Saturday, January 26, 2013

Buddy is no Maru and I survived another birthday

I don't know that I've ever tried to write with such a headache before.  This may prove interesting. It's not awful, just awfully concentrated behind my left eye, so I'm squinting, and being already afflicted with interesting vision -- well, writing just got more interesting!  [Note to self:  Spare your readers.  Do NOT revise post by substituting accurate adjectives for "interesting." Sometimes "vague," like "fun," is good.]

My mother and I share a birthday, and I am glad to say that we did it again, day before yesterday.  Especially glad am I because she was, and may still be, in her small town ICU.  I spoke with her, not because I dutifully or joyfully hit ICU speed-dial so that we could gush about getting older together, right on cue, no.  Rather, my bone-weary half-sister Lale, a true force of nature, pulled one of those tricks.

You know what I'm talking about.  I mean, how many years did you fall for the old "pull my finger" gag?  Admittedly, I am probably the world's most gullible person, still -- I should have had my guard up.  But Lale feels strongly that she knows what is right and then, well, there is that "force of nature" thing going on.

So I'm semi-awake and chatting with her, getting the update on the Mother-Unit's health when Lale says, in one breath, words-in-a-taut-string: "Ask her yourself, here she is..." and BAM!  There she is, mother of moi, me, her 29th birthday present, languishing on the other end of what has to be one of those genius phones.

My phone?  Bottom of the bottom of the barrel.  I have to push certain plastic parts in different directions to be able to half-hear the person or (most often) the automated bill collector on the other end.

But we had a nice chat, we did.  She's cogent -- Lale told me that she remembered her husband was dead (it's been a few years) after only one reminder -- and that's an accomplishment for any hospitalized person these days, much less an elderly woman in an intensive care unit.  I should remember to tell her, and Lale, that I promptly lose my mind whenever the elevator doors even open onto a critical care unit.  I have what is known as "ICU psychosis," engendered, I'm told, by the constant noise and light, drugs, etc.  But I know the underlying truth:  It's just like giving a Permanent Hall Pass to my natural craziness.  I see and hear things, experience the darnedest adventures -- last time, I spent an entire day attempting to help three Archangels successfully blow my head off with legally obtained and properly permitted shotguns.  They were lousy shots.  Apparently, I kept taking one arm to use for pointing to my big bedhead head, which I kept raising off the pillow -- trying to make the target easier to hit.  The good thing is that my nurses and doctors, despite repeated interrogations ["What the hell are you trying to do?"], never did understand that I was attempting to assist in my own assassination by God's Blessèd Assassins.  Good thing, too, that I never pointed them out -- all three Archangels were slumped in ratty old outdoor aluminum-framed chairs -- the old-fashioned woven plastic kind, plaid.  One of them being terribly overweight, his butt was hanging a bare half-inch from the ICU floor.  Off to the side was an equally old tiny television set, perched on a TV dinner tray table, rabbit ears accented with twists of foil.  The three holy ones would watch a few minutes of infomercials, then load up and fire off shots at my head, then curse when their projectiles just busted out another window, or ripped through a beeping IVAC pump.

Other ICU psychosis experiences?  Most involved schemes of escaping the unit.  I once even called my Brother-Unit Grader Boob, thanking him profusely for having landed a helicopter on the hospital roof, then belaying down with a team of White Hat Black Ops to rescue me from my false imprisonment beneath a respirator.  It still astonishes me that anyone gave me a phone to make the call.  Apparently -- they had just extubated me -- my babbling about my brother was construed as a need to call and express my love for him, and my gratitude for having survived near death.  Instead, I regaled him with praise, saying "I didn't even know you knew how to fly a helicopter!"

So my mother did great -- she was, in fact, sitting there eating a slice of birthday cake that the food service folk had specially prepared for her.  If they can stabilize her blood pressure, I think she's headed home soon.

But you gotta be on your toes around that Lale girl... She thinks my phone phobia is a made-up thing, something I invented to avoid talking to that wing of my Fucked-Up Family.  But no, it's real as can be.  I dislike phones, always have.  But that dislike has blossomed into what I think is a real technical phobia -- I mean, I probably need psychiatric treatment to get over it.  It's not so bad when there is business to conduct.  I could, at this point, yell at Walmart pharmacists all the livelong day.  But chat with a person about... life... and "stuff"?  God help me, I start hoping to see my slouching, crabby Archangels taking aim.

No offense to TW, whom I've only spoken with a couple of times, and each time hung up with a smile from ear-to-ear, but the best phone person, for me, is the oft-mentioned Grader Boob.  I think because we both profess to be teachers and promptly enter the Twilight Zone of Student Stories.  It takes about 30 seconds for the both of us to be reduced to tears from laughter.  Both TW and Grader Boob, however, can also piss moi off to no end with what must be a genetic tendency to refuse to directly answer Important Questions.  You know, of the "How Are You, **Really**?" sort.  These tend to be asked after I've been informed that they've taken dives down stairwells or slipped on ice and broken their beloved shoulders, or lost a long loved love.  Then, I guess I become, once again, that annoying chubby little sister who just wouldn't get it, anyway.


So, yeah, I had a birthday!  It was great.  Coffee in bed, and not just once, but twice.  Music of all sorts.  And a card from the ambulance-chaser lawyer who got me a check for $1,000 15 years ago after I was injured in a car accident.  He always encloses a very useful calendar, too, that we promptly affix to the fridge.

For my birthday repast, I insisted on Indian take-out.  My beloved favorite restaurant had moved to a location so far away I had not the heart to make Fred and Ruby drive the distance, so intense research turned up a very funky nearby place that provided us with beaucoup, beaucoup delicious fare.

Normally, I ask for cherry pie in lieu of birthday cake.  The restaurant menu, however, lured me toward one of their two desserts, a sort of pudding that was pure heaven, while Fred went into ecstacy with pistachio ice cream.

Then we lay in bed and moaned.

I had hoped to also watch a movie, but alas, Xfinity On Demand tricked me, and the free flicks I had picked out turned out not to be so free.  Yes, I do refuse to pay... even on my birthday.  I think that, too, is genetic.

But I had fun watching "Chopped" with Fred.  He's a hoot.  And a very good cook.  Bless his bones forever, though, he got upset over an idea I've long been considering.  I thought it would be great fun for all the people who do the cooking for Fred's Wednesday Night Suppers (you know, with the Militant Lesbian Existentialist Feminists) to have a "Chopped" competition.  We could choose someone to put together "mystery baskets" of odd ingredients and see what resulted.  But sweet Fred actually got teary-eyed over the potential hurt involved in "competition." My heart swells, right now, just remembering:  "I don't like competitions.  People get hurt."

Okay, honestly?

I felt like saying, "Oh, come on, we're talking more like a theme party than a serious competition... and the Mystery Baskets can be engineered as more 'easy as pie' than real gourmet challenges!"

But then I saw that he actually had tears in his eyes.  No shit.

Fred's waters run deep.

I had forgotten that he won't even play board games, or cards.  That he eschews most sporting events due to their tendency to insist on scoring, and winners, and losers.

I love Fred. What he stands for.  Still... c'mon.  Anyone wanna do a Chopped Challenge with me?

So... that was my birthday.  It was fun, my mother didn't die, the food was fantastic, and the company, perfect.  La Bonne et Belle Bianca Castafiore, however, ate THREE entrée-sized servings of saag paneer and was running back-and-forth most of the night, so I ended up awake the whole night-after-the-birthday.

Which takes this narrative quite easily into yesterday, when I was exhausted and highly feverish, rather peevish, and in a shitload of pain.  Some people with chronic pain believe that if you have a good day, the following few days will be spent "paying the piper."

I am one of them!

I am still paying that talented piper today, but at least my mood is good, Fred seems to have recovered from the suggestion of the cooking contest, and Bianca is no longer racing for the loo, screaming insults against the Indian sub-continent.  [Oh, she and Sven are on the outs.  Kind of a good thing, really, because we'd have had to order four times as much food.  I think they'll get back together.  I don't believe in "soul mates" nonsense, but those two are cut from the same cloth.  Now, Cabana Boy has been nosing around, and that may spice things up a bit -- but, God, I hope not.  It may well be that the Adult Faction of Marlinspike Hall is ready for an extended period of Bland Times.]

The Walmart Wars continue, but now are in the hands of three investigatory bodies -- one regional Board of Pharmacy, the Tête de Hergé Department of Health & Human Services Office of Inspector General's Office of Investigations... and my insurance company.

But there's always a fuck-up, correct?  I emailed my Go-To-Guy and his Super Nurse on the advice of the insurance company, asking that they call the company directly to get the prior authorization thang taken care of, and submitting directly to them a new prescription.

Oh, dear Lord.  Wham, bam, I got three responses within an hour from my intrepid medical team.  Their reaction was pure outrage that Walmart had claimed their office had failed to respond to two requests for prior-authorization schtuff, and they were going to, by Jove, set those people straight.

I felt my brain explode a little.  I did not respond, for two reasons.  One, it was then late Friday afternoon, and nothing goes right in the "business" world on late Friday afternoons.  Two, explaining in detail the steps I had already taken to exact justice for us all would only have made the water so very, very muddy.  There is also a three.  Three, my dear doc is a devout person, and I hate to put something annoying on his mind at the approach of Sabbath.

But please, please, hope along with me that they did NOT call this particular Walmart Pharmacy, now under investigation, and try to submit ANOTHER Rx.

In other news:  I was thrilled at Panetta's announcement of the reversal of policy regarding women in combat.  Somehow, I kind of doubt that you know why I was thrilled.  But in proof certain that Fred and I are, like Sven and The Castafiore, cut from the same cloth, we shared the rationale of gladness.  If Hawks, usually of the TeaBagger sort, truly are outraged at the thought of Cindy Lou in a body bag, maybe they will temper their Hawkishness.  Maybe, probably at a subconscious level, they will avoid armed conflict and war, the better to avoid Cindy Lou sloshing around in black plastic and a pine coffin.

Yes, we all know women have been involved in "front line" combat for a long while now, particularly since the "front line" so rarely exists any longer.  Cindy Lou driving a Maintenance Vehicle in support of a fighting outfit is at much on the "front line" as the men she is following.  And, as Rep. Tammy Duckworth hilariously pointed out, she did not lose her legs in "a bar fight."

There is another side to me (at least one other!), though, that also concurs with Duckworth and other career military women -- their career advancement has been diverted and denied because of a failure to recognize their actual battle experience, or through denying them that "opportunity." Honestly, we are talking less about hand-to-hand, muzzle-to-muzzle nonsense than we are more strategic jobs.  And man, do I wish the machomacho men spewing idiocies would calm down and read the provision more closely -- the physical requirements for any combat positions are not going to be changed.  Anorexic and weak-kneed Cindy Lous are not going to attempt lugging Big Bad Linebacker Lou to safety after he's been hit by enemy fire.

I'd have to go check my facts and I don't feel like it at the moment (ahh, the integrity of my blogging), but I believe the Israelis chose to remove women from front line positions after a study revealed that male soldiers' attention became all addlepated when faced with decisions such as choosing which fallen soldier to attend to first, as a medic, when one was a woman, and the other a man.  Yeah, well.  There are many fogs to war.

What else?  Oh, I will miss Tom Harkin.  He did good work.

Oh, and I like the bangs.

I disagree with the ruling about Presidential appointments during congressional recesses.  Did I hear it would be appealed to the good brothers and sisters of the Supreme Court?

I thought Hillary was masterful in her hearings.  I still am using my "Hillary for President" water bottle but doubt it will still be in use by 2016.  I also found think we will never know the truth of what happened that day in Benghazi, not if Hillary can help it.

The thought of the many Syrian refugees makes me want to cry, a not very useful response. And my brain is befuddled by Egypt.

I tepidly applaud Iraq's parliament in trying to prevent Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki from another term.

Okay, the truth is... I am trying to fake myself out.  Do a sleight of hand against my own hands. What is really weighing on my mind... drones.  Drones and Obama's hit list.  I have a hit list of my own.  It started as a joke.  Then one day, I thought about it.  Given the chance, the right circumstance, yes, I would pull the trigger to take out one of those who made my list.  And I'd accept the consequences, which I imagine would occur faster than I could blink.  I like, too, the idea of taking someone out without the loss of so many military pawns, foot-soldiers, kids, fighting under some ridiculous cover story.  And "collateral damage" makes me weep and want to hide for shame.

Some folks need killing in the worst way.

All right, yes.  I also have the vague suspicion of a suggestion of a soupçon that killing of any sort is wrong.  That killing without the courtesy of a look-in-the-eye is cowardly. (Oh, scratch that last sentence.  I don't believe that.  I made it up.  I lied.)

These are the types of issues that send me back to White's Book of Merlyn.

There are so many things about which we all think, about which we do not speak.

An amazing segue, on par, even with "anyway..."!

Cat stories, that's what we need!  Here is an update and a FAIL cat video, starring The One, The Only BUDDY -- all in an effort to save this headache of a blog post!

Okay, whom shall we update first.  Marmy FluffyButt?  Yes.  Why not?  She is beginning to warm up to me again, although at the rate she's warming, I'll be stiff and cold by the time this feline decides I'm worth giving another chance.  Ever since I was put in charge of treating her chronically infected and leaky eyeball, she has cast me into the outer reaches of Hell.  And I don't think Marmy's Hell is the more accessible "circle" or ring.  She spurns Dante.  "Nine circles of suffering? For having put stinging goop into mein eyeball?  The outer atomic layer of the ninth circle does not approach sufficiency of suffering, although the theme is correct, since daring to touch mein eyeball does line up well with Judecca, the hooman Alighieri's spot for flaming Iscariots..." When I heard her say *that*, well, shivers went up my spine.  Her geometrical preference is less for spheres and more for one e-t-e-r-n-a-l line.

But she remains sweet, in spite of the damning obsession 'n all.  Especially after the sun goes down, at which time she has had a good 12-hour nap, and greets her humans as if they were long lost pals.  She will let me rub her beautiful head, scratch her silky chin, and lightly pull on her magnificent poofy tail.  She thinks Fred, Bianca, Sven, the Cabana Boy, and all of the Manor Domestic Staff are the greatest.  Whether she will ever cuddle next to moi again is doubtful.  {sniff}

Dobby!  He continues to bring a smile to the face of all he meets and greets.  If he failes to meet and greet you, it is because, being a very small animal, he is frightened and is hiding in my closet, where stress is making him shed profusely on all of my clean clothes.

We've always been able to hear The Dobster approach, even from as far away as the Over-Sized Pink Opalescent Gala Ballroom.  His toenails made a pleasant tap-tap-tap and he could never figure out his continual failure in sneakiness.  Suddenly, one day last week, I watched him pass by me and realized that I heard... nothing.  Thinking that the Good Lord had decided I needed deafness added to the Affliction List, I consulted with Fred (whom I could hear, O Hosanna!) and he could no longer hear the tap-tap-tap of Dobby, either.

Putting the little guy under surveillance, it turned out that he is assiduously pulling off the ends of his not so talon-like talons.

All the better to tippy-toe behind his frequent attacker, the huge Buddy Boy, and enjoy the thrills of jumping on his head for a change.  Last night, I even saw him tear by the overgrown kitten, who, hearing not a sound, never even knew he'd been bested.

Dobby continues his late night howling, and we've narrowed the causes down to two:  a continual mourning for our beloved Sammy and/or an annoying demand that we break out the laser dot toy.
Both are a bit distressing.  It's time for him to simply think fondly on Sweet Sammy, and when we do break out the laser dot toy, he no longer wishes to chase it, but settles down in an old-fart-in-a-raggedy-barcalounger pose so as to better enjoy the light show.  He leaves the chasing to Buddy, who is thrilled to do it and chases with abandon, albeit also with some confusion, and to Marmy, who has but one plan of attack -- to eat that damned red dot.  She gulps enough air in the chase to cause hours of entertaining burping.

As for updating Buddy's growing fan base on the Maine Coon's progress?  Lordy, lordy.  EVERYTHING is a game.  Therefore, we are often thankful to have undertaken the "soft paw" training when he was truly a baby.  Otherwise, we'd have even deeper and many more scratches from all the "play."

It turns out he suffers a bit from separation anxiety. Because of his constant desire to "play," and this desire's inappropriateness around all the Haddock antique treasure in the Manor, he is restricted to our Private Quarters. Most of the time, it is Fred who takes off in Ruby, and since I'm typically ensconced in bed, he's okay -- though he does visibly perk up upon Fred's return.  But should the both of us leave for a bit, we return to find the neediest cat west of the Lone Alp.  It is very sweet but makes me sad that he is upset, ever.  He's such a happy guy, you see.

His latest Life Adventure is, unfortunately, his first ailment.  Thankfully, it is but a runny and irritated eye.  I am guessing that the newly self-declawed Dobby may have whacked him in the face, though you can never rule out lightening-fast Marmy FluffyButt.  In any event, Fred is gently putting medication in his eye -- and Buddy seems cognizant of this as help and not attack.  As we say so often around here, and to almost anyone, cat or human:  "What a good boy!"

So, let me close this potpourri of a post with a FAIL video of Buddy the Outrageously Large Kitten, and his refusal to stuff himself in a box.  As the YouTube title explains, "Buddy is no Maru."

If you've never watched Maru... you should!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

REPOST: in a moment

Odd.  I have many things to write about, several amazing articles and speeches (the articles new, the speeches old, but new to me) to go on about and reprint.  There have been some funny developments in the Walmart Pharmacy saga (O, they are so screwèd!) and I spent the day with medical types, so you know I have an overloaded brain.

And yet, I saw that several readers had called up this post, originally published on 28 June 2011, when I was in the midst of my last shot at a CRPS "cure," via subanesthetic ketamine infusions.  It was a hard time, confusing, rushed, painful -- and then there are all the things such a chemical does to the brain and mind.

From that came this, which, frankly, has left me weepy.  I don't remember writing it.

So, Dear Readers, I give you -- again -- "in a moment"":


There is an assisted living facility that we drive by frequently, a very neat and pleasant looking place, in front of which is a sign announcing a "special neighborhood for the memory impaired."

I figure Fred and La Bonne et Belle Bianca will push me out of a slow-moving Ruby, the Honda CR-V, with however much cash might be necessary to buy into that special neighborhood pinned to my lapel.  Fred will have written my name in my clothing with a Sharpie Rub-a-Dub® Laundry Marker.  For her part, Bianca will make sure I've several kilos of beluga caviar, carefully wrapped in my garment-dyed organic cotton tees. Oddly, her enormous cache of the stuff predates the September 30, 2005 importation ban from the Caspian Sea, and the October 2005 ban of the sturgeon roe from the Black Sea basin.

Anyway, they love me each in their own way.  Fred will make sure I've the comfort of my own clean clothes, something familiar when my mind wanders. The Castafiore?  Fish eggs.  *Old* fish eggs.

Bless their bones, I've plum worn them out.  Our lives together were supposed to only nominally be about really, actually, taking care of one another.  It wasn't supposed to be like this.

Anyway (my fallback segue) --

Technically, Ketamine leaves the body very quickly. My point being that I was told there are no lingering effects from the infusions in "normal" people.  Never mind that researchers give subanesthetic doses to elicit symptoms of schizophrenia, to mimic mental illness -- handy, I guess, on that day when we run out of actual schizophrenics amenable to study. 

I know, courtesy of doctors, nurses, and choice literature, that the psychosis and cognitive dysfunction that I simultaneously experienced, explored, and was terrified by, resulted from that one drug running through my veins.  I know that all deleterious effects officially ceased within minutes of stopping the drip -- despite the experiential evidence of dizziness, nausea, confusion, fatigue, and visual disturbances that linger and recur. Despite, despite, despite...

Still -- here I am, five days out from the last high dose treatment, downright obliterated, my sluggish, sloshing brain wrapped in the cotton candy fuzz of Ketamine's metabolites.  Except that that cannot be.

It's hard.  I'm looking and hoping for positive results from this recent approximation of Dr. Schwartzman's Ketamine protocol in the treatment of CRPS (as communicated by Dr. Schwartzman in an email, as delineated in published papers).  I am trying to be objective though that's a much tougher thing to approximate. 

On the up side?  My overall level of inflammation, and its attendant discomfort, is much lower than it was two weeks ago.  My feet and lower legs are less swollen, as are my joints in general.  Whether or not that's at all attributable to the Ketamine infusions, I don't know.  I was overdue a break in the cycle of what I call Red and Blue phases of CRPS, having been in the Red phase for a good while, and tired of it.  People kept enlightening me with helpful alerts like "Wow! The heat is just pouring off of your body." 

So now my feet and lower legs are blue, considerably smaller, and scary cold.  I've entertained giving socks another chance but then couldn't tolerate the weight of a sheet, and so end up slapping the nearest cat and joshing, "Golly Gee!"

I am working on a suitable chortle.

The pain is just as bothersome, though different.  Blue phase CRPS pain, for me, is an unrelenting burn that makes me, if possible, even more wary than usual of the touch of... *anything*.  I start doing all the weird things CRPS patients do -- going to ridiculous lengths to avoid the touch of ridiculous things.  Cringing and crying out just at the sight of one cat chasing another through the room.  Folding the edges of clothing, carefully arranging covers and quilts.  Making the constellation of pillows a task requiring advanced degrees.

Blue phase CRPS -- and again, this is my terminology, and not a generally accepted notion -- is fuelled by fear, heightened anticipation.  Much too much thinking and worrying, with fits of frustration that often involve throwing phones, remote controls, paperbacks, and a slew of assistive devices (like handy-dandy "grabbers"), because inanimate objects migrate, on purpose, threatening to bump hands, arms, feet, and legs.  One day, I will try to explain the peculiar, building, and sinister sensation of *potential* touch.

I can write about This Schtuff here, even as I am actively trying to deceive my Manor Denizens and Mavens.  The first wave of my effort involves biting my tongue instead of using it to mold the shape of my screams.

Yes, I have stopped screaming.  In the same vein that, yes, I have no bananas.*

It wasn't such a huge leap from that to a general shutting up, after all these weeks of methadone and percocet withdrawal, and the attendant chatter:spaz:chatter::scream::scream::chatter:spaz:chatter.

Having been the cause and nexus of so much worry and effort around Marlinspike Hall, I dedicate myself now to the cultivation of a very false front.

The cheshire cat in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland
drawn by John Tenniel (1820-1914) in the 1866 edition.

The Crooked Grimace becomes the Modest Smile that morphs into a Cheshire Grin.

(And why not invoke Lewis Carroll as one of the Authors of My Being? **)

The Cheshire Cat and the enormity of his grin, companion piece to the Mona Lisa's pursed and lippy near smirk: They aren't exactly lies, more like essential commentary, a reminder that little is as it seems, and if you don't want too much pain, it helps to revel in these snivels of diversion and repression.

[I tried to rewrite that last bit but feel honor-bound to leave it.  It may be that only such a tight sentence will be the key to my exit from the Special Neighborhood for the Memory Impaired...]

Wikipedia notes that "A classical dictionary of the vulgar tongue by Francis Grose (The Second Edition, Corrected and Enlarged, London 1788) contains the following entry: 'CHESHIRE CAT. He grins like a Cheshire cat; said of any one who shows his teeth and gums in laughing.'"

That'd be me. Toothy. Like my long dead grandmother's fierce and false good cheer, though, my laughter seems more a cackle now, mirth so unfunny

I enjoy Wikipedia entries that ache for supporting citations. Next to making scads of money by writing back-of-book blurbs and wine label spots, I'd love a life of writing detailed and mostly true Wikipedia entries just squirrelly enough to want a footnote or three.

Remember: The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth.

The only thing I enjoyed about my Ketamine hallucinations were snapshots of interwoven longterm memories, no matter how illogical their relationship with whatever visual or auditory wormhole encased the whole affair.  Memory was the touchstone of sanity.

It was also much more pleasant to dive into deep still waters -- a very pretty blue -- than to lie there struggling to remember my middle name and the city, my last address, the date.

Last Thursday morning, down in Cubicle 2, my brain held a slide show, complete with the clicking noises during view swaps, complete with the electrical whir of an old-fashioned projector's vibrating motor and fan. 

How my brothers each came to be such excellent photographers is something of a mystery.  In the years they spent together, and those years were, sadly, not many, there weren't many occasions for shutterbugging, and certainly the evidence from those years is kind of pitiful.  Overexposed.  Underexposed. 

I remember TW shadowing some polo-shirted man with a pot belly, which must have been the summer he spent working as a caddy at the country club.  It wasn't even our country club, as it wasn't our country. Also, TW'd rather die than acquiesce to the foundational notions of the intensely racist area of the world in which we were temporarily housed. We had been foisted upon our grandparents for the summer, at the end of which we three were to fly a few thousand miles to unite with an add-water-and-stir new family.

Brother Tumbleweed made money hand-over-fist, I remember some grown-up clucking.  I don't know TW well, never did, but I doubt he's ever been the least bit subservient, so I assume he really needed the bucks.  I think he saw himself as the sardonic twist in an anachronism, a modern white slave boy ripping off the institution, sticking it to The Man.

Anyway, he's standing slightly behind and to the left of the white polo-shirted pot-bellied man, his head at a jaunty angle and what had to be a very funny joke floating in the vapor before his pursed lips.  It would make sense that he'd have on a hat, but he didn't.  I love his hair because I have his hair.  Curly, a mind of its own.  People were always chopping off my hair so as to make it, and me, behave.  My father used a ruler to measure his sons' efforts at sideburns and the distance between a hair's end and a collar's beginning.

I spent that summer obsessed with a bird -- a baby Blue Jay pushed from a high nest by its mother but lucky enough to land on a soft bed of pine straw in the yard of a beloved neighbor, Dr. Ramsey, who promptly brought scrawny thing to me.  That was my I-wanna-be-a-vet summer.  My grandfather and I nursed him, taught him to fly, and just generally made up rules for the bringing up of an Honest Bird.  He went out during the day, played games with us, followed us around the garden and the woods, and then would come inside the house at night, when called. 

For the life of me, though, I cannot remember where in the house he slept.  (One of my favorite mental exercises is to trace the layout of every house I've ever lived in, sometimes even stretching the parameters to include any house I've ever visited.  I find this richly relaxing, enlivening.  It is my version of one of the Pythagorean Brotherhood's disciplines of memory.  That's what I like to believe, so if you've another suspicion, keep it to yourself, please.  No matter your opinion of the calisthenic, you can see, can't you, how not being able to place this bird within the architecture of that summer's night time is a barbed and sticking point, a cause for anxiety?)

You'd think my jay bird would have been a prime target for homegrown photography, but I only have one picture of him, and it was taken by a features photographer from the local paper.  Word got out about our charming boy when he decided to go to church with us one Sunday, rapping with his beak on the sanctuary door, and creating a hell of a racket.  He pitched a juvenile fit in the presence of those investigative journalists, the Maharidge and Williamson of that region and day, then flew up into the highest branches of the dogwood by the back porch door, and refused to come down.  Actually, he put himself in a pickle, because he didn't quite know *how* to get down, by gradation, branch to branch.  At that point it was still pretty much an all-or-nothing affair when it came to flight.

What we all liked most about Squawky (What can I say?  I was a kid.  The next bird I "rescued"?  I dubbed him Potty Pigeon and stuck him in a shoebox.) -- What endeared Squawky to those of us hanging out on Coffee Road that long hot summer of fly balls and mortgage-buster tomato sandwiches was his dedication to driving my grandmother crazy. 

Grandaddy and I were relieved when Squawky grew out of needing our unique mixture of baby bird formula.  It involved collecting the finest and freshest of morning's beetles and worms, local produce, though probably not completely organic.  I also gathered some (bedewed) berries, swiped some generic birdseed, added a dropper or two of some smelly liquid vitamins, and carefully mashed and ground that yummy goodness in a small white porcelain mortar and pestle that was meant to lend the goo an air of maternal predigestion -- again, all under the tutelage of my sweet pharmacist of a grandpa.  We'd hydrate it a bit so that a Kimax pipette could be put to use to plug up the gaping, griping maw at the center of the then very ugly bald and squawking creature.

Grandmother -- we called her Nana -- kept a clean house.  Our culinary efforts on  behalf of the baby bird about sent her around the bend, but she soon learned that our fine raw cuisine was infinitely preferable to the bird's own feeding habits, once he was over the formula stage.  Squawky loved to snack, it turned out, and didn't trust his humans to collect or store the juiciest of tidbits.  In anticipation of late night munchies, he snuck contraband into the house during those stupefyingly hot afternoons when all we thought he wanted was a bit of shade, and company.  He was a clever little cuss.

Nana's "living room" was more a salon.  It was uncomfortable and full of ridiculous fine furniture, and we were all obliged to sit in it for some prescribed period of time in the evening -- after dinner, after the washing-up of dishes, after ice cream on the dark porch, but before baths and other ablutions, and defionitely before bedtime books.  She was in her element at night, was Nana.  The woman could author and promote all kinds of conspiracy theories as she hustled from bathroom to bathroom, bedside to bedside, as she washed and you dried, as she propelled herself like a wild locomotive even into a child's fledgling sense of privacy.  She'd press folded, sweaty dollars into your palm, her face turned in the opposite direction, the better to disguise the Love Bribe.  She out-Cassandra-ed Cassandra -- condemned to see and know the future, and to be believed, even, but never in an actionable way, never in a way that told her we cared about her information, her future.  Doors you swore you'd locked flew open, and she'd give fierce directives about the disposition of her jewelry after her demise as she scrubbed your already clean back with a stiff brush of boar bristles.

It's from that tiny woman that came my many phobias centered around sleep and whispering -- two things that ought to signify intimacy and privacy.  If you need to witness abject terror, just allow me to fall into a safe, comfortable, deep sleep (*those* were the days!), then whisper my name. 

After which, you'll need to scrape me off of the ceiling.

Anyway, despite various family strategies for defusing the Nana Factor, it took a bird to take her down. I'm not sure how he did it, because I kept a very watchful eye, as well as a pocket full of paper towels to scoop up any juicy bugs or offerings of bird poop. 

Squawky hid bugs -- big ass bugs, we're talking -- precisely where finding a bug would drive Nana insane.  In her austere antique-y salon, under needlepointed pillows and oval doilies, in jugs, midst dried and powdery gray-green eucalyptus. [You've no idea  how much I want -- have, indeed, long wanted -- to reference antimacassars as well as doilies, but no one in that house ever rested the back of their heads on anything but monogramed pillowcases atop improbably tall and postered bedsteads.  In this modest country home, she maintained both clichéd and uniquely weird citations of chinoiserie -- that is, chinoiserie twice-removed -- in her faux Persian rugs, scattered black lacquer pieces, chinese-esque vases with young crackled glazes, but mounted on carved ebony pedestals that had the ring of truth.

Nana had an impressive assortment of cloisonné that lacked the space necessary to its appreciation. I remember thinking that I'd have had a leg up in my career if only she had dabbled in an orientalism both better and spread out over another 1,000 square feet.

Maybe it was the decor, the tiny insects and flowers, the small birds, like oversized bees, fairly buzzing in that cramped overheated room -- something made it the perfect place for a teenaged Blue Jay to strategically stash the kind of munchies that only a teenaged Blue Jay would stash -- avian Twinkies and nachos, topped with slightly smooshed malted milk balls.

Brother Unit Grader Boob didn't take pictures of people very often.  His best works, in my opinion, were vertiginous close-ups of leaves, tree trunks, new wood invading old.  There always seemed to be a swirl, and a question.  I know he recently took his camera up to Morehead City, to Atlantic Beach, to that pier I walked and stalked as a teenager, from where I made my first phone call as an honest-to-God Sovereign Person to my mother, just returned to the States.  It was a hangup.  Meaning, I hung up, my heart in my throat, a man with a bucket of bait slinking past, stinking.

But GB has taken remarkable portraits, nonetheless, particularly of the aforementioned Grandparental Units.

A good ten or fifteen years after that summer of our billetting, he showed up at their door at the end of a casual 500 mile bike ride, the last bit of it ascending the Blue Ridge Mountains, and his hair long, sporting cycling gear that made him even more foreign and therefore undesireable looking.  Of course, they didn't know who he was -- Grandaddy being quite blind from glaucoma by then, and Nana caught up in visions of rampaging hippies.  Good sports, though, they allowed my brother and his gang of bicycling friends to hang around for a few days.

They had the best water in the world there, from their well. 

Sometime the following day, when the place must have been looking like a freaking commune, what with those ne'er do well college students wandering around in a tomato sandwich haze, GBoob snapped a few frames of Grandaddy sitting atop the well cap, timing the pump.  He used a telephoto lens, taking the shots from right where the woods get deep.

Grandaddy lived in "gardening clothes," a uniform of khakis and long-sleeved cotton shirts, the whole topped by his old pith helmit.  He had a thin, austere face.  Patrician.  My memories of him are of a gentle man who was not particularly effusive, but who was essentially good-natured.  That is to say, you weren't going to get him to pose with a plastic smile at the ready.

So it is quite the coup, the smile that my brother caught.  He is lanky, even seated, elbows on his knees, one arm clasping the inside of the other.  He holds his face to the sun, relaxed, smells the growing vegetables, thinks, maybe, of his many bird houses or maybe how he's going to mow a few acres of grass later on, blind as a bat, and smiling like a fool. 

I look to a copy of that iconic photo whenever I ponder the accusations of my aunt, an honest and enlightened person, who tells of him beating her mercilessly, dragging her out from under one of those high postered bedsteads where she had hoped to hide.  "Grandaddy?" I ask.  He persists with that peaceful, laconic smile, counting, I suppose, "one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand," waiting for the well pump to kick in.

All of that was there last Thursday morning, though some of it was a hold-over from Wednesday afternoon. 

There was a photo of Grader Boob that served as some kind of place card in the sequence of tripping images.  He played a lot of baseball that summer.  He was pitcher, and so his team photo has him looking sharp in pinstripes, rearing back, getting ready for the wind-up and kick, just as soon as he sneaks a peak at the runner on first. 

You've got to keep those runners honest.

Well, that's all I can remember, and more than I want to know.  Sleep well, don't forget to turn your brain down before you go to sleep...

**** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** ****
**** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** ****

* Yes, We Have No Bananas!
[Folk Song written by: Frank Silver and Irving Cohn (1923)]

There's a fruit store on our street
It's run by a Greek.
And he keeps good things to eat
But you should hear him speak!

When you ask him anything, he never answers "no".
He just "yes"es you to death,
And as he takes your dough, he tells you...

"Yes! We have no bananas
We have no bananas today!!
We have string beans and onions, cabBAges and scallions
And all kinds of fruit and say
We have an old fashioned toMAHto
A Long Island poTAHto, but

Yes! We have no bananas
We have no bananas today!"

Business got so good for him that he wrote home today,
"Send me Pete and Nick and Jim; I need help right away."
When he got them in the store, there was fun, you bet.
Someone asked for "sparrow grass"
and then the whole quartet
All answered:

"Yes, we have no bananas
We have-a no bananas today.
Just try those coconuts
Those wall-nuts and doughnuts
There ain't many nuts like they.
We'll sell you two kinds of red herring,
Dark brown, and ball-bearing.
But yes, we have no bananas
We have no bananas today."

**I read some of Lewis Carroll's Sylvie and Bruno late this afternoon.  Time was on my mind -- how very mutable it is, and how,  if it flows like a river, it's no river of my knowing.  You know, the basics, what almost any drug-based trip will teach us!

Walking along in the "real world" of Chapter 22, The Earl tells The Narrator (The narcoleptic "Historian"):

"I have yet another theory for adding to the
enjoyment of Life--that is, if I have not exhausted your patience?
I'm afraid you find me a very garrulous old man."

"No indeed!" I exclaimed earnestly. And indeed I felt as if one could
not easily tire of the sweet sadness of that gentle voice.

"It is, that we should learn to take our pleasures quickly, and our
pains slowly."

"But why? I should have put it the other way, myself."

"By taking artificial pain--which can be as trivial as you
please--slowly, the result is that, when real pain comes, however
severe, all you need do is to let it go at its ordinary pace, and it's
over in a moment!"

"Very true," I said, "but how about the pleasure?"

"Why, by taking it quick, you can get so much more into life. It takes
you three hours and a half to hear and enjoy an opera. Suppose I can
take it in, and enjoy it, in half-an-hour. Why, I can enjoy seven
operas, while you are listening; to one!"

"Always supposing you have an orchestra capable of playing them,"
I said. "And that orchestra has yet to be found!"

The old man smiled. "I have heard an 'air played," he said, "and by no
means a short one--played right through, variations and all, in three

"When? And how?" I asked eagerly, with a half-notion that I was
dreaming again.

"It was done by a little musical-box," he quietly replied.
"After it had been wound up, the regulator, or something, broke,
and it ran down, as I said, in about three seconds.
But it must have played all the notes, you know!"

"Did you enjoy it? I asked, with all the severity of a cross-examining

"No, I didn't!" he candidly confessed. "But then, you know, I hadn't
been trained to that kind of music!"

This I add in the spirit of "for what it is worth."   

Michelle Obama Sums Up The National Sentiment

Published on Jan 21, 2013
Uploaded to YouTube by Linaeua

"Michelle Obama Rolls Her Eyes at John Boehner at the Inauguration Day luncheon. Boehner was a guest at the White House for coffee before the ceremony, during which a lot of people noted that he looked like he could use a smoke break. Maybe he did on the way to the lunch, but the First Lady looks like she could use a break from all this quality time with the Speaker of the House."

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Text of President Obama's Second Inaugural Address

Vice President Biden, Mr. Chief Justice, Members of the United States Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens: 

(Photo via Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Each time we gather to inaugurate a president, we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution.  We affirm the promise of our democracy.  We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names.  What makes us exceptional - what makes us American - is our allegiance to an idea, articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." 

Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time.  For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth.  The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob.  They gave to us a Republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed. 

For more than two hundred years, we have. 

Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free.  We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together. 

Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce; schools and colleges to train our workers.

Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play. 

Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life's worst hazards and misfortune.

Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society's ills can be cured through government alone.  Our celebration of initiative and enterprise; our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, are constants in our character.

But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action.  For the American people can no more meet the demands of today's world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias.  No single person can train all the math and science teachers we'll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores.  Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people. 

This generation of Americans has been tested by crises that steeled our resolve and proved our resilience.  A decade of war is now ending.  An economic recovery has begun.  America's possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands:  youth and drive; diversity and openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention.   My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it - so long as we seize it together. 

For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it.  We believe that America's prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class.  We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship.  We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own. 

We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time.  We must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, and reach higher.  But while the means will change, our purpose endures:  a nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American.  That is what this moment requires.  That is what will give real meaning to our creed.  

We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity.  We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit.  But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future.  For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty, and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn.  We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few.  We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us, at any time, may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other - through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security - these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us.  They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great. 

We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity.  We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.  Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.  The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult.  But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it.  We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries - we must claim its promise.  That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure - our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks.  That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God.  That's what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.

We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.  Our brave men and women in uniform, tempered by the flames of battle, are unmatched in skill and courage.  Our citizens, seared by the memory of those we have lost, know too well the price that is paid for liberty.  The knowledge of their sacrifice will keep us forever vigilant against those who would do us harm.  But we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war, who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends, and we must carry those lessons into this time as well.

We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law.  We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully - not because we are naïve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear.  America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe; and we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad, for no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation.  We will support democracy from Asia to Africa; from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom.  And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice - not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes:  tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice. 

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths - that all of us are created equal - is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth. 

It is now our generation's task to carry on what those pioneers began.  For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts.  Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law - for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.  Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote.  Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country.  Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm. 

That is our generation's task - to make these words, these rights, these values - of Life, and Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness - real for every American.  Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life; it does not mean we will all define liberty in exactly the same way, or follow the same precise path to happiness.  Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time - but it does require us to act in our time. 

For now decisions are upon us, and we cannot afford delay.  We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate.  We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect.  We must act, knowing that today's victories will be only partial, and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years, and forty years, and four hundred years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.

My fellow Americans, the oath I have sworn before you today, like the one recited by others who serve in this Capitol, was an oath to God and country, not party or faction - and we must faithfully execute that pledge during the duration of our service.  But the words I spoke today are not so different from the oath that is taken each time a soldier signs up for duty, or an immigrant realizes her dream.  My oath is not so different from the pledge we all make to the flag that waves above and that fills our hearts with pride. 

They are the words of citizens, and they represent our greatest hope. 

You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country's course. 

You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time - not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals.

Let each of us now embrace, with solemn duty and awesome joy, what is our lasting birthright.  With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history, and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom. 

Thank you, God Bless you, and may He forever bless these United States of America.