Returning to the Pits of Meaningless Despair

When told he is always welcome to return home to live, my charming son makes a face. “That would be like returning to the pits of meaningless despair.” I can’t say it makes my day but I can understand.

Does this look like the door to the Pits of Meaningless Despair?

If your childhood home came up for sale and you could afford to buy it, would you? I know two people who inherited a childhood home and decided not to sell. They’re actually living in the houses they grew up in and neither had what I would describe as a “happy” childhood. Divorces, premature deaths, alcoholism, insanity. The works… all enclosed in cramped houses with faulty plumbing, aging wallpaper and moldy basements. Perhaps they wanted to return to the familiar, no matter how filled with sour memories. Or perhaps they hoped to form happy memories to drive away the demons.

My father’s house, down on its luck.

Recently my nephew was in the market for a new house. One of the listings that he found and shared with his father, was the house we’d spent the majority of our childhood in. Even though my nephew had been there when he was a child, he hadn’t recognized it. Will he buy it? Who knows.

I know I’m in the minority. From the quotes I found on line, most folks think of home as a welcoming, warm place full of wonderful memories.

After you leave home, you may find yourself feeling homesick, even if you have a new home that has nicer wallpaper and a more efficient dishwasher than the home in which you grew up.”

Lemony Snicket

“You can’t go home again because home has ceased to exist except in the mothballs of memory.”

John Steinbeck

“You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood, back home to romantic love, back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame, back home to exile, to escape to Europe and some foreign land, back home to lyricism, to singing just for singing’s sake, back home to aestheticism, to one’s youthful idea of ‘the artist’ and the all-sufficiency of ‘art’ and ‘beauty’ and ‘love,’ back home to the ivory tower, back home to places in the country, to the cottage in Bermuda, away from all the strife and conflict of the world, back home to the father you have lost and have been looking for, back home to someone who can help you, save you, ease the burden for you, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time–back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.”

Thomas Wolfe

The Music of Deep Silence**

Whenever I hear about a mass shooting, particularly a mass shooting in a school, or church or even a grocery store and then I read about all those politicians who defend owning military grade assault weapons as if it’s a god-given right, I feel so damn old. God plopped you on this earth, naked and defenseless with absolutely no rights.

I guess that’s why this song by the Beatles (George Harrison) always resonates with me at times like this.

It’s been a long, long, long time
How could I ever have lost you
When I loved you
It took a long, long, long time
Now I’m so happy I found you
How I love you
So many days I was searching
So many tears I was wasting, oh, oh
I could see you, be you
How can I ever misplace you?
How I want you, how I love you
You know that I need you
Hope I love you

It’s a simple song, written for the so-called “White Album” toward the end of the Beatles. At that time, George was coming into his own as a songwriter while Paul and John were feuding and pouting and pouting and feuding – which is understandable considering the stresses they were under..

Thus I was surprised to read that one night, in the midst of all that craziness, somehow all four Beatles managed to make it through 67 takes of Long, Long, Long without killing each other. 67 takes! That must have been some night. The result is a piece of music that critics have praised as “a touching token of an exhausted, relieved reconciliation with God” with a “weird spectral ending.” (They accidentally recorded the sound of an empty wine bottle rattling on top of a speaker and decided to leave it in, along with Harrison’s “palpable spiritual wailing.”)

George was talking about the life force we are all a part of. Animals, plants, the oceans and rivers. We can’t break the connection but it’s easy to misplace and if that happens, time drags on forever.

You’ve probably seen the above image many times but I really don’t think it can be shared enough, do you?

**”The music of deep silence,” is how one Rolling Stone music critic referred to Long, Long, Long

After the storm

We had a whopper of a storm yesterday which lingered into this morning. The winds sounded like jumbo jets flying low over house and the rain went on and on and on.

During one of the few breaks, the squirrel decided to tease the kitty. By now Mr. Squirrel has figured out that there’s a pane of glass protecting him from Mr. Kitty.

Around three in the afternoon we lost all contact with the outside world. The power went out as did the internet. It’s happened before and it’s something we’re prepared for with plenty of battery and solar powered lamps. And when I say plenty of batteries, we buy them Costco bulk style.

Poor Mr. Kitty just can’t stand it anymore and lunges into the glass. I guess we know which is the smarter animal! But Mr. K is much more cuddly than Mr. S.

Luckily we own one of the oldest Wolf stoves in the world. We have to light the pilots with matches (also something we buy in bulk) but it sure is nice on a cold, dark and stormy night to have a hot meal. Mr.Wolf Stove can’t do anything special and is a bitch to clean but I’m not getting rid of him until they make me.

The most unnerving thing that happened during the storm was losing cell phone service. I didn’t realize how much like the old transistor radios those things have become. I was a fool to get rid of the ones we had.

I probably wouldn’t have gone out this morning as many trees are down in my neighborhood and on the local highway but it was my last regularly scheduled physical therapy session. Hurrah! I wasn’t about to miss that! And when the clouds did part, boy oh boy was Mt Diablo a glorious sight. A symphony of greens.

Not the best photo (from a moving car!) but you get the idea. Eat your heart out Switzerland!

Company picnics and other torture

I love dreams about company picnics and reunions (not) – they’re almost as bizarre as the events themselves. It’s been many years since I worked a nine-to-five job in a downtown office high rise but I still have nightmares about the experience. Company picnics and holiday parties were expected to improve morale but that rarely happened.

However, I still feel sorry for the organizers of the last company picnic I attended. Times were tough and so they had to find a relatively inexpensive site which is not an easy task in the SF Bay Area, Finally they found a campground no one had heard of on the eastern slopes of Mount Diablo. Even for people who knew that area well, it was a bitch to find. Thus employees arriving from far away with carloads full of antsy children were beyond dismayed to learn that, on a scorching hot day, the campground’s two “olympic size pools with diving boards and slides” were closed. The reason, the ongoing drought had forced rattlesnakes and other critters down from the mountain in search of any source of water… even the chlorinated variety. The swimming pools were full of snake, mice, gophers … you name it. Some dead, some alive.

The organizers tried to make up for this unfortunate event by setting up a dunking tank and convincing the company’s most loathed director to be the “dunkee.” Lines of disgruntled employees lined up to dunk the man who made their working lives a torture only to find out he was having the time of his life. After each dunking he arose from the water, fist pumping the air. “I was in the Massod. Bring on your flimsy attempts to torture me! ” Eventually it wasn’t fun to watch the most despised man in the company enjoying the only container of water not filled with rattlesnakes.

We’d had to forego the traditional barbecuing of hot dogs and hamburgers because of the high fire risk and so, for lunch we had our choice of boxed lunches, each containing a sandwich, chips and a cookie. The organizers hoped to make up for the rather bland lunch with a piñata contest. Only the piñatas they’d bought and filled with candy had been manufactured to withstand a nuclear blast. After blindly whacking the darn things and getting not one treat, the little children soon gave up and moved on to the petting zoo. Some of the older kids gave it a try but most were insulted by even being asked to participate and moved onto their established bitching grounds. The menfolk, having been fortified by their allotted ration of beer, then stepped up to bat. They were determined to whack the shit out of the cute little donkeys and zebras, probably because the dunking tank had provided no satisfaction. After the slaughter was complete, the children were invited back to pick through the debris for whatever candy they could find. Needless to say, they looked a bit bewildered. This is fun mommy?

Last night I dreamt that I took the children of a serial killer to my company picnic. The serial killer was the daughter of someone (who will remain nameless) that I once worked with. The picnic was to be held at lake but it turned out to be a large puddle by a railroad track. The serial killer’s children turned on me and then luckily I woke up.

I wonder if my dreams would be much more pleasant if I hadn’t worked so many years in corporate America. What do you think??

* Images are all from Bing Images


You’re in a shitty African hospital with wet, moldy walls or is it bombed out Bosnia
No it’s somewhere on a bad road, and you are hurt and have lost track of time
You make it out of bed and throw up on the floor
Lean against the wall
You’re dried up like fish fillet in the sun
You notice somebody in the hall looking at you.

His face is twisted and blank like he’s looking for a mask
He walks away with a sheet covering his body
You think it must be Halloween
Then you leave your room and see a light at the end of the hall
You walk in the dark, a candle or two around, and the place is quiet
The night is hiding from the war
At the end of the hall there’s a room and you look inside and see a new friend
A companion in this fucked up place

He raises his head and his eyes light up
You are hope for him, a way to get better, a conversation about something peaceful
You touch his arm, he’s burning up, and he mutters backward words, echoes swirling away
You see things in his face … his parents, a town, a girl, a different life
They are in the very back of his eyes, living in soft light, like the softness of your heart, and it is all there at the back of his eyes, and you know he is never going to get out of bed

You are hollow, tired, an old man beating his fists against the wall
You walk back to your room, step in your vomit, climb into bed
You dream, as if you were someplace else and things are soft, grey mush, and you attach your hand to the soft beat of your heart and the soft breathing of the guy down the hall, and in its own way, the dream is timeless, formless, and unlike him, you will live another day

A poem by Duke Miller … pictures by Jan

Life In A Small Mexican Town

tin hats

You start out thinking everybody needs to be saved, and then you end up fighting to save yourself.

En memoria de Pedro.

Late Sunday afternoon and the dogs are barking. Winter is over, just like that, and Summer is suddenly a fireball. Spring is the sort of thing children will one day ask about and it will fall into the same category as the crying lady who walks in the desert calling for her drowned children. Stories will revolve around those pleasant Spring days, now gone for good.

Roberto is sitting on the curb with Guero and Canella. The little one, Canella, should be dead, but Roberto is slowly bringing her to life. She had a very bad case of mange that left her with only raw skin, but it also got into her eyes.

A man opens the gate and looks out and says in Spanish, hey, Roberto, what’s…

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So help me Gideon

As I’ve mentioned before, for someone who’s not religious I have in my possession, a lot of Bibles. I know how I obtained most of them. But this one just kind of dropped out of the sky:

In case you’ve never seen one before, this is a Gideon’s Bible. A Gideon’s Bible contains only the New Testament, Psalms and a WHERE TO FIND HELP, When section. The actual story of Gideon is in the Old Testament which is a little strange but whatever.

The initial goal of the Gideon’s (a group of Protestant men who must be over 21 and either a businessman or a professional) was to distribute these bibles to hotels, hospitals, jails, reformatories, schools — any place where there might be a soul who needs saving.

The Gideons were founded in the late 1800s by a couple of traveling salesmen or so the story goes. Their purpose was to provide solace for those far from home and on their own. I could applaud their efforts except for this:

Why is the American Flag inside the cover? I’m one of those folks who firmly believes the United States is not (and should never be) a “Christian” nation. We should adhere to certain core values of Christianity – charity, honesty and compassion – but those are the core values of most other religions. I wish they would have said “The Bible was written by groups of men claiming to have had revelations from a supreme being who’s called by many different names. Many people find comfort and strength from various passages of this book. May you be one of those people.” Not “you’re a sinner but here’s your chance to be saved.” The Gideon’s are still around but there aren’t too many of them. I suppose not allowing women, Catholics or union members to join might have something to do with that!

Through the car windows

Meanwhile we are having a brief break before a string of storms (the atmospheric river) moves in. When the sun does break through and hit the green hills, it’s gorgeous. However, those hills are closed to hikers … too many mudslides. I hope wherever you are the weather is a wee bit dryer! I feel like I’m about to sprout gills.

The ideal refrigerator

My refrigerator is almost thirty years old. In human years, that’s over one hundred at least. In terms of fancy features, it does have an ice maker but it’s kaput. When we had the kitchen remodeled about twenty years ago, I had them build the cabinetry for a large, modern fridge as I was certain the Kitchen Aide’s days were numbered. But alas, it just keeps chugging along.

Old Faithful – doesn’t everyone have flamingos, angels and the alphabet on their fridge door?

I dream of one day purchasing a refrigerator that can at the very least:

  • Locate the Dijon mustard that’s somehow gotten lost in there
  • Tell me which food items are spoiling and need to eaten or tossed
  • Order eggs and butter from the store when we’re running low

I don’t think that’s too much to ask, do you? After all, they make refrigerators these days with wi-fi

This one tells you the time and the temperature. You can also surf the net. And you can see who’s at the front door. Really?

Refrigerator to visitor: “This is the Amanda 4000. Please state your name and the purpose of your visit. Your photo has been sent to the local crime stoppers brigade so don’t even try to steal the garden gnome. I have special skills. I will hunt you down and I will squish you.”

No, that’s a bit too much. Just a magnetic surface and the ability to tell me where I left my glasses, that’s all I’m asking for. And no Zuul inside. Am I tempting fate?

Zuul who makes his grand appearance in a refrigerator. From Ghostbusters

These very long days

My excitement these days? Watching a goose on a roof. He wasn’t doing anything other than pose and honk. Sort of like me, you could say!

Anyone undergoing an extensive rehabilitation process can tell you, it sure does distort time. I feel like I’ve just left the physical therapy building with a new list of exercises when it’s time to return again. It’s kind like that movie Groundhog Day. Wasn’t I just here a moment ago? Didn’t I just do this?

My days begin with sketching exercises for both the ankle and knee which I do laying down on the bed. Then come a variety of balancing exercises after which I stop to ice both the knee and ankle for at least fifteen minutes, with my feet above my heart. I’ve tried watching news during this time but I don’t want to add heart attack to my list of things to recover from. So I watch My Lottery Dream House. In case you’ve missed that “home improvement” show, the host is on happy gas.

Oh, David!

You might think that’s the end of my travails, but they want me to repeat this exercise and icing routine at least two more times. By the end of the day I barely have enough energy to climb into bed. Forget writing; forget cleaning the house; forget anything else but eating. I’m lucky in that, according to my husband, I do not properly do the dishes or wash the clothes otherwise this place would be condemned by the health department.

My big accomplishment yesterday was getting out on the deck.

Physical therapists are angels, there’s no doubt. Anyone who has fallen and broken an ankle or a knee or both (like me) and had to spend a couple of months waiting for the bones to heal will have serious doubts about ever walking unaided again. We need a lot of encouragement. And we also sometimes need a kick in the fanny. But I’m stubborn. I want to climb stairs again. I want to dance. Even though it seems like each day is an unending slog through an ever-growing list of exercise routines, I persist.

By the way, these days you can track your exercise routines online through … you’ve guessed it … an app. The app lists the routines you need to complete and, if you’re a good little girl, you can mark them off as you go along. Other than just the thrill of checking off all those boxes, I don’t need another way to waste the few minutes I have between routines!

New growth on the rose bush – unfortunately we’re expecting snow tonight.