Saturday, March 10, 2018

jury duty and tweakers

I was summoned for jury duty last summer. I finally had to do it this month. In Yamhill County the service commitment is for a month. I have to check in four times a week to see if my juror number is up. 78. It was. So I rescheduled all of my meetings. I am a very busy woman, you know. They called numbers one through ninety. I'd guess about fifty of us showed up. Of that 50, the first 18 were seated for voir dire. As a Grisham fan, I was thrilled at the opportunity to be in the room for this part. It was an all white jury for a black defendant. A black man accused of impersonating a police officer. In Yamhill County. Now, if you know my lilywhite neighborhood, you'd know, first, that a black officer would stand out like a sore thumb. It would be a fool's errand to try. So we have a fool at best. Guilty? I don't know. Maybe it was Halloween. Anyhow, I didn't get to the box. The judge empaneled his twelve from that group of eighteen. But there is hope yet! I still have to call in for the remainder of March. That was Thursday. Friday morning I woke up to find my work laptop had been stolen out of my(unlocked) car. Feckin' tweakers. It is a strange feeling to be robbed. I did the same thing when my whole truck was stolen several -- many -- years ago. I kept looking for it. As though I would somehow misplace a whole truck. Friday morning I kept opening each area of the vehicle, certain it must be there and I just missed it. It wasn't. I called work to see if it was in my office, if I'd forgotten it entirely. Nope. I finally gave in and called the Yamhill police. Andy and Barney. They told me the whole neighborhood had been hit. The thing is, there were four years of thinking on that machine. Four years of my brain. Was a time when I printed everything anyway -- didn't trust the magic of the computer to keep forever safe the nuggets that occasionally find their way to my fingers. Lots of work. I am crushed. Which I just now typed as cursed. Maybe.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

tracy's last birthday

I am so sad. I am so so sad that I am losing my friend and yet, and yet, and yet, it was and still seems to be, a tough relationship for me. Tracy brought me to my first AA meeting, thus, saved my life. Nothing short of that. She carried a clear message and embodied that phrase, "Whenever anyone, anywhere, reaches out, I want the hand of AA always to be there." Tracy, though, across our 35 years, has been one of those female friends whose suns rise and set on the attentions of men. The remaining space, head and heart, for female relationships, is carried by those of us on the other end. I used to feel resentful that I had to carry the friendship alone. I got over it a long time ago, but as her diagnosis has landed and time is short, it surprises me that she still, in the face of death, is more concerned that her most recent lover dumped her. Ah well. I have tried, twice now, to be in her presence and get the shit said that I have a need to say. I want to thank her for saving this life, for showing me the way, for allowing me to stand on her shoulders. It seems, though, that I will not get to say these things unless it is in a letter. And maybe that is how it should be. At the same time as we are losing Tracy, Cooky is losing her shit. Last night was Tracy's last birthday party. It was a pretty big shindig at the Mark, the old hotel where I used to be a motel maid. My great claim to fame is that I made a bed, stood up too fast after making it, and nearly fell backward out the 9th floor window of the honeymoon suite. Anyway, Cooky is, naturally, devastated, and it seems to be exacerbating an advancing dementia. She is falling apart. So, for me and for Kurt, the party wasn't happy. It was hard. Tracy had the spotlight, that thing she most craves, and good for her. I am delighted that she takes such evident joy in a big party. Once again, there were a thousand people I knew but didn't know, and no opportunity for intimacy. I saw many people I love, and chatted and drank lemonade and there wasn't enough food to go around. Shona had to make an announcement. I did get a cream-puff. I eventually saw an old friend, of both Kurt and me. As we caught up, I left Kurt to chat with her. He began the story of Nicole, the one that rips his heart apart, the one in which I play the evil stepmother. "I have to choose between my wife and my daughter." That little bit of fiction finally came clear for me. I have said, and have no regret for saying, that I can no longer live with Nicole. It stresses me out to the point of illness.

Saturday, February 24, 2018


My work place, my "community" has been blessedly stable for the past two years. As time has passed in relative ease, my little gray-headed dominoes have been lining up, waiting for the first one to fall. He fell. I'll call him The Thinker. I loved him because he said I was the smartest person he'd ever met. How can you argue with that? He'd asked me, prior to making that statement, what plans we had as a company in the event "the big one" hit. On the West Coast, or Left if you're worried about language which I usually am but not in this case, "the big one" is an earthquake followed by a Tsunami. I told him that, in addition to a loosely held agreement with the Catholic Church next door which would likely be flattened as well, we had three days of water and dry food, plenty of flashlights, batteries and sleeping bags for staff who do not run out screaming to find their own children and do the noble thing: endure the end of the world together. After I told him that, I told him the truth. We'd do the best we could. If I was there, I wouldn't leave and if I wasn't there, that I'd get there if I could. But sincerely, we'd be on our own for a bit. The Thinker thought about all that. "Does it scare you?" I asked. He shook his balding head and smiled a crooked smile. "No. I think it scares some of them." He referred to his compatriots. I agreed. "I'm just looking forward to beachfront property." I picture the sea leaping across the coast range and coming to rest at the edge of my back yard, complete with soft sand and sculpted boulders. TT was a vocal democrat. He and his wife and tablemates built towers of white paper medicine cups and stuck hand-crafted American Flags glued to toothpicks in the top cup with "IMPEACH" written boldly across the little flag. The idea spread to the next table. It was a terrible mess. I loved him. But The Thinker had a stroke. When this happens, we send folks to the hospital. When it gets a little less dicey, the hospital sends them to what we loosely and erroneously call ad "skilled care facility." What we used to call nursing homes. They have changed little since I cut my teeth on the type of human care that would become my life's work. My life's work. When TT was ready to come home, or back, because it isn't home, is it? the nursing home gave us a call and we trotted out to see if he was ready by our standards. I don't know what I was expecting. What I found was my dignified and brilliant friend naked, in unimaginable pain, writhing in a bed stripped of sheets or blankets. Was he ready to come back? No. But we busted him out anyway. (Annie, remember Alvina? Another story for another day.)Anyhow, we got him back under our care, finally got his pain under control, and he was able to die in relative peace. I am stunned at our capacity as a nation to trade lives for money. His insurance is paying at minimum 850.00 a day for this absence of care. A. DAY. We couldn't, my wonderful nurse and me, find anybody who gave a shit enough to get him some pain meds. I can't stand it. So TT went to heaven -- that's what I call it. I don't care what you think. Then my Catholic lady went away. I'll just call her Mary - she'd love that. She had been living in my Assisted Living section for a couple of years and is really old and frail. Her beliefs are more important to her than most. I guess it is faith. I'm not Catholic and not a fan, so I'm never really clear about faith/belief. ... By way of backstory, the property of the AL borders the high school practice field. Each morning, Mary would call to me from her spot in front of the fireplace. "I'm dying," she'd say. "I know," I'd answer. "I get a vision every night," she'd grin. "A firey cross." I'd nod and smile. "Does it frighten you?" I'd ask. "Oh, no!" Her eyes crinkled merrily. I use that hackneyed phrase intentionally. Her eyes crinkled merrily. They actually did. "Oh, no! Its from God." Okay. So I'm thinking she's losing it. She tells me this same thing once or twice a week and I think, well, if it isn't frightening or uncomfortable, then I'm good with it. Until I talk with the evening shift women. "Its the lights on the practice field," they tell me. Turns out there is there is this huge bank of lights that comes on every evening and lights up the world. How sweet she thinks it is for her. When her son moved her away to a smaller and less expensive care home, my heart broke. Her greatest concern was whether her vision would transfer with her. That's two. Seven more are on hospice. It is winter in memory care.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

year end

No promises. I won't be better at anything, and I'll probably be worse. I re-read my resolutions from last year, and, barring the intention to "write it all down," I've kept most. I'm older by far than I ever expected to be.

This morning the sky in Yamhill was a watercolor, indescribably lovely, just out my back door. I am not working today or tomorrow. So I will un-decorate and let the dogs out and in and out and in again. I mop and vacuum, they muss it all up again. Sid is painfully arthritic now, but with his magic pill he still plays like a pup and pays later, and dearly, and spends a good deal of time on the memory foam bed we got him for Christmas. Sid Vicious, now in his 14th year. Duffy is eight and still the grumpy Alpha, Mac is one, the baby of the pack. He cries and tries to act like the other dogs but he is a funny, silly thing. Always the clown. It will probably be Sid's last year. He is such a good boy, mother to all.

Mark bought his first house this year. It is out in Central Point, a foreclosure, and he is excited to begin the work of transforming it. Built in 2004, 3 bedrooms 2 bath, nice floor plan. Huge lot with big outbuildings for his trucks and equipment. I am deeply proud of him and I hope he finally has a sense of it all finally being enough. He suffers from the man thing pretty badly -- incomplete without property, beliefs about success a barrier to contentment. Maybe he will relax a bit and enjoy his good life now.

My husband's children, two of them, bring joy to his life and mine. Nicole continues to cause him immeasurable pain. Of course, being who he is, the pain is what he focuses on rather than David and Haley, who love him, understand him, and stay in contact. The holidays are hard for him. Now that they are over, perhaps there will be some light in our home. My husband is a sun lover, and often measures his happiness by the minutes of light that increase from the solstice forward. Day before yesterday we had six more minutes in that day. As we all know, I am not nearly so discerning. If I wake up, it is a good day. If I've slept the night before, even better. My strategy has long been to have Christmas anyway, despite his molecular sadness, and it has rubbed off on him, my inexplicable joy, year upon year, to at least offset the depression. He does not share my faith, which is silly and a remnant of my childhood, but it is my faith, afterall. I can't shake it. Believe me, I've tried.

My year? I remain stunned by the political reality of this age. I keep thinking that somebody somewhere will do something. But they don't. Day after day I wake up to the stark reality of Hitler's Germany. I imagine ex-presidents riding in on horseback to save our day, our place in this world, our planet, but nothing happens. The secret meetings to impeach the monster we've loosed on this country in our full-bellied slumber go forward too slowly if at all. We have too many laws that protect the guilty and prohibit simple declarations of right and wrong. Our leaders are circumspect when they should be screaming. Democrats are so well-behaved I am ashamed to be one of them. I keep hearing of a march for impeachment, and I'd be there, but I can't find it online except in DC and I can't go there. Not in January. Probably not ever.

And what about me, you ask? I am older, now. My health is a reflection of my appetites. Not great. Oh, my appetites are great, but the long term effects of denial are cumulative. My feet hurt. I take pain medication rather than anti-psychotics and neuroleptics. At least I can still think. I think. I still work every day, and enjoy my job, although when I got sick in early December I began to consider retirement. But what would I do? What? (someone is whispering from some forgotten place just behind my right ear.) Wait....shhhh. Write? Art?

Okay. Write. Art.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

research monkey

As my health fails, as aging does what it does, I am introduced to medication after medication that will cure my ills. I've been through several -- several -- trials over the past three months. The most recent, Cymbalta, kicked my ass. I'm tired, exhausted, really. The intent is to treat diabetic neuropathy, screaming feet. There has to be a better way. Narcotics work, but like Keith Richards said, "you can't get anything that feels good anymore." Or something like that. I get it. As a hope-to-die dope fiend, I appreciate the risks. Shit.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

non-participation award

I went. I did the cruise. For me, it was something like five days of disco with food. The women I traveled with were nice. The boat was old and trashy-eighties, too bright and way too loud. But the ocean was still the ocean and I liked that part. They made towel animals for our room each day, elephants, bears, a reclining bunny, and a sloth hanging from the heat duct. Those were the best. That's what I took pictures of.

Our flight out of PDX to Long Beach was delayed three hours. I had to be nervous for three hours longer than anticipated, and believe me, anxiety is all about anticipation. By the time our flight arrived in LB, our "transfer," the guy who gets us from the airport to the boat, drove like Parnelli Jones to get us there. We had no adjustment time to wander around the boat. It was grab your shit and go. The safety lesson was a blur. All I know is that I was to find Muster Station B if for any reason the Inspiration became the Titanic.

So, the cruise. It was eat, find your way to the next deck, eat, find the next deck, eat, make an excuse to leave the drinking group to read, sleep. We went to Catalina on the first day. I didn't want to. This is not unusual for me. I don't want to do anything. There were all kinds of tour packages: para-sailing, deep sea fishing, segway tours. But as it turned out, we were allowed to just disembark (get off the boat) and wander around. This sounded more my speed. So we did, and as luck would have it, there was a Chihuly exhibit happening in the art gallery. One of the women, the eldest of us at 77, was the best. She made me go with her. It was, as is any Chihuly exhibit, breathtaking. I am enamored of the fragile baskets, these were ocean colors, turquoise to white, and full of transparent little bowls. I love bowls, and these -- oh so pretty. If I was wealthy, I'd use the biggest one as a salad bowl at a party. I wouldn't put it in the dishwasher, I'm not stupid, but they are bowls afterall. I see the utilitarian in art. Catalina was stunning. I'd go back. I loved the painted clay tiles and little side streets. Marilyn Monroe was from there, and Natalie Wood died out in the bay, washed up on shore. Not a safe place for gorgeous women. I felt safe enough.

So the second day was the same, only in Mexico. Again, we didn't want to disembark, but -- when in Rome -- only it was Ensenada. So we bailed off the boat, sheep in line for the fleecing. We took a bus from the port to the center of town where we were summarily dropped into another culture: dirt poor and hungry. Without a plan, it was almost immediately clear we needed one. We were standing mid-sidewalk and a woman walked up to us and pretty much said, "Hey ladies, you really oughta board this little bus right here and get off the street or they'll eat you for lunch." So we hopped in a van headed for "La Bufadora," a big blowhole. I sincerely wanted to launch into political commentary, but held back. You would have been proud of me. Immediately, a man with a guitar leaned into the still-open bus door singing my ringtone: La Bamba. We tipped him and took off. Lili was our tour guide. As we drove through Ensenada, it was clear that we were only seeing what they wanted us to see. The only paved roads were the ones the tourist buses traveled. Little children sat roadside while their parents begged. Lili told joke after joke at her country's expense, from the drinking age to the obvious thievery we would certainly encounter at La Bufadora. We did. I bought good vanilla, a cheap poncho and ate a pork taco. Pretty sure it was pork.

Day three was a day at sea. With disco music and food. My compadres drank. The cruise, to this non-drinker, seemed to be a lot about alcohol. I drank four Virgin Mary's. I love those. I never think of drinking them when I am home, but I should get some of that mix. I love tomato juice made that way. Lots of tabasco and lime. Yummy. Booze wrecks it. I read the latest John Grisham novel, which was crappy, but easy reading. Sometimes that's all I need: just some pages to turn. I did not get enough alone time to write. I was also not inspired to write and have no current project to work on. That is a lie. I have three. None of which I was inspired to work on. Writers who await inspiration are fools. You can quote me on that.

One of my co-sailors was Karen, a youngish mom from Carlton (just three miles from us.) She had Karaoke on her bucket list. I do not. However, always supportive, I joined our group of four willing singers. The two elder women sat it out and I think videoed it. The list of songs was endless. We settled on Can't Buy Me Love. Do I need to say, "by the Beatles?" If you don't know, you should. If you don't know, you can no longer read this blog. Anyway, it was really fun. Really. I'd do it again.

Day three was actually day four. We boarded on Monday, although late in the day. Our day at sea was Thursday. People seemed to be getting to know each other, drinking a lot, and I actually became familiar enough with our servers to recall a couple of names. Roberto was our cabin attendant, Mohamed, a server. Hector was a drink runner, I think. I had a hot stone massage by Ying, who literally begged me to purchase overpriced but lovely lotions. I didn't. I use Jergen's. I know it isn't the best. I don't care. Her massage was the best I've had. Ever. I had a mani-pedi with Winnie from Zimbabwe. They are currently unseating a dictator. When I asked how she felt about our current political idiot, she said, "you oughta see my country," and launched into a description of their political shit-show that almost -- almost -- made me not want to complain. 

On Friday, we got up and disembarked. They sang to us: Leaving on a Jet Plane. The men danced. Men of every country. Not many whites. Dancing fools all. I was surprised at the cruise demographics. I expected old and white. It was neither. Whites were definitely in the minority. And young couples were common. Young with kids. That surprised me a little.

We caught a ride to the airport from Long Beach to LAX, through LA. Palms and eucalyptus trees, homeless less-evident than Portland, but we didn't venture far from freeway to airport direct route. The PDX airport is much cooler, much more engaging than LAX. We had three hours to wait for our flight home, which was blessedly on time, and there just wasn't anything to do in the Alaska area.

It was so good to land on Oregon soil. Home was still far away. I had to take a detour into Portland to pick Mac up. He boarded with Jen, one of my co-workers. She said he did good "except for the past half hour," in which he apparently consumed a bunch of rabbit food. He puked all the way home and for the remainder of the evening. He is fine now, normal and playing, but his poop is green and leafy.

It is good to get away. It is better to come home. I love my life. I love my dogs. I adore my husband. I am Dorothy, clicking my heels to find my way home, wondering why I am ever-compelled to get away from it all. A classic chronic malcontent. I've heard that somewhere. I am grateful for my life, made all the fuller when shown in bright contrast -- contrast of Mexican poverty, of my own fear of the unfamiliar, of my tendency to isolate. Even if it isn't something I'd probably do again, I'm that much richer for getting on the plane. And the boat. And off the boat.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

sailing away

Tomorrow I am flying to Long Beach to board a big Carnival cruise ship bound for Mexico. This is not something I ever wanted to do, but when my friend asked me six months ago if I wanted to go on a cruise in November, I said sure. Now that it is November, I suddenly recall that I hate to fly and am deathly afraid of sharks. "Stay on the boat, then," say all the well-wishers. They haven't seen Jaws as many times as I have and just this week on the news there have been shark sightings all along the Oregon coast. I hope that means the Long Beach to Ensenada sharks have come north for Thanksgiving.

I have packed the shit out of things. You are sort of expected to dress nice for dinner. I have many nice clothes. You'll remember that I have to look like I know what I am doing most days of the week -- so clothing I have. But fitting them in a 20" carry-on is another thing. My dear friend of many years ago, Vivian, told me to roll your nice things in tissue paper and they won't wrinkle. So there you are: a free travel tip from judybluesky. the non-traveling blogger.

All I really want to do is read. This is just an opportunity to do that in a different place. And write. I'll be off grid, using dinosaur fingers and actual paper, but I think I can do it. No promises.

The cruise was cheap. Six women are going, and I am rooming with my friend Cathy. The weather will be fine. Not hot, which is fine with me. I just don't care: the theme of this blog in case you haven't been paying attention. I just want to get away from it all. It all being home, dogs, work, life. I want to eat food not cooked by my off of dishes not washed by me and sleep in a bed not made by me in a room not cleaned by me. With no phone or computer. I could have these things for an additional fee -- wifi and such -- but I just want to check out. As always, looking for a life in which I don't have to participate.