What are you doing for Thanksgiving?

I have no will or energy for cooking, so we started calling in a radius out from my home to find a fun place to eat. God knows the family needs festival this year. The good thing is, we found something close. The bad thing is, I think I could buy a new motorcycle for […]

I have no will or energy for cooking, so we started calling in a radius out from my home to find a fun place to eat. God knows the family needs festival this year.

The good thing is, we found something close. The bad thing is, I think I could buy a new motorcycle for what it’s gonna cost.

What are you folks doing (or if you read this after, what did you do)?

more blog hackery

Typically, when I want to be blogging and run out of words, I start fucking around with the technology that drives my blog. Which accounts for the several different templates I had up tonight, in case anyone was watching. And trust me, it looked pretty damn fucked up for a bit there. One of the […]

Typically, when I want to be blogging and run out of words, I start fucking around with the technology that drives my blog. Which accounts for the several different templates I had up tonight, in case anyone was watching. And trust me, it looked pretty damn fucked up for a bit there.

One of the things that frustrates me about my completely lack of time lately is that I have no time for this sort of work; and I really enjoy it. This sort of hackery, than is of no benefit other than pleasing myself – is why I started playing with computers when I was a teenager. Just to make things that pleased me.

So it irritates me to have to be half-assed about this shit; that I can’t hack together the parts of various styles that I like and make it work all by myself. I’d far rather be doing this than babysitting users who either won’t listen or who think they know better.

Still – frustrations aside, I rather like MT Pro. Many of the glaring design problems in Mt4 are vastly improved (though it’s still vastly over complicated in some key ways that violate principles of good interface design). I just think I need to make a hackery blog so that I can test this shit someplace that isn’t live.

It’s looking more and more like my planned holiday break is going to be mostly work time; the good thing about that is that I’ll get some of it back in the form of extra days off, and can take a few free days when things slow. The down side is, that’s not likely to be until April.

The other good thing is, sometimes when I work on holidays, what I’m really doing is waiting for something that might happen, so I have time to kill in front of my computer. If I’m lucky. that time means I get some writing done (though facebook or myspace do NOT count as writing).

Meanwhile, I’m trying to make forward progress of some kind. This whole death business; I had no idea how many things needed to get done, and how much paperwork was involved. I see now the advantage of living in a bus with no fixed address and no assets you can’t carry with you. It means a whole lot less paperwork for anyone still left behind if you decide to drive off a cliff.

ukuleles

This afternoon I went to a ‘ukulele jam party’ at the Poor House Bistro (a remarkably authentic cajun joint in down town San Jose near the Shark Tank). Friends (Kenny, Heather Courtney, DB Walker played, and then the gang from Ukulele Underground jammed for a couple hours.

It wasn’t that the music was good – it was in every sense a jam party. Sloppy, disorganized, happy, slightly drunken. It wasn’t even that they were playing hawaiian music, ’cause there wasn’t that much of it. I think it was just the sound of ‘ukes playing that made my eyes go hazy.

For a lot of reasons, it’s been a fucked up year. Much of it I’ve been buried under work, to the point where having a life seems like a faraway dream. And of course, there was the growing burden of Mom’s care. With the benefit of hindsight, I can see now that it wasn’t just an increasing level of nuttiness, but in fact was the beginning of a sharp physical decline. But it was one more thing I had to do in a year where I’ve felt like I was drowning in un-done work and responsibility.

There was a brief instant when I felt the pressure lift; when I realized that I could say a peaceful goodbye to my mother and let her go, not burden her and myself with a long, miserable struggle, it was like a weight off my shoulders. But the weird elation was short lived, soon replaced with the realization that work was about to bury me again, and that I’d had no time at all to process what had just happened.

If a crisis can ever have good timing, mom’s did. There was a short lull at work, a month or so where we were able to catch our breath. Mom, for once in her life, timed something perfectly. But the window snapped shut far too quickly for me. Plans to combine vacation with work shut-downs evaporated, and of course, my finances are in disarray, with mom’s death and the maintenance needed on her house far exceeding the liquid cash she had when she died. So even if I had time, going anywhere far, for long, is out of the question.

So today, as I sat drinking a beer and listening to ukuleles play, it all hit me, very very heavily. It felt like someone had dialed gravity up.

Hawaii calls me; not just as a physical place, not just as a vacation destination, but as a mental state. And more than anything else, Hawaiian music gets to me. I hear ukuleles and slide guitar, and I can almost feel hot tropical air on my skin.

It didn’t matter that these kids were playing bob marley songs; the sound of ‘ukes is so much a part of my mental Hawaii that I could almost smell the damp earth of Kauai.

It hasn’t been that long since I’ve been there. August of ’07 in Kauai, and before that, exactly this time of year I was in Kona in ’06. But the last year feels incredibly long, and I feet more tired than I been in five years. For the first time since the day I started work at Apple, I hate going to work every day. My weekends blink by and all I can think of is, when is my next day off.

I really, really need to get the hell out of here. I need to have a long time to do nothing.

I always hate entries like this and usually threaten to delete them. Just nobody tell me to fucking breathe, ok?

New Look and Feel

Yes, I know this space looks weird and green. At least, it will as soon as your browser refreshes the stylesheet (shift-reload to force that).  It’s an unfortunate truth that while Six Apart make great software, they utterly suck at backwards compatability. So again I’ve abandoned my custom design temporarily for something off the shelf.  […]

Yes, I know this space looks weird and green. At least, it will as soon as your browser refreshes the stylesheet (shift-reload to force that). 

It’s an unfortunate truth that while Six Apart make great software, they utterly suck at backwards compatability. So again I’ve abandoned my custom design temporarily for something off the shelf. 
That’ll get better soon. 
Meanwhile, it’s still the same lousy blog, in new, lousy packaging!

phantom

I had a dream the other night, about a girl I used to know. Not a girl I know in real life, but perhaps a composite of many. But in the reality of my dream, we had long history. We were sitting someplace – a bar, or coffee house. For some reason we were smoking; […]

I had a dream the other night, about a girl I used to know. Not a girl I know in real life, but perhaps a composite of many. But in the reality of my dream, we had long history.

We were sitting someplace – a bar, or coffee house.

For some reason we were smoking; I think because in the noir of my subconscious, it was what the scene needed.

I lit a cigarette and passed it to her; took one out for myself, looked at it, and then put it back. later, I thought.

We talked about memories. I traced table-top scars with my finger, imagining what violence or carelessness had made each one.

This should have been different, I said. But I couldn’t find the words to tell her what I meant. She sipped from a glass of something dark, and brushed her sandy brown hair back from her forehead.

She looked at me sadly, shaking her head.

I should go, she said.

No, not yet.

She stood, and I stood with her; our heads almost knocking together in our awkwardness. I reached to catch her, to prevent a fall that wasn’t actually happening. I left my hand on her hip for a beat, and then two, and then slowly she moved closer to me.

Her mouth tasted like sweet spice and cigarettes. She closed her eyes as we kissed.

I want you, I whispered into her cheek. She said nothing, but I could feel her answer with the confused certainty of dream – It’s too late.

Her skin was warm against my palm as I lifted her shirt; I slipped fingers into the waist of her jeans, feeling somehow if I could touch her, I could keep her, make hermore than memory. I could smell her skin.

Please, I said. She said nothing; she was fading into haze, a ghost of memory.

Wait, I said, to empty, smokey space. I’m not finished.

I woke to pale, cold sunshine through my fly-specked window, the bed empty beside me. I flexed my hand and resisted the urge to put it to my nose. I know no scent would cling.

Who are you, I asked the phantom of my dream.

mom’s house

I keep thinking of things I need to write about, since the whole ‘mom’ episode has begun to settle into dust – pardon my pun. About the process of planning burials (fire!), about how odd it must be to work in that industry. About reading a certificate that describes the end of a loved one’s […]

I keep thinking of things I need to write about, since the whole ‘mom’ episode has begun to settle into dust – pardon my pun.

About the process of planning burials (fire!), about how odd it must be to work in that industry. About reading a certificate that describes the end of a loved one’s life in stark black ink on paper that looks like money.

About what it’s like to walk into someone’s home, when they’re gone, truly gone.

It’s been difficult to find time. With typically brutal timing, my employer has decided that upcoming holidays means it’s time to kick into high gear, so I’m suddenly swamped with work again. And of course the logistics of death consumes so much time that it’s hard to actually just think about what it all means.

Last weekend, we (me, barb, my cousins sam and amy, kenny and sabine) gathered at my mother’s house to begin the process of dealing with the physical remnants of a life.

I’ve been lucky; my friend Kenny and I made a deal. He’s back from his tour, and needed a place to live, and I needed help dealing with mom’s house. So he and his lady Sabiné have moved in. They’ve done a lot of the cleaning I wasn’t ready to do, and more importantly, they make the house still feel like home. People I love still live there, and when I walk into mom’s little living room, it’s not grim, dusty and depressing, but instead warm, clean, and melancholy.

My mother wasn’t a pack rat. She was fiercely, obsessively organized. This makes my task very much easier than it might have been. Yet, in eighty years of life, one accumulates things. I’ve found a packet of confederate money, a WWI german iron cross, the official seal of the school we we helped build in the early seventies (Daybreak Institute). I found my father’s wedding ring, a strange assortment of my father’s key rings and pocket knives, a beautiful silver money clip. I found notebooks of my mother’s poetry and notebooks of my father’s sketches. I found sheet music to ‘the pink pather’, which I asked Kenny to learn for me so he can play it on his sax.

I found an entire photo album of my gramma Cookie’s that reads like an eighteen year old’s facebook page; there’s a short story to be found in it, as soon as I have time to read all the notes and copy all the pictures. My grandfather was a handsome, dashing womanizer, and it’s clear gramma had set her sights on him but not yet made him hers.

I found pictures of myself, my brother; my mother in a vietnam era army field jacket that was mine in 1972, then hers in the eighties, and and now my daughter Ruby’s.

I found pictures of my aunt Penny, and pictures of myself and Sam; we looked at pictures of our weird shared childhoods and both remembered being there, so many years ago. It’s been a long, long time since she and I have talked about being kids. I think we’d both forgotten; no one else really remembers, now. Her younger sister amy, maybe a bit, but amy’s an elemental sort who lives entirely in the now, and of course her mom and mine, my father and brother, are all gone.

The process is far from done. Yet it helps to internalize what’s happened. Seeing my mother’s bedroom empty, working through things about which she always told me “take care of this when I go”. Looking at belongings of my mother’s and father’s, here now in my home, my things. It helps. Yet I still think it every day, say it out loud to myself; “she’s gone.”

It has helped a great deal to share this with Sam. We met a few nights ago at a bar in los gatos; ostensibly because I wanted to give her my mother’s wedding ring, but I think more because both of us needed to keep taking about it all. Sam told Olivia stories about her mother, and about my mother and father. She told stories about me as a child that made my face go red. She described my parents through her mom’s eyes, as ‘beatnik poets and artists’.

It wasn’t a childhood like our children have. She grew up like a gypsy, never the same place for more than a year or so. My family were the anchors for hers; the place they could always come back to, when blood family wasn’t as close. My parents were the hard drinking, pot smoking intellectuals to her Penny’s wild child hippy, part parents, part siblings.

Seeing my daughter’s reaction to it, telling stories about a childhood that was far more unique than I tend to realize, helped me put it all in context. My relationship with my mother, with Sam’s mother, our entire family history helped me get my head around the loss of our final parent.

This weekend, I bring in a dumpster to get rid of some very old, very dusty furniture, and cart away the one or two items I’m keeping. But knowing Kenny’s there in the house, and knowing Sam and Amy remember what it was like growing up as we did, helps me not feel alone in this process. There’s continuity, from family to friends, and the house is very much a living place, with music and laughter. Someone’s reading my mother’s books, looking at my father’s paintings, and feeding the birds and squirrels that were mom’s best company the final three years of her life.

Loved ones who are still here are the most valuable thing I can think of; and I need to be sure I tell them this.

impending upgrade

Sometime in the next week or so I’m planning to update this site to the latest version of Movable Type Pro. As usual, this means I need to blow away all my designs and templates, because the idiots at Six Apart don’t grasp backwards compatibility. However, they have enough great new features that, once again, […]

Sometime in the next week or so I’m planning to update this site to the latest version of Movable Type Pro.

As usual, this means I need to blow away all my designs and templates, because the idiots at Six Apart don’t grasp backwards compatibility.

However, they have enough great new features that, once again, I’m sticking with MT rather than switching. While WordPress is still getting better, it’s still a very good tiny little minitruck compared to a somewhat clunky semi; ie, wordpress does a tiny job well, but is years away from doing a big one at all.

Six Apart keep pissing me off; but the product is still very, very far ahead of anyone else in the market. So I’m riding it a little longer ’til someone comes up with an option that’s enough better to make the switch worth it.

I say this only so that when my site suddenly goes to a generic layout, you few readers who’re still around know why.

how’m I doin’

One week ago about this time, I was in a hospital room, slowly dialing up the morphine drip and watching my mother suck irregular, shallow breaths. Thee hours later I drove home and collapsed in sheer exhaustion. Six am last sunday, I woke suddenly, worrying my phone was still in silent, that I might have […]

One week ago about this time, I was in a hospital room, slowly dialing up the morphine drip and watching my mother suck irregular, shallow breaths. Thee hours later I drove home and collapsed in sheer exhaustion.

Six am last sunday, I woke suddenly, worrying my phone was still in silent, that I might have missed a call. 45 minutes after that, my phone rang, with the news that my mother had slipped quietly away.

It feels like month away, already. And the prior monday, when I checked her into the hospital for what was supposed to be a few tests seems half a year gone.

How are you, is the question I keep getting asked. By co workers, relatives, by friends, by a drunk-dialing old friend who called me at one am last night.

And my answer is – I don’t know. Because most of the time, I feel fine. The sobs that hit me starting when I told the doctor ‘take the mask of’ came in waves the next two or three days, hitting me randomly and passing quickly. And then they stopped, suddenly.

It’s a hard thing to explain to those who hasn’t seen an elderly relative die. There’s no way to explain the absolute certainty that it’s time. My mother’s death was not a tragedy. It was a release, a natural ending to a life already artificially extended with medication and technology.

I’ve witnessed tragic death. Young people struck down by violence or cancer, or people still hale and hearty in old age likewise taken by disease, not the simple end of the body’s span. I was there after my brother’s suicide; a tradgendy not because of his death, but because of the tragic failure of his own mind, and the support system that should have prevented his end. But by the time he took action to end his life, that end was inevitable.

My mother’s death ended pain, fear and suffering. Her mind and body were failing, after a long life. Our bodies have a shelf-life; we can extend this with care, and with luck, or we can shorten it. My mother, like most of her generation, took up smoking when it was cool, and harmless, and she carried on that habit long after she knew what the surgeon general says. She threw the dice and said, if it kills me then, ok, but I’m enjoying it now.

But whatever we do sets the clock forward or back a decade, or two; damage done simply skews the numbers. When the expiration date comes – when the warranty expires – then the machine begins to fail.

My mother’s failure was gradual; she maintained the ability to care for herself until the last couple of months. When she hit the final cliff, it was steep, and short; and she knew she was there. She knew, and lacked only the physical strength and the mental resolve to take control of her own departure. But she made that clear, in writing and in earnest, gasping pleas for help – I can’t go on any more.

So when the doctor asked me what I wanted to do – carry on the fight, postpone the inevitable, or ease the departure, I was able to calmly issue the order. Mentally, I’d had the dialog with myself a dozen times, and know without question what both I and my mother wanted.

The tears I wept, later, after I’d left the hospital for a bit to eat and make necessary phone calls, were not over death. They were tears of release, knowing the terror I’d seen in my mother’s eyes the last six weeks was gone forever; that by the time I was back in the hospital, she would be flying on a morphine drip. Her pain, her fear, her anxiety, for the last time, would be completely gone. I wept because, finally, I know I could help her; I was no longer helpless.

After she was gone, I alternated between numb, sad, and feeling relief; the thought of her ongoing fear and misery had given me incredibly nightmares for weeks. Knowing what we’d saved her, and what we’d saved the living family ended those nightmares, and set me free in a way nothing has in years.

The following monday I went back to work; primarily because I needed something to do that didn’t have anything to do with life or death; tuesday I went to work because I found the backlog of tasks I had to be a crushing load on my co workers. So I worked the week, taking a bit of time as I needed, and sleeping any chance I got.

“I’m ok,” I kept saying; people think I’m pretending. They think I’m playing stoic tough-guy hero. But the truth is, when I say it, I feel it. I’m experiencing sadness, when I think about it, and at odd moments like today, thinking about needing to go buy mom groceries, or wanting to ask her a question about a locket of my grandmother’s with two old photos. Who are these people I wanted to ask; but no one who’d know is now left. I’ll never know who they are.

BUt the sadness, the last week, seems smaller each day.

But other things are bothering me.

I teared up today when I was listening to the school director speak at my daughter’s new school; I started thinking about my kids, and felt a wash of love and sadness and found tears in my eyes. And I’m finding I can’t seem to do anything; every single thing I did at work last week took twice as long as usual, and I know damn well I wasn’t doing it as well as I normally do.

And then there’s the fatigue. I can’t tell if it’s just left-overs; the incredible stress of the last six weeks, the flu I was still battling the day mom died. I can’t tell if it’s something new, some cold I picked up at the hospital, or teh lingering flu turning into a lingering infection.

The fatigue is absolutely crushing. And I can’t tell if it’s my body failing, or if it’s emotional. But it frustrates the hell out of me to fall asleep on the couch at three in the afternoon after doing nothing all day.

Certainly, I understand grief. It’s a bitch, grief, and I’ve counseled others through it, and gone through it myself. The universal truth about grief seems to be that the only cure is time, and that the time seems to have a normal, fairly predictable life span. INtellectually I know I’m nowhere near done with it; I’ve in fact just begun it.

But it frustrates me – things I can’t fix, things I can’t manage, things I can’t control. With the weight of my mother’s suffering lifted, with the physical responsibility for her care gone, I want to let myself feel free; I also feel an intense need to solve things left hanging. I can’t do either; I can’t quite let go on the one hand, and can’t summon the energy and mental clarity to take care of all the business and physical work that needs doing. INstead, I pass out of the couch and wake up two hours later with my face in a puddle of drool, wondering where the day went and why I still can’t get up off the couch.

When people ask me how I am, I say I’m ok; and I mean it. I just can’t tell, right now, exactly what ok means.

They still call it the White House, but that’s a temporary condition

George Clinton, as usual, was thirty years ahead of the rest of us. Click the image to play, if you didn’t get the embedded player – props to m’man Carlos for this. Lyrics after the cut.

George Clinton, as usual, was thirty years ahead of the rest of us.


ParliamentChocolateCityalbumcover.jpg

Click the image to play, if you didn’t get the embedded player – props to m’man Carlos for this.

Lyrics after the cut.

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