9.30.2009

now/then

yesterday plus 4 yrs ago i began radiation treatment for the residiual bit of brain tumor that was unresectable, attached near the carotid artery. today i walk down the street, outwardly normal, inwardly heart aching for friends in turmoil, recently plunged into darkness. around me those w/ the good fortune to remain untouched by trauma of any stripe wander oblivious, but i can't really blame them. i would too. how could i not if i didn't know? today i am wearing giant bose earphones and my ipod is on shuffle and mary oliver pops up to read 'her grave' which concerns, mostly, a dog's death. these lines cut me down:

Do the cranes crying out in the high clouds
think it is all their own music?
A dog comes to you and lives with you in your house, but you
do not therefore own her, as you do not own the rain, or the
trees, or the laws which pertain to them


and the last line hits my face.

Finally,
the slick mountains of love break

over us

9.22.2009

ashland, in thumbnail


drive down from portland saturday, arrive, unpack, nap. wake around 630, eat leftover food, walk thru streets to agnes bowmer theater for Paradise Lost. everything works, every performer on, play is amazing, it hums, soars. we walk back in a daze, wine on balcony under stars. sunday morning americanos and walk to coop,  m cooks breakfast we eat on balcony, read nyt, look at hills - tree-laden and humboldt like in one direction, rolling and marin-like in the other. back to to downtown, more americanos at coffeeshop/bookstore and i see name on local art that i recognize from arcata, then back to bowmer for macbeth, which is great but not as great as what we saw the night before. after, we hear actor playing banqo do q/a at elizabethan thtre about macbeth. after beer at standing stone and debate whether to see 3rd play that evening (don quixote in elizabethan thtre). we go back and forth, walk thru park, decide to go back to room, relax. i nap. decide to forgo play and have celebratory anniversary dinner at restaurant instead. m's food is putrid but tempered by bottle of elk cove. m puts her left-overs on a city bench. we see a movie that we suspect will be bad but we have no clue as to just how bad until we're in front of it. we walk back in a daze - but a different sort of daze than the previous night. m's leftovers are gone. monday am we exit, more americanos, breakfast. when we come out there is smoke in the sky, back up to portland.


9.17.2009

number nine

since m was bee-stung and on steroids to reduce the swelling and inflammation from her recently updated status shifting from 'not allergic' to 'allergic' which prevented her from being particularly ambulatory and further since this wknd finds us headed to ashland to see a couple plays in honor of the 9th anniversary of our wedding, yesterday - the actual date of our actual anniversary - was to be a more subdued pedestrian affair. i returned from work to find m laying on the couch, foot propped up on a pillow, listening to divaville on the radio (which for the uninitiated may just be the best show on the radio in oregon, to say nothing of the country as a whole). we talked briefly about our dinner options (ie a pizza) and debated the process of dinner arriving at our house (ie, me picking it up or having it delivered). i ran downstairs to see if we were within vincente's delivery area by checking on the computer. couldn't find it. ran back upstairs and sat across from margaret just in time to hear the radio announcer say: "..and this one goes out to margaret and brian. it's dinah washington..." and it was the glorious dinah washington singing cole porter's "let's do it" which was a beautiful, glorious thing. we sat there quietly smiling at each other as dinah sang. then i went and picked up a pizza and m propped her legs up in front of the tv and we watched 3 episodes of a television show. it is not what we imagined what our 9th anniversary would look like necessarily. but it was great.

sentence of the day 9.17.09


"That prarie party mix had a little snap to it"

supervisor in the workplace discussing an office snack

9.14.2009

i am afraid of dumb people




yes, i'll admit it - i fear dumb people - and i don't believe you can be a birther, a tenther or a teabagger without being dumb. there are gradations of idiocy certainly- running the gamut from box-of-rocks dim to choosing-to-be-uninformed dumb to malevolent denial-of-the-truth-despite-the-facts stupid - and all of them apparently listen to some creature called glenn beck, who i had the extreme misfortune to stumble across on the radio the other day while waiting in the car while m was in the grocery. facts, reason, rationality, logic are all anathema to these people. it will require patience and stomach and bravery, evinced by the likes of this man:



9.12.2009

tick-tock




This image - taken in 1898 at Willamette University Medical Department, which merged w/ the Univ of Oregon Medical school in 1913 to become OHSU, where i had two brain surgeries in 2005 - comes from a newish book, recommended if you're into that sort of thing, meaning if you need some type of reminder that the clock is ticking - no matter your circumstance - and that it's time to get cracking. The faces of those standing are not so different from you and i (well, minus the bowler hats that is) despite what lies underneath them: the last station on a journey of natural processes.

9.09.2009

9.07.2009

blue jay

home sick on thurs. i lay on the couch in the rumpus room and read the first two acts of uncle vanya (b/c the night b/f i had finished the confessions of edward day which features u.v.) and fall asleep. i am roused by lennie up to no good upstairs, bounding and/or leaping at the cats most likely. i pick up uncle vanya and begin act 3, around the point where Sonya says "You're bored, you don't know what to do with yourself and bordeom and idleness are infectious" and lennie is still terrorizing the cat/s. i call up to him, which usually does the trick but not this time. he's whining and leaping around the living room. i throw back the covers and head up the stairs and hear the shrill call of a scrub jay. as i step into the living room i see that the scrub jay is in the fireplace, protected by the screen from lennie's eager jaws, flapping furiously. what to do? first, i trick lennie into the rumpus room w/ some meaty snacks and shut the door. i go back to the fireplace and the jay is gone. good. that does that. all i need to do is close the flue so i reach my hand up and the jay springs out, into the living room, crashing against the northernmost window. i immediately open the front door and the screen door and try to coax her out. she is furiously pecking at the window, furiously flapping wings and when she takes a quick break i can hear her breathing. Her mate lands on the arbor vitae just outside the window, cheeping at her, but she can't get out. i run downstairs, put on garden gloves and for a moment think that i am going to snatch her up and carry her outside but split-second of approach is all she needs to inform me that such an option is not viable. her breathing and flapping intensifies. she's getting caught in the curtains. what to do? I go to the coat closet and pull open an umbrella, gently moving it - unopened - toward her, attempting to coax her onto the end. this too is not a viable option. eventually, i have all the furniture pulled from the wall, the curtains tucked over and around the bars from which they hang. i open the umbrella and shock her into the adjacent, west-facing window. and then i close and open it again, shocking her toward the door and she flies out - free - heading straight to the neighbor's tree.

9.01.2009

b e n d


multiple highlights from trip to central oregon this wknd - watching climbers at smith rock, ski-lifting up mt bachelor and learning about subduction, great meal on mirror pond, good progress w/ lennie briscoe and his training, the weather, the 360 degree stunning photo-ready landscapes, and on and on - but as documenting each moment in travelogue form would be a prohibitive time constraint, and further of more interest to me than you - i'll center focus on one particular aspect, a lowlight in fact, but no less memorable.

here are some backstory elements that may inform the narrative: my parents and margaret's mother left early friday morning for bend. m and me and LB were to follow after i got off work - around 230ish - and meet up w/ them. since m had to juggle multiple errands in preparation for trip she arrived closer to 315, which is of little consequence except as relates to traffic on I-5 on friday afternoons, which is to say, an urban clog of frustrated drivers, smelly trucks and the like wherein it took 1 hour to get from the tram in portland to the edge of wilsonville. meanwhile in bend, the parents unpacked and got settled in their rooms in the late afternoon, and expecting us shortly, headed to the bar - w/ it's riverside vista - for a cocktail. as they enjoyed frolic and good cheer, m and i were out of cell phone range in the mtns en route, and so thinking again we were close by, they all enjoyed another cocktail. at last we arrived, threw our stuff in our room, left LB in the car (no unattended dogs in rooms) and went to the riverside bar wherein we found our parents in a well-intentioned but hazy fog of alcohol. m and i sat down and the bar waitress came out. we elected to step to the hotel restaurant next door given the general fatigue and condition of our party. the bar waitress disclosed how she'd gotten to know our parents over the past couple hours and told them of her approaching nuptials and her multiple emotions she was experiencing about getting married, which is all fine and cute, except she wouldn't stop talking really and it began to verge on inappropriateness and it dawned on me that the bar waitress seemed a shade or two shy of stone drunk. My parents and m's mother were in no condition to detect her state themselves - encouraged her banter. We collected ourselves and went thru the bar to the hostess station of the neighboring restaurant. end of backstory narrative.

begin main narrative. We tell the hostess that the 5 of us would like to sit down and eat please. She says 'just a sec' and runs off. Because part of the restaurant is sunken, we can see that it appears to be a slow night, only a few tables are filled. A couple minutes tock by. m's mom leaves us and finds her way to the restroom. we make small talk and another couple minutes tock by. It starts to feel like something is wrong operationally speaking since there's no real visible cause for delay. at long last the hostess returns and says 'is your whole party here?" which seemed mildly ludicrous since the five of us were just minutes ago assembled in front of her and to which i said 'um, yeah. one person's in the restroom'. the hostess grabbed menus and said 'well let's just walk really slow then' with a sort of smirk meant to indicate that we were somehow violating a restaurant dictate b/c our party wasn't all there, even though it was.

we were led to a sort of empty banquet room at the back of the restaurant and shown to a table with 4 place settings. "There's 5 of us" I said. The hostess looked annoyed though whether at us or at her own failure to properly convey the information to the table-setting crew i don't know. she grabbed a chair from a nearby table and put it at the edge of our table and quickly set a fifth spot. I sat on one corner, across from my dad and next to my mother. m sat at the new setting w/ her mother on her left. (The specifics of our seating arrangement was of consequence later as you shall soon see).

After a strange duration - given the emptiness of the restaurant - some menus appeared. We scanned them and awaited the arrival of the waiter and made small talk. After a strange duration - given the emptiness of the restaurant - the waiter appeared. He was a tallish doughy sort in black shirt, black apron, black pants and a kind of faux-chummy waiterspeak that was probably meant to convey confidence. He said "How we doing? My name is Brad I'll be your waiter. Can I get us started with some drinks?". Wine was decided on - despite several members of our party requiring no further alcohol and Brad disappeared for five minutes.

When he reappeared he was holding a small cutting board with three raw unappetizing chunks of meat on it. He launched into a presentation that had all the patina and charm of a powerpoint in a 2nd-tier corporate office park: "Now we are primarily known as a steakhouse and we have three prime cuts tonight, the new york strip, the porterhouse which has both a strip and a filet of course - and the bone-in ribeye...". He continued to discuss some of the significance of the "marbling" but by this time after looking at bloody meaty chunks most of us were leaning away from any of those options. Brad said "Does anyone have any questions?" and one member of our party drunkenly said "talk to me about fish" (i won't name names but it was m's mother) by which she meant talk to me about your fish options but since it came out funny it caused a brief moment of levity wherein m being kind and compassionate as she is wont to do, apologized to the waiter for the hassle and may have inadvertantly touched his arm or looked him in the eye.

Brad disappeared for awhile. We could see him thru the windows tending to a blond couple on the deck romantically sharing a the view and bottle of white wine. When he reappeared he said "Okay, we ready to order?". By this time we'd been seated for about 35 minutes so we emphatically answered his query in the affirmative. One member of our party drunkenly said "talk to me about fish" which added a surreal dimension to the proceedings since she asked the exact same thing verbatim minutes earlier. The table howled as m in turn apologized again to brad, perhaps with more enthusiasm this time.

Our food came out. Predictably it was on the unspectacular side but by this point we were all winding down, contending with various states and stages of exhaustion, talking out the plans for tomorrow and the rest of the wknd so it didn't really matter. The entrees were all served w/ a decorative orchid which m at one point stuck behind her right ear. We continued chatting. Eventually, the blond couple on the deck were gone and we were basically the only people left in the restaurant. My dad leaned over to me and said "did you see that?" motioning thru the windows outside. "What?" I said. "The waiter just took a shot of something. Whiskey I think".

Moments later Brad reappeared. "How we doing? We thinking about dessert?" None of us were, so full of food and alcohol that the impending walk across the parking lot to our rooms seemed like a feat. My mom said "Maybe tomorrow night" at which point Brad seemed to light up thinking that we would be back which we would not. We would never be back. Brad - standing at the foot of the table next to me and my dad - looked across the table at Margaret and the orchid behind her right ear. He said "You know, what is it, in Hawaii, they have a thing, what is it, where the women put an orchid behind their ear on the right side if they're taken and on the left if they're available".

A long interminable second slowly ticked off the clock. An exhaust fan kicked on somewhere.

Margaret said "Um, what?".

Brad continued "Yeah, in Hawaii. The right side means the woman is taken and the left means she's available".

Margaret, as politely and directly as her character allows said, "yeah, it's on the right side then".

Brad wanted to make sure she understood what he was driving at so he said "Right is taken"

Margaret replied "it's on the right side".

There was heavy silence as the table considered what we had just witnessed. A quick constellation of alternating despair and hope flashed across Brad's face. He attempted to regain his footing and managed, as casually as possible "So we'll all do dessert tomorrow night then"?