Tuesday, December 1, 2015

It's been a while, hasn't it?

About 15 months, to be exact-ish. What's up with that, hey?

Well, besides the usual stuff like family, work, construction, buying a house in Oregon, and generally taking care of stuff, there's also been a bunch of personal things that needed attending to. (Which I will get to later.)

My office is in boxes, as is a large part of the house. Why, you ask? Because we don't love the smell of smoke, of course! Most of the wiring goes back to 1924, when the house was built, except for the parts which were grafted on in 1946, 1971 and 1986, not to mention what we did when we bought the place in 2006. So it was a mess, and a lot of it was old knob-and-tube, cloth covered wiring, which had started failing in odd and exciting ways, like behind the walls. Where you can't see it. But you can smell it! Oh, joy!

To fix this little problem, we've abandoned the old wiring, and run new so that we can sleep soundly, or as soundly as you can sleep with a teenager who's almost 17 and feeling her oats. (More about her later.) But then there are all these holes in the walls and ceilings. Did I mention that the house is lath and plaster? It's not like sheetrock: it's kind of like thin concrete, only messier. Takes multiple coats, sanding between each coat. Which creates lots of dust. 

But we didn't really think that this was enough mess and uproar, so we decided to replace the failing upstairs windows at the same time. Old casement windows, they didn't meet in the middle any more, giving up excellent air conditioning in the winter and superb heat in the summer. Which we paid extra for! And since we're tearing open the walls, why not take out the windows at the same time, and save on plastering costs? Makes sense to me! 

And, of course, after all that, you have to paint, right? Why not do the whole house at the same time? Save on costs, take care of  the whole shebang at one time, and be done! A smart idea! At least I thought so until I came home and found my long-suffering wife huddled under the staircase muttering to herself about killing the plasterers and burying them with the painters.

I waved a bottle of wine at her until she came out, and wrapped her in a blanket (dust free!) and comforted her with the thought that it would only be another month and they would be all done. After prying her hands off my throat, I gave her some more wine and suggested a new prescription for valium. That was not well received, I can tell you. So tomorrow we'll meet with the painting contractor and find out exactly how much longer it will be. And then take a deep breath and hang on until they're done. With lots of wine.

Now, about that child. She's our youngest, and a dear soul. With her share of problems and issues, like all of us, compounded by losing her brother and sister and grandparents etc., one after another. She's a bit anxious, is what I'm saying. And she expresses this anxiety by occasionally (often) (sometimes), doing things of which her parents aren't exactly fond. Or are hysterical about, depending. Which adds to the general uproar that I was talking about up there. and of course, her parents aren't exactly completely stable either, given all the stuff that's gone on. 

So, now we come to that other part, which is me. I've had an increasingly difficult time since my daughter died 5 years ago. The technical term is "complicated grief", and I had seen a grief counselor, but that didn't really address my issue, which was that I was getting sadder and sadder as time went on. And more irritated, and less fun to be around. And my moods were darker and more unhappy than they had ever been. I've always been what is known as "labile" in my emotions (which basically means I change frequently and easily, so I was always called "moody"), but for most of my life this hadn't interfered with my day to day activities. Occasionally, I have had nasty spells, but then again, who hasn't? Don't most of us have ups and downs? It's not me, it's the circumstances, right? I mean, I lost my daughter, I lost my parents, how can you expect me to feel good all the time, hey? If everyone would just back off and give me some space, I'd be fine, I know it. But I must be a schmuck, how can my wife still love someone who's always sad, who doesn't listen well, who didn't stop their daughter from dying....

All day, and most of the night. I'd have good times, but they became fewer and farther between. And it got to  the point where I started to question whether I should just move out and let my family move on. And that was the point where I sought serious help, and got it. Thank whatever gods there are for a Dr. who listens and suggests, rather than just prescribes and prescribes, if you know what I mean. And so as of June 1, I am officially diagnosed with a mental illness (and if THAT doesn't seem odd to type, I'm not sure what will), and prescribed some useful meds and am much better. And can now DO the therapy that I was working on. Which is great, if difficult.

OK, that's enough for now. I'll be back, I promise.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Feeding the hungry

Over at Tux's place, he makes a great point: Jesus didn't ask who was qualified to be served. He just fed them. (And before you ask, yes, I do believe that there was an itinerant priest about that time, who saw deeply into matters of the human condition, and using the tropes of his time, spoke of them. There are a few posts waiting to be written about how I see that time. No, I don't believe that he was the "only human-born son of GOD" As far as I'm concerned, we are all children of god, whatever you conceive that to mean. Even John Boehner, Michelle Bachman etc.)

Neem Karoli Baba (Maharaj-ji) was asked: how to serve god? He answered, "Feed people." Abraham Maslow talked about the necessity of taking care of our basic human needs before we are able to think about more esoteric things.

Here in LA, Union Station Homeless Services feeds people. The Sally, as we called it when I was working with the homeless, feeds more. Churches and food banks try their best. None of these are enough to care for the entire, dreadful weight of homeless people in our country, let alone the entire world. This Thanksgiving, serve people: go volunteer at the shelter or work at a food bank, or help out at a church supper and take a friend or a child along with you.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Flash Memory: Om nom nom

So, I'm over at Slate, reading one of the page-whoring "You're Doing It Wrong" articles (a guilty pleasure of mine). This one's about pork tenderloin, and in one of the responses to a comment about "How can you eat cut-up animal carcasses?" is the response, "I tried to eat one that wasn't cut up, and it wasn't easy." And that sprung a memory out of the depths:

I was 15, and had talked my mother into lied shamelessly to my parents to get them to let me go to Greece with a friend. From Rome, where we were living in the early '70s, this was approximately like going to Nashville from NYC in terms of distance and difficulty. But I didn't want to just go to Greece, oh no. I wanted to go to Mykonos, where my sister had taken my brother and me the year before. But this time I wanted to go by myself, no 12-year-old brother in tow, and hang out doing what I wanted to do. Which I had no idea what that was, but it wasn't being on the most crowded beach, watching my sister and her boyfriend argue, go get high/drunk, come back and argue some more, lather, rinse, repeat. So I bitched and moaned and made a complete ass out of myself a good argument about why I should be allowed.... Eventually they gave in, and off I went.

The whole story would basically frighten the crap out of any reasonable person, let alone a parent, and for the most part I kept my worst stupidities from my parents (like sleeping under a bench in the port of Piraeus so that I wouldn't miss the boat in the morning, with no-one keeping watch), but eventually I arrived in Mykonos, quickly made friends with a dozen Berkeley grads on break, and settled into one of the best times of my life. (I did make SOME attempt to keep my folks informed of where I was and that I was OK; I wasn't a complete jerk, just 15 and incredibly self-centered.)

Anyway, after about a week on the main beaches, we decided to move to a more remote area, mostly to get away from the incredible tourist crowds that plague the islands. And so we found a beach around the side of the island, and hung out together, singing at night to the same 15-20 songs, which were all we knew on the guitar, cooking and swimming and just, you'll have to excuse the expression but it really does capture it for me, grooving.

Eventually, we got hungry for something more substantial than the vegetables we were buying from the local farmers, and headed into town for dinner and retsina. None of us had much money, so we looked around until we found a taverna with reasonable prices, and the 12 of us settled down with a couple of bottles of resin wine and some appetizers, and considered the menu. To our side, a spit turned, the lamb on it roasting gently and the smell of the dripping fat and the herbs just captivated us (we had been vegetarians by necessity, not commitment.) As we started to order, it became clear that we were all going to order lamb, and finally the proprietor asked us it we just wanted the whole thing? He'd make us a deal. Oh, yes, please kind sir, you don't have to offer twice...

He covered the table with butcher's paper, and he and a helper lifted the lamb from the fire, and slid the entire carcass off the spit, onto the table. A sound of orgasmic moaning came from 12 throats, and 24 hands began to slice small pieces off the edges of the meat, a process that rapidly became 24 hands tearing chunks of cooked flesh from a rapidly decreasing carcass. I have no idea what we looked like (starving wolves?), but we didn't care. The owner kept our glasses full of wine and water, and handed out paper towels and we ate, and ate, and ate.

Eventually the frenzy died down, and after some final picking at what was by now the skeleton of a lamb, we paid up and staggered off into the night.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Out of the Mouths of Putatively-Grown Adults

No, not about Glenn Beck or Rush. Sorry :-)

Anyway, along about July 1980, I was on my back to India for a second, hopefully longer visit. (Yes, I know I haven't told you about the first visit. Patience, young padawans.) I met my dad in Rome, where he was living at the time, and he took me around to meet some of his friends, one of whom had a rather fetching young daughter, S. We hit it off and spent the next few days touring Rome (where I had grown up in the late 60's, but it had changed in many ways, so guiding was important) and meeting her friends and extended family, culminating in a big family Sunday lunch out in the country. If you ever saw "My Big, Fat Greek Wedding", you know what sort of gathering I'm talking about: 40+ people, a table from here to there packed with food and drink and the whole thing happening at top volume and high speed.

My Italian is pretty good, and I was able, for the most part, to keep up my end of the conversations, asking vocab questions as needed, letting the older folks correct my grammar when it wandered into slang and generally relaxing and enjoying the wine and food. Especially the wine. I knew enough not to drink the homemade brews casually (they are often closer to 20% than 12%), but I was still feeling a bit light-headed as the chaos diminished along with the food. Finally, we were all at that point where you are looking at a particularly lovely piece of dessert or fruit and thinking it might just be too much trouble to raise your arm to put it in your mouth, when one of the Nonni (Grandparents) asked me what I did in America?

Well, the last real job I had held before my initial Indian excursion that I was willing to talk about (I had no idea how to say "Aircraft fueller" or "Drywall carrier" in Italian, so they were out), was working at Harrah's Casino in Lake Tahoe, CA. So, that's what I said, in Italian, "I worked in a casino."

There was a moment of shocked silence, and then stiffled laughter and sideways glances from the men, and blushes and giggles from the women. I had no clue what I had just said, and trying to fill the silence, I added, "I quit because working all night was too hard."

More choking and sputtering. I turned to S., who was trying her damnest not to burst, and said, "What did I say?"

S took a few deep breaths, and then said, still in Italian, "A gambling hall is a cah-see-NO. The way you pronounced casino (cah-SEEN-oh) means bordello." She had to stop again, as I contemplated how I could maybe disappear under the table. And then, getting hold of herself, "And then you said the night work was too hard!" and at that, all decorum was lost, and the nonnis and the bapus and the mothers and the kids were shrieking with laughter and making jokes and it all went to hell and we had a great time.

So when my little one asks about Brazilian Blow-Jobs instead of Blow-Outs, or for a bathing suit instead of a suitcase, or for me to pass her a condom instead of a condiment, I smile and think that she is certainly my child, all the way.

Building GlennBeckistan, CH. 1A

So, one detail that the sharp-eyed readers have noticed is that each house could be completely self-contained for electricity (solar/wind), waste (septic/compost) and water (well). True, but this makes the space each house needs much greater, and severely restricts where you can put 3000+ people! A three-bedroom house (septic is calculated from the number of bedrooms, not baths) needs approximately 1/4 acre of drainage, more if the soil doesn't drain well, and even more if it freezes. Septic zoning in upstate NY (say, Lake Placid) is minimum 1/2 acre leech field per 3 bedrooms, for example. And you need an oversize septic tank for when the ground is solid, which has to be pumped regularly. Meaning roads have to accommodate septic trucks (low grade and maintained) and, of course, this septic waste has to go somewhere. Who is going to take it? The problem is magnified for common buildings like meeting halls and for restaurants and businesses.

Solar is great, if somewhat spendy to set up, IF you get enough sun. Wind, ditto. And your well needs to be deep enough not to become contaminated by the septic system. (I've worked on a well-drilling rig, and I would like the contract for GBstan if he gets that far. Cash only, paid up front, per 1000 feet.) You will also need water storage for fire fighting, usually a pond or lake. (We're going to meet this again in governance.) And the thought of all the Tea Party wives trying to convince their husbands to sort, recycle and compost makes me smile. It's like they are re-creating the hippy communes of the '70s - anyone remember the Farm in Tennessee?

Anyway, you still need roads. Can't get away from that.

More soon.