Wednesday, March 23, 2005

All Hail

I spent a lot of time in the wind today, face up to the sky. My hair is full of snarls and acrid spring air, and the slightly septic smell of the old water plant: the musty stink of thick redwood planks breathing fifty years of captured moisture back into the thirsty atmosphere. I love the old plant. I love its somewhat nautical appeal: the big blue iron valve wheels that open the flumes, the massive propellers suspended in empty concrete bunkers, the space-saving spiral staircase. Right is starboard and left is port when I tread the concrete catwalk down the center of the empty basins on my rounds at night. I swear it looks like I’m in steerage.

The old plant was abandoned only two years ago, when the new plant was finished, and yet it looks like the crew that manned it just up and left one day in the summer of ’84 and never returned. Ashes in the ashtray next to a deck of grimy playing cards, ancient Rolodex poised usefully between K and L, yellowed adding machine paper curling over the desk. Exactly the way I like to picture the desk of Sam Spade. Old boots covered in old mud in the corner next to shelves of frayed ledger books and spindles of red-inked paper wheels from the graph machine and the flow meter. Compared to the old plant, the new plant’s control room looks like the streamlined cockpit of a rocket, or at least a 2004 Cadillac, all mahogany desks and matte black Dell computer hardware and glossy tile. Venetian blinds turned tight against the grey day, adjustable track lighting kept dim. Just once I’d like to answer the phone “White House, Chelsea speaking.”

It’s maybe not a good idea for someone as obsessive-compulsive as I am to work in a facility made of cinder blocks and tile, with a minimum of two switches for every light. I waste a lot of time in a day counting, grouping, stepping over, and flipping.

I’ve been in perpetually tearful mode this week, punctuated by bouts of preposterous bellicosity. I’m itching for a reason to snarl “don’t start that shit with me” at someone, anyone, and really, really mean it. Too bad everyone’s either been very kind to me or is already in a vile enough situation that to make their day worse would only cause me debilitating guilt.

I opened my ICMA 457 Deferred Compensation account today. I went with the aggressive 40-year horizon All Equity Growth plan, even though I’m positive I won’t be with the City in even 20 years. God willing, I won’t even be in this city. Oh… would that be so bad? Maybe I shouldn’t expect or assume so much. I’m beginning to doubt myself and therefore everyone around me. Things I was sure of a year, even six months ago are shaky hopes now, far too fragile to base so much on. I have such a long way to go and I will probably have to go it alone.

My cats finally recovered from being put under, stopped staggering and hacking. The fun part now is stuffing an antibiotic in their newly clean little mouths twice a day, clamping their jaws shut until they swallow. Oddly enough, it’s easier to give my sister’s neurotic, shaggy spaniel mix, Rosie, her daily thyroid pill even though she’s much bigger. It’s a much simpler task to pry open her larger snout, and her neck doesn’t quite bend in that serpentine way a cat’s does, that feline avoidance. And are pets really that forgiving, or do they just have no short-term memory? Moments after this perceived abuse the cats are back wanting petted, purring. They still think they're getting a treat when I rattle the pill bottle. The vet did say they’re pretty, and I’m proud of them for that, too.

Every time somebody says “Easter weekend” I get the following mental picture: scruffy little Billy Crystal in a beautifully tailored but horribly oversized grey suit, pitching random phrases in tangled Yiddish gangsta-speak in the black leather seat of a limo with the late Joe Viterelli at his slick haired, jowly best, as ‘Jelly.’ I love it when peoples’ nicknames are food.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can you post a picture of your cats

March 23, 2005 at 10:13 PM  

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