mostly dead
Monday August 20th 2018, 9:18 pm
Filed under: exit pursued by a bear,family,summer Tags:

It is, I suppose, not an unreasonable description of all of us. So, again and again, headed to a hospital to see a skinny old man under too-thin sheets look old, feeble. Not the one but the other, this time. Still, they just celebrated their 22nd anniversary. I know shit happens fast, but that’s a long ass time. And within a year or two of how long the first round lasted.

But it gets one thinking. Shocking, right? Who knew near-death could get the middle-aged thinking? Hard to find time to reflect, really, in the non-stop-ness of keeping up with a creature for whom reflection makes no sense. Hard to find time to find value in time spent reflecting, even. The few days when YCT and he were gone were nice; the flipside, solo plus boy for 10 days, looms a bit. A few weeks, yet. Anyway(s). He’s not dead yet. Though I fear the domino effect, the other old man thrusting his fist to the heavens and saying “I did it!” only to keel over himself. So it all goes, so very quickly.


I used to know them. Possibly all of them. Sometime after moving to HelLA, when Google Earth was still a new product, I made a flythrough of all the places I’d lived. A few were approximate, and I’m sure I started only notionally in HelLA before the litany of addresses in the Bay and UK – Unit 1, women’s co-op, Dwight, funny summer sublet that the dead guy from Sublime had rented, Piedmont/Oakland, MLK couch, the Mission, Ward, Warehouse, Fyfield, Iffley, North Oxford, (redacted), Goldhawk Rd, West Ken, LES, UWS, West Village, East Village, Brooklyn, aaaand back to WeHo. And then the list continued – midcity, Silverlake, Echo Park. And now, my ultimate fear, back to the suburbs. As if all the in between places didn’t happen. (Apparently, I do in fact know them all still. But that’s not my point.)

Which of course isn’t true. This isn’t the leaving of Ox, or even the leaving London despair of present and future purpose (though return still looks slim). This is a move cross-town to save time, lots and lots of time, for people large and (more importantly) small.

The tangible scars of my past can live again. Not the burns or pierces or tattoos – the BOOKS. No longer in boxes in the basement, the selves that rose and fall, lived and died, and folded tens of thousands of pages over to varying depths. Who failed to read, and failed to fold, chastened, even humbled, by the staggering expanse of unread pages. On bookshelves, freshly ordered for delivery in 10 days.

A walk up in the wet from a bar I’m fond of, but never lived at. A last hike tomorrow, I think, more meaningful, a thousand loops later. Likely without the 35 pounds, though. Toddlers don’t experience nostalgia, I don’t think, in the ways I do.

Though, I think we’ll come back to look at the mustard flowers.

Friday March 09th 2018, 12:34 pm
Filed under: exit,family,HelLA,himself,leaving,nextish Tags:

A new bed, assembled. Small, really, but large. A blue crib disassembled. The days spent sanding and priming and lovingly painting two coats of that saturated blue, not really knowing the person it would be for. A long weekend spent doing the room, while YCT and the dogs were in Santa Monica. Music loud, paint stained jeans, the familiar rhythms of blue tape and cutting in and rolling out. Labor of lifetimes ago, foundational and fundamental competencies in self-righteous opposition to paternal incompetence, to a self that inhabited the life of the mind easily, the world less so. Years of painting walls and caulking bathrooms, of repairing things and building things.

And now, building a small bed, with small hands helping. He’ll never stay in it, of course, so new exhaustions await. And I doubt a week is enough to help him settle in to it before the Big Move happens. A move to the suburbs, really, something too close to the places you will be from. And he won’t remember, not really, the lake and the ducks and the hike. Hundreds of hikes. We’ll shape a different life, of course, and anything that involves 8 more hours a week of living, not driving, can only be a good choice. Inhabit the space differently. Push the angles and round the curves differently. Discover the small sites of possibility. Ignore the dread.

Dread, though, leavened with the small voice of himself, “thaaaaank you, daddy,” tucked up in his new spot, blankets and animals overflowing, blue eyes bright and improbable hair flopped to one side. Anything.


[Update: the last real comments to this ridiculously indulgent nonsense-filled endeavor of mine, were to the post “20 weeks” in August 2014, the weekend I painted the room and the crib. And Helen, saying “congratulations.” Just yesterday I packed the Chagall book you gave me when I left Oxford, following a farewell party at that funny flat. It was your father’s, you said. I had forgotten the inscription, saying I would be missed. Now you are missed, rainbow friend.]

otsi y dyeti
Wednesday November 02nd 2016, 11:09 pm
Filed under: Boozy,fall,family Tags:

Though technically translated as fathers and children, most western audiences know the book as Fathers and Sons.It’s been a long while since I’ve read it. Something about nihilism. A few questionable decisions. Possibly some sister swapping. Turgenev can bite me.

Old man take a look at your self. Though, for all of the ways I’m a lot like you, there are a million more I’m not. Paul Dano and Robert de Niro, in whatever that movie that I’ve just watched, agree. They, and the director, can also bite me.

I got him a pension. He joined the fucking army 45 days before the Korean War ended. So, he technically served during a fucking war. And so, like an addict enabled one last time, he’s got enough to live on through no fault of his own. Or do I adopt the condemning rhetoric of the lucky and the undeserved that I’ve too often faced? He served. He’s eligible, so why question it? Why shouldn’t he? I have no idea what it takes to enlist in the midst of a war, even at the very end. A hell of a gamble at 19. Who fucking knew that at 81 that gamble would be worth a few grand a month? Who the fuck am I to judge?

And therein lies, as always, the rub. How to judge those who acted as judge and jury and executioner and torturer. How to make sense now of a then that’s increasingly long ago, of scars for which the bruises have so long faded as to be distant memories of vague recollections of the grief of aching ribs once removed. Or something.

“I absolve you,” De Niro said, “I made you but you’re not me.” “I made you.” How many times did I hear that? I don’t think I’ve heard it for a lifetime until tonight. Always a prefix to some second, more ominous clause…”and I can [x].” Note to self: find some other words with himself.

4 minutes later
Wednesday June 01st 2016, 10:33 pm
Filed under: family,fear,friends,grief,whatsnext,Work Tags:

4 minutes later, 4 minutes after my meaningless check in to TPT this morning, a man would shoot another man. 2 shots, apparently, to shoot and kill his engineering professor. It has been widely reported, though without any substantiation I’ve seen, that he did so over grades.

So, here, everyone – have an A. Have 52 channels of A. Because I’m not dying because I gave you a B, or a C, or a D. And YCT shouldn’t have to spend 2+ hours “locked down” in an “active shooter situation” because your euphemisms don’t hide how FUCKED UP all of this is.

The anger is replacing the fear, the frustration overrunning the helplessness, the rage rumbling against the tender and the desperate.

The anger that we allow this to happen, over and over. A school shooting a week, apparently, since Sandy Hook. But fuck numbers, fuck statistics. Anger that MY ANGER is always-already a symptom that is somehow invalidating. That it’s “hysteria” and a particular political stance. That to be angry about senseless gun death is to be hysterical, and thus wrong, and eminently dismissable.

Two and a half hours. Her students asked to give their final presentations, despite sitting on the floor in the dark, despite not being able to show their slides, despite their phones lighting up with texts and calls from loved ones intermittently. How is it possible that 15 students and a teacher, times 10, times 100, times 1000, times 2000, can be frozen in the dark, in fear? More than thirty five thousand students on campus, maybe fifty plus thousand including staff and faculty. Frozen. Talking about the Bront√ęs in context. The context of school shootings, of senseless wholesale death because we hold these truths to be self-evident: that my right to kill you, me, and anyone else with a gun is more important than anything else.

Tomorrow, I teach the last day of metaphors and embodied language – a “Fiat Lux” class, started in response to 9/11 to get students talking about the big issues. I think we’ll analyze the metaphors at play in all of the headlines and articles. And part of me, the terrified part, is relieved the class is pass/not-pass, and everyone will pas. And part of me is so, so, so very angry that I’m afraid.

Sunday December 13th 2015, 2:15 pm
Filed under: family,holidays Tags:

A wasted life? Or just a wasted end to his life? So afraid. So very afraid. He’s fucking terrified of dying, and is driving everyone away and destroying the last crumbs of what might be meaningful in his wreck of a life to hold on to not-dying. Helen, my dead friend, you were remarkable in many ways, but in this one, too – you looked at the end, and looked back over your life, and made it make enough sense that you could be something other than just afraid. Toni, too, made her choice, and lived more in that last year than I think this fucker has for years and years. A life on repeat, shambolic and a shaming, shambling, shuffle. Piss-stained and pathetic. Wasted.

Must be the holidays.

Tuesday September 01st 2015, 2:56 pm
Filed under: family,Miscellaneous, Truly Tags:

I suppose it’s as good a place as any to die. I don’t think I would have chosen it, though. 37 years lived in about 5 square miles is a choice, not an accident.

cuz fuck him, that’s why
Wednesday August 12th 2015, 12:08 am
Filed under: Boozy,can't make that shit up,family Tags:

The wrench, the stick, or the belt.

Or the roaches. The walker that won’t fit through the bathroom doors. The bedside urinal to piss in. The dorm room that awaits, now that he can’t feed himself, clean himself, do the laundry, live without falling over and making it worse. And he’s lucid enough to know, not only that he misses having a diplomatic passport, but that he probably won’t remember that in a year or two.

And I look at the small in my arms, and measure the same distance between him and me as between me and him, and I wonder.

shower and champers
Sunday November 09th 2014, 11:39 pm
Filed under: Boozy,family,friends,himself Tags:

Not everyone was there. Hell, not everyone was invited. But for a bunch of adults, drinking and chatting, in a no-fuss no-muss cocktail party, there was an awful lot of love. Too many things to open, though we sampled a few. Some beloved books, a hand-knit hat and blanket. It is rare my heart is full, particularly feeling the presence of those absent, of knowing that people in the UK, NY, AZ, SF are no less supportive than those that happen to be local. The game of proximity, and how it shapes a life or lives.

The room is getting there, major furniture in place, decorations remaining, and the infinite amount of STUFF to be sorted, placed, stored for later or even later than that. Travelling light this is not, but hopefully not full yuppie overcompensation. It may not be a middle ground, but I aspire to vaguely less, to vaguely left, of total contemporary madness.

6 weeks. A handful of pages written, hoping to have more for the inside baseball talk the week after next, circulated, alas, all too soon. But the words will not stop because of his arrival, and though I fear being 20% dumber with exhaustion, and worse, unable to see that that is what has happened, the words, they will not stop.

En masse, gracious. Truly. And we need the promise of the group, of a wildly heterogeneous collection of people from crazy places with crazy stories, to offer that unexpected perspective, richness, fuck it, wisdom, as and when.

Thursday July 10th 2014, 10:18 pm
Filed under: Berkeley,damn,family,HelLA,something new Tags:

How crazy is it that just fucking anybody is allowed to do this? That there’s no age limit, beyond 14 or so, no you must be this tall to ride this ride, no sobriety check, no banned substances check, no interviews of your friends or neighbors or your high school English teacher. No moment for everyone to say “he was quiet, kept to himself, mostly” before you go on the biological rampage that changes everyone’s fucking opinion of you.

My ?second cousin and her girlfriend in town, choosing to visit. A Bay Area duo if there ever was one, though natives, which is fairly unusual, particularly these days. If the Bay is artificially authentic, and HelLA authentically artifical, they’re just a drag king and a nice nurse (cue nominative determinism of the most remarkable variety, however), living their thoughtful, political, community believing lives. And they’re both awesome with the smalls – my two over-one, down-ones were beside themselves wiht trust and love and enthusiasm after maybe 30 minutes. The under 6 crowd can be surprisingly tough, but they were all in.

And articulating to them, in a brief interlude, the bigger, more awkward questions. On how to do this different. On how to do this so it matters (and not, a la Ms Plath, so it feels real, so it feels like hell. I worshipped that line at 16. How to do it so he doesn’t?) How to believe in interacting with others, as well as consuming narrative? Or does it not matter so much. We all turned out interesting enough, and I can’t think that any of the people in the world who mean the most to me had a particularly straightforward time of it.

So, perhaps, like cereal, there’s not so much you can do to fuck it up, or make it better.