S16.4.0: The Beat Goes On

I never chose to spend time filling in the spaces for old entries. Maybe this blog can be a fresh start and just continue while the other dies like a weed in summer. Or this one can do that while the other … Aah! Wev.

In need of music to remind me what Alden’s memorial was like, I made a Pandora station for the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and right now I am hearing a trad version of “Sunrise, Sunset” from Fiddler. It’s completely wonderful. Why am I not playing my horn?

Because by the time my day has wound down and I decide Fuck it I should just play my horn the household has gone to bed and such noise is (or should be) disallowed. Prior to that I haz other priorities. So: Whud I do today?

At 1pm I went to another suandw meetup and made what seemed like good progress. I’m still in a character’s introductory chapter. Seems like I’ve been in that chapter forever. It may turn out to be the book’s first chapter too, but that doesn’t matter at this time. There’s not a lot happening, mostly description to acclimate the reader and flashback to introduce the character. It’ll end with a bit of intrigue, a question mark to keep the interest going.

Prior to that I was, what. Woke up reasonably late, nine-ish, and took a minor to the doughnut shop. Nine-forty-ish, took another minor to the gym. I hadn’t showered or brushed teeth yet and I guess I spent my doughnut time slacking online. Got back from that to have a serious talk with my struggling artist. She really is struggling. Her body is in agony, and it will take time for the various drugs and therapies to bring her back to normal, even the new normal. She was also feeling, as all artists do, uncertain about the value of her work. I helped best I could, then went back to the gym. Still hadn’t showered, nor did I yesterday. The teenaged target of my commute was not in evidence at eleven as we’d planned, and he wasn’t responding to my texts and calls, and I had a visitor scheduled for eleven-thirty, so I had to leave him and go back home. The visitor got there before me, and as he was just picking up an old rifle rack custom-made for the Cal 100 that I wanted rid of, a housemate showed it to him and he took it and left before I got home. I decided to shower and brush teeth (finally!) before making a return trip to the gym. By the time I did my charge had been sitting around for an hour, but that’s what he gets for his phone dying and meanwhile not managing to find me as I waited in the parking lot for twenty minutes and had him paged. This all got me home again at twelve-thirty by which time I needed to go to the meetup. So that’s what I did prior, apparently (had to write it to remember it).

Afterwards I stopped for a beer as described on Facebook and then came home to do some food shopping and help S with her biography, also as described in Facebook but in my other account. So there. No trumpet playing, and that’s about all I have to say about that.


S16.3.3: Hospitals and Meetings and Life Going On

Past one in the morning, we wait in the hallway somewhere behind the ER. She’s napping restlessly on a gurney. I’m standing by. I can’t really sleep. It occurs to me to address the blank spots in this blog thing. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. Just sort of feel like typing.

Earlier tonight I went to the grocery store for emergency supplies: A digital thermometer, Epsom salts, and cat food. Got some Listerine while I was there too, and dental floss. Gotta take care of business.

At checkout the guy started telling me about the bullet train simulator down at the railroad museum. He went on at some length while I watched him talk. I didn’t really listen. I wasn’t in a

* * *

At that moment they rolled us away down the halls and around corners to an ER bay. Various medicos have come and gone and left her attached to the machinery with tubes and wires. She sleeps fitfully, as before. I’m hungry and I’m cold and I’m staying put.

So at checkout. The clerk went on about bullet trains but I was in a no-nonsense mood, having an uncomfortably sick person at home and a hungry cat and everything. After some of this I fixed him with a look and said, “Why are you telling me this?”

I know, you think you’d be friendlier in the same circumstances.

2016-04-20 23.42.32Anyway, he wasn’t taken aback particularly but stopped talking, and after a while it dawned on me that he was responding to my t-shirt. I was wearing the t-shirt I bought in Taichung after riding the Taiwan High Speed Railroad. I’d forgotten what random t-shirt I had on and thought he was just really into engaging customers about random unimportant things. I imagine they had a laugh about it soon after I went my way.

I’m still in that t-shirt, and shorts for the first time this season, and it’s freaking COLD here in the hospital at two thirty in the morning.

Today is Wednesday, or will be when the sun comes up. No, the day starts at sunrise, not midnight. And on this Wednesday, my next boss (should everything fall into place) is hosting an all-hands meeting at his house up in the hills above Placerville. Though I’m not in his group, I was invited, and until a couple hours ago looked forward to going. I wanted to exercise my more business-like outgoing persona and get to know a little bit the other members of the team. I also wanted some face time with the guy I would be replacing, who was going to fly down from his office in Dupont, WA.

Things change. He’s not going, and with every passing beep on the EKG over there, neither am I. For one thing, I can’t value it above staying with my woman while she’s in hospital, especially during my sabbatical. For another, it won’t be as fun on no sleep. And for yet another, I’m suddenly tired of this thick long hair of mine and don’t want it there during first impressions, and while I was going to have our new temporary housemate cut it tonight under Sunya’s direction, that well-laid plan, well, it done gang a-gley.

Why’s he not going? Well, we had a chat today on the phone, and towards the end it went off business. His wife of 43 years died in February, and he’s just not up to being with people that much. It’s why he’s retiring, really. Doesn’t see the point in all this anymore. I understood all that, of course, and somehow found a way to share the fact of my brother’s partner of 40 years passing along about the same time, and the festivities, as it were, that were held over the weekend.

About which I’ll write or at least share pictures eventually. But I’ve also got a novel to do.

On which you are right to ask: Why ain’t I doing that now? Surely being all tired and uncomfortable never stopped any real novelist. Indeed it’s fair to speculate that it serves as an advantage.

I’ve just spent ten minutes unable to formulate a response to that.

* * *

For the next few hours I sat upright in my harsh right-angled cafeteria-style chair under a thin blanket and occasionally sort of dozed. At 6am they announced she had a virus and sent us home. It’s a very rough virus. We had gone in because reading a temperature of over 104 just a few weeks after spending seven days in hospital seemed like a pretty good reason. But with all else going on, she now has a virus too, a vicious little thing that’s given her most of the symptoms of the flu (which too is a virus) only far more painfully than she’s ever had before. Since then we’ve more or less been in bed because though I’m not sick I am awfully tired and taking (finally) a close look at my finances has me wanting to hide under the blankets.

Waah waah waah. Hide hide hide.

I’m beginning to think that once I’ve done some vital grocery shopping, I’ll be so tired it will actually be a good time to take my laptop to some coffee shop growing dark in the twilight and work on my novel. I suspect being extended towards one’s limits is sometimes the best time to get creative.

Yes, I’m just typing a stream of consciousness and you are being forced to read it.

I keep thinking about Wendell Brunious. He was one of Saturday’s musicians. He was truly wonderful to watch and listen to but came across as  little bit embittered by the state of popular music. Traditional jazz is incredibly rich and challenging and fun to listen to, but the angels of fame have gone elsewhere. But I should say this and more in an entry scheduled for last Saturday.

* * *

My second grocery shopping trip was with the girls. We bought the ingredients for olliebolen, which one of them was committed to making for class. I am no baker, but as it happened she did great not relying on me. Sunya has risen them all to be very self-sufficient, mainly by providing them what they need and then going on about her own life. It might be a less sentimental and more European style of parenting, which I’m sometimes not so sure about, but it seems to work. As yet everyone’s still alive and no one’s in an asylum.

Tonight I loaded the curb with discarded furniture. In great contrast to how my parents and grandparents went about things, furniture around here doesn’t last very long. It gets a lot of hard use and I’ve observed that the best way to accept that is to get furniture for cheap or for free to start with. So in the morning the city’s claw tractor will take away some chairs and a sofa whose better days were long before they got here. It’s a good thing, cleaning out; and Craigslist has no shortage of replacements.

S16.3.2: In Which Things are Discarded

I made this in junior college, in a mechanical engineering prerequisite class. I’ve never used it. It would require endless rust removal. I should throw it in with the junk.


But … But …

So much to do. I can’t see blogging, except in those randomly inescapable moments.

What else happened today? I had a nice chat with the gentleman who’s retiring. Got a sense of the high level of responsibility and of politics in the job. After hearing my questions he felt I was pretty well positioned for that very unique position.

In the afternoon the CEO announced ~12,000 jobs were going to be cut in the upcoming reorganizations. If local management decides that unique position will remain invaluable, and I am hired for it, I will turn out to be incredibly lucky. If not, and that’s surely possible, then I and the family I’ve joined will be pretty well fucked.

S16.2.5: Air Travel Whoops

My flight was at 6:30. My plan was to leave home at 5:00. I knew that would give me plenty of time. I only live about twenty five minutes away.

One thing and another, I was just on the freeway at 5:30. Still, no worries. It was too early for traffic. I cruised along in the early darkness, parked in the economy lot, took the shuttle bus.

Only when I got in line for security did I realize I had a problem. It was 6:15, they were boarding, and would be shutting the door in five minutes.

Once through security I grabbed my belt and my shoes and my laptop and my suitcase all at once and ran in stocking feet to the gate. There was no line. The plane was still there. The ramp was still there. But when I said to the guy at the gate, Am I too late, he said, Yes, sir. He went on to explain there were procedures blah blah but I didn’t care, I was late, it was my fault, no need for him to ease my mind with explanations.

I put on my shoes and went to the counter. All flights to New Orleans, without exception, were sold out. She spent the next half hour on her computer trying to concoct likely scenarios but the fact was there are no direct flights between Sacramento and New Orleans and no matter which flight I tried to get on standby, there’d be another attempt at standby at the next airport, and the odds of my actually making it were shrinking fast.

Finally she found she could hold a seat to Houston, from where I had three chances to catch a last-minute cancellation to New Orleans. By now I had been mad at myself and turned that into anger at the world and at family “obligations” and was ready to give up and just not go. It was a stupid childish emotional state. But when I was faced with the decision to commit to a flight to Houston without knowing if I’d get any further, I decided to go for it. How could I not? I was calming down by now and realizing I didn’t have to be such a baby.

Besides. “Obligations?” I was going to New Orleans, for heaven’s sake, and to honor my brother’s partner of forty years. How could I quit that?

It was a short flight to Las Vegas, where I disembarked and wandered through the gate area with an hour before my connecting flight. On a whim I looked at the departure board, and saw there a flight directly to New Orleans. I went to the gate in question and told her my story and asked if, you know. She looked at her screen and said come back at nine thirty and we’ll see what we can do. I went and got myself a breakfast samminch.

At nine twenty seven I heard my name and went to the counter. She handed me a boarding pass. I wasn’t going to Houston at all. Here I come to the Crescent City! I told her she saved the day. I was happy. She looked happy. The sun smiled on McCarran International Airport.

2016-04-15 09.54.51

S16.2.3: Work, Eat, Repeat

This day devolved to working on the broken clothes dryer, in and between the other things one has to do. I replaced the drive belt, but the drum doesn’t turn. Not enough tension on the belt, or too much friction elsewhere. No reason the tensioner would suddenly be too weak. But the drum rides on a couple small rollers. Perhaps one of those has suddenly gone stiff on me. Also, its ends are captured between big round felt gaskets that appear a wee bit worn and don’t stay perfectly in place. Maybe they have now been mangled just enough that they offer too much resistance. Meanwhile, no laundry in a house that on average needs two loads run per day.

A good friend invited us over for a small dinner party. The soup was delicious and made of things Sunya can eat: chicken broth, carrots, celery, bok choy, rice noodles, tofu, turmeric, water chestnuts, peanuts. I’m writing these down as a means of remembering. These are people we’ve partied with in every imaginable way over the years, yet now all that seems so distant to me. Well, things have changed. Not only health-wise, but financially. We’re much more subdued and much more intent on producing rather than consuming. This isn’t to say we were ever unproductive, far from it. But I think now there is, or is going to be, more focus on the work and less on the mad socializing. That suits me really well. I want to figure out how to get some writing done, for one thing, and not this boring matter-of-fact blog tone. I have a voice. It seems to have gone silent, recent practice sessions notwithstanding, but I do have a voice. It’ll come back.

S16.2.2: In Which We Do Things and a Belt Snaps

Finished the table. Cut the legs short so the keys are more or less the right piano height from the floor. Found an adapter somewhere in the dragon mound so normal headphones with the mini plug can plug into the audio out phone jack. Decided to nix any idea of having speakers on it.

Didn’t get a keyboard stand because this thing is 4 1/2 feet wide and they’re not big enough. Or stable enough. Or anyway, because money. And didn’t think of it.

Unclogged a bathroom sink that Drano® wasn’t making any headway against. I never knew what was blocking it. I knocked a lot of scale out of the sink trap but that wasn’t it.

Had a visit from my mother, whom I finally told was always welcome to come over. Neither of us is used to the idea but everyone has mellowed with age and she’s outlived almost everyone she knows and it will be nice for her to come knit now and then while Sunya is working on art projects.

Spent many more hours than intended trying to compile tax deductions. This year is hella messed up but nuff bout dat.

Did not run. Did not write.

Late, like just before bed, I remembered I had no clean underwear and went down to start a load. There were clothes in the washing machine. There were clothes in the dryer. I started to unload the dryer when I perceived the clothes were still wet. I restarted the machine but it didn’t sound right. Had a look and the tumbler wasn’t tumbling. Tried several times. No dice. Over time I figured out how to open the front panel and verify the drive belt had broken, pull the thing forward off its little dais so I could unplug it, find something long with a hook-like end to it so I could pull a bunch of extraordinarily linty pieces of clothing from the space between the dryer and the wall, note that the exhaust ducting had come loose, and generally spend more and more time doing less and less because it was after midnight and I was tired and stupid. Finally got to sleep in the wee hours.

S16.2.1: In Which We Take Unnecessary Steps Towards Installing a Piano

I easily interrupt myself. This could be because I easily set plans that need changing. I have a lot to do, some of them more important than others, and this causes interruptions and restarts. But if I keep reprioritizing, some things just won’t happen. Often better to choose a thing and just do it.

pc2x-olb-eae20783613c34f513b47964d8b6ec14I have a keyboard. It was my father’s. It’s a Kurzweil PC88. No slouch of an instrument. Nice heavy keys. MIDI interface. Having it makes me want to play piano with the ease of having had training and practice rather than my virtual hunt and peck. But mostly it’s been out of the way, hidden among other things great and small in my office. I had it out for a while a year ago and the kids really liked it. I want to bring it back out again.

It needs a good sturdy table. This is why it was put away: The table broke. But I can devise a table. So I started today. Found a table top that had been out all winter but seemed okay. Went to Home Depot for legs and attachment hardware. Cleaned off the mud and some paint from earlier projects …

But I was tired, sleepy-tired from having eaten lunch, and I did not want to work on the table by crouching down to the ground. I needed sawhorses. I went looking for mine. Both pairs were in use holding up old doors for work tables out back. I thought it would not be nice to retrieve my sawhorses from that. So I went to get more.

Home Depot didn’t have the wooden ones they used to have, and the folding plastic kind were too expensive. I can’t see spending sixty bucks on a pair of sawhorses. I hemmed and hawed and broke down and bought the brackets you attach 2x4s to, and bought the 2x4s, and brought all that home to make my own. Material costs for the pair, about $26, which is better, but still seems a bit much.

Sundown found me crouched in the driveway making sawhorses rather than crouched in the driveway assembling a keyboard table because I originally didn’t want to crouch in the driveway. Well, dusk is a far less sleepy time of day than mid-afternoon. And I need sawhorses out of general principle. I’ll finish the keyboard table tomorrow … or whenever my taxes are done and the other things that MUST be done tomorrow. Reprioritizing is a thing.

S16.2.0: The Book-Writing Club

At 1pm, Shut Up and Write! had a meetup at a coffee shop on the downtown Grid. (The Grid is what people now call Sacramento’s 19th Century letter-and-number street layout.) I parked in front of some hundred twenty year old houses and kept messing with my hair because it’s super long and I wished I hadn’t washed it and I just wanted to tie it back out of the way but when you do that to long hair it gets all straight and ironed-out looking for the rest of the day. Life is hard when you’re a girl. Plus I hadn’t taken my ADHD medication and was suddenly all self-conscious that I was going to be all unfocused and unfriendly.

The ADHD med actually works. It’s basically an upper. They won’t mail it to me — I have to go to the pharmacy — and it’s a federal crime to give it to anyone else. It doesn’t do much, though. I think it’s a stimulant that they discovered helps ADHD types by accident. My theory is it juices me up out of my naturally depressive state just enough so I don’t drop out of whatever I mean to be doing so readily but instead am happy to stay at it. What happens otherwise is I get bored and switch to something else, but not as a productive task switch, more as a sort of cure for mild mood depression; and now I’m all into that and then the next thing and the next, each step another increment in mood depression, each step taking me further away from what I’m supposed to be doing, each step making me feel even worse about myself and on down the rabbit hole I go. This may be a bit overdramatic; but somehow if I pop the pill I’m happier and yet not more fractious, as some other stimulants will do, and I get more shit done. Hella more shit, sometimes.

But enough about me. Whose blog is this anyway? I know better than to derail myself so easily so I just said, Self, cheer up, it’ll be great (I can be pretty shy, too). I took my laptop in its leather envelope with the UCSF Mass Spectrometry Facility logo and walked in to Shine to find a crowd of people with open laptops. I asked a black woman if I could share her table and got a small cup of coffee and a huge peanut butter cookie. The table was big enough for about one and a half laptops but I settled in while the cheerful guy up on a stool behind me intro’d himself as the organizer and said he was glad I was here. That’s a useful trick.

At 1:15 or so there was a round of brief introductions. Most people were working on novels. Most of them were in second drafts or better. The lady at my table was doing the surprisingly hard work preparatory to publication. This was interesting because it wasn’t just a NaNoWriMo crowd, which always felt like a college study group. These were fairly serious people. I also noticed the ages were mostly either about my age and up or in their late twenties. Either not yet launched into family life and its complete domination of free time, or aged beyond it (this is the same age mix we get at parties and other dance events).

(What did I say? Something like, My name is Don and like everyone else I have a crazy busy life so I’m hoping to use this to force me to get this done. I’ve got a story or novel whatever that takes place in Sacramento and San Francisco and roundabout in 1855, historical fiction is my thing, I’m just starting out and pretty much trying to get some momentum going.)

At 1:23 when all that was done the leader set a timer on his phone for an hour and everyone shut up and wrote. I did too. It was hard. Writing is hard work, in case no one’s told you. I have conceived of what I think is a pretty good piece of work but I haven’t plotted it out in great detail because that work doesn’t really lead to anything but more plotting and refining and nothing ever actually gets written before I tire out and lose interest. Instead I take occasional notes here and there and just remember my ideas and, when writing, basically try to write down what I can remember of the book I read. It’s like this great book I really liked that I’m now trying to put into my own words. It’s hard, though, because all the details are up to me, every little thing that happens or is said, and when I get into a flow I later look up to realize I made things happen I didn’t want or showed a side of my character I don’t want her to have and, bam, gonna have to go back and do that part over.

Well, writing is mostly rewriting anyway. I’m just sketching on my big canvas right now, making little cartoons in charcoal that will be rubbed out and redrawn later. At some point the brilliant oils will be laid down but that’s not for a while yet. I’m just determining the overall structure at this time, what’s in it, where it all goes.

The crowd dispersed some time after 2:30 and I went on to some of the other things I needed to do. But it was a good experience. My intention is to write an hour every day and set down the habit. Maybe by the time this sabbatical is over it will be a habit I am truly loath to break.

The Union Pacific crossing at C St

S16.1.6: The Kirtan

We went to a thing in the evening, a kirtan, basically Indian call-and-response. People sat on mats facing a dais with half a dozen musicians. The instruments included a harmonium, tablas, flute, cello; this small orchestra made a very rich sound. They played simple Hindu chants we sang along with. The leader had a beautiful clear voice, easy to follow.

One song, the words were too difficult to learn. In all songs the words were in Hindi hence learned as strings of syllables. Not hard to pick up after a bit. But one had too many, and I stopped trying to learn it and just hummed, or grasped my knees and listened. In time I started to feel sad.

Not knowing the words or music and not having them to read is a trigger for me, a mild trigger of feeling left out. I remember similar feelings in church a decade ago when they would throw the lyrics up on the screen but there was no music to read. I felt excluded.

I held the sadness and drifted with it awhile. My visual memory drifted to Sunya, who sat next to me and who, when I glanced over, was absolutely radiant. She attended these events many years ago when she lived in Colorado. Seventeen years have passed and finally she has found one to attend again, and every single note, every single word came back to her without fail. She was completely happy, completely aligned with her purpose and direction. I know her thousand faces, and I know when that brilliant smile is pure and completely uneffected. She is youthful and ageless, posture perfect, strong, and whole.

I held that image and drifted with it awhile. I saw her goddess light coalesce into a star, a fusion reaction contained in my arms. Fusion reactions held by men require containment fields, impossibly strong magnetic bonds that, in Earthly constructs, last only microseconds. In my vision mine could not hold her either. So I pulled it open, not without pain and effort, and watched her star ascend freely to the heavens. I saw myself, Earth-bound, carrying a containment vessel that was no longer needed, or wanted. I held that sadness a little while.

And soon the session ended and we regrouped with our friends and went on with the passage of time. My story was not resolved, but neither are a lot of things in life.

But later, I did see more of the story. The containment field, with all its electromagnets and control circuits and shielding of lead and rock, was very heavy. It was so heavy, and it was not needed. I put it down. I let it go. And thus unweighted, I saw that I too was a star and, thus unweighted, I too could ascend to join her and other stars, shining our light, ever abundant, and whole.

S16.1.5: An Explanation of Titles; and that Tiny Park

The strange entry title scheme: It saves me from coming up with titles. Which I can do. But I don’t want to always have to. And adapting my employer’s calendar to it makes sense since this time off is on my employer’s calendar.

S16 means “Sabbatical 2016”, obviously. The next number is the week, one through four. The last is the day of the week. Work weeks are counted Monday through Friday, one through five; so today at work is WW15.5, or Friday of the fifteenth week of the year. I use 0 and 6 for Sunday and Saturday. Very engineeringish.

S16.4.6 will be a sad day. It will be the End. But I will be out of town at a writing seminar. For the sake of that seminar I will have forsaken one of the best parties of the year. “Best” is a matter of opinion and Sunya is not a great fan of that particular one, but last year it had moments that made me as happy as at any party that lasts from mid-day Saturday until sundown Sunday, and I will miss not being there. However, there are always more parties, and as I have surely said somewhere by now, I’m 57 fucking years old. Geez.

Meanwhile, I need to keep writing, because the organizer of said seminar looks forward to hearing my stuff. Aurgh.

A fun thing that happened today was that after talking to my brother, who lives in New Orleans, I did some research on one of our more obscure family names. My great-great-grandmother’s maiden name was Kruttschnitt. There’s a teeny tiny park in New Orleans by that name. Yes, they’re connected.

A handful of Kruttschnitts and their families left Germany for New York in the early 1800s. In time, some moved on to New Orleans, and some moved further on to the gold rush in California. My great-great-grandmother was a young teenager when her parents went to Weaverville. Her mother was an unhappy old bird and when Anna was sent away to the convent in Benicia for her schooling in 1860, her parents couldn’t get along anymore and her father lit out, never to be seen again.

Why was mama Elisabeth so miserable? Well, while she was stuck to starve in a rough mining town hundreds of miles north of San Francisco, her husband’s half-brother was down in New Orleans, getting along swell in swell society for having married Peninah Benjamin. She was Judah P. Benjamin’s sister. He was the senator from Louisiana. Elisabeth can be forgiven for assuming she had family living the high life in the country’s most glamorous city while she was in the mountains boiling bones for soup on the earnings of a laborer.

Of course, once he left (and, Anna learned half a century later, married a woman in New Jersey and had more children), times got a lot tougher. Elisabeth scrubbed floors. Her daughter married a man she disapproved of and had nine children. Judah P. Benjamin became Jefferson Davis’ Secretary of State and emigrated to England after the war was over.

The other Kruttschnitts who stayed in New Orleans did well, as suggested by this article about one named Julius. And so the park, which I know nothing about except that it’s here. Maybe they had a house nearby. Or the school named after yet another Kruttschnitt, which is gone now. It’s not much to look at in any case.

Kruttschnett Place

Anyway, I’m all excited because a little bit of poking around netted me a Kruttschnitt Family History that I’ve never seen before that was compiled about fifteen years ago, with the above details and a bunch more, and some more ancestors going back to the early 1600s. Yes, my many charms include those of the born genealogy nerd.