Sunday, May 19, 2024

What I Don't Want

I just spent a long, torturous time writing about my trip to see the German filmmaker Ula Stöckl's "The Cat Has Nine Lives" (1968) yesterday.  I'm not writing well. . . which means I'm not thinking well.  Now I'll be brief.  It was a fine film, "a time capsule" that captured the zeitgeist of the time as she said in the Q&A that followed.  In the last iteration of this, I opined about the Q&A, and about the crowd that swarmed her afterwards.  The writing, however, was snotty and as full of pretension as the crowd I sought to describe.  I don't want to be snotty or pretentious.  Ula is a fine and humble person, and there are lessons to be learned from that.  

I don't have the energy or time now to write another piece.  I'll just summarize.  I've done nothing but sit in front of screens for the past two days.  My eyes are blurry and I need yoga, meditation, and movement.  And I need to rid myself of ego.  It is a vile, Shakespearean monster.  

I can't salvage anything at all from what I have already written.  It is just shit.  Maybe I can tell you later in a gentle and generous way.  

I guess there is one thing I can pilfer.  Ula said that people may not know what they want, but they know what they don't want.  She said this in a positive way.  I've always quoted Faulkner as saying the trouble with people is that they don't know what they want.  I got the quote from me dead ex-friend Brando who was a master of knowing what he wanted.  And people would follow. 

"Ula, from where did you draw the idea about people knowing what they don't want?" I asked.  

"Nietzsche, I think.  I'm not sure.  It was probably Nietzsche, though."

"Yea," I said, "one wouldn't need to be certain about that.  Like Freud, Nietzsche was just in the air one breathed for a time."  

Most people don't even know what they want for dinner.  But. . . I don't want to be snotty.  

See what I mean?  I just performed the theory.  I knew what I didn't want.  


Saturday, May 18, 2024


The river runs north, and I jumped the gun.  Retiree's Brain?  Sometimes now I forget what month it is.  But yea. . . I got messages about Memorial Day.  Oops.  What can I say?  It was early morning.  I don't know.  Whatever.  

I could blame it on stress.  I'm really anxious about too many things right now.  I'm not reporting on them, but I wake in my sleep adrenaline pumping, heart a-thumping.  It ain't good.  I think I'm going to change my days around a bit, rearrange the schedule, do things differently.  I've become more routinized now than I was when working.  I've become more automaton than human, really.  I'm like the Rain Man.  

A change could do me good.  

I do "work," though.  I finished the first post-scan editing on all the digitized negatives.  I sat at the computer all day yesterday determined to finish.  Now comes the second processing.  They look good, I think.  I am happy I did that project.  But there is still a lot of work to do on them before I make the website.  

My eyes, however, are going blurry from looking at the computer screen.  

Three--maybe four--of my friends have Covid right now.  I have to go sit in an enclosed space with people today to watch a film.  I don't want to, but I haven't much choice.  The German filmmaker, a first wave feminist, wants me there.  I can't disappoint.  But I'm more than a little paranoid.  I guess I'll try not to touch things and try not to inhale.  

What am I to write about if I eschew politics, environmental disaster, and my own mental and emotional breakdown?  

The past, I guess.  Did I ever tell you about the time. . . hey. . . wait, wait. . . where are you going?  

Friday, May 17, 2024

Those Summer Days

Everyone is going somewhere--again.  Q is in NYC.  C.C. has been touring Texas for seemingly a month.  My midwest friend is off to (to me as yet) parts unknown.  Tennessee is gone for nearly another month.  The college kids are gone, too.  Country Club College has ended their school year, and the town is so very much uglier for it.  OK, sure. . . I'm a prick, but those boys and girls sparkle and shine, tall and leggy and fit and dressed like fashion kings and queens.  They are replaced by summer camp kids, boys and girls from the hinterland.  They fill the dorms and sidewalks.  They come for the STEM programs, and I would assume most are being funded in some way or another.  Their legs are shorter, their middles thicker, their eyes less sparkly, their movements less smooth.  All in all, there is a tremendous lack of self-confidence.  Rather, they are possessed of a tremendous self-consciousness.  The thing is obvious, but I know it from the inside.  I grew up among them.

It is the money, of course, that makes the difference.  One year's tuition at Country Club is $60,580.  Room and board is another $16,820.  That's $310,00 for a four year degree.  

The kids drive some luxury mobiles, too.  

Over a third of the students major in business and finance.  I looked it up.  Country club calls itself a "Liberal Arts College."  Students majoring in any of the liberal arts make up just 29% of the student population.  

I.E.--most are majoring in money.  

I'm thinking Country Club should rebrand itself, but what do I know.  Just one thing.  My little hometown's beauty quotient just took a big hit.  

C.C. has been sending me some pretty spectacular photos from his Texas trip.  I live in a state where everything is new.  He is sending me photographs from the past, big neon signs from long ago, hand painted logos, crazy restaurants. . . .  Same things come from my midwest friend.  There is a visual goldmine out there.  I need to go.  

But mom is not doing so very well.  It is getting the better of me, I'm afraid.  She's getting confused about things.  My feet are in quicksand.  I can't seem to get away.  I'm stuck now in a sweltering town full of ugly transients.  

That's just so wrong.  One shouldn't think such things let alone say them out loud.  But it is my truth.  

I'd like to see a study done on the political leanings of business and finance majors vs. liberal arts majors.  Surely someone has done one.  I will have try to look it up.  

It is Friday, the second day of the weekend for most of you now, so you are off for four days, Monday being Memorial Day.  It is the unofficial official start of summer, grills a grilling, beers a popping.  Lawn chairs and a summer's reading list.  Lazy days.  Breezy clothes and evening cocktails.  

Isn't that something.  

Maybe I'll buy an ice cream maker.  I'll bet that would cheer my mother up.  

That and a little Sly.  Best summer song of all time.  It's a love song, if you listen.  Here she comes back. . . there she goes.  

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Inglorious Day

If I talk about yesterday, it will all be bad, and I don't want to be a bore,  Sometimes I am, but I don't want to be, so I'll leave off the color commentary of a fairly gruesome day.  I'll just say I am about over "it," whatever one takes "it" to mean.  I'm ready for assisted living where all I have to do is get up, go get a meal in the cafeteria, and watch "Good Morning America" and Rick Steves travel shows with the other inmates.  Nothing to take care of, nothing at all.  It's no mystery why prisoners become "institutionalized" after being locked up for awhile--I forget the exact number of years--after which they can no longer function on the outside.  It's a fact.  You can look it up. 

There are other facts.  Many.  You can look those up, too.  Some seem contradictory, however, and it can make you skeptical.  Medical facts, for instance.  

"A recent study showed. . . ."

"So are eggs good or bad?"

It becomes too much, so we turn to theories.  Theories are easier to digest.  Bigger picture.  The view from 30,000 feet.  Metaphorical stuff.  

I have a degree in one of the fields of science.  Scientific training requires a lot of discipline.  I was sort of media y media when it came to that.  I was never going to be a topnotch scientist, but the years I spent in training were certainly good for me.  I didn't advance the field, but the field advanced me.  

I think.

But there is a whole lot of science, and it seems to be expanding like the cosmos.  With every technical innovation, "we" are able to see deeper into the vastness of inner and outer space.  When I was young, atoms were made up of protons, neutrons, and electrons.  I thought we had that shit down.  I learned the Periodic Table.  Then, over the years, the table kept growing as we added human made elements that existed only in the laboratory.  We could measure them, but they lasted mere nanoseconds sometimes.  Still, they were there, and perhaps they could be made to interact.  They might be useful.

Here's a nice summary if you have forgotten what most of you might have learned in high school.  Weirdly, it seems to me, that was the last place you encountered serious study in the sciences.  Well. . . not "serious," and you probably didn't study all that much, but you know what I mean.  Try the link and see what you remember (link).  Most of you won't, I predict.  Some of you will click on the link but will click out quickly.  And yet, you know. . . people opine about "science."

The 1960s gave us quantum theory and the exploration of quarks.  

The term "subatomic particle" is largely a retronym of the 1960s, used to distinguish a large number of baryons and mesons (which comprise hadrons) from particles that are now thought to be truly elementary. Before that hadrons were usually classified as "elementary" because their composition was unknown.

But this is simple stuff compared to the study of "dark matter."  

Dark matter is that invisible glue that keeps stars, dust, and gas together in a galaxy. This mysterious substance makes up the majority of a galaxy's mass and forms the foundation of our Universe's structure. Dark matter is still one of the greatest mysteries of science.

If you really want to lose your mind, start reading about this stuff.  Or watch YouTube.  Dark matter discussions are all over it.  

But, after all the amateur science sleuthing, you come away from it all feeling. . . what?   You probably don't have the math skills to even read the real science behind these sophomoric explanations.  Americans, in the main, are not very good at math.  

"It's too hard!"

But they get a kick out of watching "Oppenheimer."  

I remember sitting in my Organic Chemistry II class at the university one day in particular.  The class was in a big stadium seating hall.  The professor on the floor had a series of huge moveable chalk boards so that he could write long chemical formulas across them.  Letters and numbers in long, strange sequences.  And I understood them.  It was like a movie, I thought, and I remember imagining how impressed my father would be if he could see me just then.  

"You understand all that?"

"Sometimes.  Most of it.  I tend to forget some of it on the tests, but I'm doing O.K."

I busted my ass to get through the two most difficult courses in the state university system.  It's a fact.  You can look it up.  Organic Chemistry I and II had the highest drop out and failure rates and the lowest average grades in the entire state system.  These were the "wash out" classes.  I knew many people who changed majors so they wouldn't be required to take them.  Forestry, for instance.  Environmental Science.  Some areas of Entomology.  Things that were more "applied."Over 50% of the students enrolled in any Org Chem class were repeating the course.  Three hours of lecture, three hours of lab.  You got only four credits.  It seemed like a cheat, really.  My roommate, a political science major, seemed to have a cakewalk comparatively.  

But it was good for me.  

Then there was physics and lots and lots of math courses including three semesters of calculus.  

What the fuck was I thinking?  

Now, the entire time, just for fun, I was taking film and photography courses.  Yup.  Simultaneously.  And you wonder why I'm screwy?  

Probably not.  

Not screwy.  I keep forgetting.  I'm eclectic.  

What I never took were business courses.  I sorely need those now, I think.  I don't want them, though.  What I want is a manager, someone to take care of all that stuff.  I'm a pretty smart guy, but I am a stupid hillbilly, too.  All those morons I used to make fun of back then, those business majors with middling intellects and shriveled imaginations, those fellows who joined fraternities--holy fuck!--have made money hand over fist, whatever that saying means.  The frat houses taught them "networking," I guess.  Secret handshakes and a dress code.  An attitude toward life.  

I lack "business acumen."  We all have our faults.  

So there you have it--my day yesterday without the actual events.  Can you surmise what actually happened?  Nope.  Nor do I want you to.  All I will tell you is this.  At some point, I just took nerve and pain pills, curled up into a fetal ball, and drifted off into a disturbed and painful sleep.  I'm less than incompetent.  I'm a coward.  

There was one glimmer of light, though.  I found that a European photo site picked up one of my images for exhibition.  Isn't that something?  Everything else is falling down, you know, but. . . I might have some esoteric value.  

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Someday You'll Die

This was the highlight of my day.  The cleaning crew was here while I was out.  Twice a month, the bedding looks this way.  It was my first night sleeping under the green comforter.  Since 2001, I've been changing the comforter to color coordinate with the season, burgundy and green.  I was late this year.  I don't know how it got past me, but, you know. . . . 

My gut is feeling 90% better.  I woke this morning thinking that I had been returned to health.  I stretched like a kid.  That's what I was expecting, I guess.  When I rolled over, however, my shoulder slightly dislocated, the metal in my ribs started barking, and I couldn't straighten my bad right knee.  

Oh, yea.  

It's all good, as the kids used to say.  Homey.  

I took my mother to the doctor yesterday.  It was a real eye-popper.  The exam began when the nurse took her blood pressure.  It was an impossible number.  My mother's head should have been exploding.  When the doc came in, she began asking my mother questions.  The first was about her vision.  My mother doesn't answer questions directly, though.  You have to work to get an answer from her.  So. . . my mother began telling the doctor about getting her driver's license renewed.  The doc got lost.  They were speaking in different rooms, really.  It was agony, so I spoke up.  

"She's saying she passed her eye exam when she renewed her license."


"How's your hearing?"


You think I am making that up, but it is true.  

Louder--"How's your hearing?"


Again, I had to speak.  

"She can't hear for shit."

"I hear fine," my mother said.  

"Do you ever have headaches?"


"Wait. . . mom. . . what have you been complaining about every day?  Why are we here?"

My mother launched into the story of her fall.  She's into it, acting it out with her arms, showing the position she was in when she fell. . . but she's not answering the question.

"She's been complaining of having headaches since she went to the E.R."

"Is the pain in the front or back of your head?"

My mother touched the back right side of her skull.  

"Does it start from the bottom or the top?"

My mother began to explain her pain.  It comes up from the neck.

"I'm not surprised," said the doctor as she asks one of the nurse trainees to pull up the report from the E.R. on the computer.  "Your scans at the hospital showed you have severe arthritis in your neck."

My mother has both stenosis and a closure of some foramen.  

But the doctor shocked me at this point.  

"Taking pain medication isn't bad when you have pain.  I'm going to write you a prescription for Tramadol."

WTF?!  I was all for it, of course, but I was incredibly surprised.  Only recently one of my gym friends, a woman I have not known but have been around since we both were going to the same yoga classes twenty years ago, told me she takes Tramadol for her arthritis.  

"It's not an opioid," she said.  

But she is wrong.  When I got run over, I went from fentanyl to morphine to oxycodone then to Tramadol. After that, they put me on the non-opioid Gabapentin.  And when that was gone, I suddenly came to having never realized that I had been "in the bag" for a long time.  

My mother suffers with arthritic pain.  I think giving her the drug is wonderful.  Of course, this could be the opening act from "Requiem for a Dream" (link).  

The doctor had the nurse trainee take my mother's blood pressure again.  It hadn't changed. 

"I want you to see a cardiologist," she said.  "I can hear that you have a heart murmur."

"I've always had that," my mother spat.  

"You should be seeing the cardiologist every year."

The doctor said she was upping my mother's blood pressure medicine dosages.  As we left the building, we passed the cardiologist group that has half the office space on the building's first floor.  

"Do you want to make an appointment now?"


"I think we'd better make it while we are here."

I got her to walk in.  The woman behind the counter was very flustered.  The office was not functioning well, I could tell. . . or maybe it was this woman before me with electric green fingernails.  She was huge.  When she stood up, she looked like an advertisement for heart attacks, not the person you should see first when you enter the cardiologist's office.  

I don't think she was a very happy person.  

After a few minutes of futzing around, the woman offered my mother an appointment the following week.

"No. . . I had a fall. . . I'm still recovering. . . ."

The woman offered more dates.  In frustrated resolution, surrendering to the her plight, my mother made an appointment some three weeks out.  I guess that gives her time to change her mind, but at least we got it in the books.  It was done.  

I took my mother to Costco to get some things, then home.  We sat down in the garage just to chat.  I'd started this journey at noon.  It was four.  

I came home to a clean house.  That is always a treat.  I don't like to cook on the days the maids come.  I like to keep the kitchen sparkling as long as I can, so I had stopped at the store and gotten half a smoked chicken.  I would have it with a salad (not iceberg), broccoli, and beans.  

In the evening, I watched Nikki Glaser's HBO special, "Someday You'll Die" (link).  I've watched Nikki Glaser before, and I thought she was funny.  This special never made me laugh.  Rather, it was like having a conversation with myself.  I mean everything she said was a thing I say regularly.  It was like having a ghost come out of my brain and say all the things I think about people who have kids, aging, and death.  It was like watching a half-cute younger female doppelgänger of myself.  

As I watched the hour special, I just kept thinking, "Thank God!  I'm not alone!"

But I was.  

So, if by chance you watch it, think of me.  These are the things I don't always say to you.  O.K.  Not all the time, at least.  

Today, I must begin dealing with real shit.  My home insurance company cancelled my policy.  I have a month to find something new.  Nobody wants to insure a 1927 wooden house in a hurricane state.  Whatever I find is going to cost me a whole lotta money.  But I have to do it quick.  

Everything distracts me from what I want to be doing.  I am in a hurry. . . you know. . . 'cause like Glaser says, "Someday You'll Die."

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

What I'd Like

I'm feeling better.  I am at the point where I hate to say such a thing.  I don't want to jinx it.  But I went to the park and walked and did some light exercise yesterday.  I kept in mind my new attitude and didn't try to push myself to do "more."  I've done "more' my whole life.  Now I am looking to do "just enough."  I'm giving up the fantasy of sparring with Tennessee.  Who cares?  I'm just going to get a gun.  There will be a steep learning curve if I do.  I've only shot one once.  Back when bullets would bounce off me, I didn't need one.  I probably don't need one now, but you know the old joke--if I do, I'm going to need it real bad.  

I'm not getting a gun.  I'm just saying.  I'm not going to keep trying to be Tarzan.  Remember that movie "The Incredibles"?  


For lunch, I made two toasted tuna fish salad sandwiches.  Toasted, I say.  It makes a difference.  I was feeling like a normal person eating sandwiches for lunch.  I had a yearning for an iceberg lettuce salad. . . with thousand island dressing.  Remember those?  Holy smokes were those good.  I remember them from going through the line at the old Morrison's Cafeteria.  If you never had the opportunity to go to one, you missed a real treat.  There is NOTHING like that now.  You got a tray, put it on one of those three-railed metal sliders, and pushed it along from station to station where men and women in white uniforms and chef's hats asked you what you would like.  Salads, vegetables, starches, meats, fish, and poultry, then deserts.  There was always a tremendous selection of things.  When you got to the end, the cashier would ring up each item and you'd go into the giant dining room and pick a seat.  My father used to call it Morrison's Cafe.  I thought he did it just to irritate me, but now I think I get it.  It was one of the few places we went to eat dinner out.  

I"d love to go to one now.  I'm really craving an iceberg lettuce salad.  

After lunch, I began to work again on the surf series.  Every time I look at it, I get excited.  I love those photos.  I still have one small professional printer that is functioning, and since my idea is to print the images 5x5 or 6x6 inches, I thought I'd print one and see.  

Everything was off.  

A decade ago, I bought a ColorMunki.  I just like the name.  It is an instrument for calibrating the colors you see on your computer monitor.  I've never used it, but I found it in the closet a few weeks ago when I was cleaning.  I decided to give it a go.  I found out why I hadn't used it before.  It just seemed ridiculously difficult.  But. . . I gave it a shot.  After I calibrated my screen, it shown much duller and flatter than it had before.  Computer monitors are set up to be bright and shiny which is why internet images look so much more lively than a photo of the same image.  But for printing, you don't want that.  You want to see what the final print will look like.  

After that, I sent the printer through a major print head cleaning cycle.  Twice.  Fortunately, the print heads all cleared.  I made a new print.  Oh, yes. . . things were much better.  

That took three hours.  

I went to see my mother.  She had had a bad day, she said.  She looked like it.  She didn't look so very well sitting in her chair.  As so often happens to her now, after doing the least little thing, she just "falls apart."  That's the phrase she uses over and over.  She has bee feeling especially bad since her fall.  I am taking her to the doctor this afternoon.  Her blood lab results will be back and we'll go through that, but my mother wants to have an MRI of her head and neck.  I'm thinking what she is going to get is a referral to a neurologist.  

I hated leaving my mother looking so down.  I know sooner or later I am going to have to move in and take care of her.  But not yet.  So I kissed her and drove away feeling like a shitheel of a son.  

Grocers.  All I'd eaten was those tuna fish sandwiches.  I was not interested in sticking to the bland diet any longer.  I bought a smoked half chicken, salad mix, tomatoes, and garlic,  I had asparagus in the fridge.  I also had some rugalach I had gotten at Whole Foods the day before.  

When everything was ready, I sat down and opened a beer.  Yup.  Damn the torpedoes.  Everything in me wanted that beer, a good IPA.  Man oh man, dinner was good.  

Fuck it.  Dinner done, I poured a whiskey.  I've never had such a good whiskey, and it hit me like a shot of heroin.  I sunk deeply into the leather couch.  I was happy.  

But I shouldn't drink.  Even though I have been sick, I look good.  My hollow face looks better than the bloated one.  I mean, you should see my portrait smoking a pipe.  It's a close up.  O.K.  It was the best of the lot, but it is flattering--and I believe it.  

Rather, what you get is a photo of ghostly me, semi-reflected, see-through me.  I took this on my walk on Saturday, so yea, it's the new me.  I'm still deciding if I like the photograph, but since I am in it. . . I'm biased.  

In my solitude, I hear so much good music.  There is so much good music, I can't believe the stuff most people listen to.  But music and musical tastes are among the strangest things.  You can never predict what a person will like, but you will know them by the music they listen to.  I believe that.  My mix of music has become terribly strange.  I must be a strange man.  Maybe just eclectic.

I should report that when I called my mother after dinner, she said that just after I left, everything cleared up and she felt good.  She sounded much happier.  I certainly was.  

But you know what I'd really like?  I'd like a chicken fried chuck wagon steak with gravy to go with that iceberg lettuce salad.  Doesn't that just sound good?  


Monday, May 13, 2024

Pipe Smoker

She's not my cat.  She comes around to be fed. . . sometimes.  She's spooky, but when she does come around, she might lie about for however long I'll stay with her, grooming, lolling.  Sometimes, even after I go inside, she'll stay on the deck looking into the house.  She likes me fine, I guess, but if I make a sudden move, she bolts.  You can see in this photograph that her left ear is clipped, a signal to humans that she has been fixed.  I can't understand this practice of capturing feral cats, spaying them, cutting the top of their ear off, and setting them free.  What sick fuck thought of this one?  And yet--and this really stuns me--coyotes, which have become a dangerous nuisance in my own hometown--are inviolable.  They can eat cats and dogs and scare mothers with small children, but they are not to be shot or even captured.  Why oh why if you are going to spay and neuter things don't you do it with coyotes?  

Whatever.  Such is the human mind, I guess.  I feed the cat when she comes around, even buying her canned food from time to time.  

So. . . here you have a picture of my life. . . in the main.  

Mother's Day was pretty much a wash.  I forced myself to rally for a bit, driving to Whole Foods for flowers then to my mother's mid-afternoon to sit with her for awhile.  Many people had sent her cards.  

"Do you have kids you're not telling me about?"

"I'm not saying."

"Well, shit. . . there goes the inheritance."

Twice, people from her church came out with gifts.  Her 90 year old neighbor down the street came and visited with her after her own daughters had taken her to breakfast.  I merely sat in the t-shirt I had slept in and a wrinkled pair of shorts, me unwashed, and chatted for a bit.  It's all I could manage.  

When I got home, I decided to drink a Guinness 0, a "near beer," if you will.  I figured with barley, malt, and hops, it was probably pretty healthy and it was a nice change from tea or coconut water.  I hadn't a cheroot.  Haven't had any for a couple weeks.  But, given my lack of stimulation, it seemed a smoke might be nice.  Not dope.  Dope makes me stupid.  I am not comfortable smoking dope unless I want to sleep.  It is, for me, like opium, a thing that should be done on cushions at night in some dark den.  I say I'm a hippie, but not that kind.  I can't understand why people want a variety that wakes them up.  Who wants to be stupid and awake?  Well, a lot of people, I guess.  They like to drive while texting, too.  It's a real phenomena.  But, in my new life, I'm trying not to confront people who are stupid and wrong.  I have to stop ending my instructional conversations with "motherfucker" and "dick-for-brains" and "cocksucker" and the like.  I'm learning to change, see.  I have to learn to simply shake my head and let things go.  

So. . . I got the pipe.  Just a regular pipe filled with a mild Balkan Sobranie tobacco.  I don't have the shirts yet, but I do have a pipe.  It is briar with a beautiful grain and a meerschaum insert in the bowl.  Who smokes a pipe?  Nobody smokes pipes anymore.  They are too tedious.  And they are not good for you, either, but for your psyche and soul.  To sit with a pipe to contemplate things. . . that's the hoodoo you can read about pipe smoking, anyway.  There is more mystical shit written about pipe smoking than any other form of tobacco use.  Pipe smokers are irritating.  They just are.  But I have one and I am embracing my inner retiree, so. . . I got the pipe.  I sat on the deck with a "near beer" and a pipe and let the neighbors watch me become more eccentric.  

"Holy shit. . . honey, look.  What's he doing?  Is that a pipe?!  What do you think he's smoking?  He's a weird one.  Have you seen the shirts he's taken to wearing?  He doesn't belong in this neighborhood.  We've got to do something.  I heard a rumor that he's thinking of moving to Boca del Vista.  I hope he does it soon.  Don't let the kids go near his yard.  I heard him yelling at a lady for throwing her doggie poop bag in his garbage can the other day.  He's just odd.  I think I saw him walking around the yard in his boxers and a t-shirt the other morning.  Who does that?"

"Oh, Hudson. . . you get so worked up.  I remember when he used to be cute.  I think something happened to him during Covid."

I almost posted a photo of me smoking my pipe on the deck, but then I decided that was too vainglorious.  I would have chosen the best photo of the lot, certainly, one that was very nearly a lie.  It was just too damn pretty, in truth.  Having not eaten for a week has given me cheekbones again, and we know how important cheekbones can be.  I have already given into sending it to a few friends.  I play up the silliness of the pipe to them, but of course it is really all about the handsome man in the photograph.  The best of the bunch.  

"Love it!" the girls write back.  The boys simply say, "Yea, I always thought you were a pipe smoker.  Ha!"

But it will be a good photo for the back of the book jacket I will never write.  The book, I mean.  I may write a book jacket.  I have lots of practice at the short form.  It shouldn't take too long.  

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Happy Mother's Day

It's Mother's Day.  I'm not prepared.  Yesterday was the best of my sick days so far, but I'm still creeping toward a full recovery.  I forced myself into some action yesterday, but I was a Stranger in a Strange Land.  Lights were too bright, colors too saturated, movements too quick.  You know the drill.  You've been sick before for long enough to know.  Leaving the home environment where you have lain, sleeping, watching television, drinking clear fluids, you start to exist in a different time zone or dimension.  The world "out there" does not offer any comfort.  

And so. . . I've not gotten anything for my mother.  She understands, sure, but. . . .  

"Your coming to see me everyday is a gift," she said.  There is that.  

Most of you "out there" are in some stage of Mother's Day celebration.  Maybe it is breakfast in bed and/or morning mimosas.  Or you may be traveling to see your own mother, have lunch with her this afternoon, give her a card and flowers and perhaps some other treat.  Maybe in your family there are generations of mothers.  

Many husbands will treat their wives as mothers today.  

My mother has a funny story about that.  The first year she and my father were married, he didn't get her anything on Mother's Day.  She mentioned it to him, and he simply said, "You're not my mother."  

People have differing expectations.  

As a child, though, I can remember going to the store with my father to get my mother a Mother's Day present.  Don't remember what any of them were.  I doubt my mother remembers any of them, either.  

Such celebrations have always seemed awkward to me, these mass non-liturgical, Hallmark-made celebrations.  The only one I have ever felt comfortable with is Christmas, but only the lead up.  It is really the only one with a lead up, isn't it?  We don't meet Mother's Day with the same anticipation.  

It is also graduation day for many colleges this weekend.  Yesterday, my conservative buddy sent me videos of his youngest son's graduation at Vanderbilt.  

"Remember this?" he wrote.  Nope.  I didn't go.  Pomp and circumstance were never my thing, but he and his wife want to celebrate their success.  They did it!  Oh, they say they are proud of their son's achievements, but we all know what they are saying.  "Look what we did!"  

And so it is, for them, the perfect weekend.  

I will try to get some flowers for my mother today and go to her house for awhile, but I'm afraid there will be no cooking.  Her across the street neighbors wanted us to come to a Mother's Day dinner at their house, but there was no way I would be able to do that.  

I can't quite manage to get to the clearing.  I'm much improved but stuck somehow in the last stages of illness.  Small but concerning pains, a lack of energy.  I managed to drive to see my mother yesterday, but I was very happy to get home and back on the couch.  I'm not quite ready and well enough to leave the t/womb.  

As I slowly improve, however, I have to keep reminding myself that I am not returning to my old way of living, to the old routines and expectations.  I think it will be easier once I get the new clothes, though.  A short sleeved shirt from Target will change my attitude completely.  I want the whole outfit.  I remember my father used to buy his shirts in packages of three.  He just picked them up off the counter, looked at them, and bought them.  When he got home, he'd open the clear plastic package and put one on.  He'd look in the mirror for a mere moment and that was that.  It was a shirt.  It fit.  It did the job.  

I don't think I saw him in a pair of tennis shoes in my life.  He had black lace-up shoes.  And pants.  He had pants, too.  I don't remember how he bought those, but they were either black or brown or grey.  And a black belt.  He did have outdoor clothing for camping and hunting and fishing.  I'll have to go back through the films and pictures to see.  He must have had golf shoes, because he played sometimes.  I remember him playing tennis with my mother a few times when I was young.  He must have had tennis shoes.  

So many details I never logged.  

I want to wear those shirts and eat at a counter, served by waitresses in uniforms who come by to see if you want your coffee warmed.  

"How's the pie?"

I know. . . it's a movie cliche.  In my own hometown, all the retirees gather at the Panera's at the end of the Boulevard in the mornings for coffee.  It does not have the same appeal.  

I still have that Appalachian music stuck in my head.  Ola Belle Reed explained in a television interview that the music came from the land,  Once, driving wildly through the backroads of Minnesota, I was listening to a great radio program with Kaki King who was saying much the same thing.  In Europe, in the Middle Ages, she said, musical instruments were not standardized.  They came in different sizes with different tunings so that when musicians got together, they were improvising the songs.  But the music was regional, shaped by the sounds people heard around them.  Reed explains that growing up, they heard nothing but the wind in the trees, the birds, the river.  But there was a train that ran through the hills once a day, and they could hear it's chug-chug-chugging slow down as it climbed the steep grades, then pick up again on the other side.  She then played a song that was influenced by the sound of that train.  With radio, King explained, music became homogenized.  Regional music was lost as everyone began to hear the same thing.  Now, of course, with social media, it is not just the music, influencers being what they are.  I don't claim that it is bad. . . just different.  

When I was young, you couldn't buy liquor on Sunday.  It wasn't until a 7-11 came to town that any stores were open at all.  If you hadn't stocked up on what you wanted by Saturday night, you were out of luck.  Blue Laws, they were called.  As much of the old music goes, there was Saturday night, and then there was Sunday morning.  You don't hear that sort of thing anymore.  

Saturday, May 11, 2024

The Forest and the Clearing

I'm not out of the woods yet, but I can see the clearing from here.  I want to make the clearing.  The illness itself is not interesting to anyone, but the creatures of the forest you spend the days and nights fending off alone could be.  Not necessarily so, of course, but they could be.  

The funny thing is, you make all your deals, all your decisions about who you are, about your life, then, once the worst is over, slowly, step by step, inch by inch, you find yourself on the same path that led you into the woods in the first place.  

I look like shit.  Let's start there.  I looked like shit before, but now I look like shriveled shit, hollow-eyed, sunken cheeked, depleted body.  And so the first of the new resolutions gets challenged.  I woke this morning with only a slight pain in my lower left side, and I thought, "I need to get moving today. I'll take a long walk, try some push-ups. . . . ."  And then I remembered I just wanted to live in Boca del Vista, eat egg salad sandwiches, watch Good Morning America, and wear shirts from Target.  Give up the macho shit, in essence.  Be gentle with myself.  Give myself permission.  Pride and Vanity.  O.K.  Check.  

It doesn't help that I haven't seen my beautician for almost three months now.  She, planning for her delivery, scheduled me for a time after that, longer than usual.  O.K. But I had to cancel that when I got sick.  The other day, being alone and on my own, I had to drive myself to the grocery store to get supplies.  I was in the t-shirt I'd slept in and baggy Chinese pants, my hair long and greasy, the gray showing through at the roots.  Now this you will think is fiction, but I swear not. I had parked in the middle of the great lot, and walking back to my car, a man approached me.  

"Sir, can I speak to you for a second?"

He was all smiles, middle class looking, and he had a handful of small flyers.  I just looked at him with my tired, sickly eyes.  He handed me one of the flyers.  I didn't bother to look.  

"Recently, my wife and I have opened up our house to the homeless. . . ."

I cut him off.  

"I'll bet your neighbors are thrilled about that."

He looked stunned,

"I know I look homeless, but I'm not homeless yet."

He began to stammer, "No. . . I didn't mean you. . . I. . . I. . . ."

By then the engine was running.  I closed the door and left him stuttering alone.  I knew he didn't mean me, but I thought it a good way out.  If I hadn't been in the car, I would have looked like any greasy bum asking for a handout.  

Yesterday morning, I was feeling better, but somewhere along the line I had a relapse.  My energy just flagged.  I couldn't seem to move.  So I didn't.  It is amazing how long a person can simply sit and stare.  But that is just on the outside.  Inside, the horror show continues.  The only calories I consumed were from the small bottle of Ensure and a bottle of Gatorade.  I sat and stared until it was afternoon.  I called my mother to tell her I wouldn't be coming to see her again.  It was four.  I needed to eat, but the only things I have in the house are things I shouldn't eat, high fiber, healthy things.  In fact, I don't have much food in the house at all.  I have ingredients galore, but little actual food.  I looked in the cabinets.  What could I eat?  I decided to make tuna fish salad.  Surely a tuna fish sandwich would be o.k.  I got out the tuna,  The olive oil mayonnaise.  The. . . wait. . . no sweet relish.  Sure.  Of course.  O.K.  I'd use some honey.  I cut a piece of bread in half.  I made a sandwich.  Then I made another.  Good god, what else did I have to eat?  I made a cup of tea and sat on the deck.  It was Friday late afternoon.  No one walked by.  

When I went inside, I scoured the cabinets again.  I moved some things so I could see in back.  There!  I knew I had some!  Canned fruit.  I'd read I could eat canned fruits and vegetables.  I assumed that was because they had all the nutritional value cooked right out of them.  I had bought this stuff as hurricane food.  When?  Beat the hell out of me.  Years ago.  I spied a can of Mandarine Oranges Without Added Sugar.  Right on.  I opened the can and sniffed.  It smelled o.k.  I took a small slice in my mouth,  It tasted as it should, not metallic or otherwise funky.  I ate the first few bites slowly, gingerly.  And then in great mouthfuls.  It was a large can, and great god it was good.  Mandarins gone, I drank the juice.  

In a few minutes, my stomach and guts began to rumble.  There was, it seemed, nothing between my mouth and my butthole but a long, voided tube.  Empty for days.  My guts sounded like the symphony orchestra tuning up, piccolos, clarinets, trombones and tubas.  

I wanted more.  I thought about what I would eat in the morning.  

Earlier that day, I found I wasn't just alone in the house.  I was alone.  Maybe it was the solar storm.  Maybe messages couldn't get through.  I thought about sending my stupid comments and snippets to friends, but I remembered my vow to be non-political.  I was to stop all the "cleverness."  The only people you really hear from are the lonely people.  

I sat and listened to the noises coming from the refrigerator wondering if it was on its last legs.  

I composed essays in my head, things I would never write.  They were beautiful. 

More television.  My eyes have gone blurry for having watched to much of it this week.  Then, finally, bed.  I would take no pain pills, no nerve calmers.  I'd see how that went.  

I didn't sweat through my t-shirt last night, surely a good sign.  

I will work on my resolutions today.  I've been prone to all of the seven deadly sins.  I may have to keep sloth, though.  I think that one will be necessary.  Maybe I'll just work on see no evil, hear none, speak none.  And of course. . . pride and vainglory.  

That's a lot of work.  Now, however, I will make some Cream of Wheat.  Not the usual kind.  One cup milk, Cream of Wheat, and at the end, two eggs stirred in.  Holy smokes is that good.  Yes.  A good way to start the day.  

I just got a text from my friend in the midwest checking to see how I am.  She sent photos of last night's northern lights.  The internet is working.  It is nice to be thought of.  

Friday, May 10, 2024

A Sea Change

At some point, prey just knows it is prey and just gives in.  It goes limp. It knows it is hopeless.  

That is something like a line I heard on "Fargo" this week.  People told me to watch "Fargo" for years.  The television series.  I resisted.  I like the movie "Fargo" o.k., but I was not really a fan.  But, things being what they are, television having been bought out by the big corps and such so that most creative products have been canned, corps spending production money on bubble gum and cotton candy show, I gave in.  

My friends were right.  The show is really quite something.  

I've watched several seasons this week.  I've been able to do little else.  T.V. in general has been too jarring.  It is loud and quick and stupid.  T.V. "news" shows take smart people and turn them into sixty second morons as they opine on whatever just happened in congress or inside the Trump courtroom.  Shows in general have the old MTV formula of using editing to jolt and confuse you so that your adrenaline pumps a bit with hyperreal expectations.  

"Fargo," for all of its dark, horrendous action, is muted and slow and quiet.  It generally counters expectations.  

But. . . I can't be relied on here, for I have been watching from my death bed.  Or so I have believed.  

After throwing 12 yards of mulch and believing myself to be a real cowboy, I began to feel a bit weird.  I finished Saturday and went to my mother's per usual Saturday afternoon.  I was tired and not so very hungry, so when I left there, I decided to get something to eat at my favorite Italian place.  But I wasn't feeling right.  I had a sharp pain in my lower gut that was strange.  It worried me, but as one does, I expected it to go away.  I ordered dinner and watched The Kentucky Derby, as I have reported.  Great race.  

Sunday I woke feeling bad.  I had planned to rip out the old garden and plant a new one.  I had saved mulch in the driveway to move over and spread after the planting was done.  But I blew it off.  I was just feeling badly.  It was Sunday, though, and I had told my mother I would make us dinner.  By mid-afternoon, I had to force myself to the grocers to get the makings of a chicken cacciatore dish.  I had never made it before, but the recipe seemed easy enough.  

It wasn't as easy as I thought, and preparing it all very much tired me out.  When I took the dish to my mother's, I said I was feeling kind of funky.  She said, of course, that I had worn myself out pitching mulch.  I didn't stick around long after dinner and excused myself.  At home I just collapsed.  

Monday morning, my lower gut was a mess.  I called my mother to see how she was doing.  She said her stomach had been bad all night.  I wondered to her if maybe I hadn't poisoned us somehow, that I was feeling terrible, too.  Maybe, somehow, I said, I had given us salmonella.  I was feeling both sick and guilty.

By Monday night, I was in real pain.  My entire body hurt worse than if I had the flu.  I had chills and was sweating.  I turned the thermostat up so that in this great southern heat, the heater came on.  I knew something bad was going on.  I needed to sleep.  I needed to rest.  I decided to break into my suicide stash of narcotics for relief.  I was very reluctant, not because I didn't want to take a narcotic, but I didn't want to deplete what I had.  

I called my mother and told her I might have to go to the ER that night.  

"Call 911" she said.  "Don't try to drive.  You have insurance.  And you get treated faster if you arrive in an ambulance."

But the last thing I wanted to do was lie on a gurney in the ER while doctors ordered up tests and alternated between me and the accident victims that take priority.  I've done that before.  Glaring lights, the pinging of monitoring machines, and the sick inside of my own skull.  

I took the narcotics.

Even with the narcotic, that night was not restful.  

In the morning, I couldn't stand any pressure on my left side.  Just a slight touch there triggered severe shockwaves of pain.  Shit, piss, fuck.  I took more narcotics and went back to bed.  I was taking the weakest ones I had, hydrocodone with acetaminophen.  It hardly touched the pain in my abdomen, but it helped with the terrible achiness throughout the rest of my body.  

In the afternoon, chilled and sweating, in even worse pain, all I could imagine was that I had cancer.  My life was a mess.  I'd been running through it all night and all day long.  If I died, my mother wouldn't have a clue about my finances.  I barely did.  I have accounts I couldn't even remember the names of.  I am not a financial person.  I hate it all.  But I had to gather my wits together and try to find all the documents my mother would need.  Unbelievably, as disorganized as I am, I have an unconscious memory of things that often serves me.  I found all the documents I needed, even the accounts I couldn't remember the names of.  

I put them in a folder on the dining room table and called my mother.  I told her what I had done.  This upset her very much, as you might imagine, but I said, "Would you rather I just put them all back and let you try to figure this out on your own?"

At this point, and this is the big confession, I was considering taking all the pills and being done with it.  What did I have to look forward to?  There wasn't even anyone to help my mother deal with my accumulation of shit I have deemed valuable.  I was a solitary animal.  I hadn't a family or even at this point an intimate group of friends.  They were blown to the corners of the earth now.  No one lived close by.  I had new friends, acquaintances by and large, but none of them could be asked to help with this kind of shit.  The future looked like more of the same, financial worries and house repairs.  I hadn't even been able to get my shitty pictures together, hadn't even built a website.  I never would.  

Taking the pills is harder than a healthy man imagines, though.  

"If this gets any worse," I told my mother, "I will go to the ER tonight.  

I couldn't stand the darkness, so I set up some gentle lighting that would fall weakly through the bedroom doorway.  I would sleep in twilight.  

Up and down, freezing but sweating, I had to change my soaking t-shirt three times.  My hair was wet with sweat.  

When I finally got up in the morning, I realized I hadn't eaten for two days.  I had been smart enough to drink clear liquids, but I was running out of everything.  I needed electrolytes.  I needed some nutrition drink like Ensure.  It seemed to me that maybe the fever had broken.  I gently probed my left side.  Did it feel better?  Maybe I just wanted it to.  My hips and back were killing me from lying in bed for so many hours.  I'd back off the narcotics.  They were making me muzzy.  I needed to try to move.  I'd walk to the end of the street and back.  Slow going, but I could.  I decided to go to the grocery store and get the things I needed.  I looked like shit, but there was nothing to be done.  

I wasn't all together when I got there.  What was I getting?  I stumbled around.  Gatorade.  Yes.  Oh. . . I wanted coconut water.  Lots of it.  I went to the aisle that said "adult nutrients."  That seemed odd to me.  Are there that many adults who are as disabled as I?  I looked at the incredible number and variants of drinks.  I was getting dizzy and weak with it.  I grabbed what I thought I wanted and headed to the counter.  

"Your card didn't go through," the young checkout girl said.  

I tried again, and again it was rejected.  I looked at the card.  It was expired.  The world was spinning.  My card wasn't expired.  I couldn't figure this out at all.  

"How much is it?

She told me.  

"I need to go to the car to get some cash."

"O.K.  I'll hold your stuff here."

I always keep a stash of cash in the car, but recently I had used it for something.  I searched every possible place and came up with forty-one dollars.  

When I walked back in, I told the girl I was going to have to go home.  I'd be back.  

What the fuck?  I couldn't think right.  I was sweating.  I was weak. What the fuck was up with the card?  

I made it home, got cash, went back to the store, and got my things.  Then I started searching.  What pants had I worn?  When was the last time I used the card.  I called the store I'd been in last.  No. . . they didn't have my card.  I went through the pockets of every pair of pants I had worn for days.  I emptied the laundry basket, looked in the washer and drier.  Three times I had emptied everything out of my console where I keep my drivers license, credit card, and cash wrapped in a rubber band.  I am stupid.  I haven't bought a new wallet since the car robbery in October.  I looked under the seats and in the cracks between the seats and the console.  Nothing.  I would have to call the bank and report my card missing.  That would mean I would have to go back and redo all my online payments.  Why had I never gotten rid of my old card?  Fuck me.  I live a stupid life, I thought.  You're not an adult.  You're an old, foolish man living out some romantic fantasy that was non-extant.  

Screw it, I thought.  I'll submit.  I'll give in.  All studies--all of them--show that people who hold conservative values are much happier than liberals are.  There are a multitude of reasons, but being a rebel and a dissident. . . .  I would change.  I would conform.  The people I have disdained were all happier.  They live like those stupid fucking movies--big home, kids, standard vacations.  They all had more money, corporate money.  They'd cut their hair, eaten shit and smiled, and they had risen up the ladder.  Now they were members at the country club.  I was broken.  I was done.  I would go to the doctor and suffer whatever it took.  Remove my colon.  I wan't going to be a hero anymore.  I would move to a retirement community.  I'd get up in the morning and have cereal and watch Good Morning America.  I'd join a card club, learn the rules.  I wouldn't argue, I'd go along to get along.  I'd buy my shirts at Target and go to whatever activities were to be had.  I wanted to live in The Truman Show.  That's where the happy conservatives were.  

It sounded very good to me.  

In desperation, like a demented man, I went through all my pockets again, the hampers, then once more to my car.  I emptied the console one more time--and there it was!  My bank card.  

Maybe the activity had helped me.  I decided to have an Ensure to celebrate.  Only I hadn't bought ensure.  I bought some sugar free protein drink.  Fuck, shit, piss, goddamn.  

I drove back to the store with my bank card.  

My mind was working now more than it had been.  I could sit up at the computer.  I Googled my condition.  I looked at the possibilities my symptoms brought up.  All of them fit one thing--diverticulitis.  

Of course. 

I'd had it once before around ten years ago.  I had a new girlfriend at the time, the yoga instructor, and she was sleeping over.  In the middle of the night, the terrible pains hit and I told her to go home.  I didn't want her to see me this way.  When she left, I tried to tough it out, but in a few hours, I drove to the E.R.  I was sure that night I would never leave the hospital.  Yes, yes. . . I am a disaster thinker.  After hours of tests and waiting, the ER doc told me I had diverticulitis and gave me a prescription for antibiotics.  That was it.  I was free to go.  

I didn't even know what I had, but I knew it wasn't cancer.  

I've not had it since.  But now, I was certain that this is what I had.  O.K.  I'd been doing all the right things.  Clear fluids.  No solid foods.  Pain relievers and rest.  The infection, it said, could cause severe fatigue.  Now here's the kicker.  It is a tear in the lining of the colon, called diverticulosis, that gets infected.  Straining is often the cause of the tear.  Sixty percent of all people over 50 have it.  My pain began right after I moved all the mulch.  I probably got a little heat stroke, too.  And being the cowboy that I am, I drank pretty heavily that night.  It was rather a perfect storm, I thought.  

Q wrote out of the blue, "Are you alright?"  Strange question, I thought.  "Nope.  I'm pretty sick."  

"I hope you get better soon."

I texted my hair dresser.  I had to cancel my appointment, I said.  I was terribly sick.  She'd had her baby, a girl.  She sent a photo.  Cuter than a bug, and I never think babies are cute.  She said she'd pray for me.  

My friend from the midwest texted.  She'd just gotten back from her trip to Belgium for the beer festival.  She was leaving for another trip in a week and a half, she said.  I told her I'd been sick and was only going to bed.  I told her I thought it was food poisoning at first, but now I was pretty sure it was diverticulitis.  It should clear up, I'd read, in five to seven days.  If I wasn't better by Monday. . . . 

"Go to the doctor NOW."

There was some relief in thinking I didn't have cancer, of course, and now I was drinking coconut water and Ensure.  I ate a yogurt.  I could feel the energy coming back a bit.  I pressed my side with my fingers.  Still sore, but I could touch it.  O.K.  I'd had a sea change.  I was a real retiree now.  I was no longer going to be competitive.  I was no longer going to show the world how tough I was, how handsome or talented.  I wanted to eat egg salad sandwiches and take walks for exercise.  Collecting my finances showed me one thing--I wasn't rich, but maybe I could afford to hire people to do the physical labor that needed doing from now on.  There was still a lot to do--the deck and stairs being the next things--but fuck it.  I'd hire someone.  I wouldn't try to be the smart guy in the room any longer.  I wouldn't try to win every argument.  I was going to exhale, give in.  

I made a cup of delicious Milk Oolong Tea.  I took it to the couch.  I turned on the television.  It was the middle of the day.  So what?  This is what retirees did.  This and chair yoga.  

I turned on "Fargo."  It is a terribly violent show.  It is equivalent to "No Country for Old Men."  I remember reading that novel when it came out while I was staying at my mountain buddies place in Yosemite.  He and his wife were gone.  I had the house to myself.  I hiked all day, made a steak and asparagus and potato on the grill after I showered, and read that novel.  It was a real shocker, not because of the violence which was ever-present in a McCarthy novel, but because of the sheriff's reaction to the new horror that had come upon the land.  He was at the end of his career, and he realized that this was no country for old men.  He retired.  

To the country for old men.  

For all the evil and violence the show presents, however, there was something very calming about it, too.  There was good and there was evil.  It was clear.  There was a boundary.  I had never been evil, I thought, but I had known it.  I would know it no more, I thought.  Not even in its most insipid forms.  I watched episode after episode, season after season, and I realized it was always the same.  Good, wholesome people got caught up in evil through no fault of their own.  The evil characters were the ones that drove the plot, as ever and always.  Professional wrestling is based on this premise.  My dead old friend, the professional wrestler "Razor Ramon," was a baby face, as they say in the business, but he chose to be the bad guy.  "Why?" I asked him.  "Because the good guy can't do anything until the bad guy starts.  The bad guy is the show."

There you go.  

But the role of bad guy consumed him.  He became one in real life, too.  His life got to be more fucked up than I could have ever imagined.  I've told some of the story before, but it is all famously documented now. You can look it up if you are interested.  

But. . . to get back to my point, as fascinating as the bad guys were, I was watching for the good guys.  That is the show.  Every season ends with that.  The family dinner.  

Thursday morning, I was feeling better.  The diverticulitis diet includes white bread and eggs.  I made a toasted egg sandwich.  I could have coffee, too, which seemed surprising.  I imagined I was feeling better.  I decided to take a walk.  A mile.  I would walk a slow mile.  On my walk, I passed a neighbor.  

"How are you doing?  I haven't seen you for awhile."

"Oh. . . I'm fine.  I've had a problem with my gut lately."

"It's going around.  I know a lot of people who have had that lately."

I hadn't been over to see my mother for days, I but I talked to her often.  As I said, her stomach had been bothering her.  I knew she didn't have what I had, but maybe she had the stomach bug.  It made me feel better, so when I got back from my walk, I called her and told her.  

Then I went to bed.  The walk had wiped me out.  

I got up at two.  Ensure.  Coconut water galore.  "Fargo."

Around four, there was a knock on the door.  It was Tennessee.  

"Jesus.  You look like you've lost weight."

"Let's sit on the porch just in case I might have something contagious.  I've been sick.  Haven't had more than about a thousand calories this week."

His comment, though, sent a shock through me.  I was obviously frail.  I could see it in his eyes.  

"I tried calling you.  When you didn't answer, I thought I'd check on you."

Sitting on the deck, I told him my tale.  

"You fucked yourself up pitching all that mulch.  After sixty, people don't have the core and abdominal strength they used to.  You have more, but still. . . ."

It felt good to me sitting on the deck, but Tennessee couldn't take it.  

"Fuck it's hot." 

"Really? I've been freezing.  I set my thermostat to 76."

I was feeling better, but I was still sick as a dog.  When he left, I went back to the couch.  What else was there to do? 

That night, I was starting to get hungry.  That, I thought, was a good sign.  But what could I eat.  I went back to the computer.  Popsicles!  Yes.  

I drove to the store and bought frozen grape fruit bars.  I ate two.  Holy smokes, yes.  

It had been four days that I had been taking pain killers, drinking fluids, and sitting with a heating pad on my belly.  The heating pad had always meant one thing to me.  Now it meant something else.  It was an undeniable comfort.  I put it against my belly and turned on the television.  If this was diverticulitis, it should clear up in a few days.  I wanted comfort.  I would give up my romantic concepts.  I'd always fallen for women who were beautiful, smart, talented.  I had been lucky, right?  

"How'd that turn out?"

Maybe I'd meet someone who liked to make egg salad sandwiches and watch television.  She wouldn't be beautiful.  And she would be as safe and bland as the men. . . . 

No.  I'm not going there.  I wasn't climbing dangerous mountains anymore, not diving into deep water, decompression caverns, not sleeping with native Indians in malaria jungles. . . none of that to prove I was something.  I wouldn't solo sail into another dangerous storm.  I'd hike on the Appalachian Trail or on trails in the Rockies, put on silly outfits and helmets and go on long bike rides, paddle kayaks on placid backwaters and streams, go "rock climbing" roped up in climbing gyms.  Fuck. . . not even that.  I'd take up lawn bowling and croquet.  Not golf, though. . . definitely not golf.  

But the person I met would think that all fine.  I wouldn't even ever mention the people I had known.  Maybe some sherry at five.  She would be pleasant, jolly.  We would avoid complicated issues and thoughts, and when terrible things would happen in the world, we'd say it was awful and that we were glad to have one another.  

I watched more "Fargo."  There are some great lines in there.  

"The trouble with the world isn't evil, it's good.  If there were no good, everything would be fine."

For all of it, the show is wholesome.  The bad guys always get it in the end.  

One more episode.  I wasn't tired.  Surely I was healing.  Just before the ending, just before bed, a song came on, and it was like the dam breaking.  Tears just came pouring out.  Oh, fuck yea. . . it has been a hard week.  I'm a mess.  But for Tennessee's knock on the door which did me a world of good, I've been alone with my misery, no one to get things from the store, no one to ask if I wanted something to drink, just me and my jangled nerves and the inside of my overactive head.  

Last night, I had a dream.  My wife came to take care of me.  She was sweet as when she first fell in love, when I was the center of her world and what she cared most about.  She comforted me and I was happy.  I thought, "Surely now I will get better."  She held me as we slept, but when morning came, she was dressed in the clothing of a professional woman.  She was leaving.  She was cold and stern.  And my heart sank back into the depths.  

This is, I think, the first time my wife has appeared in my dreams since we parted.  But she was just a figure, wasn't she, just an emblem of how things have gone?  The mind has its own ways, mostly mysterious and strange.

It was the most vivid dream I've had in years.  I can remember every detail in full, every emotion.

Here's the song I heard on the show.  You probably won't like it.  I'm just a hillbilly, I think. . . genetically.  This music always speaks to me.  I've never been familiar with Ola Belle Reed, but I stayed up a good part of the night listening to her music.  The first one is the one I heard on "Fargo."  The second is just a bonus.  

 "High on the mountain, standing all alone, wondering where the years of my life had blown."

"I've seen the lightning flashing, I've heard the thunder roar.  I've endured.  How long can one endure?"

She's an amazing woman and has received numerous national awards and much serious acclaim, not just for her music but for her social activism.  In the 1970s, she was awarded an honorary Ph.D. from the University of Maryland.  And yet she is known by only a few.  

Such is life.  

Monday, May 6, 2024

Just a Bunch of Words

I wasn't going to post today.  I don't know if I can keep posting like this "on the reg."  My life, my thoughts, are beginning to bore me.  The struggles of a single, solitary man in virtual isolation, etc., is getting too repetitive.  I don't wish to keep whining about being a romantic boy unrequited.  Maybe, I think, I'll write only when something truly happens, if I meet someone interesting or go someplace new.  Gymroids, cocktail waitresses, and dinners with mother. . . what is there left to say?  I could begin to write real stories, but that takes more than sitting down in the morning and banging something out like a gonzo news report.  It would take me a week minimum.  And maybe that is the thing, a weekly posting.  But I know that once I stop the daily report, the whole thing will just disintegrate.  I mean there is something to reading about another person's miseries.  "But for the grace of God. . . ."  

I do find succor, however, in putting the daily doldrums down in writing.  And I am stupid enough to believe that my friends are all much happier than I.  They are at least more distracted from their internal worries--jobs, husbands, wives, children, travel, etc.  I do believe it, though.  I always have.  My wife used to tell me I had to stop believing what people said.  They weren't all what they said they were.  But she was wrong, I think.  They are exactly what they say they are.  It is a sort of manifest destiny thing.  Tony Robbins and all that.  

Tony Robbins is one of the most renowned life coaches, self-help authors, and motivational speakers in the world. He is known for his high-energy seminars and his ability to motivate people to take action and achieve their goals.

I, on the other hand, ridicule life coaches.  Maybe I should have paid for a seminar.  

This is more than I wanted to say, though I have said nothing.  It's just a lot of words.  

I don't think you even listen to the music.  

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Quite the Day

And that is over for another year.  I only have the garden to do today and the mulch will be smoothed and done.  The neighborhood people walking by, and this is a walking neighborhood, all had a friendly comment or two for me.  

"Looking good."

"I'll let you know tomorrow if I'm still the cowboy I was last year."

"That's a lot of work."

"The pile seems to get bigger each time they deliver it."

"Why'd you wait until it got hot?"

"Because I'm lazy and stupid."


It gets much more difficult near the end, of course.  It is a struggle to finish, but then. . . . 

This year it was coconut water that got me through.  

After a long soak in the tub and a shower, I dressed and headed for the shaved ice place.  I was looking forward to seeing the fellow there as a few people I have told about the place have gone and said I sent them.  But he was not there.  It was a woman instead.  She wasn't as much fun.  She simply took my order, took my money, gave me the ice, and said thank you.  There weren't any cool people hanging around, either.  Things can't always be magical no matter how much you want them to be, no matter how hard you try.  Still. . . 

I enjoyed the ice.  It hit the proverbial spot.  

Then to mother's.  She is not feeling so well since her fall.  Her blood pressure has gone up, too.  I'm getting concerned and sad.  It affects me in untold ways.  It is hard to carry on, hard to think about having fun when I know she is not.  I'm not so very good at compartmentalizing things.  

But the Kentucky Derby was coming on, and I wanted to watch it in a crowd rather than by myself alone at home, so I went to my favorite Italian restaurant and got a seat at the outside bar.  I ordered chicken and shrimp over pasta with a creamy vodka sauce and asked the barmaid to pair a wine with it.  The wine was meh but the meal was good.  I ate and watched the television and watched the crowd.  There were old men in hats and Hawaiian shirts sitting at the bar next to the woman with the shiny skin that I told you about before.  Down from me was another man in a Hawaiian shirt who is there every time I come.  It is a "regular" crowd that comes to the bar.  And so I ate and watched and felt conspicuous among the crowd.  

I finished my meal just before they began to bring the horses to the starting gates, and I ordered a Sambuca.  I took a sip as they loaded the last of the horses into the gate. . . and they were off.  

I had written my friends that I was betting on Forever Young simply because of the name.  It's an old Dylan song, but I just like the sentiment.  I didn't really wager, though, and I said that if the horse won, I'd be feeling silly.  But I don't like to bet money on things I can't control, so it was o.k.  The horse was sitting at 6 to 1 odds, not bad, really.  

There was no audio at the bar, and I didn't know which horses were ahead until the final turn when they posted a graphic showing the leaders.  And down the straightaway, the leaders changed radically.  If you have ever run a four hundred meter race, you have some idea how those horses are feeling coming toward the wire.  They try, but they've burned all the glucose off and the oxygen is gone and it comes down to who has what left.  And then, just before the finish, wild eyed, hearts pumping, veins about to explode, three horses pulled up neck to neck to neck.  

It was a photo finish.  There had never been a Derby finish like this one.  The crowd was going nuts.  The horse in the middle of the picture, in red, is Forever Young placing third by mere inches.  

When I got home, the cat was on the deck mewing in a new way, a double mew.  She was saying something, I'm certain, in cat language.  I didn't know the words, but I could feel the sentiment.  Poor kitty.  Her life is rough.  

She was insistent about eating, so of course I hurried to feed her.  Then I poured a whiskey and came out to join her.  The neighbor's cat came, too.  When he saw the freshly mulched drive, however, he was off to explore.  He is a curious cat.  

The sun doesn't set here now until eight o'clock and it isn't really dark until 8:30.  When I came inside, there was still the last glowing of the long day.  In the morning, I had gotten a message from Amazon that Woody Allen's new film, "Coup de Chance," was available to rent. . . so that is what I did.  

The movie was probably O.K., but I was bugged by having to read the subtitles instead of watching the action.  The dialog is machine gun quick, so I was reading most of the time.  I should go back and watch it without reading just to "see" the film. . . but I probably won't.  

Why oh why, Woody, why?  

It is, I think, like giving up your citizenship.  


It was quite a day to be sure.  Now I have to rip out the old garden and put in a new one.  I should.  But I'm not sure.  I feel like going out for a long walk in Gotham, having a mimosa at the Cafe. . . something.  But I should and probably will just do the work.  

The soundtrack to the Allen film is quite good, and the recurring song is "Cantaloup Island," by Nat Adderley.  Long ago, I met Nat when I was doing a series of jazz videos featuring Noble "Slim Man" Watts and Sam Rivers.  I don't know what happened to all those videos.  I wish I had them now.  I think they might be worth something.  

Saturday, May 4, 2024

Let's Put the Kids to Bed and Live a Little

Now you know I'm not a fan of the PG-13/superhero onslaught.  One out of every two movies is made for children and the rest are made for morons, or so it would seem to any serious person.  But. . . at least for a moment. . . maybe there is hope.  From today's N.Y. Times:

Sex in mainstream movies was “pretty much gone by 2019, as Ann Hornaday, chief film critic for The Washington Post, wrote in a column that year. A few months later, Kate Hagen, writing in Playboy magazine, found that only about 1.2 percent of films released between 2010 and 2020 contained an overt sex scene, the lowest decade total since the 1960s. (It peaked in the 1990s. Coincidentally or not, that was the decade when pornography started to become available online.)

Now, some filmmakers are pushing back.

Awards season brought “Saltburn,” with its arousing-disturbing bathtub scene and Barry Keoghan’s twirling, full-frontal finale. “Poor Things” found an insatiable Emma Stone romping through a Paris brothel. Christopher Nolan filmed the first sex scenes of his 35-year career for “Oppenheimer.” (“More interested in the joys of sex than any recent season I can remember,” as Kyle Buchanan, awards columnist for The New York Times

 Now sex isn't the thing, I think, that will make films better.  But Jesus. . . this constant catering to the child's mind is pretty asinine.  Children should have entertainment, sure.  Most of it DOES need to be viewed by adults, I think, because there is some pretty vile stuff in there.  Watch the Disney Channel sometime.  When I was helping to raise a kid, I would never let him watch stuff like "Mandy and Mindy" or "All About Raven" alone.  There were others.  Disney had an agenda that I wanted to point out to him.  It wasn't just Disney.  I wanted to make sure he understood that Beavis and Butthead were morons to be laughed at, not emulated.  I didn't want him running around yelling "Fire! Fire!" without a sense of irony.  

So. . . "Barbie" vs. "Oppenheimer."  

Oh. . . but I want to make something clear.  If that author thinks that nudity and sex are the same thing, "they" are really fucked up.  People get naked without having sex, trust me.  I've done it myself.  A lot.  Especially recently.  


Today is Derby Day.  I will watch, of course.  Horse racing is some shitty business, but those beasts are going to run their hearts out today.  Maybe literally.  Bred for speed, jacked up on steroids and methamphetamines, they sprint the mile and a quarter with wild, ferocious eyes.  Put this right in there with bullfighting, I think, as a sport.  Dog racing used to be a big business in my state until they banned it a few years ago.  I never went to a dog race.  I've been to one horse race down in Hialeah, Florida at the historic Hialeah Park that closed in 2001.  It was quite something.  I won two dollars, I think.  

But my father loved watching the Derby and I haven't missed watching one in my adult life.  I've watched it from some pretty spectacular places, too, and today, I think, I will go to a favorite small bar and stand with a drink and the crowd and watch the ponies run.  

That after I pitch the mulch.  I'm not looking forward to that, but I need to get out in a bit before the day heats up.  I tossed about a third of it yesterday in the hottest part of the day, and that was no picnic.  But I will get this done in three or four hours, take a soak in the tub, get dressed, and then go to get some frozen ice from the kid up at the nobody-knows-what-it-is store.  

Then mom's.  Then derby.  Holy smokes. . . it is a big day.  Hell, I might get dinner at my favorite Italian restaurant, too.  

Last night, I finally finished scanning all the surf negatives.  Thank goodness.  Now it is on to cooking them up.  That is going to take a significant amount of time.  Then I can start building a website, the first part.  I'm going to get all my stuff on it eventually.  Not "all," but the stuff I like.  But. . . I am going to need to buy a printer.  Hey, buddy. . . can you spare a dime?  

$ $ $ $

So. . . here's to a little adult thinking and living free of vampires, cartoon characters, and superheroes.  Here's to wine and bread and cheese and olives and cafes and the old nightcap.  Here's to a liberal and serious mind.  

Maybe I shouldn't have used that poster for today's post.  I mean. . . you know. . . it doesn't help my argument, does it?  About being serious.   

O.K.  Not that serious, then.  Maybe just some stupid he and she fun.  "They and they," I mean.  It's O.K. with me.