Sunday, March 18, 2018

With Blizzard

After more than two years, I got up last Sunday and felt like sewing. My repertoire is still quite small, so I went with a bag. A little knapsack made out of themed fabric I got last year after a trip that renewed my love for Paris. I think it took me about five hours to make it. I listened to podcasts and just enjoyed the feeling and process of making something. 

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Love Yours

I was laid off from the bank last November, and, after six months, I found another position and went back to work two weeks ago. (Same company, different position.) It's unsettling. The whole thing. I hated the first week, although I think that was mostly dealing with an alarm clock again. I hated the second week slightly less than the first, and there were a couple enjoyable moments. I hope it keeps getting better.

The time off was crazy. In a way it felt like walking in circles for six months. Even though it's not uncommon for the industry and even though I've been through it before, this lay off felt more personal (it wasn't), scarier, more confusing than the last. I'm probably forgetting how difficult it was before.

Last summer, I had surgery on my foot - I guess I mentioned it months ago when I blogged. Jesus, it was an ordeal. It didn't heal correctly (or something) and now it's a year later and I still limp, still have significant pain, still alternate between hope and desperation. I'm 45 now; will it never feel better than it does now? That worries me. I've had little aches and pains before, but I've never had this.

This is kind of strange - I don't know if it's the pain that comes from moving around or aging or what, but I've started these new hobbies that are all very old lady-like. I've been sewing a bit for about 5 years now. I signed up for a couple knitting classes. (I want to start a Knitting Behind Bars chapter here but I need to learn more before I can teach others.) I'm finishing up an 8-week calligraphy class and have registered for a few additional weekend classes to learn additional hands (fonts.) It's very meditative work, in a way. It demands your presence. I'm enjoying all of these old lady activities.

While I was off, I spent a bunch of time with friends and then a bunch of time alone. I went home to see my mom once, up to see my nephews and brother twice, and my sister visited once. There was a lake house weekend with the girls. I took about 6 weeks of yoga classes - the first time I've done that since The Great Unemployment of 2009/2010 when I learned to surf. I watched TV. I ate a lot of ice cream, I drank more whiskey than was necessary. I laid outside in the unseasonably hot sunshine day after day.

Something inside of me has changed, is changing. Has it just been in the past year? My mom understands, my sister feels it, too. I can't really explain it, but it's this slight shift from goals and challenges, out there and future - to now. I don't know. The passing of time is more apparent than ever; it's almost a constant awareness. Life feels short. I'm trying to let go of things that bother me. Life seems harder than ever - not really mine; I just feel like I see that, or I sense that. And I want to enjoy what I have while I have it and not take the good things for granted. What else can you do? I like that saying, something like - appreciate what you have before it becomes what you had. Trite, I guess, but it speaks to me.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Poems for People Who Don't Like Poetry #12

remember your lovers
but, especially, don't forget them while they are in your bedroom
with their hair disheveled and their clothes strewn
make sure you notice them as they stand before you
as there they lie
tell them that you're touched a thousand times
of every inch take a picture with your unabashed eye
because this will change, as pictures change, so love does die

smell your lovers, their wide-open skin
like bare shoulders, before toast, in the morning
pheromones will be what you don't know you miss
when you're standing beside x's
feeling suddenly nostalgic
could be soap, could be freshly-washed clothes
most likely it's the mix of hidden chemicals
the silent scent
that perfumers will never get
but you will remember it
long after love goes

hold your lovers close
as you are drifting off, sharing oxygen and oxytocin both
memorize the napes of their necks, the crooks of their wrists, the way their breathing rises and falls
knees get cuddled only in one kind of spot
and they will miss this once the spoon is gone
like you will miss the puzzle when you don't get to be a part
and, so, while you are
with your limbs entangled in ways that warm your heart
remember to notice it
so that the last night doesn't go by without you noticing
and suddenly it's over and only in the sunshine do you know these things
while you pine for one more chance to lay with your loved one when night is falling
so hold your lovers close while you're in their company

this is a plea, mostly for me, so I may remember next time I am a puzzle piece
as well, for the lovers I have had and known
who have been my comforts
and also my abrasions
I have daydreamed about the days when we were first mating
and of the love we made then
like we were scorched earth and it was raining

- Tanya Davis, Ravish your Lover While You Still Love Her

(My god, this one takes my breath away.)

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Poems for People Who Don't Like Poetry #11

Don't take it personal, they said;
but I did, I took it all quite personal -

the breeze and the river and the color of the fields;
the price of grapefruit and stamps,

the wet hair of women in the rain -
And I cursed what hurt me

and I praised what gave me joy,
the most simple-minded of possible responses.

The government reminded me of my father,
with its deafness and its laws,

and the weather reminded me of my mom,
with her tropical squalls.

Enjoy it while you can, the said of Happiness
Think first, they said of Talk

Get over it, they said
at the School of Broken Hearts

but I couldn't and I didn't and I don't
believe in the clean break;

I believe in the compound fracture
served with a sauce of dirty regret,

I believe in saying it all
and taking it all back

and saying it again for good measure
while the air fills up with I'm-Sorries

like wheeling birds
and the trees look seasick in the wind.

Oh life! Can you blame me
for making a scene?

You were that yellow caboose, the moon
disappearing over a ridge of cloud.

I was the dog, chained in some fool's backyard;
barking and barking;

trying to convince everything else
to take it personal too.

- Tony Hoagland, Personal 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Poems for People Who Don't Like Poetry #10

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.

- Phillip Larkin, This Be The Verse


Monday, January 4, 2016

Poems for People Who Don't Like Poetry #9

Understand, I'll slip quietly
away from the noisy crowd
when I see the pale
stars rising, blooming, over the oaks.

I'll pursue solitary pathways
through the pale twilit meadows,
with only this one dream:
you come, too.

-Rainer Maria Rilke, Pathways

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Poems for People Who Don't Like Poetry #8

Our falter, whose art is Heavy,
Halloween be thy name.
Your kingdom's numb
your children dumb on earth
moldy bread unleavened.
Give us this day our
wayward dead.
And give us our
asses as we forgive those
who ass against us.
And speed us not
into wimp nation
nor bequiver us
with needles, for thine
is the flimflam and the sour,
and the same fucking
story in leather
for never and ever.
Ah: gin.

-Mary Karr, The Obscenity Prayer 

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Poems for People Who Don't Like Poetry #7

More than putting another man on the moon,
more than a New Year's resolution of yogurt and yoga,
we need the opportunity to dance
with really exquisite strangers. A slow dance
between the couch and dining room table, at the end
of the party, while the other person we love has gone
to bring the car around
because it's begun to rain and would break their heart
if any part of us got wet. A slow dance
to bring the evening home, to knock it out of the park. Two people
rocking back and forth like a buoy. Nothing extravagant.
A little music. An empty bottle of whiskey.
It's a little like cheating. Your head resting
on his shoulder, your breath moving up his neck.
Your hands along her spine. Her hips
unfolding like a cotton napkin
and you being to think about how all the stars in the sky
are dead. The my body is talking to your body slow dance. The
Unchained Melody,
Stairway to Heaven, power-chord slow dance. All my life
I've made mistakes. Small
and cruel. I made my plans.
I never arrived. I ate my food. I drank my wine.
The slow dance doesn't care. It's all kindness like children
before they turn four. Like being held in the arms
of my brother. The slow dance of siblings.
Two men in the middle of the room. When I dance with him,
one of my great loves, he is absolutely human,
and when he turns to dip me
or I step on his foot because we are both leading,
I know that one of us will die first and the other will suffer.
The slow dance of what's to come
and the slow dance of insomnia
pouring across the floor like bath water.
When the woman I'm sleeping with
stands naked in the bathroom,
brushing her teeth, the slow dance of ritual is being spit
into the sink. There is no one to save us
because there is no need to be saved.
I've hurt you. I've loved you. I've mowed
the front yard. When the stranger wearing a shear white dress
covered in a million beads
comes toward me like an over-sexed chandelier suddenly come to life,
I take her hand in mine. I spin her out
and bring her in. This is the almond grove
in the dark slow dance.
It is what we should be doing right now. Scraping
for joy. The haiku and honey. The orange and orangutan slow dance.

- Matthew Dickman, Slow Dance

Friday, December 18, 2015


I had surgery on my right foot last July - it was a running injury that I'd been putting off and that Hong Kong trip in February sealed the deal. (All that walking made me realize I had to figure out a solution. It was quite painful - a torn ligament.)

I would think that every busy person has, at some time, fantasized about being forced to take downtime. Especially those of us not great at choosing it for ourselves. I've been quite healthy my whole life (Christ, until recently - welcome to middle age), so when I finally got it scheduled I thought it would be difficult, but maybe I would enjoy a week of good, drug-induced sleep, too.

It was hell. Mentally and physically. The dependency on others, the inability to shower for a week at a time, not being able to get myself even to the bathroom (much less the kitchen and living room - downstairs) without tremendous effort and usually tears, the pure pain - it messed me up. And gave me a great respect for people who have permanent challenges in mobility (and who handle them with much more dignity that I did).

My recovery was s-l-o-w but normal for a foot surgery, apparently, and things were just picking up when in September I developed a post-surgical nerve problem (CRPS 2) that is really quite serious, although I have a fairly mild case. I'm just wrapping up physical therapy for that now, and I can walk without a limp about 60% of the time. Walking with a limp in public is just this whole thing I've never experienced where you find that kids react, of course, but adults do as well. They stare or give very wide berth or express tremendous pity that makes you question if you might be even worse off than you're aware. It's this constant "I'm not normal" sign that you're holding up. I hate it and have to actively work to not feel a lot of self-contempt over it.

I have a long way to go in terms of full recovery, and my original goal of doing the New Year's Eve 5k that my brother and I have done for the last 3 or 4 years is no longer realistic. I've gained a bunch of weight and have developed this sedentary, weird routine where I have other aches and pains all over my body from moving in weird ways to compensate for the foot pain. BUT. I've made progress and I just have to keep going. If I'm faithful with my PT plan and do all my foot stretches several times a day, nothing happens for a long time and then all of a sudden I'll make a big jump in my progress. So I'm counting on those jumps when nothing is happening. And I'm trying to remember that there are people who would love to have these kinds of problems. God, am I so tentative and weak that recovery from a little surgical procedure can almost break me? Mind games.

I had a relationship that I've been in for some time end in a pretty negative manner in September. Also in September I was given notice of a layoff, and I ended work with my company about a month ago. I'm not sure what happens next, but I thought I'd wait until the first of the year to start looking.

That's not all that has happened, but those are some of the things that stick out when I think of the past many months. Life, man. I've had a hard time believing that it's even possible that good things are around the corner, and that is so different than how I used to be. I'm 44 now and I'd say the 40's have been pretty hellish. What do you do? You hold on and keep fighting. So that's what I'm doing.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

It's a Trip

I used to travel internationally quite a bit but haven't done much in the last few years. (My vacation fund goes to buy Trail Blazers tickets now.) I moved back to the States from Japan in 2006, spent about a year going to Hawaii a bunch of times, went on a big trip to Europe in 2007, and then to Costa Rica for my surf school vacation in 2011. (Crazy, but all of those trips are catalogued on this here blog.)

I've been saving my frequent flyer miles for years specifically so if I found myself in a position where I really wanted to travel but couldn't afford it, I could use them. I thought maybe that would be retirement. Well, that time came sooner than I thought. 

I'm doing well lately but noticing some strange things creeping into my life. Strange familiar things. Like: too much work, not a lot of rich solitude (as opposed to just spending time alone - I got that in spades), and not much constructive reflection. I've been a little on auto-pilot just doing my work and basketball thing, not really feeling checked in.

So two weeks ago I bought a ticket to China. I leave in a week. I'll be spending one night in South Korea (where I used to go for business and the odd Backstreet Boys concert when I lived in Japan), and then 9 nights in Hong Kong. I hope to get up to Guangzhou for a day or two as well. 

When I was deciding where to spend my miles, I only had two criteria: I wanted to go to a place I'd never been before, and I wanted to go to a place where it wouldn't be horrifically cold this time of year. Knowing that could be a million places, I did some quick research and narrowed it down to Panama or HK. And then I just decided to go to whichever worked out best with available flights and my time off from work. 

It's WEIRD. I'm neck-deep in year-end reviews at work (as usual for this time of year), so it doesn't exactly seem real. But when I do have a thought about boarding a plane in a week, I get scited. Or Exared. (That's a combination of excited and scared.) It seems impossible. Wild. 

Cross your fingers for me, please. I'm hoping it will be fun, connecting, challenging, an adventure. And I'm open to anything. 

These guys don't look much worse for the wear.