Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Pride and Prejudice

I'm so incredibly tired. I usually come home from work just fried but tonight I'm so tired I can hardly function, courtesy of the neighborhood jerks who lit off a major piece of celebratory artillery at 12:30 a.m. last night, just after I had forced myself to drift off to sleep. (I've always had a hard time sleeping in the summer.) I should have called the cops, but I wasn't quick enough, so I yelled at them through the front door, and I'm working up the courage to call Kathy and push for their eviction. Between the pit bull's incessant barking, the Harley, the friends at all hours of the night, the slamming doors and yelling, and things like midnight fireworks, I'm done. I lived here first; this is my home, and Kathy will do nearly anything to keep me as long as she can. The other two tenants are great, and I want her to find another adult to occupy Unit 1 so I don't have to babysit anymore.

This month was Hell Month. It rained every day for weeks and the plant got blasted by what must have been a monster bolt of lightning. I'm tired of peering into electrical cabinets full of neat rows of circuit boards bristling with wires and cables, studded with bead-like transducers and block-shaped clear plastic relays clicking impotently while the valves they control sleep like dragons in the concrete vaults below. I'm tired of staring at unresponsive computer screens with Windows error messages and empty white boxes where red numbers normally glow, rising and falling, indicating. I'm tired of guessing, of calculating, of adjusting, of hoping, of waiting, of watching, of worry. I'm tired of flipping through disorganized, overstuffed Operations and Maintenance manuals layered with charts and unintelligible diagrams and installation instructions to equipment and hardware we never have used, sifting to get to the one line in ten thousand that might shed some light on the troublesome symptom, the telltale single tiny blinking light in ten thousand that knows why this piece of hardware won't cooperate with that piece of software and enable us to get on with our lives.

And I want to know how an Apple laptop leaves Shanghai, China at 3:20 p.m. on June 10th, enters the country at Anchorage, Alaska, takes the scenic route to Memphis, Tennessee (freaking why?), arrives in Salt Lake City, Utah, gets trucked a short hop north to Ogden, Utah, and makes it to my door by 10:55 a.m. on Friday, June 12th. When, of course, I was not at home. So I had to wait until Monday, when they made a second attempt and the new MacBook Pro was delivered into my hands.

At first I wasn't sure we were going to get along; I've had to assign and adjust various things to get it to do certain functions that a P.C. does automatically, and I think it's absolutely ridiculous that the options of whatever program you're working in are at the top of the screen on an extra bar instead of in the window you're using. It doesn't give me as much information or options without my asking for them as Windows did, and I had gotten used to having certain information available. But the mail client is slick (even though I still have to check a few accounts online, including the incompatible Hotmail), the track pad is phenomenal, the screen is delicious (I can wipe it! With Fantastic, if I want!), bright and clear and not ridiculously fragile, the automatic backlit keyboard is so glamorous, the hard aluminum shell is sleek and about as low-profile as you get, and the battery lasts literally for hours, up to seven if I'm not taxing it with Webcam. And it's all so very, very speedy.

It's imperative that I love my laptop. This is the machine that will know more about me than any living person, the machine that will see more of me than my family. This is the machine I'll tell my secrets to; the machine that will know what I Google when I'm home alone on a Sunday night, bored (usually, apparently, Thai recipes and instructions on how to make your own laser cutter out of a broken scanner and some additional hardware). This is the invention that allows me to keep track of the family and friends I rarely see; the incredible cousin in Colorado -- worthy to be any family's pride and joy, aren't we lucky she's ours? -- who is setting up her very first band room as we speak, the girls in San Diego (who are very likely going to see me -- and a living bonus prize -- sooner than they think), Mom (who now owns a pair of genuine black leather Harley Davidson chaps and who recently endured both a Big & Rich concert -- which she loved -- and Trapt with Collective Soul -- which was a different story, a long one -- in the same week), and the wonderful Wyoming people at Point and the Lazy J and Laramie, and in Arizona and Omaha and beyond.

So as soon as I find my camera buried in the rubble of the house I tore apart trying to prevent B.C. from swallowing a gob of his own shed fur, you'll have pictures of outdoor concerts and desert rainstorms and a Scrabble board or two, and the new MacBook Pro, whose name is Daryl Zero. I named him after Bill Pullman's brilliant but difficult private detective in Zero Effect, which you should all run out and see right away  if you haven't, a) because it's Bill Pullman (who cultivates an exotic orchard in a bowl in the Hollywood Hills, no foolin') and b) it's hilarious.

Tired. Cranky. Restless. Swear the second hand on my kitchen clock occasionally makes a few hops backwards and then takes one giant leap forward. Love the cotton from the cottonwood trees floating down like snowflakes, clogging the grass with fluffy white gobs. Love the hedges brimming with Austrian copper roses and the little yellow wild roses Gram's sister planted at Point. I've been walking a lot. I've been down a lot, horribly, violently down (oh, so it wasn't the pill after all. Dang). But nothing will stop me from achieving everything I've set forth to do this year, and as of tonight it's already half over, and I'm only about one-fifth done.

But first, sleep.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Doing Without Frosting

Today would be Gram's 99th birthday, but there will be no cake. (I'm losing weight, and Morgan's following a best-foods-for-your-baby diet, which limits sugar.) Gram would have tsked us and sought relief for her sweet tooth elsewhere.

I notice that even after more than four years I still feel the gaping wound in my world left by the one person who always had time for me. Not that any of the people who love me, and there are a lot of them, wouldn't drop what they were doing, if they could, and pay attention to me. But I don't usually insist, and when I do I feel selfish and foolish, resentful that I have to ask, and somehow less independent. And my independence is often all I feel I have. I am usually, or I used to be, very grateful for all the time I have to myself. But sometimes I just need someone to talk to, to look at. And I loved her.

Grandma was rather a captive audience and was somehow infinitely interested in me without seeming to be at all. The days at the nursing home passed slowly, and I know she wasn't always aware of time passing. But we passed hours together; what did we talk about? I can't remember. The birds, the trees out the window, the park across the street. She appeared to be absorbed in yesterday's newspaper, although she could rarely get past the headlines, and I told her my plans. I explained e-mail and DVDs. I asked her the important things, when I thought of them, and her answers were usually satisfactory. I took my violin and tried to play quietly, but the violin isn't a quiet instrument, and I found that the other residents, those who could hear, enjoyed my serenades.

I drew her pictures. I brought her stacks of large-print books which, when I returned them to the library, yielded a wealthy harvest of bookmarks, folded tissues and newspaper clippings. I had to repeat things, and in the repeating found I could sort things out, clean them up. I learned to babble without regard, because she liked the sound and often seemed not to be listening, but when I stopped I usually found that she had absorbed more than I expected. I learned how to explain concisely, how to squeeze the condensed juice out of a story to hold her focus if I knew she'd enjoy the tale. Sometimes she was alert enough to want details, and I learned how to polish those, too.

Even in California she was my sounding board. I talked to her while we walked slowly, until she couldn't walk more than the length of a few houses or more, and then I'd push her in her wheelchair and talk some more, sometimes casting about the neighborhood for things to talk about. Roses the size of our heads, dogs and cats, kids I knew from school. Occasionally I'd get her bundled in the wheelchair and spin her to the library, and other times I'd put my trombone in its case on her lap, and we'd wheel up to Jazz Band rehearsal at the high school, two blocks from the house. She seemed to remember some songs from dances years before. She always seemed surprised, when we wheeled home, to see palm trees.

I don't remember much about the vast expanse of my childhood, but I remember the underlying consciousness that Grandma was there, always, if I scraped my knee or wanted a snack or if Morgan wouldn't do what I wanted. I remember wanting no one but Mom when I was sick and particularly treasuring weekends when she was home, but Grandma was the daily thing, the constant thing, the thing I took for granted. I don't think we talked much then, but I know I always had her attention, even if she answered me from behind a newspaper without peering over her pink plastic glasses at me... and she paid much more attention to newspapers then.

I guess I should get used to her being gone. I guess I should make more friends or wedge myself more assertively into the lives of my family if I want more attention, since I seem to need it lately, but I have a feeling it won't be the same. Hers is the attention I miss, subtle and undemanding, and I can't get it back. An irreplaceable dynamic. The thing you don't know you have until it's gone.

99 years, the best century. Time is going very fast, and I can't seem to stop thinking about it, noticing it. I get angry when people say "all the time in the world." That's nothing, no time at all. All I can do is look at the span of her life and conclude that a life seems very long, indeed, if you're lucky, sometimes a little too long. I was prepared for the end, mindful that she was, too, but I couldn't have let her go any sooner.

The only time she wouldn't pay attention to me was when I whined. Or if she did, it was only to tell me to buck up. So I will. I can still talk to her. After all, it wasn't always obvious that she was paying attention. I had to go on faith.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Reservoir Dogs

Bear and Daisy


Monday, June 15, 2009

Worm Wrangler

Eric and the nightcrawler.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Visit from the Stork

I am sort of distraught counting the posts I've started and not finished. I always think some little condition will be the big change that enables me to finish more of them. I suspect I'm going through a lazy phase.

There's so much going on right now. The advent of three precious months of Wyoming summer, MAD CRAZY project load at work even without a huge crisis like today (we got hit by lightning last night and spent the day troubleshooting and $pending City money), a joyful family pregnancy, my 'lil fledgling art business, virtual farming, etc.

But I thought I'd drop in tonight and report that my shiny new MacBook Pro left Shanghai today (I'm assuming China, unless there's a Shanghai, Connecticut, but that would be CT instead of CN so yeah, CHINA) bundled in the loving arms of some FedEx dude. I ordered a Regular but they super-sized me to Pro because I waited so long that they came out with a new version of the Pro priced lower than the Regular I ordered, so BONUS for $150 less: backlit keyboard, 320 gig hard drive, 4G RAM, SD slot, etc.

Etc. Lots of those tonight. Life, etc. Dang. I'm just tired.

Monday, June 01, 2009

The Later Part of May

M&K&I "did" our graves in Rock Springs for Memorial Day. We were rather proud of ourselves. (Here, my great-grandparents and great-aunt.)

Grandpa, Uncle Jerry, Grandma, and Dad.

Above the Green River.

Prairie sunset.

Brent's perfect doormat.

Geese in Shawnee Mission Park.

B&A in Shawnee Mission Park.

Fountain downtown.

The Opposite of Good is Bad

I had to leave Brent (or he had to leave me, technically, at the airport) this morning on our second anniversary, which sucked, but at least we got to spend four whole days and change together doing mostly just whatever we felt like doing. That involved a lot of sleeping (until after 4 p.m. one day) and a lot of coconut sorbet, coffee, frozen custard, and Oreos, but there was also some walking in his new, very walkable neighborhood, two movies in real theaters (a luxury for me- Pixar's UP and The Brothers Bloom, both of which were genius and highly entertaining), a few DVRed episodes of What Not to Wear and the whole hilarious Kung Fu Panda, hanging out at the coffee shop where B. proofread pages for Kansas City's weekly alternative The Pitch and I surfed on his Mac and read a Michael Ondaatje novel, two delightful evenings with assorted excellent friends and dinner and a very nice visit with his parents.

We delve into our time together with very little consideration of the past or future and manage to wring the most happiness possible out of it, and we adjust to being apart altogether too quickly and too well for either of our tastes. It can't possibly frustrate anyone else more than it frustrates us that we still live a thousand miles apart, but we deal with it better than most people do in our situation, maybe because we don't know anything different, maybe because we're certain we'll figure it out soon, maybe because we're excellent communicators on many different levels. Or a combination of all these things.

As usual my life is a tumbling act from season into season, but every time I think I'm out of luck and optimism, something happens to blow my gloom out of the water. After 12 years of marriage and doing half the raising of a very good and special boy who turned 15 Saturday, Morgan and Kelly are expecting spawn of their own. I am going to be an aunt. I am already an aunt to the aforementioned good boy, Cordale Colton (who by all accounts took the news rather well despite having expressed apprehension about the possibility in the past), but this time I get to be around from the beginning. I don't know anybody who's not ridiculously excited about this, but nobody more than the two of them. They're going to be such excellent parents.

I was very grateful, too, because it was great fun to be present when they told the grandmas, who both freaked out in their own charming ways. At first I had this sense that my big sister, my only sister (and only sibling), who has always shared her experiences with me, and vice versa, was going very quickly to a place I couldn't follow, and I felt that distance like a cold wind, a rock wall. But somehow it got righted almost immediately -- because she immediately shared and confided, as she always has, even though she had every right to keep her secret for a while (as if she could stand to!) -- and now it seems like the most natural and simply perfect thing in the world, and I can't wait for the adventure to really get going. It feels now like I've been waiting impatiently all these years.

So, on to a secret of my own. A few months ago I took the very terrifying plunge and started a store on etsy.com, the website to buy and sell all things handmade, selling crocheted items, some crafty things, and prints of some of the art I've posted on this blog. I got several orders right away and felt that the hardest part -- just getting started -- was already over. I was just getting ready to share the link with everybody when I had the epiphany that, even though it's what got me going creatively in the first place, the crafts and crochet aren't really doing it for me (or anyone else for that matter; I've sold numerous prints and gotten a custom order all without any advertising at all, but only one hat and a pair of earrings have gone), so I'm in the process of morphing the store again and I'll share it when I'm ready. But I'm excited about my art again because of the positive response, and I'm going to take it easy; I don't expect the store to take off and enable me to quit my job in a matter of months (although, wouldn't that be nice?), but I do expect it to be incentive enough to create consistently that I manage to put a good portfolio together and take it to the next step, whatever that may be.

Thursday when I checked my e-mail on Brent's Mac I noticed some charges to my bank account (they send me an account update daily) that I didn't make and called quickly to cancel my debit card. I've submitted claims on the three charges that went through and I think I know how the thief got my information; at Christmas I ordered several things online (OK, that's a daily thing for me) and a while later I got a letter from one of the merchants stating that their financial files had been hacked and my account information was probably among the data stolen. I flagged my credit accounts for fraud but completely blanked about my bank account, so I sort of deserved a little wake-up call, and if they get away with less than $50, I'm prepared to be philosophical and sage about the whole thing. I'm ordering a new Mac laptop soon and I want to save up for a stand-up paddleboard, so this is a bad time for a financial snafu, but I have a lot of confidence in Wells Fargo. They've been good to me and handled similar situations very well.

But there's something puzzling about the whole thing. One of the charges was for an herbal weight-loss supplement called Xanithin; the perpetrator had the sample mailed to my address. There were also charges for something called the National Alert Registry and one to NetDetective.com, both of which are online information banks on private individuals. Probably the culprit was looking for more information on me in order to perpetrate a more complete identity theft, but why the skinny pills? Nothing makes sense anymore. Not even crime. Morons. (Lenny had an interesting theory, though; possibly the culprit "runs" those online businesses and that's what he or she does, charges products and services to stolen accounts, perpetuating the charges if possible. For instance, the herbal supplement was a trial that led into a monthly auto-ship plan, which I cancelled.) Live and learn in modern times, I guess. Next time I get a warning like that I'm going to be more proactive, that's for sure.

There's a lot of joyful shrieking coming in through my open kitchen window and earlier the town buzzed with lawnmowers. The lilacs I left barely leafing Wednesday night are bursting into fragrant bloom today. I stopped at the bakery next to my favorite Thai place in downtown Salt Lake and picked up kouing-aman, a flaky caramel/butter pastry I tried to create sometime before Christmas from a recipe I found online, and it turns out I did pretty good; in fact, I almost prefer the texture of mine. The bakery's version had a caramel armor that hurt my teeth and was doughy in the middle; mine was crispy but not hard on the outside, and the inside was flaky and chewy in a dryer, less oozy way. But I won't be making it again anytime soon, because it requires a pound (yes, an entire POUND) of butter, several cups of sugar, and more patience and time chilling between foldings and rollings than I care to spend. Besides, it's spring, and I feel like it's really time to just buckle down and lose that last fifteen or twenty pounds I've been talking about forever and be done with the diet thing, at least for a while. I've maintained this weight for three years without really obsessing over it (or even thinking about it too much) and I'm sure I've for the most part settled into a healthier lifestyle, no matter what my weight is. And no matter what Brent feeds me when we're together, although I'll have to watch myself closely if we ever live together, because he can eat a whole tub of frozen yogurt in a sitting.

And no, I'm not going to try the Xanithin.

Puck finally came home with new blocker rings, a new main shaft, bearing, and seal, and a new clutch after a lengthy three-week stay at the shop. First there were problems with the replacement parts -- one flimsy plastic piece arrived broken -- and then the new main shaft came without a bearing, but the mechanic didn't notice that until he had test-driven it after reassembly, which messed up the slave cylinder and saturated the clutch with transmission fluid, hence the new clutch, which I would have had to pay for if it was the original problem. My lifetime powertrain warranty doesn't cover the clutch but since it was the poor mechanic's error -- I like the guy and his wife gave birth to their first child while Puck was in the shop, so he had to be a bit distracted -- we got a bit of a rewind on the clock, Puck and I. I'm not hard on the manual clutch -- I finesse -- but they are designed to wear out, after all, and I've got an extra 19,000 potential miles now before this one does. And Puck's driving like a dream, tight and smooth and reliable. And LOUD. But that's another post altogether.

We got about three hours of sleep -- never put us in front of a Futurama marathon after midnight -- before getting up at 5:30 to get me to the airport and Brent back to town and to work on time, and despite nodding off on the plane and a brief power nap when I got home, I'm jet-lagged and fried and bereft. Sleep is a welcome prospect tonight, and I haven't even begun to think about returning to work tomorrow, which will come as a rude awakening at 7 a.m., especially since I know Jeff will have been plotting projects the whole time I've been gone, and there's really a lot to do without those extra operations. But nevermind. I can sleep first.