21 November 2005

We Were Children

Eenie meanie miney moe, catch a tiger memory by the toe. If she hollers let her go. And my mother says to pick the very best one and you are IT!

Yesterday I drained and cleaned out the hot tub. The fiberglass shell is much slicker when it’s not full and just a little damp. There’s an inverted V-shape in one of the contoured seating areas, intended for your knees to drape over, positioning your feet at one belting jet that gives an awesome foot massage. For reasons I can’t explain, I was standing with one foot on either side of the sloping upside-down V and for reasons I further can’t explain both feet slipped outward at once and both knees crashed inward, toward the top of the V, simultaneously. It hurt like a mother. The right knee seemed to get the worst of the tork. I kept it elevated all night. I suppose I’m lucky. I don’t think I tore anything, just torked it good – no bruising but it hurts, hurts, hurts.

So while an early evening of chores was fumbled, I was laying on the rug in front of the fireplace, knee propped up on pillows and had plenty of time to think. Thinking is my affliction. The unexamined life is not worth living and all that rot. Examine, I do. Think, I do. I let my mind thumb through a pile of reruns, memories from this era or that. It paused on this one:

I was twenty four and he was twenty five. Under other circumstances I don’t think we’d have even been friends. In these circumstances, I watched his friends disappear one-by-one – unwilling or unable to sit with the changes happening in him. But I don’t think he really had friends – he just didn’t know it. Or maybe I just couldn’t see the friendships – built on such strange and frail foundations. I cared for him, perhaps I even loved him, but I didn’t like him. I spent hours and hours with him. We spent one night together. I arrived at his place around midnight. There was a candle on his bedside casting a warm, almost romantic glow around the room. Sometimes I held his hand. Sometimes I talked to him. Mostly we sat in silence. The folks from the coroner’s office didn’t arrive until five or six that next morning.

One day, a few months before, I held his frail, wasted, naked body as he wailed. The porcelain bathtub in his Tenderloin apartment was too hard and he lacked buoyancy – he was just bones and nerves covered by a bit of flesh. If I held him, he could bathe and not be in pain – nerves crushed between porcelain and bone. He cried. He shook as he sobbed. “I wanted to make $30,000 a year,” he screamed at the wall. “I don’t want the first time my name is in the newspaper to be in my obituary,” he pleaded. As though either money or some notoriety is worth anything – has any value. And some people don’t know how to make anything of their lives. He didn’t even really get one.

No one else knows these things about him. No one but you, now. You and I. That he wanted more. That what he got wasn’t enough. That it was just he and I. I cleaned shit off the walls and floor when he couldn’t make it. Sometimes he thought I was his mother – no, really, he really thought I was his mother. I was twenty four. He was twenty five.

We were children.

20 November 2005

It's Me

There are hippies who live next door who have impromptu drumming circles on the weekends. (I wouldn’t call them hippies, but they call themselves hippies.) They’ve offered an open invitation to their events, and while I don’t mean to be unneighborly, it’s doubtful I’ll ever take them up on the invitation. The invitation is kind and genuine, I believe. They have been gracious neighbors. The dog barks at them while they do Tai Chi in the yard (I surmise that the slow movements resemble aggression to her, she moves slow like that when she hunts. I think she’s trying to tell them, I know you’re there! I’ll kick your ass.) You see, it’s all how you look at things. Most people who practice Tai Chi likely wouldn’t view it as an act of aggression, despite the fact that it’s a marshal art – but the dog knows. It’s how I feel about them – you’re nice, but there’s something not right.

Despite the fact that I know, at least casually, many people in this town, sometimes I feel lonely. I don’t completely understand this. I’m happy here. I love this town. I felt even lonelier when I lived in the City… nothing worse then feeling lonely when you’re surrounded by millions of people (including those you count as friends) – it just proves that it’s not about access to people, it’s about something inside – some inadequacy, inability to make the connection. And it’s not even about not spending time with people. It’s about the quality of the connection. (It’s not you, it’s me.)

18 November 2005

On The Subject of Blood

I didn’t know Zimbabwe used to be called Rhodesia. I wonder if Rhodesian Ridgebacks roam the rural roads.

On the subject of blood. It’s very dirty. I think I’ve addressed this before. If you have fantasies and ideas of vampires, the whole undead thing, I think you’d do better off sucking on a potato. It’s safer, cleaner and it’s sort of undead – it thrives in darkness. While I say this, I personally have yet to come to appreciate the potato as a complex and beautiful thing. Blood may be dirty, but it’s also beautiful, historic and complicated. I wish a clever scientist with aural appreciations could find a way to convert cytokines to tones and unleash the symphony of blood. And you know it’s not just blood – it’s the entire system that’s so wonderful. It is not ‘irreducibly complex.’ The brilliance, wonder and genius of it is that it is reducible. The redundancy in the system is exactly what allows it to be a dynamic, evolving and learning system. It is mathematical, musical and mysterious.

We can break the immune system down in many ways. It’s no different than anything in this regard. For example, we can walk into a room and talk about the number of people who wear glasses versus those not wearing glasses. Similarly we can talk about the cellular versus humoral arms of the immune system. We can talk about people who write left versus right handed. We can talk about innate or acquired immunity. And in all instances there is a spectrum, a spectrum of sight, those who wear contacts, and those who perform some functions with their left hand and others with their right and of course those who fall smack dab in the middle as wholly ambidextrous.

So what’s the difference between innate and acquired immunity? Innate immunity is what we’re born with, ancient immunologic knowledge passed down generation after generation. It’s very old wisdom – very valuable. It’s our first line of defense and it’s typically extremely effective. That we carry this ancient wisdom in our blood, this intelligence, isn’t it some kind of evidence of reincarnation or at least proof that it’s really quite possible that we have other kinds of ancient wisdom that we’ve yet to really tap into and understand? When birds migrate or animals engage in certain unlearned behaviors that promote their survival, we’ll call it instinct. But what is instinct other than mysterious wisdom? And why is this wisdom mostly recognized as behavior? Haven’t you ever had the experience of knowing things and not really understanding how you know it? When people say, trust your gut, what they often mean is trust the innate wisdom that is within you – the ancient knowledge that we need to learn to get in touch with and learn how to listen to. But then I wonder, in the same way some people’s innate immunity fails to control disease, perhaps not all innate wisdom is good. Makes you think.

And acquired immunity is learned. While certain cells and functions within us are a result of ancient wisdom, to complete the system there is also the ability to learn and learn we do. We can teach cells to do new things – which is the foundation behind vaccination – to teach the immune system to recognize and respond to say a flu virus before it ever actually encounters the flu virus. Thus if and when someone becomes infected with the flu virus, the immune system is primed and ready to act – to contain and control the infection before it causes disease. A very misunderstood thing about vaccines is that they do not prevent infection, they prevent disease. But I think a very cool thing about the acquired immune system is that we are not all equal – we’re not all able to mount an effective and robust immune response to an “immunologic lesson” – we do not all learn the same. Some have immunologic learning disabilities and/or defects and often these are in discrete areas – in some instances causing no noticeable harm or effect, in other instances leaving one vulnerable to certain diseases and in other instances these defects have benefits (perhaps unintended.) And I think when we dig deeper, what we find is that on some fundamental level, something is controlling our capacity and breadth of learning. I’m apt to believe that what’s controlling our capacity and breath of immunologic learning is actually much to do with ancient wisdom, genetic information passed on through history, from the earliest days of evolution, from our mothers, mothers, mothers, mothers, mothers, mothers… and so on. So there’s that spectrum, that continuum of experience – the inability to slice diversity neatly along a line.

It seems (almost) the human condition to deny this link with the past. It seems (almost) the human condition to deny this link with the future. It’s perhaps something we need to rail against, the inability to live in the long now. Somewhere the silver cell divides.

I digress.. more on blood later. Or, well, maybe not (does it bore you?) But you know, think about it… if I touch you is there perhaps some wisdom my skin cells whisper in the ears of yours? I like to think on it – the logic of your touch, intelligent kisses, our ancients communing while we pretend we’re just having tea…

17 November 2005

Souls In The House

There are no soles in the trees today.

Night before last there was a mighty racket in the back of the house.. or was it in the house? There was a clatter and a bang… we have a cast iron bathtub. It sounded like someone tossed a few rocks at it – it echoed in that hollow way. Ed and Secret Agent Dog sprung to action, checking the doors, surveying the house and were preparing to check the perimeter out doors when a cloud of skunk oil came pouring through the house like nuclear bomb. You could feel it like a wave washing over everything. I swear it moved the air, stirred up a kind of wind with it.

The really fucked up thing, as the investigation was slowed, was that this skunk smell wasn’t particularly notable anywhere outside the house. (Secret Agent Dog, having been skunked a number of times, just getting a preliminary whiff of it, before I smelled it or had any idea, came running from the kitchen, jumped into my lap, curled into a ball and hid her nose beneath her own body.) We suspect, after careful and cautious investigation, that the smell came from under the house.. from under the bathroom – likely from under the bathtub.

Remember that the only room we really haven’t addressed in the new place is the bathroom. Here we can’t use the bathtub or shower because the numbnuts who build the place didn’t use waterproof materials around the tub. We’ve ripped up the linoleum but haven’t laid anything new – so there’s simply exposed subflooring with its cadre of cracks and the what-not, pretty much letting things like spiders and well, the SMELL OF SKUNK, come right on up through from under the house.

I’ve suspected that something suspicious is happening under the house. Since April I’ve been complaining that there are a few areas around the perimeter of the house that are open, where we’ve taken the siding off for access while doing this or that project. They need to be closed back up so that rodents can’t get under the house. I think it’s too late. Last week Secret Agent Dog took to barking at the bathtub in the middle of the night. I think rats are living under the tub. Night before last I think the rats were displaced by a rogue skunk. I’ve got a guy coming at 3 pm today… I’m not gonna tell him about the skunk.. but I’m gonna send him under there and have him close it up. I haven’t yet thought through how we’re going to go about trapping all that have made homes under there yet. I don’t think kindly on the smell of dying things wafting up through the subflooring either.

So there are no soles in the trees today. But it seems there are other reasons to be a little dissettled.. a little shaken from the regular routine. And one is the smell of skunk that permeates the big house sort of like a ghost.. lurking in every corner. There’s no escape..

16 November 2005

Men At Work In Trees

Good morning world. I started the day off with a 7 am conference call. In honesty, I had the phone on mute most of the time and was perusing the internet for interesting reads. Isn’t it their job to keep me engaged and entertained? Oh wait.. where’s my responsibility in that? Well.. there’s that again now isn’t there. Back to my responsibility.

I have my morning routines – my ablutions, rituals, what-have-yous. I drink my coffee, scan the blogs, read the newspaper, cuddle with the Honey Bee (she is such a cuddly punim!) When I’m done reading and cuddling I take my coffee out to the hot tub and meditate on the day while I look at the sky – be it clear blue like today or marbled with veins of wispy clouds like yesterday – whatever the case, I look at it and I contemplate the day while my coffee is perched on the edge.

Yesterday the clouds reminded me of my grandmother’s fireplace mantel at Christmas. She’d drape multicolored lights on the mantel, cover it with spun glass and place little angel figurines in the clouds of spun glass that reflected and diffused the lights just so. She’d sing Sunday school songs to me and my sister. Her efforts never cultivated or instilled in either of us a belief or faith in God, but I loved to hear how her voice trilled and quivered when she sang. It made her happy and that was fun to watch. Equally entertaining was watching her in church, sway like a fan at a rock concert, hand in the air, waving back and forth like tall grass in a gentle breeze, chanting like a mantra with eyes closed, “yes Jesus. Thank you Jesus." That was part of the color of my youth.

Her and grandpa’s purple Cadillac, his big silver and turquoise rings, his boleros with scorpions encased in amber or Lucite and his Pentecostal preacher ways. Fire, brimstone and the odd and out of place pool table and pin-up-girl calendar in the basement. In the weeks and months before his death he would chant, “Through faith we are healed. Through faith we are healed.” But he died anyways, quite young really – a painful death from cancer. That big formidable man brought to his knees like that. It just wasn’t right. He was larger than life, like the character from Big Fish. He spun tales. He’d win us prizes at the winter carnival ice fishing competitions by going to his fish house on the big lakes up north, catching huge fish and keeping them alive in ice water until the competition on Lake Nokomis. They’d never seen such fish come out of that lake! He’d proudly present his grandchildren with the spoils of the day – a twinkle in his eye and a big belly laugh. He could instill belief and faith in a frog.. not necessarily a faith a God, but definitely a faith in him. He was the kind of person you could believe in.

I love my memories of them. So back to my ablutions. I am distracted in my routines because there are tree trimmers in the redwoods next door and there’s something disturbing about peering up at the sky and redwoods and seeing a workman’s butt and the soles of his shoes. It somehow disrupts and disturbs things like fond remembrances of grandma and fails to bring an order to the day. So instead, I’m here, leering at the workers through the living room windows who are infringing on my routines and wondering when I can get back to the dealings of the day.

14 November 2005

Watch This Space

It’s nearly noon and I should be hard at work. Instead I’m drinking coffee and blogging (well, not just blogging… thinking and blogging.) I’ve finished one of those deadlines that has been hanging over my head and it’s released me to some degree such that from now until the end of the year my days should be focused on contemplating each day and creating the foundation of a job that I’ll do for a few years and love. A job that will make a difference and I’ll look forward to each morning. It’s hard to explain the journey to here and why it is the way it is.

I read a good article about Warren Buffett on the front page of the Wall Street Journal weekend edition. I’m tempted to get in touch with him, ask him perhaps if we could chat for an hour or so over coffee. What would Warren Buffett and I have to talk about? He doesn’t have a computer on his desk. He spends most of his time thinking – he doesn’t ruminate for hours over decisions, he takes a very liaises faire approach to management, his phone doesn’t ring constantly. It just seems like I might have a good deal to learn from this guy despite how disparate our vocational callings might be. What he does that I like is he reads - I assume voraciously – but I’d love to just witness it and ask questions and seek a little inspiration. Not a phone call. I just want to sit down and have coffee in his office and chat.

I’ve been thinking about children lately. I’d like to have more children in my life so I’m trying to convince my friends to start having babies. ((Lawyer Babe says to me, maybe you should have a baby. But the thing is I enjoy sleep, career options, a degree of financial freedom, personal freedom, choices…)) I think I would feel imprisoned by a child – at least for the first several years. These would be bad years of my life to feel imprisoned. Maybe if I could figure a few things out – find a good path in my career, then maybe.. but I’m not certain and it seems if I’m not certain it’s a pretty big commitment to walk half-ass into. Yes, I know… if I went there I’d be blinded and persuaded by love. I don’t even want to go there.

There have been times in my life where accidents could have happened – the anonymous Peruvian soccer player with the lickable hips, or even that first dysfunctional boy I loved. Isn’t it interesting that I really only see myself as a single mother? I just so fundamentally understand that that would be mine, regardless the context. It’s not a question. But see, I want Cassie to have a baby – she’d be such an amazing mom – and we could have such fun showing that baby the world.

(I call her Cassie, by the way, because of a teenage coming-of-age novel I read when I was twelve or so. It was called Me, Cassie and the character Cassie lost her virginity to a foreign exchange student from like Zaire or something… And my Cassie is so NOT like that Cassie that it’s funny to call her that.)

Anyways… why am I waxing this way? Perhaps because I’m evaluating life and choices (not in a maudlin or regretful way, but a good way… questioning whether or not these feet are touching the planet rightly, walking in the right direction, seeking boldly inward and outward with integrity and honesty.)

We learn from one another if we open our eyes to the lessons we need. The people I learn from aren’t even aware of the lessons they remind me of.

There is one young woman who reminds me that we make drama and trouble when we fail to take responsibility for finding and realizing our destiny. Yes, I believe in destiny – but I don’t believe everyone finds theirs – probably most people don’t. Some people run from it like wildfire, going to clubs, on vacation, creating drama with friends, lovers, family – as though emotional rollercoasters constitute doing something. Humans create drama with their loved ones by picking fights, betraying one another, lamenting irretrievable moments from the past, when they need to escape from the boredom that they wrap themselves in as an excuse not to look into those deep dark truthful mirrors, to not do the hard stuff of living - of following and realizing dreams, destinies, purposes.

I’ve been guilty a bit of this lately too. It was a lesson I learned many, many years ago while laying in a meadow in Heidelberg, Germany. I was so sick - feverish, distraught – my head spinning, my body ached. I prayed for death. I didn’t know anyone. I was alone in a strange land and I felt miserable – I was done with living. After several hours, death did not come. I only got up and moved because I was bored and suddenly some bit of wisdom sharpened into focus. Moving about just because we’re bored of waiting for death does not constitute living. Distracting ourselves from the boredom doesn’t constitute living either. There was this flash of a moment when I understood the difference between actions and reactions that were about distracting myself from the boredom and actions and reactions that were truly about living. Words fail me.. there is a difference between these types of actions. It’s qualitatively different - it leads to entirely different places.

I’m guilty of reverting to living in the boredom again – to some degree. Partly this is because I’ve needed to rest, or I’ve convinced myself that I’ve needed a rest. Living is hard work – despite how fulfilling it is. But here I am, resting on my figurative hillside – and out of boredom, once again, I am inspired to move on. When boredom is the underlying inspiration – well, no good can come of this. It’s time to take responsibility, recognize the boredom and, frankly, start living again.

I feel like I’m always writing here about how it’s time for a change, or I’m changing, or things are about to change – blah, blah, blah. This isn’t about change. It’s just about living – and I know how to do that. Watch this space…

05 November 2005


I keep leaving way too late for the Honey Bee’s walk and finding myself in the forest in the dark without a flashlight. It’s spooky. We’re walking at dusk when supposedly the Mountain Lion’s hunt and we’re walking in pitch blackness – only the white tip of her tail to lead me onward. I hear things. In the rain last night mostly I heard the swoooosh, swooooosh of my rain gear and it left me with the impression that we were being followed. And once I really let that impression sink in, even though logically I confirm it’s very unlikely, I’m just left spooked until I get home. Coming upon the stables in the dark is equally haunting – the dim stable lights, the breathy banter of horses, the tap and scrape of their hooves, the mad dash of a stable cat coming out of nowhere and returning to blackness. And then out of nowhere a buck rushes by – startling us both.