The Other End of Sunset

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

There's magic in the night

Like the one you knew before
calling me back once again
-- Screaming Trees

I hate cancer.

My beloved Dalmatian, Minnie, died last Friday. She had a brain tumor, inoperable brain cancer.

In a period of about 2 months, she went from perfectly normal… to dead.

In an eerily reminiscent state, the drugs she took made her stomach terribly upset, and almost killed her. Sound familiar?

The last week or so, she wasn't really able to walk. Her right side paws would collapse under her. She was scared of the stairs, and would walk in circles -- to the left -- if we didn't call her. I clapped to get her attention and keep her in a straight line.

But she still wagged when she saw me. She was lying on her bed, mostly unable to move, but she wagged her tail when I came home.

I don't know what would be more tragic: Her wagging, or her not wagging.

She made a great showing at SL's birthday party -- she walked well, stole food, kissed people, and was generally similar to the Minnie I had known for years.

That was her last, final performance.

We put her to sleep, to ease her pain. The last two days I spent lying in our bed, with Minnie lying next to me. She could stretch ut that way, and was warm. She loved being cuddled. If I moved away, she would open her eyes and look at me. I didn't stay away much.

She was lying across my lap, in that same bed, as she breathed her last breath. I was talking to her, telling her we loved her, and that her brother would be ok, and that we'd miss her.

Sound familiar?

I hate cancer.

She finally looked at me in love,
and she was gone.
--Crosby, Stills, and Nash

At the end, I felt a presence I knew well. I felt a calm, welcoming spirit come for Minnie.

I believe Flanny and JR came back, to help Minnie move on.

Once there was a darkness,
deep and endless night.
You gave me everything you had,
you gave me light.
--Sarah McLachlan

Our brown dog is pretty tweaked. He can't figure out where Minnie went. And he's afraid that SL or I will be gone next.

He's always been a herder, but now he's nearly frenetic about it, running back and forth between us on rapid patrol.

We are trying to tell him we love him, and he's safe, but he's right, the pack has changed, and nobody told him how, or why. I can't explain it to him, but I like it that he's much more cuddly.

I just wish it were for a less tragic reason.

One more chance to make it real,
to trade in these wings for some wheels
-- Bruce Springsteen

There are two kinds of motorcyclists, the saying goes.

You are a motorcyclist that has either gone down, or is going down.

For those of you who don't pay attention to such motorcycle cultural icons like "Sons of Anarchy" or the like, to put a bike down is to crash.

Not the same as putting a dog down.

Thus, the saying indicates that all motorcyclists either have crashed, or are going to crash in the future, probably soon.

I was proud to be solidly in the second category -- the "will go down" camp. As always, I overestimated my control of my environment. This is a bad habit on a motorcycle.

Because you are only partly in control.

Last weekend, I joined the first category -- I put my bike down. I crashed the Saxon, which is rich with irony -- it didn't break down, I broke it. Seems fitting somehow.

I was coming down a freeway offramp, into a left turn. As I came down the ramp, my instincts started screaming "Danger!" I didn't know what was wrong, and so I ignored them.

Pesky instincts.

As I turned left off of the ramp, the front corner of the frame dug into the pavement.

If the front of a bike is pulled down (and, by extension, back), the back of the bike has to come up to balance the movement. Pesky physics.

So, in this case, my rear wheel left the pavement, and I went sliding across the road into the curb. I've never seen my riding partner move faster than as he was sprinting across the road to get to me.

Rather warming, actually.

I was wearing a helmet (of course!!!), a heavy leather jacket with armor, motorcycle boots, and kevlar pants.

Wear your gear, boys and girls. Don't be a dummy.

My jacket is scratched up. My helmet doesn't seem to have a mark on it. My pants were a bit scraped, but not too badly. My boots are reasonably worked.

But I'm totally fine. I have a bruise on my knee, and I wrenched my shoulder trying to pull the bike off of me, but I'm fine.

And amazingly lucky.

I called SL, and started the conversation with "I'm totally fine." My mother taught me that -- always open with the fact that I'm fine.

It didn't appear to work for SL. She screamed -- literally -- asking what happened. She was with my riding partner's wife. The wife screamed. I heard all this over the phone, from the cab of the flatbed towing the bike home.

Suddenly I was running a haunted house, in November. Like wearing white after Labor Day, it's just not done.

I scratched up the bike, and broke one of the welds holding the frame together. The bike is totally rideable, except that the shift linkage is a bit bent.

I went on the ride to clear my head, to spend some time alone with my sadness from Minnie and my overwhelming hatred of cancer.

My pal went with me, to keep me company -- and, I suspect, to keep an eye on me. (Although he never said so…).

I cleared my mind, I guess… by being an idiot and ignoring my instincts. Both SL and JR always told me to trust my gut, that I had good instincts that would not lead me astray. In a matter of months, I have talked myself into a job (even though everything in my body told me no) and into crashing a bike that I love.

They were right. I need to pay better attention.

Really, I'm fine. Thanks for asking.

Smoke from the chimneys
meets its maker in the sky
-- Indigo Girls

If you ever have to handle what they lovingly call "remains" of a person or a pet, let me warn you about one thing.

You are used to postural muscles. You don't expect the head to flap around like a weight on the end of a rope.

But bodies don't have postural muscles.

Just breathe in, let the horror pass, and then kiss whoever you lost.

Give me a sense of wonder
--Iron Maiden

I'm writing this on a plane, what a shock. The man next to me has a sheaf of papers (from a Holiday Inn, I think) with a series of lines written on it. Each line is a date, a symbol, a time, and a 6 letter string.


This guy has a list of dates, plane types, and tail numbers.

I really want my plane to land, and to get away from him. I'm sure it's fine… but I've never seen the like.

You've got it all in the palm of your hand,
but your hand's wet with sweat.
-- Styx

I saw a great movie last weekend, Pirate Radio (was released in some parts of the world as "The Boat the Rocked").

Go see it.

It's a love story to music and to the people who built the rock and roll culture. It was a love song to everything I love. I almost wanted to cry.

I so much wanted that to be my story, but it wasn't. I failed in my quest. But, like the Knights of Yore, I have not given up on my belief in the mystic.

Go see the movie, and be grateful to those who went before, and who create the art that lights our hearts, and our radios, and our skies.

Fail to see the anguish in my eyes
--- Marilyn Manson

For many years, I heard music all the time. I walked through a world full of art. No matter where I was, the music was with me, like a lover.

I was never alone, because Mary-Chapin, Bruce, Hilary, Bob, Johnny, or hundreds of other artists were always with me.

I used to sing along to the music that filled my head, all the time. This normally just led to odd looks from those around me -- so I tried to learn to sing to myself.

But sometimes it affected those around me.

I was driving home with the Lovely Italian in one of our early dates, and I forgot to sing to myself. I sung the line "I don't believe Elvis is dead" to myself. She looked at me oddly, and I realized I'd been out loud again. She asked me "really, you don't? What do you think happened to him", clearly trying her best to take me seriously… or to decide whether I needed immediate help. I laughed and explained it to her. Whew!

In a worse example, I sang The Goo Goo Dolls' lyric "Do you wanna get married" when I was in a car with JR. She also didn't realize it was a lyric, and said, excitedly "really??" I laughed, and told her it was a lyric. She laughed too, but with a sadness that I didn't appreciate enough at the time.

She died wanting me to marry her.

I'm sorry JR, and I'm sorry I misled you.

The saddest thing in the world is not losing someone, it's losing someone and knowing you were wrong.

But wherever I have gone
I was sure to find myself there
--Social Distortion

I've been doing some technology work over the past few weeks. I've been doing a bunch of wireframes -- Basalmiq rules, seriously -- and writing some code -- Ruby reminds me of LISP, which makes me somewhat homesick for Princeton, and especially the Princeton Deli on Nassau street.

But only somewhat homesick -- Princeton is cold, boring, and … did I mention cold?

I also decided to go back to my roots and take apart an old Mac to fix it. It has a broken hard drive, but otherwise was fine.

Did you know my first job was to run wires for a computer company in Arkansas? Early networking. And I also assembled PCs -- you remember, when 8086-based PCs were expensive and rare? I remember assembling my first 80186 machine, which had an entire megabyte of RAM… although you could not address upwards of 640k, so you stuck a RAM disk in the remainder.

Ahh, the old days.

Anyway, I disassembled this iMac to pull the drive out. Good news, bad news story.

Good news? I removed the drive and ordered a replacement.

Bad news? I broke at least one other component, and likely rendered the system useless. A very expensive paperweight… that wouldn't be a very good paperweight, actually.

But, at least I get to feel technical again. It's nice to do something, rather than talk about doing something.

It's amazing how much I have forgotten, but I'm clearing the low hurdles one by one, making myself comfortable, and readying myself for the next set, of big, scary jumps.

Like working my way up to the 10 meter board. Step by step, facing my inadequacies. I can do this. Really.

For a lead role in a cage
-- Pink Floyd

I took the AirBART today from Oakland Airport to the BART The AirBART is a bus that takes you from the Oakland airport to the closest BART station, which is less than a mile away. The flight from Burbank to Oakland was 50 minutes . I measured the time from when I got in line for the AirBART until it got me to the BART station. It was 35 minutes. More than half as long as to fly 400 miles.

Efficiency at its finest.

A bottle of red, a bottle of white,
Whatever kind of mood you're in tonight
I'll meet you anytime you want
-- Billy Joel