Saturday, June 19, 2010

Remembering Leslie Scalapino

There are some wonderful -- explicative (by which I mean articulate) and moving -- remembrances of Leslie Scalapino being published.

Lyn Hejinian, Leslie Scalapino Remembered:

With the death of Leslie Scalapino on May 28, 2010, the world loses a writer whose visionary thinking provided her with a range of intensely experienced themes and images. It also informed the syntax of her language, which one might readily term experimental but which, more to the point, was a manifestation of the incessant vigilance she imposed on her mind and its articulations. The effort that her writing entailed was motivated by her conviction that action (e.g. writing, but also teaching, editing, publishing, insisting) and being (the present of anything or everything) are inseparable. One is one with the present. Everything is creative....

Leslie's generosity to poets (as a teacher, as an editor, as a publisher, and as an audience member at readings) was an expression not only of interest but of her ferocious persistence on behalf of something larger than art, though art was central to it. Leslie—in every facet of her complex and committed life—was engaged in a struggle for truth. It wasn't a transcendent truth but the truth of justice—particular and specific to the instant. She was an unprecedentedly original writer, because she was so very much an original thinker. She was also a fiercely compassionate writer. Suffering and injustices (of circumstance, of other people's thoughts as well as actions) were persistent themes in her writings, which sought (and spotted) alternative terrains for being, however fleetingly they could be glimpsed or said to exist.

R.D. Pohl, at ArtsBeat, Scalapino's writing punched a hole in reality, includes this about her latest published work:

Her most recent volume Floats Horse-Floats or Horse-Flows was published in March by Buffalo-based Starcherone Books. Based on the notion of "alexia" or "word-blindness (but not arising from a nervous disorder)," Scalapino generated a narrative in which "unknown words create a future."

How to describe the book? It's set in a kind of inchoate or apocalyptic continuous present in which strip miners, wounded soldiers, and dislocated polar bears wander across a deforested, animal and human corpse strewn landscape, orphaned girls are trafficked on the streets of Calcutta, insurgents sweep across the desert in Toyota pick-ups, a female detective named Grace Abe tracks a band of animal poachers across the hinterlands of Tibet, while elsewhere Venus and Serena Williams face off in a tennis match the main focus of which is Venus' "deconstructed forehand," an American president and his henchmen act to advance the interests of corporation named Haliburton, and poet named Creeley appears Virgil-like to a female narrator named One in her dreams.

It's a beautiful, horrible, synaesthetic vortex seemingly spun out of an intentionally disassociative lexicon the paradoxical end result of which is the tenuous possibility of freedom and social action. New York City based writer Douglas Manson, who read the book last year while living in Buffalo and working as an editor for Starcherone Books, recently wrote the following about it:

"I read the manuscript last year, and finally understood what she was trying to do--that the mind comes to recognize itself in the act of reading, with emphasis on "act". I've never read a book as difficult as that one, but also never read a book that made the activity of reading such a conscious, palpable one. She understood the way language structures thought so thoroughly that she could write both its trauma and apotheosis. It's not a book one likes or dislikes, but will show you, through your senses, exactly what the mind is doing when it reads."

Leslie Scalapino reads from Floats Horse-Floats or Horse-Flows, recorded and produced by Konrad Steiner. Feb. 14, 2010
(distributed by PennSound / BlipTV

New York Memorial for Leslie Scalapino
Monday, June 21, 2010 8:00 pm
Poetry Project St. Marks Church

Petah Coyne, Simone Fattal, Joan Retallack, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Charles Bernstein, Susan Bee, Ann Lauterbach, Susan Howe, Paolo Javier, Molissa Foley, Fiona Templeton, Laura Elrick, Rodrigo Toscano, Steve Clay, Rachel Levitsky, James Sherry, Pierre Joris, Judith Goldman, E. Tracy Grinnell, Tom White & others

There will be a wine and cheese reception to follow.

The Memorial follows two performances of Scalapino’s Noh play Flow–Winged Crocodile at Poets House
Saturday, June 19, at 7:00pm & Sunday, June 20, at 2:00pm

Directed by Fiona Templeton, with Katie Brown, Stephanie Silver and Julie Troost. Dance by Molissa Fenley. Music by Joan Jeanrenaud. Projected drawings by Eve Biddle. Cosponsored by Belladonna and The Poetry Project.
$10, $7 for students and seniors, free to Poetry Project and Poets House Members

Buddhist funeral ceremony
officiated by Abbot Norman Fischer
Thursday July 1, 2010

San Francisco Zen Center Green Gulch Farm
1601 Shoreline Highway Muir Beach, CA 94965-9759
for directions and parking:
2pm in the Green Dragon Temple; 4-5:30 reception in the Wheelwright Center

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to: The San Francisco Zen Center, 300 Page St., San Francisco, CA 94102 Poets in Need, PO Box 5411, Berkeley, CA 94705 Reed College for the Leslie Scalapino Scholarship, 3203 Southeast Woodstock Blvd., Portland, OR 97202-8199 The AYCO Charitable Foundation, PO Box 15203, Albany, NY 12212-5203 for the Leslie Scalapino-O Books Fund to support innovative works of poetry, prose and art

San Francisco Memorial: Readings with poets, artists & friends
Friday November 19, 2010 (date to be confirmed)

Maude Fife Room, 315 Wheeler Hall
University of California, Berkeley
Time & further details TBA

Education Matters: The 2010 UC-B Summer Reading List

Incoming undergraduates have now received the annual Summer Reading List put together by University of California at Berkeley faculty and staff. This year's theme is Education Matters:

In this uneasy period for public education, rife with budget cuts, fee increases, and struggling schools, both in California and across the country, it seemed to us a good time to examine stories about and issues in education. After all, we here at Berkeley have chosen to work in higher education, and those of you about to join us have decided to pursue your bachelor’s degrees, so while all of us will spend much of our time concerning ourselves with what we’re doing and how we’re going to do it, it also seems worth thinking about why we’re doing it. The following series of recommended books — memoirs, biographies, arguments, poetry, fiction, and one blog —form a compelling collection that can help us get at this question. We suspect that more than one of them will appeal to you...

Jennifer Dorner
Head, Instructional Services
Doe/Moffitt Libraries

Michael Larkin
Lecturer, College Writing Programs

Each recommended reading is paired with a comment by the nominating faculty or staff, and is followed by a short blurb about that teacher. For access to the UC Berkeley Library Web Catalog, go here.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X
Alex Haley
New York: Ballantine Books, 1965
A complete education on three fronts: the streets, the slammer, and politics. This book really opened my eyes to hidden facts about the U.S. and how we treat people of color. But beyond that I learned about how a man can evolve from ignorance to sophistication without ever stepping inside a classroom. Thanks to Haley’s book I took it upon myself to master the dictionary as much as possible, starting with “that little Aardvark” as Malcolm so eloquently put it. Highly recommended for incoming or outgoing students.

Alvaro Lopez-Piedra
Library Assistant, Monographic Receiving Unit
Spanish/Italian/Portuguese Collections
Alvaro Lopez-Piedra works in the Technical Services Unit at Moffitt Library. His responsibilities include processing Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Catalan book shipments, communicating with vendors and book selectors, and occasionally helping in the mail room. In his spare time his face is buried in a book or in his music collection.


Educating Esmé: Diary of a Teacher’s First Year
Esmé Raji Codell
Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2001
This is an inspiring book following Codell’s first year of teaching as a 24-year-old in a new public school in Chicago. She includes funny and heart-rending stories of her struggles to teach troubled students with sometimes wacky approaches, while simultaneously contending with an undermining school principal, gang members, and abusive parents as well. All of it is told in her distinctive voice. Hard to put down. Hard to forget.

Martha Olney
Adjunct Professor
Department of Economics
A recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award, Martha Olney has taught Economics at Cal since 1992.


Three Cups of Tea
Greg Mortensen
New York: Viking, 2006
This is a fascinating account of a Berkeley RN/mountain climber in the Himalayas who became close to the villagers who saved his life, and decided to build a school for their children. The project faced many obstacles, but he and they prevailed, and he went on to build many schools in rural Pakistan. The Taliban and conservative forces tried to limit the schools to boys only, but the author and his Pakistani allies insisted that girls be allowed to attend on an equal basis with boys. These schools help Pakistanis see another side of Americans, and win hearts and minds away from terrorism.

Nancy K. D. Lemon
UC Berkeley School of Law
Nancy K.D. Lemon teaches courses in Domestic Violence Law, both at Boalt Law School and in the Legal Studies Program (for undergraduates). Her graduate students come from public policy, sociology, social welfare, and ethnic studies, as well as law.


No Right to Remain Silent: The Tragedy at Virginia Tech
Lucinda Roy
New York: Harmony Books, 2009
As Chair of the English Department, Roy provided Seung-Hui Cho with a tutorial in poetry after he was removed from a class for his threatening behavior. Cho later killed 32 people and wounded many others in an on-campus attack, and then killed himself. This book provides a close look at Cho from Roy’s perspective, but more important, she examines how Virginia Tech handled—and in some instances mishandled—information about Cho’s disabilities, its release of information to the public, and its response to the killings. Roy looks closely at issues of free speech, administrative red tape, and the relationship between “town and gown.” Many of the security measures now in place at UCB and other universities resulted from this tragic event in 2007. Not intended to scare, this book is a close examination of university culture.

Jane Hammons
College Writing Programs
Jane Hammons is a recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award and teaches upper and lower division courses in writing for CWP. Her writing can be found in The San Francisco Chronicle Magazine, Columbia Journalism Review and literary magazines such as Alaska Quarterly Review, Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, and Southwestern American Literature.


Winning the Dust Bowl
Carter Revard
Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2001
EVERYONE should read this memoir. Coming from the American heartland, Revard tells a classic story of his success rising from humble beginnings as a mixed-race kid growing up during trying economic times. He recounts his story with a mix of pictures and stories of his family, as well as with exemplary poems and prose. Yet it goes beyond that—it’s a subtle text on how to write poetry; it’s also the story of how we become who we are, what shapes us and speaks to us as human beings, and what we all share. This is a true gem of a book. If you read it, you will never forget it.

John D. Berry
Comparative Ethnic Studies and Native American Studies Collections specialist
Ethnic Studies Library
John Berry is of Choctaw/Cherokee/Scots-Irish/German heritage, an Oklahoma native, and a traditional stomp dancer. He is listed on the Native American Authors pages of the Internet Public Library, and has published poems both in print and on the web.


Our Schools Suck: Students Talk Back to a Segregated Nation on the Failures of Urban Education
Gaston Alonso, Noel Anderson, Celina Su, Jeanne Theoharis
New York: New York University Press, 2009
The authors of this book examine the reality in which many students find themselves: confined to over-crowded, under-funded, segregated public schools. With fine-grained analysis and unflinching honesty, the authors challenge the prevailing idea that students and their “bad values” are to blame for the state of public education and, instead, hold responsible those who sustain structural inequalities and who perpetuate assumptions that criminalize and stereotype urban youth. Seamlessly woven throughout the text are the voices of students who “talk back” to those in power, critique their learning environments, and demonstrate their power as critical social actors. A terrific, compelling read.

Luisa Giulianetti
Assistant Director
Student Learning Center
Luisa Giulianetti loves working with students as they develop as writers. She is interested in composition studies and 20th century American literature, especially African American literature. She has taught seminars for writing tutors and composition courses, most recently in African American Studies.


Why School? Reclaiming Education for All of Us
Mike Rose
New York: New Press, 2009
This short, compelling text takes the readers inside schools to see how the current, narrow focus on standardized assessment has “shrunk” the definition of education. (See also Rose's entry “Why I Wrote ‘Why School?’” posted on the author’s blog.) Rose brings us inside classrooms to offer illustrations of a broader definition that includes “curiosity, reflectiveness, imagination, or a willingness to take a chance, to blunder.” In a highly competitive environment like UC Berkeley, it is easy to let numbers drive teaching and learning and admissions. Rose’s little book asks us to reconsider the meaning of education in a democratic society: it’s about developing skills and being prepared for work, yes, but it’s about much more than that. And he asks us to put the question of “Why School?” at the center of the public debate.

Margi Wald
College Writing Programs
Margi Wald teaches courses in the College Writing Programs and is Director of the Summer English Language Institute. In addition to her ten years at UC Berkeley, she has taught in ESL and writing programs in Texas, Tennessee, Illinois, and abroad. Her research focuses on instruction in grammar and vocabulary and on academic literacy development among immigrant ESL students.


Mike Rose’s Blog
Mike Rose, Professor of Social Research Methodology at UCLA, has written about education for years. As a nice complement to and extension of his recent book (see above), his relatively new blog offers timely entries with postings related to topics such as “the purpose of schooling in a democracy,” “education policy,” “race to the top,” “University of California Budget Cuts,” and “Obama and Education.”

Melinda Erickson
College Writing Programs
Melinda Erickson teaches undergraduate writing courses and graduate pedagogy seminars at Berkeley and works with teachers of English internationally.


Five Stages of Greek Religion
Gilbert Murray
Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1955
As an undergrad at UC San Diego, I was introduced to this book during discussions with members of the Philosophy Department there. The book is based on a series of lectures Murray gave at Columbia University in 1912 in which he traces the development of Greek religion through its early worship of Olympian gods, to Homeric epics, to the development of different schools of philosophy that pre-dated Christianity. Passages from this wonderful book have accompanied me through all the twists and turns of a lifelong devotion to learning and education.

Paul Hamburg
Librarian for the Judaica Collection
As librarian for the Judaica Collection, Paul Hamburg has developed a keen facility with Hebrew and Yiddish language databases, which he shares with interested faculty and students. His research interests include the History of the Hebrew Book and the Music composed in the Terezin Concentration Camp in Czechoslovakia during the Holocaust.


The Education of Henry Adams
Henry Adams
New York: Oxford University Press, 2008

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin
Philadelphia: PENN/University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005

Coming of Age in Mississippi
Anne Moody
New York: Dell, 1976

Down These Mean Streets
Piri Thomas
New York: Vintage Books, 1997

A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, based on her diary, 1785-1813
Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
New York: Vintage Books, 1991

Up From Slavery
Booker T. Washington
New York: Modern Library, 1999

Bread Givers
Anzia Yezierska
New York: Persea Books, 2003

When many people think of education they think of schools. I do as well. But I also think of learning, and I know that learning in its most profound forms often takes place far beyond schoolhouse walls: within families, homes, communities, and nature; at work and play; and in struggle. I recommend students read several of the books listed above and consider what learning is, where it takes place and under what conditions. I hope they will come away from their readings, as I have, with more expansive understandings of education, learning, and life.

Ingrid Seyer-Ochi
Assistant Professor
Graduate School of Education
A former public high school teacher, Ingrid Seyer-Ochi is an anthropologist and historian of education whose research and teaching interests focus on urban education, the history of education, and diversity and inequality in schooling. Her most recent project is an ethnographic study of learning opportunities in three of Oakland’s most diverse and integrated neighborhoods. Her book, Smart on the Under: Excavating Opportunity in Urban America, is forthcoming.

the oasis

Dobby is clearly a gift, on loan to us.

He is the runt of Marmy Fluffy Butt's litter and from the beginning proved to be one of those special animals that comes along once in the lifetime of a blue moon.

Sam-I-Am continues to decline, steadily but slowly. I am moved by his decision to stay close to me, even though, clearly, there will be times I am going to wish he would glom onto someone else.

(More specifically... I hope he will decide to get off of my legs. Soon.)

But for now, it is a distinct honor. Much of my time is spent trying to get him to eat and drink.

I got up at 4 am and snagged an apple, kind of upset at how Sammy looked -- his eyes were very dull and he was exceedingly sluggish. The toxins normally cleared from his system by the kidneys and his liver are clearly taking over...

It suddenly seemed crucial that he drink some water -- just as, a few hours earlier, I staked the fate of the world on whether or not he would swallow my offering of a fragrant spoon of Super Supper. The Earth remains on its axis precisely because Sam-I-Am settled for a mouthful of plain yogurt.

Enter Dobby.

He surveys the situation, notes my near hysteria and Sammy's clear reluctance to imbibe...

And then begins a game of "Monkey see, Monkey do" that leaves me laughing, and Sammy, at least temporarily, hydrated.

Side by side at the bowls, they alternate between tapping their paws on the liquid surface and daintily lapping up the water.

I eat an apple.

Dobby pauses to give me a conspiratorial grin, then turns to lick Sammy gently on the head.

Maybe we can all grab a few more minutes of sleep.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


It's been kind of a surreal day, and that's saying a lot.

Ferrying Sam-I-Am back and forth to the vet these past few days has been emotionally draining, as well as annoying, I'm sure, for Fred.

He refuses to put Sammy in a pet carrier, and holds him in his lap -- in the car, in the waiting room. (My suggestions that other pet owners might not be so thrilled with his choice evokes only the blankest of looks.)

While they were waiting for the vet today, Fred kept dozing off... and just when he'd reach the point of a real snooze, Sammy would promptly chirp at him.

"He would give me a look that said, 'Hey, can't you stay awake with me here? C'mon, my

Sammy's chirps are legendary -- when he really needs you, he pulls it out of his bag o'tricks. Two tones, loud, and always accompanied by guilt-inducing looks.

Big eyes, the whole spiel. He's a wise guy.

[Sometimes he throws an elbow, if the chirp-und-glare routine falls flat.]

We left him at the vet, as we were having no luck getting him to eat. I was fast becoming his least favorite entity by coming at him with a syringe filled with water every half hour. Even so, he had not been able to swallow more than a few millilitres.

An x-ray showed that his liver was inexplicably small, while his spleen was inexplicably large.
His gastrointestinal tract, thanks to our insane twice daily doses of anti-furball elixir, was completely and totally empty -- no food, no masses, no kinks. An ultrasound showed some kidney damage (that's the extent of the explanation we received on the phone), and lab tests pointed to a possible kidney infection, as well. No imaging study, though, points to any obvious cancers, which is what we feared when the vet announced his excess spleen (you and I know he is channeling Baudelaire...).

All in all, not Sammy's day.

So it was very kind of the vet to call us late tonight with the news that the grey ghost was eating non-stop. The theory is that he felt renewed after getting lots of subq fluids. The vet estimates he'll be there a few days more, at least.

Considering we feared losing him this morning, we receive this news with great happiness this evening.

Unless I'm in an alternate universe?

I just glanced at the New York Times' headlines:

U.S. Identifies Vast Riches of Minerals in Afghanistan

The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.

Anyone else get hit with the prescient heebie-jeebie shivers?

Sadly, A Repost: I. Need. A. Laxative.

I wish I had something more fascinating with which to entertain the remains of ERP's visitors, stopping by to gape at a Challenging Patient, but life is what it is, and today, that means a repost about constipation and sappy commentary about a cat-friend. I must say I was surprised when, checking back on his comment thread, I discovered myself to be a drug-seeker and a kook. Y'all be sure to shut the drawbridge -- and try not to fall in the moat on your way out.

I don't imagine there are many people out there who will be able to understand my frustration. That's why I like to call it My Frustration.

When I ask other people to help me, I relinquish most of my control over the way in which I want to be helped. In addition to lowering my exhaustive and incomparable standards, I give up control in ways never considered before the onset of Life as a Gimp.

Privacy. I have none! Influence? Fading, a mere effervescence.

I need a laxative. I mean, I have a laxative, but it isn't working. The situation is kind of dire. My mobility has been non-existent these past few weeks, and my narcotic doses are destined to be the stuff of legends. The only things I have going for me in the Poo Department are my Stellar Eating Habits (just ignore all the Diet Cola and popcorn). I mean, if an apple a day keeps the doctor away, then I cover the bases by eating two.

Still, hoping against hope that I can ask for what I want, get what I want, and all that, in a timely fashion, I presented myself to Fred, with a smile on my face and a song in my heart.

"Sweetie, I hate to interrupt you, but I need you to do something for me."

Fred heaved a sigh full of put-upon soul. I'm not exactly sure what he was doing, just that it had something to do with capacitors, as he had before him the famous Leyden Jar. One of them. It's a small obsession. (Some people make origami peace doves.)

When I want to get The Fredster a little something... special? I order one of those mysterious little plain brown paper package numbers -- you know, the ones full of "600 Capacitors: 20 each of 30 values."

Ceramic capacitors. Axial-Leaded Solid Tantalum Capacitors. Silver Micas. Yer Aluminum Electrolytic. Boy toys.

He was wearing his headlamp thingy, redundant multimeters spread round him in a semicircle, a god in his created world.

"Yeah? What do you need?" He asked, pleasantly.

"I need a laxative. I want to try that Miralax stuff that Dr. Go-To-Guy from MDVIP recommended a few weeks back. I don't care what it costs."

"But, Retired Educator, my love, you have a laxative. I just got you a bottle of 100 Senna Laxative, Sennosides 8.6 milligram tablets, comparable to Senokot, the Natural Vegetable Laxative, when was it... yeah, yeah... it was 12 days ago. The price? Hmm. An amazing $5.50! That was a great buy."

"Fred? Please, I really need your help. It will take you, what? 15 minutes, max?"

"That stuff can take a while to work, you know. Maybe you just need to give it a little more time? Have you had any bran cereal?"

"Darling," said I, enunciating with care, "I have had 24 Senokot over the last 3 days, tripled the amount of stool softener I take, and had 4 enemas. I have had bran cereal and prunes, apple after everlovin' apple, plus at least 96 ounces of water every day."

"Wow, that's impressive!"

"Thank you. Will you go to the store, please? Soon? I'm pretty miserable."

"Sure, no problem. I just need to finish this up, take a quick shower, then I'll get right on it. I should be back by one... We can watch that bad vampire movie, if you want. Have a cozy, lazy day?" Yes, Fred is manly enough that he can pull off "cozy." About once a week, he even comes out in support of "whimsy."

"Okay, thanks, Fred." I turned the wheelchair and started to speed back to the cozy confines of our bed, which is the only place my bloated, whimsical self wanted to be.

"Hey! Have you tried hot water? Some people drink hot water... With lemon."

The preceding conversation, so faithfully transcribed, took place around noon.

As mentioned a few posts ago, Fred was diagnosed with ADHD in 2001.

I just thought I would throw that into the present narrative for your consideration. Also, because it is now after 4 pm. I watched the movie: it was, indeed, about vampires, and was pretty bad -- the kind of bad movie that it is fun to watch with someone else. There is now a fresh bad movie on, but it is not nearly as good as the first one.

Fred seems to have knocked out a few more Jars of Leyden. He also appears to be entering with great glee into one of the Twitter fads: HengeClub. Yes, little groupings of capacitors on circuit boards, an Ode to Power, I suppose. HengeClub naturally appeals to him, as Fred is a druid, a neo-druid. In the same vein, he also makes Alternative Crèches -- the Nativity Under Water, Winnie the Pooh does Baby Jesus, and so on.

Yes, a neo-druid of the Reformed Druids of North America, or RDNA, with ADHD -- and unfortunately very fazed by the vastness of nature.

For what it is worth, DiscoJimbo has submitted our favorite Henge, called StonedHenge:

I was on the cusp of that sarcasm born of misanthropy when Fred stuck his head in to say: "I'm so sorry. I got distracted. I'm going now -- be right back."

And just like that, he was gone.

Guilt and gratitude, together, are quite potent. I am familiar with "I'll be right back," when used in conjunction with the grocery store in question, and expected his return in roughly 45 minutes, longer if he stopped to check new used book arrivals at the neighboring thrift shop.

Time enough to whip up a "vegetable plate" dinner, our bi-weekly tribute to diner food and something that my colon also appreciates. Scoping out the offerings of the veggie drawer, it looked to be a meal born of carrots, cabbage, and brocolli. I tossed the rotten cuke, and put on some brown rice, wasabi peanuts,and onions.

Enough roughage to blow out Fort Knox.

So I end up with a lovely carrot and lentil soup, nicely warmed with fresh ginger, and finished with just a scosh of coconut milk, served with a raw brocolli and cabbage slaw, and the rice. I don't much like brown rice but in hopes of restoring the gut? I am ready to do anything. More importantly, The Fredster loves it.

Round things out with some nice flatbread and hummus, and poof! A lovely meal. And as if on cue, I hear the drawbridge descending, and the dulcet tones of Ruby, the Honda CR-V, happy to be home.

Surely, given this meal and the soon to be had Miralax, surely, surely, my agony will end soon.

His arms full of groceries, an unexpected boon, Fred comes storming into the Medieval Kitchen common area -- that we have basically turned into a Breakfast Nook, with the help of judicious wallpaper, featuring mad trellises, peppered with lemons, of all things.

Fred frequently returns in a huff from shopping, as he seems to be an Idiot Magnet, encountering people whom he subsequently names numbered "twats," as in "Twat Number One," "Twat Number Two," and so on. (Gender, oddly enough, is irrelevant.)

I have protested the use of the word, but frankly? It doesn't bother me all that much. I guess I apologize to you, on his behalf, should it offend... but honestly, I don't think he even reflects on its meaning.

I ask, "What happened?" and turn to stir the soup, my heart sinking, my gut déçu.

"Well, I talked to that Twat of a Pharmacist over there, asking him what would be the best laxative for someone like you...

"For someone like me? How exactly does that work again? I keep forgetting..."

"You know what I mean -- you're in a chair, you take narcotics, there's a compelling history of small bowel obstructions..."

"What about the Miralax, did you get the Miralax?"

"Well, no. That Twat of a Pharmacist gave me this stuff, which he swears will work and be easier on you. It costs about a third as much -- plus you get a heck of a lot more. 50 for $3.39! I can always go back and get the MiraLax later, okay? It's ten bucks for just ten doses."

It chaps my ass. If I could just go to the store myself, by myself, on behalf of myself. I feel about three years old, I feel frustrated, manipulated. But more than anything, I feel constipated, and in a serious way that looks never, ever to be relieved.

With amazing calm, resigned now to a fate of death by constipation, I ask my sweet Fred what purgative the pharmacist has sent, my voice suddenly gone all sing-songy.

I don't even inquire anymore why purchasing the items I request is always such a freaking impossibility.

Fun times at Marlinspike Hall, deep, deep in the Tête de Hergé!

I think I'll put out some candles, use the tureen Aunt Nancy gave me, and some of the Haddock Family's finest china.

After we eat, there will be time enough to put up the bottles of white balsamic vinegar ("On sale! I got all they had!") -- the sesame oil, the teff flour, carefully measured.

Sammy, in Dobby's Embrace

Sam-I-Am, longtime feline friend, is very sick.

Life in The Manor is muted: The articulate, momentarily, lost...
And so, to stand in the gap, your prayers and thoughts are beseeched, and appreciated.

Sammy, in Dobby's embrace

Update, 15 June 2010: Sam-I-Am remains in the animal hospital, but may be released tomorrow. The good news is that he seems better, generally, and is eating. The bad news is that his kidney failure is pretty profound, and that he [likely] has lymphoma. We will be doing home infusions to keep his system as clean of toxins as possible, and him as comfortable as can be. We were told he was not a good candidate for chemotherapy. The vets have gone to great pains to stifle all irresponsible hope on our part, so we plan on showing Sammy a good time and lots of love until his quality of life dictates that we make the hard decision.

Update, 24 June 2010: Sammy came home a week ago, and it really is touch and go. Yesterday, for example, I got him to eat about half a normal amount of food. Today, he declined to eat or drink, until about 10 pm, and then only licked a bit of food off of my fingers. Sometimes all he will eat are "dental treats" -- by Greenie. His throat apparently hurts, as he clearly wants water and food but usually ends up staring at it (and then glaring at me, as if I engineered this situation). Dobby remains on his wings, getting in the way of everything and generally being a great comfort. Marmy Fluffy Butt and Uncle Kitty Big Balls are, above all, perplexed -- but also enjoy glaring at moi, as they are not being entertained in the manner to which they are accustomed. Well, harrumph! I don't know how long Sam-I-Am can live like this. He's being a very brave boy. We will continue to try and meet all his needs, and then some...