Wednesday, September 17, 2014


Shortly after I was born Mom had a gallbladder attack. She remembers eating a peanut butter sandwich before bed and waking up in severe pain. She went to the hospital and they removed her gallbladder. As a result I've always been mildly phobic about peanut butter.
Gallbladder problems are hereditary. In the last twenty years my digestive system has been increasingly fussy probably in some part because of my gallbladder.  In my forties I had symptoms but an ultrasound didn't show any stones. There is this thing about being fair, fat and forty associated with gallbladder issues. I have read that it's showing up in younger people and it is suggested that it's the fault of fast food. Maybe. Mom had her problems when she was 27. I made it through the forties and fifties with only occasional flair ups. I've been increasingly careful with fats, carbohydrates, sugar to manage what I call my stomach aches but which may have been my gallbladder complaining.
Fat people (particularly fat women) may have gallbladder issues more often than others. There is apparently an estrogen factor. There is a connection with Diabetes. Rabid weight loss may also be a contributor. A person may be told to lose weight and cause an attack. Many articles mention obesity followed by rapid weight lost with no sense of irony. Like so many things medical there's mostly theories, educated guesses. And I have know a few men who were young, thin and generally healthy eaters who had gallbladder issues. For what that's worth.
Recently, I had two meals that were not gallbladder friendly. I had carbonara and a few days later I had a multi-coarse meal that included oysters coppa, lamb, and lots of desert. It was a great meal with two friends and fun conversation. It's one of my favorite things to do but I don't do it that often.
The other day I saw a chart on Facebook from some hippie thing. I don't remember and I didn't look carefully but it was a picture of the body with areas color coded and associated with specific emotions. The gallbladder/liver/pancreas are is associated with anger. On the day of the multi-coarse meal I also attended a board meeting that left me enraged. It's a topic for a post of its own but I'm trying to stay calm. Heh.
I think I started being "symptomatic" the day before those events but I'm not sure. Every day after that I've had pain in my right side. Mostly after I eat. I haven't had much appetite and I'm exhausted for no obvious reason. I went to the doctor, got an ultra sound and it turns out I have a gall stone. My gallbladder is not in terrible shape and my blood work was good. I'm not vomiting. My skin isn't yellow. I am still having pain but it's really not that bad.
I'll be talking to a surgeon. I almost always go for alternative treatment. In the past few years I've been drinking apple cider vinegar and baking soda to control gout pain with much success. It turns out that it's also a treatment for gall stones. (It works to clean out clogged plumbing as well.) I could do that and get some acupuncture and maybe I'd be OK. But I'm older. My organs are older. Should I get it taken out? Is it inevitable? Can I get good advise from a surgeon? If a knee surgeon won't operate on me will the general surgeon?
Generally speaking my diet is gallbladder friendly. I am confused about some things. I was afraid to drink my second cup of coffee this morning and then I read that coffee may help dissolve stones. I snack on nuts almost every day, mostly dry roasted almonds but recently some oily peanuts. I love dark green leafy food but tend to eat more of it in the winter. I wonder if I have had stones build up and dissolve for years.
I dunno.
I guess we'll see.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

In The Gap

I am in a spectacularly bad mood. I'm not going to write about the central reasons but they have to do with the tragic gap. Remember the tragic gap? Parker Palmer talked about on a Moyers and I wrote about it a few times. It comes back to me again and again.
I was looking for one of the times I wrote about it for an hour or so this morning. It may be on the old blog. I got lost in my archives. I found another post about my moodiness, which I liked very much. That's not always true for me. I usually read old writing and flinch. I'm mostly quoting other people so ...
In the post a set of reading had added together for me and as I was looking for the tragic gap post I had a similar experience, starting with that post of my own and the bits from Coetzee. At some point I went to the Moyers site and searched: the tragic gap, found the specific episode and then I listened to the whole thing again. It aired in 2009 and still feels relevant. From Palmer.

I think the pursuit of happiness is the pursuit of reality because illusion never leaves us ultimately happy. And I think the opportunity now is for us to get real. And I think that's going to make us, in the long run, more happy. The tragic gap, and I call it tragic not because it's sad. It is. But more fundamentally because it's an inevitable part of the human condition.

Reality. It's hard because reality is so often a matter of perception. But there is a real real. A real that hits you in the wholeness of who you are and where you are.
Ten or so years ago I went to the hospital to meet a friend's new son. Both parents left the room for a minute and I was sitting with that brand new boy in my arms. So beautiful. And I started to cry. I was fifty, or so. And I knew I would never have my own child. It was just physically too late.

The tragic gap is the gap between what's really going on around us, the hard conditions in which our lives are currently immersed, and what we know to be possible from our own experience.

Something like that is happening now but it's slippery. It's not as certain that it's too late. It's just very likely. It feels like something I need to decide. I need to decide because I can't stop  hurting myself.
I have said and it is true that I have been happier since I moved into the nest. I even dreamed it the other night. I dreamed I was saying something about just wanting to know that I had a home and in the dream I remembered that I do now. The nest. It is grounding. It's an embrace. And I have books. (Thank you Kristina.) And I have really good local food. And I can swim. So then.
Palmer talks about being able to sustain tension. He talks about standing in the tragic gap and sustaining tension between reality and possibility. I may be in one of those moments.
I'm always a bit surprised by how much I like Louie C.K. I really do like him. I mean he says things that make me reel but he also says things that are just exactly right. In another spot on my reading thread today I saw a video of him, which I'd seen before. He's talking about why he doesn't want to give his kids cell phones but in the middle of his rant he talks about the tragic gap. Not in those words but ... yeah. It's there. He's talking about sadness. Feeling sadness.
I'm not sad. Well. I am. But it's not exactly what I am. Melancholy, as Coetzee articulates is closer but it's bigger.
And another bit of the thread came from Paul. Interestingly the bit with Louie and Paul's post are both about the need to put down the phone and walk away from the screens and not be ... busy. That's not exactly what I'm talking about but I am talking about enduring. Enduring it all. Paul says, Without downtime and work on the self I experience profound avoidance. 
Profound avoidance. I love that he gets that.
But I think I tend to dwell. And. That's. Well. You know.
It's not about avoidance or dwelling though. It's about standing in the gap where the real real is. The tension between the possible and. What. We. Know. To. Be. Possible. From Our. Own, Experience.
Somethings just aren't going to happen.
Two loads of laundry. One done and folded. One still in the dryer. Half the plants watered. Some dusting. The glass door cleaned. My mood is still prickly. I need to eat dinner. The coming week has some fun. My mood will move.
Rickie Lee sings: there are wounds that stir up the force of gravity.  
Indeed there are.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Junk Room

My apartment in San Francisco had a small back room, which I imagine had a washer and dryer at some point because there was a hook up. There was a small window and built in shelves. I put all my cook books and magazines back there. I put two file cabinets with a board on top for a desk and there was a time when it was a fun little office. I sat there reading recipes and smoking cigarettes. I paid my bills and wrote in my journal. 
The first computer I got didn't fit on the desk so I ended up with a desk in the living room and the back room became a never ending battle zone in which random trash built up. Mostly cardboard boxes waiting to be hauled downstairs and lots of silly little decorative (sort of) things. A few of those things are hanging in my living room now. 
I really did work to keep it from being a junk room but it was hard. It was a room that was out of sight so as I cleaned the rest of the apartment stuff got dropped in the back room. I'm pretty sure I wrote about it from time to time. 
When the idea of moving to Hood River sparked I began working on the back room. Even before I was absolutely sure that I was going to move I started sorting and discarding. In the end I hauled the filing cabinets here filed with papers that I knew I probably didn't need, or want. And lots of other stuff.
The nest was sold as a two bedroom. I think it had been rented as a two bedroom. But it is also a "loft" and neither of the two "bedrooms" has full walls. Both are smallish. One has a shelf that opens above the kitchen sink so if someone is washing dishes when another person is trying to sleep ... well. I don't think roommates could be comfortable here but these places are rented out during the summer to people who come for the river sports. Most of them are out the door early in the morning. I've seen a few families. That probably works for short visits. 
The room behind the sink is my library. It's a room that will be years in the making. I've already had a wall filled with built in shelves and replaced the carpet. I might have a new chair for the living room soon so I'll put my old chair in the library. I already love being in there but it will be nice to be able to sit comfortably.
Because it wasn't a clearly defined room it has been the place where the junk gravitates. As I unpacked last year it was where boxes waited. And more than a year later there are things waiting. 
Since the new carpet was put in I am driven to keep it from being the junk room. I am going through those piles of papers. I can only do it for an hour or so at a time. I get completely overwhelmed. I have a copy of My Emily Dickenson, which one of my teachers spent hours xeroxing, breaking all kind of copy right laws. I also have the book. But how can I just toss the copy? Doesn't someone want to read it? Someone? Some where? I have a folder of old scripts from the classes I took in my attempt to become a voice over artist. No problem tossing them into the recycling bag. I have copies of my own writing and the writing of many of my former class mates. Those are miserable choices. Photos. Promo posters, my own and other people's. Menus from places I worked. I decided to keep them yesterday but I may be changing my mind today. In fact I should plan on doing this again in six months. I should just keep letting go. It's really not that much but it feels endless. 
And then there is the crazy amount of silly little things. Plastic animals from drinks in New York and San Francisco. Ash trays about which I am sentimental. Troll dolls from my teens that Mom saved and sent to me. A small plastic doll that a minister gave me when I was a child. Mardi Gras beads. I've never been to Mardi Gras. Match books. Rocks and shells. A stick that a small boy gave me in a park. Candles and incense. It's just crazy.  
I have a full box of cassette labels from the wanna be voice over time. People don't use cassettes anymore. Do they? I have note books and note books and note books. I really have to think about these. Will I use that much paper in my life time? I barely go through the stacks of scratch paper.  I filled the recycling bins in San Francisco several times before I left and I already have a grocery bag full here. 
The library is looking better every day. I moved all the books off of my old shelf and put them on the new wall shelf. I sit and stare at them. I move books around. I find an author on two different shelves and adjust everything to put them together. Auster needs to be next to Hustvedt. Someday they will all be filled and I'll be in my recliner reading. 
Years ago I read that Findhorn had lots of beautiful gardens but they always allowed a certain amount of space to grow wild. Something about leaving a place for spirits to express themselves. I've used that as a rational for my junk drawer. Every kitchen needs one. But I don't want a whole junk room. 
We'll see how it goes. 

Tuesday, September 02, 2014


I spent about an hour yesterday trying to find this article. I read it a few days ago and intended to write about it. Intending to write is my daily fail.
In the final days of my writing program we did a graduating class read. As I stood  reading my little offering I noticed an error. The piece I was reading had been read by my workshop: eight or ten people including a teacher, a friend in my program who was (is) a great editor, my thesis adviser, my goddaughter, not to mention myself during multiple rewrites. And yet there it was. A typo. I don't remember what it was. I do remember having trouble continuing because the urge to mark up the paper was overwhelming.
Not all of the edits I got in workshops were useful. It often seemed like my classmates were trying to convey literary sensibilities, usually giving me a feeling of futility. Generally speaking, I did not feel like they were getting what I was trying to do. I remember once writing a scene in which the dialogue included a repeated expletive that I ended with in rather than ing. One classmate circled all the ins and added the "missing" g. Seriously.
I have always taken comfort from a moment I saw on (maybe) 60 Minutes. Toni Morrison was looking at one of her books in a display case and she noticed a typo. She also talked about an ongoing argument she has with her editor regarding the Oxford comma.
It's nice to know there is brain science to explain typos. Comforting. It's frustrating though. Because, as it says in the article, other people catch them. When I was writing in school I put way more energy into editing than I do when I'm writing a blog. But I do make an effort even in a blog post. I usually walk away from a post for awhile. I read it out loud, which I usually find helpful. I've tried reading backwards and it does work but it's annoying. Blogging is fast writing, for me. I'm OK with some raggedy-ness. But I reread something after I publish and see something really stupid, often after I know it's been read by others and it just drives me crazy.
I know when to use it's and when to use its but I mess it up now and again when I'm writing fast. I regularly misspell their. I can spell it correctly out loud if you ask me but almost every time I type it I reverse the i and the e. I use made up words like dunno. I over use the word and on purpose although I do edit it out sometimes. I use ellipsis in ways I am told are incorrect but I don't care. And there are things I really just don't know.
I always got As in English but I went to a hippie high school for the last two years and I doubt I was corrected much. If I'd gone to college right out of high school I might have been learned more, or had correctness ground into me.  I went to college in my forties at which point I'd forgotten what I may have learned. And I went to a hippie college where teachers liked to talk about how the students didn't write well but no one seemed to want to teach a basics class. Within my reach there is a copy of Strunck and White and The Chicago Manuel of Style. They're pretty.
And then there's the problem of my ageing brain and the great fuzz in which I live. And my horrible typing.
Really some of my typos really are physical typos and some of them are just my brain glitching. I notice mistakes in other people's writing occasionally. I usually shrug it off but sometimes I feel judgy.
I just finished The Snow Queen. It is a lovely book with wonderful writing. And he used the word rampancy multiple times. It's a word that I may have read before but was compelled to look up every time I came across it and still am not sure I could use it correctly. I understood it in the context of each use but it's a wonderfully specific word. I felt like it popped up at least one time too often. Or maybe it just stuck out to me because I didn't feel like I had a grasp on it. Inscrutable is another word I look up every time I read it and still feel like I could not use it well.
Honestly,  I've given up. I will make mistakes. when I write. Some of them will be intentional. I just did a reread on this post and found two mistakes one of which was glaring and would have pissed me off if I'd clicked publish before I caught it.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Eros Bumps

I've been off blood pressure medication for about eight months now. One of the side effects of the medication was a complete lack of interest in sex.
On the one hand, I'm not in a relationship so who cares?
On the other hand (the hand) (get it?) I have never been in a relationship and I've always thought about sex. I've always had a crush.
In fact, beginning in my forties I was really quite randy. Until the meds.  
So what do you do when you aren't in a relationship? (The hand.) (Get it?)  You day dream. You imagine. And often times that dreaming is aimed at the idea of a person. It could be a famous person. An actor. Or more likely a specific role that an actor plays. Like Brad Pitt in Legends of the Fall. Swoon. Brad Pitt other wise? Eh. It was probably the long hair. Some times I have a night dream about an actor and become completely enamored. That happened with Jim Belusi years ago. I'm not sure I'd even seen him in anything at the time. Images of famous people are like a virus. They're everywhere. Even if you never pick up a fame magazine you see them in the doctor's office and the grocery store. Then the oddest people show up in late night inner wanderings.
But I've had crushes on people I've never seen. People I've only read. Because really it's the things I want to hear that turn me on the most. And I'm the one who knows those things. My imagined dialogues are probably nothing that would be thought of as erotic by anyone else.
It happens with people in my daily life that I don't really know. I remember once I was quite enamored with a security guard at the Caltrain station. It made for some interesting rides to work. Not quite awake and not quite asleep. Just dreaming. It happens with waiters and the guys that do handy work on the buildings across the street. I don't really want to know these guys. I enjoy the relationship I have with them.
I call these relationships Eros bumps. A bump because you're going along, minding your own business, not even thinking about anything and suddenly there's the dream. Or a moment when you see someone in a certain cast of light. I remember it happened to me once with a guy in New York. I think it happened when he said something protective about me. It just rattled some need that I didn't even know I had.
It is a way of objectifying a person and that is not a good thing.
I know.
And it is quite obsessive.
Overwhelming obsessive.
Not good.
I know.
I try not to make a big deal about it. I try to think of it as a small thing. A human thing. It's just a little bump.
But since I am writing the narrative of these moments and since they are based on ideas and not realizations they arrive, build up in my head, refine in terms of the ideas and then one day they are over. Seriously over. Just as suddenly as they began. I hit some kind of wall and wake up. Sometimes I want to tell these guys. Hey. We just broke up. Did you notice?
If you put all these guys in a room it would be hard to discern a physical type. It is not really about bodies.
And of course it's very different from the times when I've met someone and developed feelings. Although it doesn't always feel that different. I have made myself wild with desire. It's all me. I'm making it up.I'm making myself happy with it and I'm making myself miserable when I can feel it losing energy. It goes global. It calls up every memory of every rejection. It pushes me into the corner with my dubious romantic history. I fail.
I have failed.
It was almost nice having a rest from all that. It's been years. It was nice to have it back for awhile. Nice to feel alive. But it's not as easy as it used to be to fall into a swoon. I've worked too hard to gain the little bit of lucidity I have. I try to ignore the awareness  of who I really am and who anyone else really is. Just for a minute. Just long enough to dream. Just a little bump.
I am really happy to be off meds.
I am.
(Get it?)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


On Sunday I watched Captain Johnson stand in front of a group of people and say, I'm sorry. For me, there are no two more powerful words. In my personal life it has been the thing that brings me closer to someone. When someone can just own a thing that has happened between us. Just hold it. I let go of things really fast when that happens. In a civil crisis it's so powerful. I could feel the collective shoulders relax. 
Leadership in Missouri has been horrifyingly bad. Saying all the wrong things in all the worst ways. The governor actually said if there was going to be justice there must first be peace. Really? So justice is only there when things are calm and people are well behaved? 
April linked an interesting article: In Defense of the Ferguson Riots. I was thinking about it last night as I watched live coverage of the night and the sudden shift from peaceful to violent. I thought about it this morning as I listened to people talk about provocateurs and thugs. 
As things were unfolding last night journalists kept talking about not being able to see why things got heated. Some of that might be vantage point but I imagine some of it was that not much happened. Images of tanks, tear gas, snipers, just way too much positioned against people in t-shirts and shorts made it seem likely that there was over reaction on both sides. 
Actually, I hate that idea of both sides. I hate it when it's used in conversations about these events. There are things that are clear. An unarmed, young, black man was shot multiple times by a police officer. No matter what happened it seems to me that multiple guns shots are an over reaction. And every night since then it has seemed to me that the same over reaction has played out. There may be two sides here but they are not equal. 
And one side is supposed to be in service to the other. They are there to protect and serve. They are there to protect not just people but ideals. Ideals like justice. Ideals like freedom of the press. Ideals like the right to assemble. Ideals like the right to petition the government for redress of grievances. They may also be there to protect private property and commerce but it feels like they lean toward that and ignore the others. 
In an area like Ferguson commerce is probably made up of small businesses. Mom and Pop shops. It's hard to talk about them in strict Marxist terms. It's hard because they are so small and usually owed by hard working people. I worked for small businesses most of my life. It's also often true that the people are often better off than the community in which they run their shops. Maybe not much better off but usually some what. They work hard and they enjoy benefits. OK. 
It has always been frustrating when civil unrest tears down community resources. But the focus on business concerns rather than focusing on the systems of repression and alienation and the murder of a young man irritates me. It's just not the point. 
As much as I admire Captain Johnson his presence is a way to pacify an enraged community. He hugs people. He talks in soothing tones. And he defends the use of tear gas. 
Last night Chris Hayes had rocks thrown at him and his reaction was to say that "people are mad." People are mad. That observation was almost as powerful as the apology. It was an observation of something that is true. Of course it's true. A young man is dead. The streets are filled with tanks and tear gas. There may be bad actors but there is also rage. Rage at a system that should be raged against by all of us. 
Trayvon's mother wrote a beautiful piece in Time in which she says, if they refuse to hear us we will make them feel us. And that is the truest truth. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Pacing The Cage

I was reading an interview last night in which Jack Turner says: The more digital your life is, the more you have conformed. It’s safe to stay home and watch reruns of Star Trek and fiddle with Facebook and track digital gossip, but it’s also shallow and lifeless.
I'm more likely to watch reruns of Doc Martin than Star Trek. I'm not interested in gossip. I do have Facebook on the screen most of the day although I'm not always looking at it. A few details are different but he's talking about me.
Up until then I was enjoying the read. He's an interesting man who has lived in an interesting manner. But there's chauvinism in so much of what he says. Some of us can't live in a place where we need snow shoes to get home. And even when I was able to walk I wouldn't have been engaged by the life style he holds dear. I like nature. I value nature. And I've always wanted there to be a coffee shop and a book store fairly close by.
I need to get out more. I know that. I'm lonely and I need to find a way to connect with more people. It was true in SF and it's more true now. Every Saturday morning I try to push myself to drive my scooter over to the Farmer's Market and I fail. I fail because I'm afraid when I'm driving my scooter. I fail because the only thing worse than being alone is being with people and feeling alone. In the time it takes me to eat breakfast I talk myself out of going.
Having said all that I resist the idea that a life organized around screens is shallow and lifeless. It can be but it doesn't have to be. When I first started blogging I was thrilled to find so many interesting people. People doing great art. People having great conversations. People writing and posting about their daily lives. I would get lost clicking through other people's blog rolls. I've met a few of the people I found on blogs and it has usually felt like meeting an old friend.
It was hard this week not to be glued to media. I spent a lot of time mumbling to myself. When I saw the picture from Howard my first reaction was to take a picture with my hands up and use it on my profile. I try not to do things like that. I didn't take a hoodie shot during the Trevon days. I haven't poured ice water on my head. I don't wear pink. I don't disapprove of any of those things. I don't really think most people who do them feel like they've done anything substantive. It feels good to do something when it feels like there's noting you can do. Of course there is a need for action but I find criticism of  these things jaundiced and unnecessary. My choice to not do it was because I felt such urgency and it didn't feel real enough. There were solidarity event all over the place and I felt like all I could do was drag my walker down to the patio for my building and hold a Hands Up Don't Shoot poster. Maybe I should have. Maybe I would have met some people and had some interesting conversations.
I wonder if the people who had used social media to launch revolutions feel like what they're doing is shallow and lifeless.
Do I sound like I'm arguing from both sides of a fence? I am. I often do.
I'm just annoyed.
I'm frustrated.
I feel way too many things.
I know having a news talk show on a screen next to me while I scroll through the Internet in front of me and checking my phone and ... oh. OK. I need to get out more. But it's not about conformity. It doesn't feel lifeless. Or Shallow.
I have been pacing the cage.