To burn always with this hard, gemlike flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life. In a sense it might even be said that our failure is to form habits: for, after all, habit is relative to a stereotyped world, and meantime it is only the roughness of the eye that makes any two persons, things, situations, seem alike. While all melts under our feet, we may well grasp at any exquisite passion, or any contribution to knowledge that seems by a lifted horizon to set the spirit free for a moment, or any stirring of the senses, strange dyes, strange colours, and curious odours, or work of the artist’s hands, or the face of one’s friend. Not to discriminate every moment some passionate attitude in those about us, and in the very brilliancy of their gifts some tragic dividing of forces on their ways, is, on this short day of frost and sun, to sleep before evening.—Walter Pater from “Conclusion to the Rennaisance”
“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”—Jack Kerouac, “On the Road”
The great Mark Twain once said "I am prepared to meet anyone, whether anyone is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter."
One of the earliest memories I have is of sitting in my red metal booster chair in the breakfast room in the old house, and my mother is feeding me. My mother is left handed, and although I am too young to explain what I perceive, what I perceive is that my mother's angle of approach with that spoon is not right. I take the spoon from her hand, dump out the applesauce, announce "self", and proceed to do just that: feed myself.
My next defining memory is of refusing to eat off a plate or drink out of a glass of the wrong color. I am unable to explain just what the wrong color is in advance. Only when there is food or drink in place can I tell my mother if the color palette is to my satisfaction. If it is aesthetically unappealing, nothing can persuade me to partake. I am maybe six.
Let us fast forward through my early childhood, which was idyllic, to my school years. On the first day of first grade, I come home and announce that as Mrs. Smith has told us we will learn to read the next day, I will agree to go back. My school years grew more unpleasant annually. I was very small for my age and bullied. Small and very bad at sports, which made me the object of ridicule on the field or in the gym. A favorite pastime for the bigger girls was to force me to play tether ball with them, where they would bash the ball around the pole in a tight spiral, two feet above my head. Fun times.
In high school, I swanned into my guidance counsellor's office and convinced her that I wanted to join the French foreign legion. I lectured a substitute on the cast of characters in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, and for punishment was sent to the principal's office to be assigned sentences. I had to write 500 times "I will not talk in class and I will do as I am told." I wrote that at the top of every page, but the rest of the time I was writing "I will say what I want and I will think what I want." I planned to become a marine zoologist until my marine science teacher told me that girls could never do research and the best I could expect would be a career as a teacher. I walked out of his class and never went back.
At a time when people cared about these sort of things, my IQ test came back with a score that brushed 200 and I was labeled an underachiever. That beleaguered guidance counsellor would cry that they knew my IQ, why wouldn't I just apply myself? Weren't they paying attention? That lecture about Shakespeare? I was right, the old man and the soothsayer are different characters. If that substitute would just have read the passage I'd pointed out, she would have seen that the two were having a dialog. Hadn't I been sent to the principal on another occasion for reading Time magazine in class because I'd already read the assignment (the entire text book, not just the lesson in question) twice? If you think being small makes you a target, you have obviously never been a geek.
In my thirties, I went to see an industrial psychologist to take an aptitude test to see what I should be when I grew up. Everyone falls into one or more of the following seven categories said the results letter. Your strengths are...and then MY letter listed three things that were't any of the seven. The psychologist explained that my particular combination was so rare as to be statistically insignificant and hence left out of the standard form letter. Communication. Authority. Something else that meant I had no problem figuring out what needed to be done and then directing other people to do it. I'd make a good lawyer, wedding planner, or art director. So, basically, said the psychologist, I should just keep doing that art thing I'd been doing.
This week I have been told I face disciplinary action for something I did in a sales meeting where I had been sent ("from corporate" seems to have been an important aspect, the solemnity of which I failed to fully apprehend) to observe the training process. Even though my mind was fully engaged and I was participating in every segment of the program, and even though i took notes and came back with a list of projects I wanted to develop based on what I'd heard and seen, the take away that some anonymous others had gotten from me was that I was knitting in the meeting and that therefore and somehow this action made me so heinously disrespectful to them and everybody else in the room that they felt compelled to call my boss and complain. This became my boss's truth, even though he let slip in passing that an equal number of not-to-be-named others had called him to say they enjoyed my participation. The remaining three quarters of the attendees have not voted on my popularity.
I learn better when my hands are busy. Other people doodle, I knit. Had anyone asked me to stop because it was distracting, I would have been happy to, but nobody said anything other than to ask to see the yarn, as it was some I'd spun myself (agrarian, crunchy-granola, hippie freak that I am.)
My mind is always going. Always. If there is one thing that my friends all agree on, it is that while I have never changed, I have mellowed out. People who haven't known me since college, however, find me too intense, too passionate in my opinions and feelings. You think it's scary on your side of that? Try living inside my head. My mother used to tell the story that people often said to her that they couldn't imagine what it was like for her to be "that child's" mother. She was my mother, she was proud of me. She taught me to be strong and true to myself. She loved me.
Once more, even though I am forty years out of high school, people with more power than I have decided that because I am different, I am to be punished. Just as gender, skin color, chemical or physical make-up are genetic and not a matter of whim, so is the way I think. You can punish me and lecture me, torment me on the playground, put it in my permanent record, dislike me, demote me, find me intimidating or find me peculiar, give me lousy performance reviews, judge me or discriminate against me, but I can never be anything other than what, or who, I am. Believe me, after 57 years, if there was some way I could pass myself off as a normal person (or at least what the majority of you people have agreed a normal person is) I would.
Another great man once wrote "I believe that i am a molecular swerve, not to be put off by the zippy diversions of the cheap minded." maybe that should be my next tattoo.
I gave up on Twitter early on, as MizShoes is unable to contain herself to a mere 140 characters and spaces and moved on to Facebook. Deceptively fun to be around, dangerously easy to talk to, Facebook was like cocaine. I have always prided myself on my non-addictive personality; my ability to say enough. So today, I turned off my Facebook account and said, no more. If I have something to mutter aloud, I can mutter in my virtual living room, and not on the train, if you know what I mean. I wanted to embed a video here, a clip of Peter Weller as Buckaroo Banzai, the scene where he utters the immortal line: “The deuce, you say.”, but alas, such is beyond my Google-fu to find.
I am depressed. Clinically, one supposes. I am spinning in place, with so many projects and ideas in my head, but too few hours in each day, and too little energy to create in the ones available to me to do so. I want to blog, but about what? Does anyone really want to hear me whine about such first world problems?
I am depressed about the political climate in my country. Are these shit-flinging chimps really viable presidential candidates? Have we, as a nation, completely lost the power of critical thinking, the ability to understand nuanced thought and complex concepts? (Don’t answer that. It was a dispirited, and jaundiced, rhetorical question.)
I am depressed about what used to be my career and is now reduced to a mere job, something I do eight hours a day to pay the bills. Although I am dangled carrots, I know them to be nothing more than carrots on a string, to be snatched away when I believe them to be within my grasp.
I am depressed about, well, everything.
Mix Shoes has had a few rough days at work, at physical therapy, at life. Tonight, upon leaving work late, and having worked straight through lunch, I made a stop at the bodega on the ground floor of my office building. They’re new, and they sell wine and beer, which means they may last longer than the usual six months that restaurants in that particular space last. It was with little hope that I stopped in on my way to the train.
I don’t suppose you’d sell me a glass of wine to go, in a styrofoam coffee cup with a lid, would you? Well, bless Miz Shoes soul, they did. I had a lovely ride home, sucking down my generic red plonk through the sippy lid. For an added treat, the RLA took me to the Middle Eastern joint for supper, where I indulged in carbohydrates, to wit: gaymeh and tardig.
I am now thoroughly fuzzy brained, and thoroughly happy.
Tomorrow night we will be dining with cousins who have escaped the current snowpocalypse. They insisted on Joe’s over on South Beach. I am probably the only person in Miami who would rather not eat there. Yeah, the food is good, but damn. I have no patience for the pretentiousness. Or the monstrous waits. Well, there is always the bar.
Miz Shoes ankle receives a two-inch gash. Damn, she thinks, this isn’t good. Perhaps she should take a quick drive over to the Urgent Care Center. But first, a little reality check. Honey? Do you think this will require stitches?
The RLA threw me in the car and asked if I had any preferences as to which UCC we visited. No, not particularly. Less than an hour later, I was laying on my side, having a pleasant conversation with the PA who was practicing her needlework on my ankle. She loved that it wasn’t a straight line and she got to do something or other fancy involving the triangular rip in the middle. She had a light touch with the Novocain or whatever it is that is used on body parts other than one’s mouth. So light, in fact, that by the time we got to the last stitch that what had been a slight prick and tug was a distinct piercing and pulling, prompting the following exchange.
“Motherfucker”, I said, in a totally conversation tone of voice, lacking all affect, “That hurts. I do believe the Novocaine has completely worn off.” Apparently, that was an unexpected remark, at least in that tone of voice, because both the PA and her aide laughed. They did apologize, but your narrator didn’t mind if they found humor in her suffering. After all, I said, you’ve given me enough content for a week of blog entries.
So much for my weekend. I had planned to launch MildBurningSymptoms (finally), since the RLA had photographed a ton of vintage clothes. Instead, I woke up Sunday with a cold. This on top of a long week of intestinal issues. I tested negative for H-Pilori, which means not an ulcer, but a prescription for something that’s stronger than OTC Prilosec. Still on the BRAT diet. Bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. If it has no taste or color, I’m allowed to eat it. I went back to bed. Today, I finally got to see the dermatologist to have a biopsy on the tiny white bumps under my eyes that the facialist refuses to touch. While she was poking my face with anesthetics, she removed the thing on my lip that’s been living there for years, since it appeared after I bit my lip one day. Crusty eye, crusty lip, I came back home and went back to bed.
Day four of laying around sleeping and being sick. The RLA comes in and tells me that I simply must update my operating system to Leopard, because he just did and it’s the shit, man. I say, no, I don’t wanna. I’m fine. My laptop is fine. No, he insists, it takes a long time and you can do it while you are napping. It’s no big deal. Maybe because of my weakened state, I let him convince me. It took hours. I napped. And then, when it was all over, my laptop was dead. It wouldn’t boot. It just sat there, spinning its little gears. For a really long time. And then I had to crash it out. Several times. And so, I put on clothes for the first time since Saturday, and dragged my sorry ass over to the Apple store. This was not without incident, as the electric yellow Smartcar seems to be invisible, even when I am directly in front of someone’s headlights. Miz Shoes is also invisible when crossing a brightly lit crosswalk, at least to the driver of the Cadillac SUV who both made eye contact with me and tried to run me over. Once in (also not without incident, as I was complaining at the RLA via my cell phone, laptop in the other hand, large book under one arm and purse over the other shoulder. I came face to face with the closed door and a man standing in front of it. He did not acknowledge me, and did not open the door. I juggled.) In short, by the time I made it to the Genius Bar, I was breathing fire and not willing to take no for the answer to the question, “Can you look at/fix this?”
Nevertheless, the very nice ten-year-old boy behind the counter could not fix this, and I left with a still inoperable machine. The good news, the hard drive was fine, and all data still there. The bad news, I’d probably have to back everything up and wipe the hard drive in order to reinstall the OS.
So. Back home by nine, and back into the flannel pyjamas. At 9:15 there was an enormous grinding, crunching and shattering of glass outside my bedroom window. A lost double-decker flat bed delivery truck had gotten lost in my cul-de-sac, and made its way out of same by driving through my fence. Eight feet of fence. And we’d moved it six feet back from the curb the last time a lost truck flattened the same. This truck wins the clueless prize, because the driver also went over a chunk of coral rock about three feet long and two feet thick, and BROKE IT, and still claimed that he thought he’d only knocked some branches off the tree.
The RLA went after the flatbed (which of course did not stop), and I called the police. The Very Nice Officer reminded me that he’d come here the last time this happened. The RLA found the truck, still sporting its crown of black olive branches in the parking lot at Home Despot. Insurance information was given. Ditto apologies. Then the VNO went to follow up with the driver. Today we’ve had lots of calls from the driver, the owner of the trucking company and their insurance agent.
When I went out to take pictures of the damage, I discovered that my old pocket digital is wasted. There’s really cool and jiggy distortion in the finder, but unfortunately that doesn’t translate to the digital image. Those are just washed out and mostly blank. Bummer. A good damaged digital is worth its weight in gold.
That was yesterday. Today, I have spent since eight this morning backing up this machine and reinstalling the system. As it turns out, I didn’t have to wipe the drive. Now I just have to remove all of my backup files from the RLA’s computer and Bob’s your uncle.
I have coughed so much and so hard that my ribs hurt and my abs feel like I’ve done a thousand crunches. The hummingbird is now a regular at the feeder. The squirrels seem to have put my backyard into the “newly opened” section of the squirrel Zagat, but the birds just aren’t coming around. I can hear them. All sorts of tweeting and chirping comes from the palms and the oaks. I’ve tried to entice them by putting a platter under the feeder with mixed seeds and peanuts. I figure blue jays can always spot a peanut, and well, once the blue jays come, there goes the neighborhood. Since that’s my aim, peanuts on the ground is my game plan. I’ll report later.
In the meantime, a whimpered plea to amuse me resulted in this:
After the RLA threatened to stop talking to me if I didn’t see a doctor, I saw a doctor this afternoon. What a shock: it’s either my annual bronchitis or walking pneumonia. He didn’t feel like dicking around with x-rays, so I’m on some antibiotic that will cure either condition. Needless to say, I am back on my back in bed. There’s a fucking groove here, I swear. Bah.
I’m up. The chest-cold, hacking, productive cough has returned. I hate this. I’m over this. I refuse to go to a doctor, however, and will continue to exert mind over matter, the Secret, quantum mechanics in the direction of my poor widdle lungs and heal myself. Or not.
Yesterday’s mail brought two pounds of Finn wool, processed and un-dyed. I’ve decided that the RLA and I shall become the Next Big Thing among indie dyers. The RLA is unimpressed. He still wants to be the Next Big Thing among quilters. I’m willing to try. But first I have to dig down to the strata in my studio which contains the sewing machine. There seems to be an accretion of wool between me and the Bernina.
Maybe over the weekend, I can dig down. If I’m not in bed, coughing up lung. It remains to be seen.
I was in bed by seven tonight. And up again at eleven. I’ve had a nice hot toddy, and maybe I can sleep. Maybe. This is getting so fucking old.
A more verbose and accurate description, however, would be to say that I came to in my bed, aware of a blinding pressure/pain behind my eyes, as though someone were trying to push them out of their sockets and into my lap. This was accompanied by a searing band of pain that extended from temple to temple, across my eyebrows, and felt no more than a quarter inch in width.
I crawled out to the kitchen, made coffee and drank a cup to wash down the 600 milligrams of ibuprofin. Then I crawled back to bed with hot washcloth over my forehead. Here’s a science experiment, kiddies: why is a wet washcloth, when heated in the microwave for 1 minute and 22 seconds, too hot to touch, but can dissipate all its heat in the 20 seconds it took me to get in bed and put it over my face? Whatever. I tossed and turned in writhing agony for about twenty minutes, then stood under a hot shower in the dark for another ten. I let the water pound onto my skull. It helped. Then I got out of the shower and threw up.
Five hours later, I came to again, and watched the last half of Malibu’s Most Wanted, ate a handful of strawberries and went back to bed. It’s almost 9 pm, and I’m not sure if the session is over. Not what I had in mind when I asked for a big weekend. Tomorrow is the Super Bowl. I hope that when I get up, I’ll be fit to make the bean/kale/winter squash mole, and watch the commercials big game.
Because in the dead of night last night, the oven started beeping. Three a.m. Beep. Beep. Beep. Only, there was nothing in the oven, no reason for it to be making that noise. F1. It’s an F1 error. The manual says to call a repairman. Probably not a three a.m. Reset the stove. Beep. Beep. Beep. The RLA, with lightening-fast reflexes, puts music on in the bedroom, to mask the noise coming from the kitchen. He chooses the soundtrack to Blade Runner. Loudly. I bury myself under a few more blankets and hope that the white noise of the cat purring will mask the sound of the masking music. I proceed to have nightmares about my mother and finding another stash of her needlework magazines, patterns and supplies. I start to cry in my dream. And then, through all of this, I hear the metallic sound that my alarm clock makes that it says are “bird calls”. It is 6:15. Welcome to my day.
The RLA drags himself out of bed and into the dark to attempt to pull the breaker on the still-beeping oven. The cat wants food. The dogs want a walk.
My cough is becoming productive (again), which is the way it always goes when I get one of these chest colds. Tomorrow, I need to take a day off of work and drive north to visit my father’s sister, for what is predicted to be the last time, before we all meet at her grave side. This is getting old. She will be the third aunt to pass away in 6 months.