The Other End of Sunset

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Walking In through the Out door

I'm a HUGE soccer fan. Sorry, I know that makes me some effete snob, but it’s true. I played for years – badly.

I love the World Cup. It's not quite religious to me, but it's close. I had plans to GO this year. But thinkgs change.


Have you noticed that the referees have been “Card-happy” so far? How many red cards can one give in a game? And, gee, isn’t the penalty distribution odd? Hmm. I mean, I just saw an incredibly blatant, no-ball-in-sight tackle, that was knee-to-thigh – completely a foul. And a way aggressive one – totally unrelated to the game itself. A few minutes ago, Korea got a yellow card for a slightly-off tackle. This contact? France on Korea. Is there a card? No. It sure looks like the powerhouses are getting nicer referring than the small fry.

The only things I have been doing lately is helping JR and watching the world cup. Which makes Douglas a fairly dull boy.

That may be a normal condition, however. Dunno. Ask somebody else.

At any rate, I am blogging, as I should do, but I think this one is going to be dull. Sorry.

JR and I have had some of the most surreal conversations lately. She has planned her own services – yes, plural – she will have two, one that I will do, and one that Team Indiana will be in charge of.

She has given away her most prized possession, to close friend of ours. The friend was so touched she cried. I mean, really, what, exactly, does one say at that point? Is thank you sufficient? She has one more “possession” that she is talking about giving away. It will be her last gift. She has been preparing the recipient of this gift, for the giving, for a while now. And she has been preparing me, too.

JR has given more things, to more people, in her life than anyone I have ever known. Mostly not material things, mostly knowledge, skill, kindness, and love.

Do you ever wonder what would happen if you died? Would people show up at your service? If I crash my motorcycle, there will be some perfunctory service, that someone will cater from Albertson’s, and then people will dicker over my computers. Jeanne has a different situation. People have come out of the woodwork to tell me – and her – stories of how she touched them.

Who needs “It’s a Wonderful Life” – Jeanne’s death has shown her (and me) the value of a human touch.

Never underestimate the impact you have on those around you.

We went to mass, en mass, the other day. The service was the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. The homily rhymed – no, I kid you not. They guy rhymed his homily. And the homily itself made NO sense. I had to ask JR and our friend at the end for an explanation. Neither had a good one. Hmm, not a good sign.

Although I'm glad to be back to mass, I'm not thrilled with the church. It doesn’t look like a Catholic Church (in my humble opinion, anyway). It doesn’t smell like a Catholic Church – where is the incense? And the whole “turn off your cell phones” notice at the start of mass strikes me as odd, as well. All in all, little of the solemnity that I love, and the trappings that make me feel at home, and so close to God. Yeah, that’s me, I need formality and rules to be comfortable.

As always, when I write that, I become totally self-conscious, since I'm just so un-rule oriented. Or so I believe. But clearly that’s not the facts.

I think I shall try a different parish next week. I hope JR is strong enough again.

I'm sitting in an airport in that lovely city in the Southwest now, waiting to go home. I spent a day here, did a radio interview and hung out with some colleagues. I got to ride my Saxon. It’s really hot here – sitting at stoplights are bad enough (the heat is pretty oppressive), but sitting at stoplights with your right leg inches from an S&S engine… priceless. Good lord it gets hot. At one point I seriously thought my jeans were smoldering. It was all in my head, but still, it was a convincing mirage.

I started the bike in a parking lot, relatively near a massive Ford F250 that was raised up, had a huge towing ball on the back, and all that “hard trucker” action. It was brand new. Bright paint job. Never been off-road, that’s for sure, it’s way too neat for that.

Best part? It has a car alarm. An oversensitive one. As my motorcycle idled there, warming up, the vibrations set off the truck’s alarm system. Dude, really? I wasn’t being a punk and revving the engine or whatever, I was just sitting there. I wondered if I should steal the truck once the alarm went off, just for verisimilitude. I decided not to. But I did set off his alarm again – this time on purpose. Heh.

I spent time today watching a motorcycle race. I'm also not that good a motorcyclist. These guys rock. Wow. How DOES Rossi get that bike to do that? And why can’t I?

Oh, well, I can usually cross the street without the light changing on me. Usually. I did have more of that odd behavior with the Saxon, where it is kind of in gear, and kind of not. It seems to be somewhat better if the engine is at higher revs when I try to engage first gear. This “fix” makes no sense to me, but seems to be true. I wonder what I am actually changing, when I'm changing engine RPM, that impacts the gearbox experience.

Heh. The Gearbox Experience. That sounds like a Jimmy Hendrix cover band.

I haven’t gotten to ride my Benelli in weeks. I may ride it over to this lovely city in the Southwest, just to get on it for a while. It wants to live in SoCal, but it might visit the desert with me in a week or so. Who knows. I think it’d be fun to have it on the freeway for a while – as long as I remember my earplugs…

I rode the Saxon to the radio interview I did. I arrived there covered in sweat with really bad hair. I don’t think I impressed the interviewer too much. I think he was expecting someone far more put together than I am. He made a comment about my clothing on the air. Oh, well. It was a nice interview, and the host was funny. Was a good use of my time. I'm fairly sure I won’t be asked back.

I'm off to Europe next week for a few days, to do some more press, and hang around a large event in Ireland. I think it’ll be fun, but I'm a little stressed. It’s not the best time to be traveling. Luckily, my friend will be staying at my house to help watch JR.

One of JR’s oldest friends came to the house this weekend. She flew in on a red-eye, and left on a 4pm flight that day. She flew ~10 hours to spend maybe 6 with JR. It was awesome. It made JR really happy, which is terrific. It’s been awesome to see who has come through for her, and somewhat disappointing to see some who have not.

And I think I respect most the people who have reached out carefully, leaving lots of room for her (or me) to say “thanks, but not now”, and have accepted the answers gracefully. One of our friends down here in the Southwest told me he’d love to see her, but “I understand that it’s hard. If it’s up to me, I don’t have to think about it, I'll be there. And if not, I'll pray for her.” Wow. What an answer. In that moment, I got the feeling of complete acceptance – he told me what he wanted, and that he understands I will make a decision that may, or may not, be aligned with his wishes. And, regardless, he’s there.

How often does one get such acceptance? Perhaps by one’s Deity, if you believe in a loving power. But rarely, in my experience, in the corporeal realm. Now, if it weren’t due to such an awful situation, the whole story would be even better. But the situation is awful. And so the story is touching in some surreal way.

JR’s roller coaster continues. Hospice has really improved her life. The hospice is paid for by insurance. If we didn’t have insurance, Medical pays for it. If you don’t have that, they have a foundation that funds care. Their goal is to be entirely free to their clients. I'm kind of a free-market liberal – I think that free goods are abused. However, I can’t tell you how grateful I am that JR can call Hospice whenever she wants, for whatever she wants, and I don’t need to worry about the cost. Not because I can’t afford it, but because it is one less thing to worry about.

I'm blessed that I can do some things for JR that some people can’t get, such as a full-time home nurse named Mary. Mary is the quietest person I’ve ever known. She is so gentle with JR that it almost makes me cry. I recently asked JR how Mary was working out, and more generally, what she did. JR looked at me like I was an idiot and said “Even I even whisper something I might want, it appears. Immediately.” Mary works 6 days a week. And Jeanne is rarely as happy on the seventh day, if you will pardon the religious analogy. I pay for Mary out of my pocket. I'm lucky that I can.

It’s weird how a little money can help sometimes. I have an acquaintance that battled cancer. She went in for treatment in the morning, and then drove herself to work, just to keep it all together. Wow. That’s brave. Jeanne had it better in the logistics department – she’s had me, or a driver to get her to treatment. She doesn’t have to worry about our house, or our food, or some drug that isn’t covered by insurance. When the insurance company screws up the coverage – and automatic refills – of her fluid drainage bottles, I order them off the net. A bunch of them. Because I never want her to worry about stuff like that. And because I can.

In the midst of this tragedy, I am keenly aware of my incredible luck. I hope to find a way to pay my luck debt to another.

JR wants me to write a book when this is all over. She wants me to write “There and Back again, a caretaker’s journey”. She wants me to write about fear, and sadness, and anger, and how life doesn’t end until death. She wants me to reveal myself, my shortcomings, and the things I did right for her. She wants me to celebrate her, and our time, and it’s end.

She wants me to chronicle her death.

I don’t know if I can. It’s hard enough talking here, can I do more? And do I have the talent in my fingers to do her justice? I think that I do not have the required gifts. But she really wants me to try.

She’s having anxiety attacks. I can hear you now – you said “of course she’s anxious. She’s dying!” Nope, wrong. Thanks for playing, but no winner today. She’s not afraid of dying. She’s afraid of living this way.

And she’s afraid that the Bad Man will reappear. How can it be possible that he’s STILL abusing her, even when he’s not there anymore? It seems totally unfair. And she’s having full-blown panic attacks about him. Wow.

I used to worry that I'd be the worst father in the world. I worried so much that I decided to never have children. I was wrong. I can’t be more than the SECOND worst father in the world.

Enough said.

// A metacomment. One of my friends who reads this drivel told me she likes it when I make metacomments. Comments on my comments, comments on my writing. When I step out of authorship, and into editorship, with no warning and no transition. Here goes. I'm on a plane. I just reached a reasonable stopping point. I could end the blog here, with a taxi reference. But I have another hour on the flight, and I don’t have anything to read, so I am not going to stop. Sorry. If you are out of time, consider yourself free to go, while those of you who enjoy this stuff, read on. I shall chat a bit more now. Thanks for listening. //

Before writing more, I must make a confession. I just went through and edited my posting. I am not sure that’s acceptable in the Blogosphere. My oldest friend sent me a long, well-thought-out response to one of my postings, asking whether the length was a goal or a by-product. He asked if I wrote until I finished, regardless of the length, or if I wrote, and edited, and smoothed, and targeted a length. I don’t think I ever answered.

Well, pal, the answer is… I do both. I write until I no longer feel the pressure pent up in my throat, in my fingers, in my soul. I write until I'm embarrassed about what I say. I write until I know myself better. And then I edit it, and try to make it semi-readable. But I don’t edit much – somehow I feel dishonest changing the initial utterances.

I'll never be a good author, I'll never be a good poet. But perhaps, someday, if I keep trying, I'll be a good me.

And I'll recognize these words, when, and if, that happens.

I recently went back and reread my old postings. Some are really funny. Some seem oddly forced – what was my deal with hats, anyway – but they all sound like me, at some phase of the moon.

I fear I have become too serious, too “emotionally honest”, that I’ve become a new age self-help writer. “Yes, Oprah, my next project is an update of the Big Book, written entirely in Iambic Pentameter, crafted on an alternative operating system, and printed on acid free paper made from recycled paper.”

I hope you enjoy reading this stuff, not as some weird daytime soap, but as a conversation. Granted a one-sided conversation, but still…

// Side note. Have you ever noticed just how many iPods there are in the world? Or is it that they are all in airports? Good lord, the guy next to me, and next to him, both have then on. As do I. As does the middle aged lady across the aisle. And of course the punk kid beyond has one. Man, Apple did well, I think… //

// Side note, on a side note: When I said “punk kid”, I meant it literally, not pejoratively. He’s wearing a emo haircut, Vans, checkered shorts, and a vest with patches from bands like the Killers, the Clash, and the Pistols. That kid digs his punk rock. Of course, I'm thinking that these bands were all gone before he was born, but I'm really happy that he knows who they are. As his front patch says “Punk is not dead”. Amen. As long as we have punk, even cheesy corporate punk, we have some hope that the status quo need not rule us and own us. Go watch “Network”. Read A People’s History of the United States. Study some evidence-based medicine articles. Really. Question it, whatever it is. Question me. Understand the motives, incentives, and outcomes. Make your choices. I'll respect them. Go ahead. //

Let’s talk technology for a second. I have commented, several times, in these pages about the heat dissipated from the bottom of my MacBook Pro. At the moment, I have a magazine under the Mac, on my lap, to protect myself from the heat. I love the design, and the no-fan silence is great. But the heat isn’t my favorite. I recently went on a shopping spree to find stuff to help cool the Mac down. There is a Targus cooling “mat” that plugs into a USB port and has two fans that cool the Mac down. When I bought it, I thought it was the stupidest thing EVER. Really, how can a couple of fans do anything material? But they help a lot. I carry the thing around my house with me now. It’s a big win for me, since I spend a lot of time with my laptop now. I highly recommend it.

There, I talked about technology a bit. I have had a few comments asking me to do so. To those of you who wanted that, consider it done. See, I am responsive to my users. Really.

However, I just wrote myself into a corner. I can’t end with a discussion of laptop cooling. It just seems so pedestrian. So now I have to discover another great truth to share, just so I can get off the stage, as it were. But there’s the problem – that well may be dry at the moment.

So, instead, I have to stop in this horrible awkward way. Too bad.

We are starting our descent. I'm struck by the differences between that lovely city in the Southwest and the one to which I am bound. I like Northern California, don’t get me wrong. The air feels different. I can’t breathe as well. But it feels somehow more stilted, more formal, more put together. I'm less appropriate here. And yet, I am not so different from all the other thirty-somethings in the Bay Area.

There are clouds in the distance. I can see Mount Diablo in the far distance. I am ready to start the next part of this journey, in a taxicab.

Try to avoid the dust storms, and please set your car alarms to have a little less sensitivity! See you all soon…