The Other End of Sunset

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I think it should rain down...

I used to know this old Scarecrow.
He was my song,
my joy and sorrow.
Cast alone
between the furrows
of a field.
No longer sung by anyone
--Elton John

Hello again, all my OtherEnders. Let's begin today with a few random shout-outs, again.

First, hello to all the journalists who asked me about this blog on my recent press tour. Really, nothing that interesting here. No technology, generally; no strategy, at all. Mostly song lyrics. Many of which seem irrelevant to the topic at hand. But, at any rate, welcome.

And CO does NOT agree, by the way, that my definition of boundaries was correct OR accurate. Well, I guess he didn't actually say either of those things, but that was, I think, his intimation. Thus, it's possible I misrepresented his opinion in my quote from him recently, or over-spun my answer!

Congratulations aplenty to Al Gore for his share of the Peace Prize. Although the Daemonic chorus of voices immediately decried the selection as political. No, really? A Nobel prize given in part because of political reasons? Wars are, today, fought over oil. Not so long ago, they were fought over grain and water. Global warming may bring some of that joy back, if we don't pay some attention.

// Side note: I'm a slight warming skeptic. That is, I don't believe the predictions of climatic change and impact. But, it's worth noting that these projections -- the only ones listed in the press, generally -- are the upper end of the distribution, not the most likely outcome. The math problem is interesting -- what is the right measure of central tendency for a system that self-accelerates? Because what begins as an unlikely event might rapidly become a likely event. This is a chaos theory point; which is distinct from the fact that "right hand tail" events do happen sometimes. The two points are easily confused, but not the same. The proof is left to the reader. //

If God is in the Details, then he is here in this room with me.
I just wish he'd brought an extension cord.

Unsurprisingly, I'm on a plane. Coming home from London. Was supposed to be home yesterday, from Zurich, but had plane problems. Like as in, plane problems in mid-air.

So, at thirty-some-odd thousand feet, we dumped a lot of fuel, and then descended to 10,000 feet, extended our flaps put our gear down (all to increase drag) and circled London Heathrow for a couple of hours. Dumping fuel from a plane looks wild -- there are these tubes on the wings. I had never noticed them before, but I will try to look now. They stick out the back between the flaps. And they were spewing gas out as this huge vapor trail. Wild. Wonder what happened to all those hydrocarbons? Did they rain down onto someone below?

The symptom of the problem was clear: there was a large amount of water flooding the cabin. The explanation given was "incorrect lavatory service". But the water didn't smell like ... well, what lavatories on planes smell like. It did, however, smell a bit like oil. And the puddle I spent a few minutes studying separated into two parts. As if there was a hydraulics failure, or something similar. And the first officer came back to inspect -- visually -- that the flaps had extended.

The crew didn't seem scared, but were VERY focused. I decided that as long as nothing started burning, we were probably ok, I wasn't so sure things would turn out well if a fire started though. I guess I was surprised by the descent to 10,000 feet -- altitude is a pilot's friend, I should think. If a fire starts at 30,000 feet, you can depressurize the cabin, drop masks for everyone, and (maybe?) the lack of air pressure would put out the fire. But at 10,000 feet, there's plenty of air, and thus plenty of oxygen. Seemed strange.

But regardless, we made it to the ground, and I got to spend a night in London with SL (who happened to be there anyway).

And we had a tough conversation.

We had the "should I have called" conversation. In a crisis, there's no way you can call everyone you might think to call, but you might have a chance to call your partner.

But should you call?

So, let's say I called yesterday -- and nothing happened. I'd have felt like a fool. Let's say I didn't call yesterday (I didn't, by the way), and the plane had crashed. I'd have missed the opportunity to talk to SL one last time, and have her pass messages onto my best friend and others.

But what if I called, and she didn't pick up, and the plane crashed? For the rest of her life, she'd have felt guilty about not picking that call up. You probably never heal from that. And what does one say on the message? "Well, honey, something bad is happening, and maybe it'll be ok, and maybe I'm going to die, but I want you to know I love you? "

Seems somehow ... banal. Don't you think?

When Jeanne died, I had plenty of time to think about what to say on her last day. I didn't say any of it. I said other stuff. Which was ok, I think. But I didn't say anything terribly profound. (If you're interested in what I did say, look back at her death posting. She died June 23 of last year, so the post would have been a day or so later.)

But it was more profound than "yup, might die now, love ya, feed the dogs ". I mean, that's exceptionally lame.

So, I asked SL what she would have wanted. She told me, without hesitating, that I should call, and if she didn't pick up, she'd feel terrible, but keep the message. It was obvious to her.

My eyes teared up a bit. She didn't understand why. I kept thinking of how it feels to be the one left after the love dies. It doesn't matter what the love says. It matters that the love is gone, never to return. And the feeling of that loss doesn't seem to fade that much.

I think SL didn't get it, because that hasn't been her experience in life. Good. I don't want it to be.

My best friend was living with us when Jeanne died. The rest of the house -- including me -- was devoted to caring for Jeanne. My BF was devoted to caring for me.

BF wasn't there when Jeanne died. I called her, and she wanted to know if she should come then. She had an important appointment. I told her no, to keep her appointment. It gave her a chance to grieve, and to get some support that she needed for losing her friend, before facing me.

But she didn't get to see Jeanne's body as a result. I think that's probably good too, although she's a little upset with me about it. I don't want that image in her head.

Just like I don't want SL to understand why my eyes teared up.

I tried to convince SL that if we were on a plane, as we were likely headed down, I'd slip her a sleeping pill, so she wouldn't be afraid and have to deal with it. I'd rather be scared alone, and know that she was not scared. She got angry, and told me she wouldn't let me. She wants those last few minutes.

If I could, I'd protect those I love from every bit of pain, and lessons "grown ups" have to face.

Yes, that means that those I love wouldn't be "fully rounded people". But screw that. Give me the experiences, round off my edges, and I'll carry the pain. They can keep their delightfully non-ovoid personalities.

But I don't seem to have that choice, I guess.

And yes, definitely you should call me. I want that last chance to say something banal, and to hear the voice one last time.

I still haven't taken Jeanne's voice off of my answering machine. I can't. It's all I have left. But I don't call it as often anymore. So, that's progress, right?

Towards the end, Jeanne slept in a room down the hall. During the day, we had a full time nurse's aid. Mary. She was great. At night, Jeanne's mom sat in a chair up all night right next to Jeanne's bed. SL asked why I didn't set up another bed.

Because I didn't think of it.

And I think that Maggie (Jeanne's mom) didn't really sleep. She napped, and got up every couple of hours with Jeanne. Just like when Jeanne was a baby.

I should have done that. I didn't. I was too weak, too tired.

SL says that this is the difference between dads and moms. Moms are wired to get up with their kids to breast-feed them. I know, in today's world, dads get up too. But I bet it's usually the mom. And so Maggie got up every few hours to breast feed Jeanne as a child.

And then got up every couple of hours to give Jeanne Morphine and Ativan as she died.

Thanks, Maggie. I couldn't have done that. I was not -- am not -- strong enough.

And just like us,
he must have had
a Once Upon a Time
--Elton John

I told part of the plane issue story to a colleague in London. Her response was immediate -- never fly United States airlines. Part of this was pure chauvinism. (She is British, after all). Part was perhaps true.

We are on a daily flight. It's not even full, although it's reasonably packed. Although the plane has, so far, not broken, not much else has worked. They've run out of red wine and champagne. They are out of bottled water. And the attendants have been VERY grumpy the entire flight. But we are flying over Regina, in Canada, close to the northern US border. I always get stir-crazy about here. It's 2 more hours. And I'm TIRED of being on this plane.

I watched the last few episodes of the first season of Heroes on this trip. And all the episodes of Jericho. CarPool Pal told me that Jericho had begun to stink in about the 3rd or 4th episode and he'd bailed out. He was right. It did. But the quality picked back up, and the later episodes became good enough that I was kind of into it. A real tear-jerker of a soap opera. Way too many plot twists and (obvious) crises, but was definitely mind-occupying.

I have probably several posts full of quotes that would fit into stories about Jeanne, or the Lovely Italian, or... But I didn't write them down, and for some reason, I just don't remember television lines. Sorry.

I'm mostly writing about this to admit something to all of you. I do NOT understand the ending of Jericho's season. I guess it was supposed to be a cliff hanger, but the cliff wasn't clear. I'm actually wondering if I am missing an episode. I hate spoilers, so I won't give one here, but I'm really wondering if the Army showed up, or whether "Nuts" was the last word on the topic.

If you saw the ending, feel free to send me a comment. I won't post the comment, so spoil away. Meanwhile, I'll see if iTunes owes me an episode!

Being the brother means you get some slack, right?

I've spent the last 10 days doing press work. In 4 countries or so, a couple of cities per country. Apparently, this was the hardest press tour, physically, ever. I am in pretty good shape, and have pretty good stamina (thanks, DB, for all that training!!) But I was totally wiped out by the end. On the last day, right before the last event, I happened to run into my brother. In Switzerland.

Yeah, that's random.

And instead of being nice, I was a real jerk to him. Turns out he had something kind of awful happen in his life -- to someone he loves dearly -- and wanted to have a little support and a few laughs.

He wanted normal Douglas to show up.

But I didn't. I was tired, and getting pinged by everyone in sight to do stuff for them, and was completely wiped out. Had no emotional energy left. Instead, snippy, half-checked in, watching the clock Douglas showed up. He's not fun to hang with, trust me. That Douglas isn't even fun to drink with. Much less fun to try and get support from. Ain't gonna happen.

So, sorry only-other-merrill-male-progeny-in-my-generation. Maybe I'll do better next time. And, yes, for those of you playing the home game, "JWLM" is my brother.

He forgave me. Seemingly without hesitation. Hasn't been my life's experience. Mistakes are fatal -- I made a mistake with Jeanne, and she (literally) nearly died. Maybe if I'd hounded her to get those nasty tests more often, she'd be alive today. But I didn't, and she isn't.

In the metaphorical sense, I have lost friends, and lovers, and family, over mistakes I've made.

I nearly lost my BF over a mistake I made. I nearly lose SL, on a regular basis, because of the innumerable flaws in my personality.

But my brother forgave me.

That's a start.

See you soon, all, on the ground. And please make sure there is BOTH water AND champagne!