was told they required. We never even got to the point where the receptionist listened to me explain today is the last day of my current insurance coverage and I haven’t had confirmation of my new local insurance. Nope, even if you’re bleeding from your eyes.

I thought this was the season of peace and joy, asshole. Guess you don’t have that season in this latitude. Before walking away in disgust, I said why don’t you just tell me “I am not the little prick you are looking for”?

Monday, October 19, 2015

Going Local

Slowing down your body enough to feel.

Thought you were at a standstill
but you were only slowing down enough

to feel the pain. There are worse things

than running to catch the train, twisting
your ankle, the afternoon fucked.

Running to get to or away from?

the stranger who helps you up
wants to know, you who are so used to

anything scribbled on a prescription blank.

Just want the pain to go away, you say,
surprised to find yourself

reaching for someone else's hand.

-       Timothy Liu, All Trains Are Going Local

There’s nothing fun about uprooting from the climate you’ve grown old in and transplanting to a new climate zone. I have a 40 year long taproot here. My trunk has grown thick and ragged and my knuckles are like small branches with arthritic twists and bumps.

There has been much stress about leaving the old place. That includes selling this house after cleaning and fixing up the worst parts. That includes attending to more logistical and financial detail than I’m now accustomed to. Finally, that includes the fact that I can’t pack and carry a box of books to the car without having to take a nap.

Now that that’s mostly behind me, and I can start to be stressed about moving to the new place. I have become a happy hermit who prefers the company of my cat and a good book to lunch with the ladies. That is about to change.

I’ve adapted to a drought tolerant lifestyle and am worried about adapting into a neighborhood where things and people grow so profusely. Like becoming accustomed to gardening with little water, I have chosen to live without people. I have made do with knowing a single neighbor in this house I’ve occupied for 30 years. I don’t need to socialize, limiting my friends to a few carefully chosen like-minded eccentric friends who volunteer together a few hours a week.

Now, I’m moving to a clime zone where it rains people. I’m moving into an actual neighborhood like the one I grew up in. The broker that sold us the house lives across the street. Several neighbors (including the guy pictured here) have dropped by to introduce themselves in the brief few days I’ve visited prior to moving. The seller’s grown child lives nearby and – with our permission - is sending a letter to introduce us to our new neighbors. She asked for a brief biography.

My sister, who has taken point on all matters involving actual interpersonal contact, wanted my thoughts on what we would say about ourselves. I wanted to say I have moved here as part of the Federal Witness Relocation program and will no longer answer to the name “Thumb-Crusher” preferring to go by my brand new name and brand new profession as a Life Coach. I wanted to say that my sister has recently returned from what is hopefully (not sic) her last extended stay in a facility that helps its guests to recover from nervous disorders by prescribing medicines to replace un-prescribed medicines.

I wanted to list our reason for moving to WA is not, as they rumor may have it, to be closer to family and support each other as we age. It is not to maintain the lovely garden created by the former owner. Basically, it’s because of recreational pot in my case and assisted suicide in my sister’s case.

My sister preferred to stick to our cover story about sharing a room growing up and agreeing that because we’d both outlive our respective husbands who smoked, we have spoken for years of ending up under the same roof. We each get our own bedroom and bath now.

Being an acute observer of my sister’s moods (she has a surprisingly quick arm for an old lady) I hastened to explain that the fake bio would end on an upbeat note: we are still negotiating who gets to kill whom.  She still vetoed it, the sour old biddy.

To be perfectly honest, negotiating murder is a hopeful sign. For a while I was almost hoping I wouldn’t live to see this day. Murder is more positive than suicide, right? I’m not ready to throw a holiday open house where I serve Dad’s egg nog and worry about my kitty sneaking out. But I’m almost ready to begin my new life.

This is perhaps the most stressful thing about the whole move. I’m almost ready to reach out for somebody’s hand.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Change is Hard

Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled.
 - Bob Dylan, The Times They Are a Changing

There are those who insist that nothing is impossible. I respectfully disagree. I used to do nothing every day. Except this week while I’ve been staggering more than a one legged man on a tightrope. I saw this fork in the road, and I took it and I didn’t realize it would involve so much deciding, spending, worrying, scheduling, working and getting dirty.

And so very much cleaning. Hoarding should be a hanging offense and everybody should have to move every 5 years. To a smaller place each time.

I would have said doing all this in such a short time was impossible. I was wrong. I also underestimated how cranky it would make me. And believe me, I already know I am easily pissed.

The cats complicate my life because they have to be segregated from each other and from whatever room people are coming and going and there’s been a lot of that. The other day, I was wandering around looking for my misplaced (fill in the blank) and glanced outside and noticed Lily strolling through the back yard. Inside the house no longer constitutes an enriched environment/hoader’s paradise and the cats are cranky about losing their hiding places.

With all the coming and going and packing and loading and cleaning and looking for the disappearing magic markers (Wait! Is that why they’re magic?) I’ve been blocking hallways or been blocked in doorways. I have totally not been stalled and I’m covered with the kind of bruises only a 3.2 INR and hauling boxes (or losing a meth-head slam-dancing contest) can make.

What has got me through? Although I have not abused any substances, I have treated several with great respect.

(Photo credit: Kitty Crowther, Le Grande Disordre, which looks like me but I wasn't getting any help from living rats)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Moving to Seattle

“If you search for tenderness
It isn’t hard to find.
You can have the love you need to live.
But if you look for truthfulness
You might just as well be blind…
I don’t want some pretty face to tell me pretty lies.
All I want is someone to believe.”
 - Billy Joel, Honesty

My sister is an Edumacator (sic) from Detroit. I have lived in Southern California longer than I’ve ever lived anywhere else. We have been talking for years about moving in together in our dotage. This year, because we are both now with no rings and no strings, we have started negotiating about actually doing it. 

We finally agreed on a location on the Puget Sound in a community not unlike the neighborhood where we grew up – where you actually know and like and socialize with your neighbors, and you and look out for each other. We finally settled on about a year out.

Barely two weeks ago, our schedule abruptly changed. We just bought a house near Seattle. My POD will arrive in a few weeks. My handyman guy is fixing what my real estate guy says needs to be fixed. I feel like Nancy: “The whole world is spinning.”

Why, you are asking, did all this happen so suddenly? I know I am. 

We were motivated by our desire to retain our independence longer; and we wanted to do this before our kids had to do it for us; and my sister is a Zillow junkie.  Honestly, I blame the Illuminati and the increasingly obvious collusion of our grown children – let’s call them the Diabolical Conspiring Cousins (DCC) to protect their presumed innocence. They convinced my sister to stop dithering around in slightly less genteel terms. Ok, they convinced me too.

Since then, as another of our sisters sagely advised me, this has become a full-time job. Of course, we’re older, and we’re slower, but we’re feisty and together we’re a pretty smart team. I’ve ended many long days completely fried from sending texts, reading documents, arranging and interpreting inspections, negotiating yet more documents, e-signing seemingly endlessly. A lot of what I’m doing is similar to what I used to do for a living. But that was more than ten years ago. This is work that demands substantially more focus and concentration than I typically spend these days deciding what to make for dinner. I’ve been sleeping very well after long days.

Now it’s all over – except for more endless paperwork, negotiations, repairs, and the lurking statute of frauds that compels me to want everything in writing and carefully documented. Ok, compulsively documented. Within a week or so, I will officially no longer be among the ranks of the second-homeless. No way am I moving before the mid-century-modern-meets-psychadelic-contact-papered wet bar basement is hit with a sledgehammer. 

Shortly before the purchase reached the point of no return, one of the DCC recently, gently and oh so diplomatically suggested the mere possibility that we might get on each others’ nerves. After a moment of silent mystification at the very thought (!) I practically did a spit-take. Whaaaat???

When you decide to move back in with the sibling you shared a bedroom with for your first 15 years or so, it’s not like you don’t know you’re in for a wild ride. Within a couple of anxious, stressful and emotional months my sister and I will be on our way to the Pacific Northwest from the Midwest and from Southern California respectively.

And we’ll settle down and begin to get honestly on each other’s nerves. There comes a time when truthfulness in a relationship is worth more than a pretty face. It's going to be a bumpy ride, but we got this.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Men Can’t Have Anything To Themselves

Two women are now Army Rangers. Yay. Congratulations. Etc. Then, backlash. Andrea Tantaros is  sad. Andrea Tantaros worries that we might be hurting the boys’ feelings. Andrea says “I believe in equality and all those things, but…”

... Andrea Tantaros says men can’t have anything to themselves. While we may never know if some of those "other things" Andrea Tantros may believe in are pay equality, right of women to control their own bodies, and whatnot,  I will concede Andrea Tantaros is right: there are a lot of things men did exclusively in the good old days when jobs were advertised in two different sections of newspaper classified ads: men and women.

I won't argue with Andrea Tantaros that women have indeed been making inroads into the boys clubs lately. There are women public leaders, women politicians, women government officials, and women in management generally. And lately, even some women clergymen (sic) and women terrorists. The military was clearly in the targets of these uppity women who think it's all about them and appear insensitive to the self-esteem of men. Andrea Tantaros may be on to something about how sad this may make some men who may no longer permitted to have some things to themselves. Andrea Tantaros is a woman, so she should know it sucks not to have anything to yourself.  

But Andrea Tantaros, I am not as disturbed by the fact that more woman are determined to encroach on all all-male bastions. I seek to reassure you, Andrea Tantaros. It turns out men still have a bit of an edge in all those above professions. Women have a long way to go from two female Rangers to violent overthrow of the hegemony of the male discourse and replacing non-optional female genital mutilation with mandatory male castration. 

Andrea Tantaros, don't worry sweetie. It might reassure you to know that although men are encroaching on many of the following traditionally female lifestyles, women still make up the greatest proportion of whores, rape victims, single parents and lowest paid people. So maybe the scales balance out, right Andrea Tantaros?

Andrea Tantaros says men can't have anything to themselves.  Like that's true. Like that’s a bad thing.