Winter Morning # 127

There are advantages to being an office drone -- particularly when you've worked in one place for a long time, as I have. You can skulk into your office without anyone noticing you. You hardly have to talk to anyone, so when you have laryngitis it's no big deal. You've been there so long, you're like a piece of furniture, fufilling your function unnoticed.

Sometimes it freaks me out to think my whole early adulthood is circumscribed by this one office. Four apartments, a couple boyfriends, pets gained and lost, years of headshrinking and all that goes with it . . . and I'm still here. Snow out the window. Rain. Sirens. Remember the few days it smelled like a corpse outside? No? Unbelievable. They must have unearthed something in a basement. That was six years ago.

How do people my age mark off periods of their lives? Social rituals -- marriage, kids; breakups and getting-togethers; moving; births; deaths; jobs; school. Right now I'm weighing a lot of small triumphs and failures.

I don't make new year's resolutions, but this new year's I have a big 'back to the drawing board' feeling that's pretty heavy. In one week I'm losing 2 of my closest friends -- one moving out of state, one out of my home. Musically speaking, I feel a tinge of failure (launching a record into the ether; not sure if anyone's buying it in stores; definitely sure that indie-level publicity is more difficult even than I imagined) mingled with great happiness (helping the label grow; new band, new songs, new fun).

This is a vicarious triumph, but watching my family grow is very exciting! This Christmas was so much fun: watching Little Nephew drag around his new toy guitar was especially heartwarming (I think he's already surpassed me in the guitar skills dept.) and dueting on "Jingle Bells" with his cousin Big Nephew on violin. It was Baby Niece's first Christmas, and she was very charming in her duo Tweedlebug pigtails.

There are lots of other things to look forward to, not the least of which is completing this double-volume encyclopedia that's been occupying me here at the job for a couple of years.

Speaking of which. Here I go . . .



I can't speak.

Some kind of illness perched in my sinuses over the weekend and, feeling pretty much over it, I sang for 3 hours with the band last night. This morning I can't talk, sing, or do anything other than mouth words.

This happened last year, but I remember being able to at least scrape through a phone conversation. No such luck today.

That this has happened twice in a year is very scary to me. I take for granted that I can sing. I don't work on the technical aspects of it really. I tend to get petulant when folks focus on it too much. When someone remarks "nice voice," he or she might as well be saying "nice ass": thanks, but that's not really up to me. You know how long it took me to find a rhyme for "souvlaki on a stick?" You know how much mental energy it takes to produce a record? Sheesh.

I'm convinced this forced silence is meant to teach me something. (1) Don't be a dolt and get careless with your voice -- like it or not, it's the tool of your trade. (2) You're talking too much and not listening. (3) Take some of your energy off the music. Relax a little.

Dovetailing nicely with these real or imagined imperatives are my 2 new hobbies. One is resurrecting my old, beloved jeans using a few well-placed iron-on patches and embroidery. I used to embroider simple flower designs as a teen, but now that I found this site there is new hope for unskilled artistes like me. Patterns!

The second hobby is more like complex chemistry: making my own bath products. I've gotten so picky about what I will and won't put on my skin, because it smells like chemicals and so forth, I've practically backed myself into a corner. So far I've made organic tea tree-lavender bath oil . . . heavenly for nervous folks with sinusitis. Next stop: bath salts. I'd really like to make my own lip balm, but I think Paula's annual brew will be worth waiting for.


Obsessions and Transfixin's

The only thing I can surmise about what it means to get older, and allegedly wiser, is that you learn to gradually filter out some of the insane follies you usually can't stop yourself from doing.

In the therapeutic sense, one would call this breaking destructive patterns. But it doesn't have to be so grandiose. It's stuff like:

-Don't buy more groceries than you can carry home.
-Plan to get to the station a full hour before the train leaves. Subways break down, cabs get stuck in traffic.
-Keep a spare set of housekeys at work.
-Layer your clothing.

If at this age I know all these things, why do I still:

-Stand in a store for 45 minutes, obsessing over every teensy component of every potential Christmas present, not having planned my shopping in advance.
-Wear clothes that fit in compromising ways, and/or have holes in them.
-Get on store lines that are far too long, knowing full well that by the time I check out, I'll be hopping mad.
-Blatantly goof off at work.

With this in mind, I actually bought an outfit to wear on Christmas Eve. I foresaw the problem: going out to dinner with my folks and embarrassing them by dressing, as usual, like a fat hooker. So I went to Old Navy and bought the cheapest sensible Ann Taylor knockoffs I could find. Wool/rayon pants. Button down shirt -- no darts, thanks. Perhaps I will clasp a pin at the neck.

Total bummer.


Hot 2 Trot

Finally got to visit with Rox. She is still on painkillers, and was sleeping with her head half in the water dish. They put medicine in her ears, so she was continuously rubbing the sides of her head against whatever was near: cat box, shelf, hand. Her purr was kind of low and warbling. She looked at me with a gentle, faint cognizance, with huge, dilated pupils. She slowly flexed her paws against the towel she was sitting on. We can pick her up tomorrow.

While we were there, I heard squeals from my 2 comrades. In the kitty bungalow next door they had discovered Arthur. Eighteen and skinny, Arthur has just wisps of grey fur remaining and singed-looking whiskers. His eyes are kind of watery.

"Oh, look at you!" "Hello, boy!"

I first met Arthur when I went to pick up some cat food a few weeks ago. He was perched on the reception desk. With the knobs of his spine showing, he looked more like a gargoyle than a cat.

"Arthur's quite a guy," the receptionist had said when I asked about him. "He just woke up from his nap."

I offered him my hand for a rub. No dice.

"Arthur loves the ladies," the other receptionist said.

I looked into Arthur's rheumatic eyes. "Hi, Arthur." He blinked.

"The medicine he's on made him lose his fur. You're so sexy, aren't you, Arthur!"

I skritched him a little, while the receptionists exclaimed over Arthur's prowess. He sat rigid. I marveled over his chicken legs. He scuttled away from me.

"Okay, well then, see you soon . . ." I signed the receipt and lifted the bags of food over the counter. At that, Arthur sprang into action! He trotted down the desk with the swinging gait of George Jefferson and jumped down onto the floor.

I was dissed!

. . . And now, of all the cats sitting in the cabanas begging for a skrit, my friends had honed in on him.

We had to get back to work. Arthur had fully worked his magic on these two -- while simultaneously trying out a few escape routes. They herded him back into the cubby.

"Gotta go now, Arthur!" Aly said.

"Oh, look, look! He's shaking his head no!"


Myriad creatures

How about this -- in obsessively looking for more on Li Po, I decided to harangue the author of the book I've been working on for the past three years. He, in turn, did some more investigative reporting. And here's a beautiful alternate translation of the text I love, courtesy of Prof. Paul W. Kroll:

Now, since heaven and earth are the travelers' inn of the myriad creatures, and light and shadow are the passing visitors of a hundred ages, this floating life is like a dream.

-- Li Po, from "Preface for a Banquet on a Spring Night at the Garden of Peaches and Plums."

I'm thinking about this as Roxy is in another round of surgery. It's odd to have so much power over the life of an animal, yet feel so helpless. I can't explain anything to her. Thinking about her being alone in the hospital last night was excruciating. My suffering becomes her imagined suffering, and vice versa. Does consciousness make things less scary, or more?


Waitress, more coffee, please.

I think I have an Antihoot hangover.

It was a cool night; a night of extremes. I saw a lot of folks, especially babyfaced kids, who were totally consumed by the song they were singing and avoided the usual traps (deathly cutsie-poo patter and the like). There was a good vibe in the room.

I offered up a rather timid version of "love you all the way." Lately, whatever is going on in me under the surface comes out loud and clear when i'm singing. I hope this is just a phase, and that the dogged cheerfulness will come home soon.


Rats and Things

Forgive me if I've told you this already.

The rat ran under my foot as I was walking down 6th avenue. It was fast. The closest thing I can complare it to is the killer bunny on Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The thing came flying at me, and before I knew it there was something under my foot and it went crunch.

Then, a rat lying a few feet away with its chin and belly flat along the pavement. Half dead, injured, or just playing it cool until it got its bearings?

Lying that way, the rat looked just like Saro when she's in skritching-ecstasy, lolling on the rug. Cute; endearing. Only it was a rat and my neck was tingling and I felt like I was going to throw up.

Rat, lost in the streets? Demented with rabies? Demented with rat Alzheimer's? Did I kill its brother it in a past life, and now it's pulling a kamikaze move to exact revenge?

I stood there and watched it for awhile. Its legs moved a little. I tried to think of things to do to help it. They all seemed like a bad idea. It felt wrong, but I walked away.


Speaking of Holy Grails . . . Tonight i go back to the Sidewalk to play a Antihoot for the first time since Clinton was president. You can't smoke there now, which makes it a little less punishing for the senses, but detracts from the, er, ambience (and provides fewer outlets to calm one's nerves).

I think Antihoot coping skills probably are more use-em-or-lose-em than it's-just-like-riding-a-bike. I've forgotten my tuner, which is somehow appropriate. Wish me luck.


The Inaugural Post

The universe is a lodging house for myriad things, and time itself is a travelling guest of the centuries. This floating life is like a dream. How often can one enjoy oneself?
-- from " A Night Feast," Li Bai (Li Po) tr. Lin Yutang

Welcome to my blog. I don't know what's going to happen here, but starting one seemed like the right thing to do right now. Perhaps with a coherent way to express my thoughts, it will keep smoke from coming out my ears all the time.

Anonymous or no? A little of each. I don't feel like advertising this right now. I spend enough time trying to "advertise" myself in other contexts; it's wearying and bad for the soul. On the other hand, I think trying to stay anonymous here is futile. And there's a kind of rush that comes with speaking your mind, consequences be damned.

Seduction is about masking and unmasking. I've never gotten the balance quite right. I don't expect this will be much different, but what can you do but throw yourself into the unknown?

Until next time . . .