Friday, December 29, 2006

Snippet About P. #1

(First of ten snippets about my longtime friend P., who in the past few years lost his health, his home, his lover, his cat and portions of his mind. I was spending a lot of time with him in the first half of 2005, but now I’m not. These snippets are all from the past; where it says "yesterday," it doesn't mean yesterday.)

I called P. yesterday to see if he wants to see the new movie Robots. We saw the preview together, and I was enchanted by the animation. Since I see P. every Monday night for an AA meeting and all day Sunday for McDonald’s and a movie, lately I’ve been not calling him mid-week.

Last week, I didn’t call him Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, and by Thursday I got a phone message, where I could hear P. saying, "What do I do?" and one of the women who works at his care facility saying, "She’s not there. Leave message. Leave message!" Then I got a second message, Siring or Gloria saying, "Please call back to P."

But I did call him this week, to talk about the movie. I’ve found it’s difficult to get him to answer a direct question one way or the other, and the first time I asked him about Robots, he didn’t say anything.

The second time, he gently said he didn’t want to see it, which I assured him was fine. He said, "I love you as much as I always do, but I don’t want to see that movie." I told him I didn’t have a problem with that, that I had asked in order to discover his preference so we could end up seeing something we both might enjoy.

His conversation can also seemingly be disjointed, though I suspect that there’s a perfect logic there for him internally, because he is consistent in his disjointedness.

In the cab last week, the day he said he didn’t after all want to see the movie he’d said he wanted to see (which also happened to be one I particularly wanted to see: Gunner Palace), I asked him, "What kinds of things could we do together if we didn’t see movies?" He paused, and then said with some degree of exasperation, "Life isn’t perfect!", which caused our driver to snicker.

It sounded like he wasn’t answering my question, or perhaps that he was covering up for the fact that he couldn’t think of anything we might do, but I think that, by his own reasoning, that was simply the correct answer.

Snippet About P. #2

Conversation itself is a new thing for P. and me, as our friendship for so long consisted of P.’s monologues on the phone. His outgoing answering machine messages used to be like sermons: "Miracles do happen. The point of power is in the present moment. God is in you, through you, around you." Sometimes they went on for quite a while, and then ended with, "P. and R., in recovery. Leave a message." I taped a message he left on my answering machine in 1999. Here it is:

"Linda, this is P.! You know, that old-fashioned turkey who lives downtown. Linda, I still live downtown with R., and, I don’t know how it is that we’re still together. We’ve been together for ten years, and, and I genuinely love you, too. I’m petrified still, for all my years of recovery, I’m still petrified of intimacy. I have to admit I haven’t worked it all through. But I do know the most powerful way out of anything is to remember your last one—your last romance, your last financial debacle, your last love affair, and that will activate on a cell level a way out of the current dilemma. And I know you’re a very gifted person, but you have some mighty challenges in this current edition called human life.

“Please forgive me for being such a pompous old windbag. I’m halfway to sixty. I’m fifty-five. And I got feet of clay, Linda. But I do show up. I show up and I show up and I still go to those awful meetings, and I just heal and forgive a lot. Because, you know, it’s about really healing my own life. Linda, if I go on at all, I’ll sound like I’m just full of hot air, but I really know the way out of anything you’re going through in this life, whether it’s childhood stuff, current stuff, grant stuff, employment stuff—whatever it is, the point of power is in the present.

“If you would forgive me for saying this, a book that has helped me incredibly much over the years is a man by the name of Emmett Fox. Even though I’m a fruit, most of my favorite writers are women—I am a feminist—Emmett Fox is one of my favorite writers and he’s perhaps even more powerful than Mrs. Eddy in a certain way, I mean in his way to cut through stuff. And his book, Power Through Constructive Thinking, by Emmett Fox, I think he’s one of the greatest metaphysical thinkers that ever lived—it’s just an opinion—and that particular book you might try to get ahold of sometime and I think that, and program stuff, will help you get through any situation that comes up, on the better side of it all.

“Okay, Linda, if you ever want me to shut up and listen, just tell me, ‘P., shut up, I wanna talk.’ And I understand because I’m old enough, I don’t really get offended by that stuff. I’m not that thin-skinned. The only issue that I really have to work is this intimacy stuff. I’m really still working on that, with friendships or my significant friend. Linda, I do love you and the very best to you today and I’m going to say goodbye now. Forgive me for running at the mouth so much."

When we actually talked on the phone, he would give a long speech about Christian Science or Mary Baker Eddy or Nikola Tesla or opera—Maria Callas or a current favorite tenor. In another mood, he might talk about fame, money and people’s looks.

He talked a tremendous amount about spirituality, and he talked about sex and gender a lot, saying, "I know we’ve all been men, women, everything. We’ve all been each other’s mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers. I may be here in a man’s body this time; maybe you were, last time. Oh, I know men do a lot of terrible things. A lot of men are bastards. All I can say is I am not a rapist. Thoughts are different from actions. I have tried to do my best. I ask people, ‘Do you want a hug?’ I don’t just grab." Then he would say, "Linda, if you want to talk, just tell me to shut up. Say, ‘P., shut up, you old fart. I want to talk.’"

Snippet About P. #3

A couple of years or so ago, I made my regular birthday call to P. and a woman answered the phone and said he’d had a heart attack and stroke and was in the hospital. When he returned home, he was so anxious that his lover broke up with him and moved out, and then he was there alone, recovering from a heart attack and struggling with a partial plate which made it hard to eat, and worrying himself sick over having lost half the vision in his right eye, worrying about whether he’d lose the rest of his vision, worrying about whether the various medications he was taking had actually caused the vision loss.

I asked what his doctor had to say, but he said he never saw the same doctor twice. P. worried that the medication might be causing side effects—he read the labels carefully, with their alarming details—and fretted that taking them at all was contrary to Christian Science, but he also didn’t dare to stop taking them altogether, or perhaps he experimented with not taking them, to ill effect. Perhaps he was not taking his psychiatric meds as prescribed, thus causing his terrible anxiety.

He was also caught in a bind between Christian Science and AA. AA says, "You’re as sick as your secrets," implying that you should tell everyone everything, or at least tell everything to someone or other.

I gathered from what P. said that Christian Science says that to give voice to something is to make it solid and more intractably present, so he didn’t know whether to say he’d lost part of his vision or not say it, and whatever he did, he felt he’d done the wrong thing and his anxiety increased. He spoke of suicide often in the middle months of 2004.

Yesterday P. called me twice while I was at work. Sometimes he says in his message, "I need to get your number," or "I can’t figure out your number," even though he has just called me at my number.

I called him back and found him watching TV at a paint-peeling volume. He asked, "How are you?" I said, "Good, but you’re making me deaf." As far as I know, he doesn’t have problems with his hearing, so I don’t know why he turns the TV up so high. Later in the conversation, there was a lot of racket outside, and P. said, "God! Every fucking car is going on!"

When I got home, there was yet another message from him, telling me that there had been a lot of excitement since I’d spoken to him a couple of hours before, that the union stewards had been there. But when I called him back and asked him about the union stewards, it didn’t seem to ring a bell.

I could hear the screaming lady in the background. P. said, not without a certain admiration, "She can do that twenty-four hours a day." I said, "I’m surprised she doesn’t lose her voice. It must be very annoying sometimes." P. said, "She deserves that because of all the times women were abused."

Snippet About P. #4

Soon P. and I were in a cab and rolling over to the Richmond. I rolled my window down and the wind roared in and I said, "This is the life: riding in a cab with a handsome gentleman on a sunny Sunday." P. liked that. He smiled and agreed, "This is the life: riding in a cab with a handsome woman."

We went over to the Balboa Theater, on Clement out near the beach. P. developed a desire for See’s candy and asked a couple of people where he might find some. There wasn’t a See’s near there, but a woman directed us to a candy shop just a couple of doors up the street where they had bins full of garish novelties drenched in food coloring. They also had ice cream and P. got a chocolate cone. He asked the two women in the store if we could sit outside, and dragged a chair out to the sidewalk, where he and the sidewalk became thoroughly covered with chocolate ice cream.

Then we went to the theater and saw Bad Education, which I liked a lot. Beforehand, P. asked if I’d help him take off his jacket. When I didn’t spring into action instantly, P. said, "I can find someone else to help me take off my jacket," and then he grinned at me, which I knew meant, "I’m guilt-tripping you right this minute and we both know it because we’re both alcoholics and we know all about guilt-tripping."

When we came out of the theater after the movie, P. accosted three Asian fellows leaving a restaurant and said, "If you wanted to go out to eat and you didn’t want Asian food, you wanted a burger, where would you go?" One of the men suggested Bill’s Place, at 25th and Clement.

P. had been there many times in the past and was inspired by that idea, so we set off there. After he realized I meant to make him walk the entire way, he insisted on walking on the shady side of the street, though he almost always wants to be in the sun. He proposed taking the bus and actually flagged one down, which stopped and then went on when we didn’t walk over to it.

"Why can’t I take the bus?" asked P., sinking onto a seat in a bus shelter, and looking like he might cry. I passed the buck to his sister and said she had decreed that there would be no bus travel, but said that I agreed, and that it was because we love him and are afraid he’ll fall and crack his head open.

He said, "Okay, now I understand. I don’t know why you didn’t just say so in the first place. So I can’t ride in a bus, but can I ride in a cab?" "Yes, you can ride in a cab all you want."

On we went to Bill’s Place, with P. asking constantly, "How far are we from there?" and asking every second passerby, almost all of them Asian, "Sir, do you know where Bill’s Place is? You can’t always eat Asian food."

Finally I said, "We know where Bill’s place is: It’s at 25th and Clement." He said, "Just because you know where it is doesn’t mean I know where it is."

I told him that he was my good friend and that I loved him but that the questions were becoming irritating and that I hoped he wasn’t going to say, "You can’t always eat Asian food" to every single Asian person in the Richmond.

He was silent and I added, "Why don’t we save up the questions for those times we really don’t know the answer?" But of course he does not know the answer. For one thing, he likely already forgot the answer he heard half a block ago, and I guess he’s right that my knowing something isn’t the same thing as him knowing it, though it does also slightly offend my ego to have him place more trust in some random stranger than in me.

However, he probably has been asking questions of random strangers for decades and it’s probably not exactly something I should take personally. I resolved once again to just let him ask whatever of whomever.

Snippet About P. #5

The next day, we went to the AA meeting, as always. Or it seems like always, though it was only our ninth week at the meeting. Many of P.’s pants no longer zip over his belly. The ones he was wearing that night weren’t zipped at all and you could see his hairy belly, perilously close to his pubic hair. But no one at AA cares about anything like that, which is a nice thing about AA.

I told P. that if we got over there a bit early, we might get to sit on the couch instead of on the hard bench. "Girlfriend," he said, "Can we talk?" This meant he wanted to sit on the couch, so we went over there and sat on the couch, and I brought him a cup of coffee not all the way full, and someone at the meeting marked a list to show P. the other meetings in the neighborhood.

P. wanted to go to the store after the meeting, but I really needed to get home and go to sleep, and it was after nine by the time we left the church, anyway. He had a moment of altruism and said he should just head home so I could also go home, but added that he didn’t know how he was going to get inside his house, as if he thought I was going to leave him in the middle of the street and walk off. When we got to his side of the street, he whispered that there were bad things happening in his house, but refused to say more.

Snippet About P. #6

Ugh, terrible day today. It started out OK, which is to say it started with three phone calls from P. before the alarm went off. I got up and called him back, and then a few hours later, just as I should have been going out the door to go to his house, he called again. "How are you?" I asked.


"About what?"

"I don’t need a reason," he said primly.

We discussed the time of my arrival: "What time are you coming over? Twelve-thirty? You’re coming over at twelve-thirty? That’s today? Is today Monday? Is it Sunday? Say it again. What time will it be?”

Then he expressed his gratitude: "Thanks, Dad." Half the time, Dad is a big bastard who is apparently in the penitentiary for unspecified crimes, but sometimes I get to be a more benevolent Dad.

I replied, "You’re welcome, little girl."

"I try to be the best little girl I can."

"You’re my pride and joy."

At his house, I called a cab, Gloria and I assured him that it wasn’t going to rain and so he didn’t need to bring the plastic bag he uses as rain gear, and we set off for McDonald’s.

I’m not sure at what point I slipped into an irritable mood. The movie we were going to see was right across the street from McDonald’s, at Opera Plaza, and I was slightly irked when he suggested we walk up the street to see what was playing at the other theater.

He had a big piece of red crud in one ear today, which was grossing me out a bit. I didn’t know if it was a scab or a piece of fermented earwax or what. I couldn’t quite bring myself to tell him to go look at it in a mirror.

P. got a cookie at the concession stand, but decided it was too hard and traded it in for something else. He told the attendant and me, "It’s too hard," and pinched it to prove his point. "Stop pinching that, P. Someone else is going to be eating it." The attendant, who looked a bit like a gentle Vincent Gallo, was quite gracious.

We saw our movie and I felt vaguely guilty when it proved to be more violent than I’d expected. P. smelled strongly of urine today, which has not been the case for several weeks.

After the movie, I went to the bathroom and then found P. interrogating the concession guy about another movie, which was playing at that same theater in forty-five minutes. When we walked outside we saw that it was, of course, raining. We sat down and P. tried to talk me into going to see the other movie. I really didn’t want to, because I thought it was going to make me late getting to sleep.

P. said he needed something uplifting for the coming week. I said he could be uplifted by the fact that next week we’d be coming back to see the movie. In the end, not least because it was raining and we didn’t have our raincoats, I called the house and told them that P. and I would be back later than usual.

Then I announced that he would need to come with me while I had dinner, and I marched toward a sushi place. P. said, "I can’t afford that."

I said brusquely, as if now that I had given him what he wanted, I had a right to be rude, "You won’t be eating. You had a filet o’ fish. I’m going to eat." In the restaurant, he unwrapped his chopsticks and scratched the back of his head with them, which was more or less tolerable, but then he stuck one in his ear and started to dig around. I said, "Stop that. That’s gross. I’m thinking of the person who has to pick those up later who won’t know there’s earwax on them."

He said, "There isn’t any earwax," and tried to demonstrate. It was gross, but it wasn’t really right for me to think I could speak to him in a way I would never dream of speaking to most other people. For instance, I wouldn’t say to my father, "That’s gross." (Of course, my father rarely puts anyone in the position of having to decide whether or not to say, "That’s gross.")

Snippet About P. #7

While I was out last night, P. left a message saying he would like to talk to me, but by the time I got home, it was 10:30, so I didn’t call him back. This morning at 8:15 he called me again.

The other day, when my bicycle seat was stolen, P. said, "Repeat after me: I am grateful for the abundance in my life that means I could have bought another entire bicycle if I had to—and paid cash."

I didn’t feel he was minimizing my loss, which was indeed minimal to begin with, and I appreciated his reminding me of something that is true and that is a cause for gratitude: Losing the entire bike would be upsetting, but not a crisis, and losing just the seat was really nothing.

But it turned out he was worried about possibly having given offense, by telling me what to do. I reassured him as best I could and we got off the phone. Before we hung up, he thanked me for not turning my back on him, which was heartrending. I reassured him.

In the afternoon, I was doing my weekly cooking chores when P.’s sister called to tell me that his newest doctor has insisted on changing his medication, and that now P. is beset with anxiety, apologizing to her for things that don’t warrant an apology, and that maybe we should stay at P.’s house tomorrow instead of attempting a movie, though she said it was up to me. That explained P.’s intense concern about offering the little gratitude reflection.

Soon thereafter, P. called me and announced that he felt very anxious and fearful. He was unusually full of questions: What had I cooked? Was I a full vegetarian or did I sometimes eat meat? Is it true that I never watch TV? How long have I worked where I work? Do I have a 401(k) from work and a Roth IRA? Do I also have some cash? Does he look like he’s 70?

He had another question: Had I heard from my ex-lover today? I said that Tom and I had actually had a fight last night, and therefore we had not spoken to each other today. P. asked, "Will you punish each other for a long time?" I realized he was worried that I’d get mad at him and punish him for a long time, maybe stop being his friend, and so I said, "No, no. We won’t do that at all. We’re still friends. It wasn’t a bad fight."

Then P. said, "I shouldn’t have asked that. Now you’re going to be angry." I said, "It was just a little fight. I wasn’t angry for very long, and I’m not angry now. It’s not making me angry to talk about it. It’s fine that you asked that."

On the contrary, discussing it was making me see how stupid it was to think Tom and I would stop being friends over one snappish exchange. I told P. that Tom and I would talk to each other very soon, and then I made it true by calling Tom right after P. and I hung up, and leaving a message that said, "We’re still friends even though you were mean to me last night."

Tom called back very soon and said, "We’re still friends? Too bad, because I had almost gotten us on Jerry Springer."

Snippet About P. #8

At P.’s house, there is a woman who is very tiny, with delicate features and downcast eyes, who creeps about the hallways, holding the railings. I greeted her the first couple of times I saw her, but she didn’t so much ignore me as seem to be unaware of my presence, so after that, I left her alone.

P. told me that, of all the people in the house, this woman, whose name is Renee, is the particular butt of the screaming lady’s malice. How dreadful that must be, to be physically small and infirm and have to live where someone tortures you emotionally.

I started to get feeling that maybe Renee was becoming used to me, so today I greeted her again, and she gave me a fleeting smile, though she didn’t look directly at me. After P. and I returned from our outing, we were sitting in his room when Renee came to the door and said, in a tiny voice, that she didn’t want to interrupt us, but she needed something from P.

She walked in and right up to him, and he said, "I can’t play house right now." After he repeated that, she turned to me and I saw that her robe was hanging open, and so I tied the pink strings for her and I gently held her outstretched hand, and she beamed at me, looking right at me for the first time, and told me I was a good person and that if there was any money left over, I should get it; that I’ve worked for it. I realized she was alluding to P.’s will.

She wished us a good night and a happy new year, and crept off. After she left, P. grumbled that this woman is always touching him, and he doesn’t like it. Very soon she was back, with her robe undone again and a diaper in plain view. I tied her robe closed again.

Then P.’s other sister called, and I went into the living room to give him some privacy, and talked to Kay. Renee came in, with her robe open again, and Kay said meanly to her, "Ain’t ya even ladylike?" I was appalled. I wanted to say, "Oh, well, she’s among friends," but I guess she isn’t.

P. said later that Renee’s neediness irritates the other women, and that they hate her because she’s very old, yet gets around without a walker.

I was glad P.’s sister had warned me about the ill effects of his medication change. His eyes also looked rather odd. She had thought we might be better off not attempting to go out, but P. said he was up to it, and there was only one untoward event, in a coffee shop in the Ferry Building.

P. ordered a plain cup of coffee, but ended up with a foaming coffee drink of some sort. After a bit, the employees realized what had happened, and told him he had someone else’s drink. He got agitated right away and said, "But this is what you handed me!"

He had already poured some of it out to make room for milk and sugar, so they took it back and poured it out, which further upset P. He opened his mouth to say something else, and I said, "Just calm down. Don’t say anything else to them. Just leave them alone and let them get your coffee. Everything is OK."

Then one of the counter people said to P., "These two women are getting their drinks. Let’s just leave them alone and then we’ll get your coffee." I would have thought that was slightly rude, except that I had just said almost exactly the same thing. I still don’t think the counter person should have said that, but in fact, a quick study, he had learned it from me.

And I had said it because I got tense about a possible fight, or about P. becoming very upset, and so I wanted to quell whatever there was to quell instantly. I guess I should have just focused on calming him down and not told him what to do or not do, since it wasn’t strictly necessary.

Snippet About P. #9

P.’s Best Remarks Ever

I got two calls from P. He very much wanted me to take him to an AA meeting that evening, and he said these things:

"It's not very nice, you know. I'm your old grandmother. Your old grandmother likes to get her orgasm occasionally, too."

"It's much harder to be a man because we have PMS nine times a week."

"I'm a man. I'm not the most stunning man, but you're just letting me sit here like a slab of meat."

"You threw out all that candy and didn't even let me have any, due to some stupid thing like additives."

"I don't even look like I'm 62. I'm look like I'm a very beat-up 39."

"Here you have this beautiful older man with liver spots on his hands, and you won't even do anything nice for him."

"You won't even give me any halvah. You gave it to your coworkers. Here's a poor old woman [him] in a nursing home ... "

"If you were a good girl, you'd take me to the meeting. You're very mean. You think I'm a hooker, don't you?"

Snippet About P. #10

P. seems to be a bit jealous of Tom lately. He asked why Tom’s girlfriend doesn’t mind us going to the movies, which we are going to do tomorrow night. Then he said, "You’re going to the movies tomorrow night with Tom, right? How big is he?" I said, "He’s six foot two, about 200 pounds. Do you think you can take him?" P. said he absolutely could.

Yesterday he called and said, "This is Tom." Then he asked, "When are you and Tom going to the movies? When are you and Tom coming home from the movies?"

He asked what I was doing, and I said I was cooking. He asked, "For you and Tom?"

He had to go eat, so I asked him to call me back afterwards so we could decide what time to go out today, and this he dutifully did, though he couldn’t remember why he was calling.

This morning I got a call from P. at 7:55. He asked, "Are you in the sack with Tom?"


"Why not?"

"We broke up years ago. Are you in the sack with Tom?"


"Why not?"

"Because I was never involved with him."

The next call from P. was at 10, now impersonating Tom’s python.

He also said, "I don’t know what to do with myself besides sleep. If I were on a cruise, I could go for a swim in the heated pool. No heated pool, no cruise."

He asked what I was doing. I said I was eating breakfast and he asked, "With Tom?"

Recently, P. mentioned that his sister said if he can find someone to live with, she will pay his half of the rent. Someone "like you or Paul Trupin."

"Paul Trupin is dead," I said.

"Where is he?"


And not long ago, P. said, "I’m an old idea about to become a new idea." He lamented that he had not been present at the 1906 San Francisco earthquake: "I wish I could have been there. I could have had long dresses."

An Exceedingly Well-Marked Path

On one of the first rainy evenings this winter, when I was cycling home from work, with my glasses covered with water, unable to see very well (i.e., before I decided just to take BART when it’s wet out), the driver of a van that got caught in an intersection when the light changed (i.e., someone who proceeded into the intersection even though traffic was stopped on the other side of the intersection) swerved into an open lane in order to get out of the way of cross-traffic, this being the lane I was in. As soon as there were about two inches of clearance, the van sped past me, only to have to stop right away for a red light.

I stopped and took a long and careful look at the van and its license plate. It’s supposed to make the driver nervous. I don’t know if it does. I imagine myself saying to the driver, “Just making sure I have your license plate number right so when we come over to [insert unspeakable threat here], we know we have the right house.” The idea is to conjure up visions of a well-organized cyclist retribution force, though of course I have never actually said this to anyone.

After several seconds of glaring, I cycle away feeling rather ashamed and/or angry.

I know, rationally, that the anger arises from my fear of being killed or injured. I know that when I spend the next two blocks mentally lecturing the driver, I’m hurting only myself. The driver doesn’t suffer, but even if he did suffer, it wouldn’t make me happy. It would just be that much more unhappiness in the world.

Therefore I’m frustrated at the persistence of these thoughts and I want them to go away. Not long after this, I actually considered breaking down and going across town for an interview with my not-seen-in-quite-some-time meditation teacher, Howie, to learn the secret instructions for making this go away.

But then I remembered that while getting angry can seem like an obstacle on the path, it is not. As Ezra Bayda says, it is the path. So how lucky that my path is so exceedingly well-marked! How fortunate that I get about 20 opportunities every single day to practice with anger and anxiety.

I have been finding Ezra Bayda’s technique of detailed thought-noting to be really fruitful. It does readily reveal what’s going on, and what’s underneath that, but often the news seems rather discouraging: I got angry again. How is seeing that going to help me? I’ve seen that a million times.

But what is it that I’ve seen a million times? Have I seen a million rude or reckless drivers, or have I seen and really experienced my own fear and anxiety?

Probably the former. I’ve “seen” that such-and-such driver was a jerk. I’ve “seen” that he shouldn’t be driving that way. I’ve even “seen” to it that he gets a dirty look and maybe a little lecture. (Formerly, I also saw to a good deal of screaming and swearing, but this seems to have abated greatly.)

That seeing is maybe not so helpful. The seeing that is more helpful is of my own condition and of the thoughts I am believing—my views and opinions. Do I believe the other person is the cause of my misery? Do I believe my problem will be solved if the other person does something different?

It’s uncomfortable to sit with fear, or confusion or uncertainty. Getting angry conceals anxiety, and gives a pleasing, if false and temporary, sense of clarity and certainty: “I am good and right. He is bad and wrong.”

I’d like to say that the point is not to eliminate anger altogether, that I don’t aspire to be permanently free from anger, but I’m afraid a goal of that nature does linger.

Not being angry seems better. It seems nicer.

A much better goal than not being angry, however, is to be able to see clearly what is happening and to improve my ability to sit with the underlying experience and not go immediately in search or someone or something to amend, get, or get rid of. It is a knee-jerk reaction to look outward.

If I can spend even one moment noticing what I’m thinking and feeling rather than being lost in and believing my thoughts, it can alter a given experience dramatically, revealing responses (including that of doing nothing) that would have been swallowed up in a rush to action. Doing nothing at all is appropriate in a surprisingly large number of situations.

Spending that moment to look inward is also a way of being kind to myself, of saying, “Hello, little knot in my stomach; I see you. I’m with you.” The actual feeling can so easily get lost if I believe my thoughts and proceed accordingly: “That jerk almost hit me! I’m going to go pound on his window.”

Making a split second of space here and there for my actual experience doesn’t mean I might not still decide to have a word with the other person; I well might. But it will probably be a different conversation if I have remembered to experience my own discomfort first and observe what my mind is up to.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Christmas Blowout

Friday after work I saw my acupuncturist. As he was leaving the room after sticking me full of needles, he asked if it was warm enough. I said another degree or two of heat would be good— “Just don’t melt the chocolate in my backpack.”

On Saturday, Tina and I went to the Rafael theater in San Rafael and saw Lesley Ann Patten’s film Words of My Perfect Teacher, about her Bhutanese teacher of Tibetan Buddhism, Khyentse Norbu. Beforehand, we had dinner at a Chinese restaurant and later we had after-film refreshments and a nice chat. The film was delightful, as was the evening in general. If you’re looking for a good-looking teacher, this is your man. (Is that blasphemous?)

On Sunday afternoon, Christmas Eve, Tom and I took the train to Paul and Eva’s in Sacramento, where gathered Tom’s terrific family and several lucky friends, for a splendid feast cooked by Eva with help from Sarah, and pleasant conversation and candles and a tree and cheery decorations and a mountain of gifts.

I must thank Chris for not saying, “Hey, I thought you were a vegan.” For the holiday, I was following the Buddha’s eating plan, which was that he ate what was offered to him. I trust he enjoyed what he ate as much as I enjoyed Eva’s Christmas Eve dinner.

One of the sauces was made with cranberries and horseradish, which sounds awful, but proved to be quite tasty. I confirmed this via the scientific method of repeated testing.

It was a wonderful evening. Eva described some of Sweden’s Christmas traditions to us. Someone asked her what the analogue is for the lump of coal bad children here get. “What happens when you’re bad in Sweden?” “We’re not bad in Sweden,” said Eva.

This Christmas will be remembered as the one on which someone surprised his wife with a cruise to Alaska, only to end up quite surprised himself when it turned out his wife had gotten him the exact same thing, right down to the itinerary and meal times.

Tom and I spent the night in Steve and Julie’s plush guest room and in the morning, we all went back to Paul and Eva’s to have breakfast and examine the contents of our stockings. The various stocking Santas—five in all—were so generous that the stockings per se had to be left where they were, hanging in front of the fireplace, and replaced by bags.

In the early afternoon, Steve, Julie, Tom and I drove to Mill Valley to see Ann and Mac. In the car, Julie and I made our traditional Christmas phone calls to our loved ones in Michigan. At Ann and Mac’s, we had yummy things to eat and spent the afternoon chatting; some were observed taking peeks at the football game on TV. It was very nice, as always.

Steve and Julie kindly drove me and Tom back to San Francisco before going back to Sacramento. This is also a tradition, and it’s very gracious of them; otherwise, Tom and I would have to have the tradition of sleeping outside the ferry terminal until the next day, or on Ann’s living-room floor.

When I got home Christmas night, I opened a box from my father, which was full to the brim with various cooking-related items: silicone spatulas, scrapers, a box to keep recipes in, tongs, a citrus squeezer and a food chopper. I was very tickled, and, as always, touched by my father’s thoughtfulness. The box always comes with a note (from “Santa”) in green and red print that explains anything about the enclosed items Santa wants the recipient to know.

Christmas Eve was the first night Hammett was alone at home. I was worried he would get up to some mischief and considered keeping him out of the living room, but I didn’t end up doing that, and when I got home, I found he had behaved perfectly. He was rewarded by two gifts from Ann and expressions of approval from his mother.

On Tuesday, I slept until 5 p.m., except for going out to Rainbow for groceries. You’d think I had been on a five-day bender and not merely spent a day or so eating goodies prepared by other people and opening presents, which evidently now requires an entire day of recuperation.

Well, there is nothing nicer to recuperate from. Once again I marveled at my good fortune in making friends with Tom, who brought so many beloved people into my life.

Chris came to town today and he and I and Tom and Sarah had lunch at Henry’s Hunan, the one off New Montgomery. It is an extra-special treat to see Chris, because he is usually so far away.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Laying Waste to Holiday Goodies, Finally

In the food realm, I have been practicing just eating when I eat. It’s kind of amazing that with a lifelong focus on food and what was eaten or not, in this amount or that, and whether I was good for eating it or bad (in the pre-OO era, mostly I was bad), there have been mighty few moments of actually being present for the experience, let alone enjoying it.

Since the outpouring of reminders from my OO friends, I have been just eating when I eat, and trying to notice and appreciate at least a bite now and then. This makes it considerably easier to stop when my stomach says it’s had enough.

I went out to dinner at We Be Sushi with a friend a couple of weeks ago (the one nearer 16th St.). What I had was really wonderful, but I noticed I was absolutely stuffing it in, as if there would be something very shameful about being observed enjoying eating.

I realized later that part of the problem there was that my chopstick skills are so poor that I always have to put a whole piece of sushi in my mouth, but Lisa C. confirmed this week that that in fact is proper, though she said pieces of sushi in America can be larger than they are in Japan.

I have a nascent zit just about where a dimple is on my left cheek. Each is enhancing the effect of the other, so when I’m smiling, it looks like I have a really deep dimple, and when I’m not smiling, it looks like I have a major zit.

It reminds me of when my fairy godmother, Ben, invited me to a gathering at his house a few years ago, on a day when I had perhaps the two worst skin eruptions I have ever had. They were enormous and just ghastly looking.

Later that day Frank picked me up and we went somewhere in his car. In that era, we would say to each other now and then, with the friendliest of feelings, “May God smite you with a sty.” When he saw me, he said tactfully, “God did smite you.”

Earlier this week Lisa C. and I had a splendid lunch at Medicine in the Crocker Galleria. We both had yuzu lemonade (that’s a Japanese citrus fruit), of which Medicine’s version is marvelous.

Yesterday I was thinking that usually, around this time in December, I feel I have eaten way too many sweets, what with the boxes of See’s candy and barrels of Almond Roca that tend to wash in, but none of that has happened this year, so I was pleased when my coworker brought in some tasty homemade chocolate-chip cookies.

After I had my way with them, she said, “I’m glad you didn’t feel constrained by dietary restrictions from having some cookies,” but I’m pretty sure she meant, “I’m glad you didn’t feel constrained by manners from eating all the cookies.”

One year at this time I was working in the building management office at 120 Montgomery. We received an unbelievable amount of candy. I remember my coworker asking me one day, “Wasn’t that a two-pound box?”


“Didn’t we just get it 45 minutes ago?”


I have been inspired lately by my pen pal, Mily, who is always sending these emails saying, “We did this fun thing and then we did that fun thing, and tomorrow we’re going to do this other fun thing.” Then I go to Flickr and see a photo of her doing something fun that she didn’t even mention!

It occurred to me that I could do more fun things, but then I thought, “Naw, I can’t, because I’m not a we.” But then I remembered that I probably will always be an I, which doesn’t mean I can’t do fun things.

At a gathering at Paul and Eva’s once, some of Eva’s friends said that it had been great to turn 50 because it imparted a sense of urgency: that if you thought, “Maybe I’d like to do such-and-such,” you knew you’d better go do it without delay.

Lately I have been planning days as if I were planning an outing with a favored companion: “Let’s have lunch here and then go to a movie and then stroll by the bookstore.” Then I go do that by myself, and it’s fun.

I am very generously supplied with first-rate phone friends, email friends, and friends that live somewhere else, but what is in somewhat short supply is in-person friends to go to the movies with—the ones I have are fantastic, to be sure—so I have been reviewing my address book (i.e., printout of a database) to see if I’m overlooking anyone, and I also have concluded that it may be time to make some new friends.

Thus I am very pleased by the in-person return of Tina, who is the wonderful variety of new friend known as the old friend.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Yet Another Fantastic Thing About Getting Older

This failing memory thing is proving to be great: since the bulk of my thoughts are aversive, every time I forget about one, there’s an uptick in happiness.

It is possible I forgot I got a letter saying I won the lottery, but it’s more likely that I forgot I sent so-and-so an email (hence, I’m not peeved I haven’t received an answer), I forgot I was going to ask Tom to do or not do something (hence, Tom continues to have peace of mind, though he really has entirely too much of that already), I forgot my coworker did something intolerable yesterday, I forgot I don’t like that person, and so forth.

My mother claims that as you age, your worry center rots away. I don’t like the word “rots,” but if it’s really true, it sounds wonderful. (I do like the word “goiter,” but she hasn’t said anything about age and goiters or the lack thereof.)

Over the weekend, I went to see Little Children and then to see Candy. I’d forgotten, speaking of forgetting, to bring the piece of paper that had the movie times on it, so in case there wasn’t going to be time to take the bus, I got in a cab to go from one theater to the next.

Then I found I couldn’t remember the cross street for the theater, so I told the driver I needed to go posthaste to the Lumiere. As we proceeded through the streets, I realized that if I had been able to remember the cross street, I would have caused us to arrive at the wrong theater, as I was trying to picture the cross street for Opera Plaza, though the movie really was at the Lumiere, so there is another example of how handy it can be not to be able to remember anything. I feel increasingly free.

The part about winning the lottery was merely a conventional example of something good. I’ve always thought that if I won an enormous sum of money, it would wreck my life completely. To be on the safe side, I never play the lottery.

In sum, it may be that James Hetfield sent me an email inviting me to dinner and I forgot, but you know what? If he really wants to go, he’ll try again.

I’m starting to rely on the fact that if I can just not think about something actively for an increasingly short period of time, I will forget about it entirely, which is, more often than not, good.

It’s like the “Wally period” in Dilbert cartoons. I guess this technically is the amount of time you wait to begin a project in case it ends up getting canceled, but I think of it as being the amount of time that it takes for a given thing to become completely moot. Absolutely everything has a Wally period.

Little Children, by the way, was in some ways enjoyable—much of it was pretty to look at—but it made my stomach clench up an awful lot, and there was one hideous and somewhat ambiguous image I will probably never be able to forget, so I’m not sure I’d recommend this to anyone who hasn’t already determined to see it.

In Candy, Heath Ledger plays a heroin addict. Alas, I missed one of his final lines, in which he explains the reason for a major decision. This movie could be filed with Requiem for a Dream, but the latter is better; it’s positively harrowing.

The two most harrowing movies I’ve ever seen: Requiem for a Dream and—aargh! I’ve forgotten the name of the other one, plus forgotten the name of the actress who was in it. I was thinking Emily Mortimer, but it’s not her. It’s someone you might tend to think of when you think of Emily Mortimer, and it’s about a young woman who allows herself to be used sexually by a brutal bunch of men on a ship to please her husband or get back at him; I forget which.

The men on the ship are violent and abusive, and in the final scene of the movie, she is heading out to the ship once again, where you know something terrible is going to happen to her.

Ah! Found it via Google: Breaking the Waves. Emily Watson.

The next two most harrowing movies: Boys Don’t Cry and Dead Ringers.

Most harrowing movie scene: The rape scene in Monster.

There were two young ladies talking all the way through Candy, though that isn’t why I missed the crucial line of dialogue. I just missed it because I’m going deaf as well as losing my memory.

I said “Shh” to the inconsiderate movie patrons once, and turned around and gave them my best look of unbearable suffering once, and then I tried to ignore them. Not so the person behind them, who yelled, “Jesus!” and then later, “Shut up!”

Hammett is doing well in that his diarrhea has not come back (at least in the five or so days since he finished his medication), so I have canceled the appointment I had made with Dr. Press for tomorrow.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Huh, the Arctic Sea Ice Is Melting Like Crazy

I have also been noticing my thoughts about food coming into clear focus lately. I’ll be picking up something to eat that I’m not physically hungry for and hear an optimistic little voice in my head say, “After I eat this, I won’t feel anxious anymore,” or “I won’t be tired,” or “My sore throat will feel better.”

I’m sure I’ve been thinking these things my entire life, but have never seen them so clearly. It gives me the opportunity to answer, “But food doesn’t cure anxiety! Don’t get me wrong, you’re welcome to eat it whether you’re hungry or not, but it will not have any effect on anxiety.”

Then, if all goes well, I describe to myself what I’m feeling anxious about and—this is key—drop the story and tune into the accompanying physical feelings, even if only for a moment or two. To do this, I put my focus on my stomach and chest in turn and just try to notice what sensations are there.

I’m positive that this is slowly but surely increasing my tolerance for yucky feelings and improving my ability to think about problems rather than eat about them, as Carol Munter and Jane Hirschmann say in their wonderful books, particularly When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies: Freeing Yourself from Food and Weight Obsession. (Notice that it says nothing about freeing yourself from food or weight per se.) I’m encouraged.

Here is another great thing about my mother: she is highly prone to enthusiasm. I told her that she and Dad should see the Metallica documentary and they actually did, and then she sent me this, in part:

“We got Some Kind of Monster from Netflix, and one of us watched the whole thing, and the other of us claimed his or her ears hurt and went to bed early.

“Then I ran to my computer to order some Metallica music. But I'm weak on follow-through, and now I may not actually buy any. But I did bond with the group for a few hours. Hammett and Hetfield, yeah! And Lars, and Robert Trujillo is very cool, too.”

Wednesday of this week was my 27th sobriety anniversary. I started drinking when I was nine and went to AA when I was 17. I was telling a friend that yesterday and he said, “You probably needed that drink when you were nine.” “I did need it,” I agreed.

I had one of my approximately twice-per-lifetime facials this week, lovingly provided by Carla Martino, whom I like very much, at Noe Valley Salon (when they answer the phone, it sounds like they’re saying “Envious”). She is a darling person and the experience is extremely pleasant. She does massage, too, and other skin-related things. I advise a trip to see her posthaste.

Some years ago there was an article in The New Yorker about the behavior of shoppers, which I found riveting and have never forgotten, though I hate to shop. It was about the work of Paco Underhill. I am now reading his book, Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping, which is very interesting.

I have just finished a section on how when the bulk of the Baby Boomers are old, which is well underway, it is going to have a profound effect on the shopping experience, because, as at all ages, we are going to insist that everything is geared to us—whatever age we are is the best age to be—so there will be no more, “Geeze, the print on the back of this aspirin package is so small.” The print is going to cease being small once the Boomers start to howl.

In the dharma department, I am reading one of Ayya Khema's 25 books. This one is called Being Nobody, Going Nowhere: Meditations on the Buddhist Path, and it is one sentence after the other of what Howie calls "pith instructions."

I had a remarkable experience yesterday which could never have happened in the pre-OO era. In those days, officially, no kind of junk food was allowed in my house, but when it frequently entered, for bingeing purposes, it was always gone before the next morning, even if that meant getting up in the middle of the night to finish it.

I noticed a large container on my kitchen counter, which is about 18 inches by four feet: tiny. “Wonder what’s in there?” I said to Hammett. It proved to be half an apple fritter left from two days prior! I couldn’t believe it. I have never in 44 years forgotten about anything pertaining to any apple fritter. For that matter, there has never been such a thing as a not entirely finished apple fritter. “Boy, this OO stuff has, over time, wrought a miracle,” I marveled.

I mean, that’s like a chronic alcoholic forgetting there is a fifth of vodka in the cupboard, or a heroin addict forgetting there’s a gross or a school of—well, I don’t know how you measure heroin, but you get my drift.

But then it occurred to me that it might just be a symptom of a failing memory, or even of a lamentable George Bushian placidity in regard to that which is glaringly obvious or even alarming: “Huh, lookit that.”

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

This Is Oceans of Fun!

Hammett was very good about taking his medication, after the first day, when he caused the syringe I left on the kitchen counter to disappear. Fortunately, what with one sick cat and the other, I have several.

On a couple of occasions, when he saw the yellow towel I wrap him in and the plate with the syringe full of medication on it, he even lay down in the medication-administering area to wait. “I’d like Tropical Pink on my toenails, please. What, you’re going to squirt it down my throat? Well, OK, whatever.”

I always start by saying, “This is going to be easy and fun.”

We have an appointment next week with Dr. Press, in case Hammett’s diarrhea comes back, which it probably will.

Over the weekend, which was a three-day weekend for me because I took Monday off, Tom and I saw Shut Up & Sing, the Dixie Chicks documentary. I liked it even more the second time, and Tom liked it, too. I asked him afterwards who is cuter, Natalie Maines or Jennifer Garner, and it was a toss-up.

I bought Hammett some more of the balls that he likes, and constructed cardboard barriers to keep them from ending up under the refrigerator and stove, because I’m getting tired of getting down on my aching old knees and fishing them out with a yardstick. I brought home 200 pounds of cat litter in a cab (25-pound bags of unscented Scamp, which is the best—no dust, no weird smell, no weird color, no clumps, no this, no that).

I went to the new Bloomingdale’s and walked through the mall, pursuant to a clothes-shopping chore I have been putting off for three or four years. Every weekend for at least 156 weekends in a row, there has been a good reason I can’t do it, such as that it’s November, or December, or summer, or it’s raining, or I have something else to do, or it’s already 11 a.m.

I did a whole day of baggy-pants sewing, ending up with four new pairs, including the ones with golden koi on them. I’m going to wear those on Friday. I think my acupuncturist will appreciate them. While I sewed, I listened to all of my Ratt albums, per tradition.

I saw the Asian guy who has my favorite hairdo, very short but with two beetling little antennas sticking straight up. For the first time, he was close enough for me to tell him so. He seemed a bit distracted and asked the way to a certain shop, which I realized later was one of the shops belonging to James Kim and his wife. I was thinking about James Kim’s final moments, how maybe he knew he was dying and that he would never see his wife and little girls again. It’s so sad.

The SpongeBob doll I inherited from Frank when he moved back to Dublin said a new thing, which he does every now and then, which always tickles me. Some things he says often: “This is oceans of fun!” “You’re my best friend!” “Are you ready to sing?!”

There has been a good deal of eating from MH (mouth hunger, as opposed to SH, stomach hunger) lately, which had started to distress me. I can usually catch those thoughts that say, “My stomach is too big,” and apologize to myself and ask “Who says?”, but thoughts such as “All this eating from MH is not good” had snuck up on me and taken root.

Of course, the more I think I shouldn’t eat from MH, the more I want to do it.

I was also gaining weight (or else some of my existing weight had suddenly decided to migrate to the portion of the anatomy known as the spare tire) and had formed the opinion that I was possibly going to gain a hundred pounds and that that would not be OK.

I made an increased effort to eat mindfully, but that backfired, as some part of my psyche interpreted it as The Mindfulness Diet and, understandably, rebelled.

Finally, I appealed to my OO friends (Overcoming Overeating; see the books of Jane Hirschmann and Carol Munter), who reminded me that if I was eating from MH, it was because I needed to, and if I gained a hundred pounds, it was also because I needed to. Most of all, they reminded me to treat myself well in every possible way.

This brought an immediate sigh of relief. I gave myself permission to eat from MH and to gain a hundred pounds if need be, and assured myself that I would accept myself at any size. The very next day, I found myself eating without distractions, really experiencing at least a bite here and there, and stopping when my body had had enough, which is always the hardest part: saying goodbye.

I have been visualizing doing this the past few days, just to get a mental picture of what it might look like, since it is a vanishingly rare phenomenon in real life.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Blamers Dispatch Junior Misogynists with Alacrity

So the other day I was perusing Twisty Faster’s blog (I Blame the Patriarchy), which the mere thought of makes me smile, and saw a post about an ugly brouhaha that had flared up in The New Hampshire, which bills itself as The Student Publication of The University of New Hampshire, obviously a place to avoid.

A student named Melissa DaCosta had written a letter to the editor about what struck her as sexist overtones on a poster promoting safe sex. The poster showed a man with a baseball bat and a woman with a catcher’s glove on, suggesting that sex is something done by a man to a woman.

Her well-written opinion (which, of course, she is one hundred percent entitled to whether others agree with it or not) occasioned hundreds of comments from men saying she needed a “deep-dicking” and worse, thus neatly proving her point.

I’d put a link here, though normally I don’t like to put a link right in a post because I think it clutters up the text in an unpleasing way, but I can’t because the letter and all the responses have disappeared from The New Hampshire’s website as of this morning.

Twisty used it as an occasion for reminding her readers that—well, here, you can read it for yourself. Now I’m on a slippery slope with these horrible links:

After reading many, many hateful, violent comments from male “students” at this institution I had formerly not thought ill of—in fact, I had not thought of it at all, but henceforth, any mention of it will cause a frisson of distaste—I became worried that no woman was going to second Melissa’s view, or at least say that she has a right to express it without being buried in threats and insults.

I imagine these jerks would not dream of making such comments in front of their sisters, mothers or grandmothers. They also probably would not make them if their real names and addresses were attached.

When a woman did finally respond, it was to agree with the male commenters, which was rather depressing.

I realized I would have to charge to Ms. DaCosta’s defense and made some notes that evening. The next morning I posted my response and then set to the task of reading the comments between the last one I’d read and mine. There were 452 comments in all at that point.

There was much more of the same, and then, finally, some intelligent and supportive responses from women, and, nice to see, intelligent and supportive responses from men.

Then I saw a post signed Twisty Faster and then a whole series of posts via which Twisty’s smart, well-spoken and indomitable readers—I’m sure it was them, following the same impulse I had—effortlessly assumed control of the discussion, in terms that made the first responders sound like absolute morons. It left me a little dewy-eyed.

By the time the Twisty Crew was done with the “You need to get laid” crowd, any further comment in that vein sounded not menacing or alarming, which the first several dozen had, in part because there were so many of them, but just feeble and ridiculous. Such posts trailed off mighty quickly after the Blamers arrived.

All such comments would always be completely laughable if it weren’t for the real abuses being committed against women all the time, all over the world, from the view that women must be, look, act, and speak, or not speak, in certain ways in order to be in compliance, to hourly rapes and murders of women all over the world, very often by their husbands or boyfriends.

In the end, the discussion in The New Hampshire was a bracing and uplifting experience. It reminded me that some men hate women, as Twisty says (except she says men hate women, period), which is not a bad thing to be aware of, and also reminded me that there are lots of smart, assertive feminists around, of both (I mean, all) genders. Thanks, Mom, for being a feminist and teaching me to be the same.

Hammett ended up having diarrhea all day yesterday, and then he ate only one third to one half of his dinner. This morning he was still having diarrhea. I called Dr. Gordon and we will begin an anti-diarrhea antibiotic, which will be in liquid form, to be administered via syringe, plus I will start the Panacur again this evening or tomorrow, after I get some baby food to put it in.

As in Thelonious’s final weeks, the sheets and comforter cover need to be laundered nearly every wash day, and there is much dabbing at little smears of poop in between.

I hope Hammett is not a generally frail cat who will die young. He doesn’t seem one bit unwell, though he risks becoming dehydrated if the diarrhea persists. He seems very energetic and enthusiastic. All I can do is take him to the vet and do what the vet says.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Interesting Report About Hammett’s Butt

I’m now a little worried about Hammett’s butt, which means everyone has to worry about Hammett’s butt. It’s actually his intestines, but “butt” sounds more exciting. First, a recap about Hammett’s butt: In the first week he was living with me, he began to have diarrhea, and he dripped a huge drop of blood on the bathroom floor. In addition, his butt smelled quite awful most of the time.

I took him to the clinic at the SPCA—they provide free medical care for 30 days after the adoption—and they said the blood was due to the diarrhea, or maybe it was Dr. Gordon at Mission Pet Hospital who said that.

The SPCA gave Hammy a deworming pill and I had to give another some weeks later, plus administer Flagyl in liquid form for five days.

The smell continued, so I took him back to Dr. Gordon, who expressed Hammett’s anal glands, which is not the same thing as encouraging them to express themselves (“Write a poem! Start a blog! Here’s a watercolor set!”). His anal glands have not been a problem since.

The diarrhea has come and gone since then. Most of his poop is perfectly firm. Sometimes part of it is soft, or sometimes the last bit of it is watery, meaning that where he sits next, he will leave a brown mark.

Dr. Gordon, during one office visit or another, said to administer Advantage (a drop of flea-egg-killing stuff you dab on the back of the cat’s neck) twice and possibly several more times after that, depending on the results. Hammett does not appear to have fleas, but Dr. Gordon said sometimes there can be just one lurking somewhere that can cause anal gland problems; I have no idea why the two would be related.

As instructed, I squeezed the tube of Advantage right onto the skin of the back of his neck. A big wet blotch appeared on his neck and subsequently on his pillow, making me wonder if he’d even gotten enough of the dose. It had a strong smell and was greasy, so I had to try to keep him off the bed that night.

Hammett was also prescribed Panacur, a deworming powder to be given for five days. “This one’s easy,” said the front-desk person who handed it to me. “You mix it with wet food.”

Of course, it turned out that Hammett does not like wet food. He had been eating Science Diet, presumably both wet and dry, at the SPCA, so I got some tasty-looking canned Science Diet and mixed the Panacur into it. He licked up the gravy but left most of the food sitting there.

The next day, I tried junking the solid parts of the food and mixing the Panacur into just the gravy. He wouldn’t eat it.

I wanted to keep him from being exposed to tuna the way one might want to keep a human kid from trying crack, but the next day I gave in and put the Panacur in tuna. He wouldn’t eat it.

I put the remaining Panacur into gelatin capsules, three per dose. The fourth day or the fifth, I got two of the capsules down him but he spit out the third when it was too late to salvage, meaning he got only 2/3 of the dose.

I called Dr. Gordon and he said to repeat the Panacur.

I have some misgivings about giving this small cat so many drugs and was hoping he’d suggest just trying a different food. Dr. Gordon said he respects that point of view, but Panacur is safe for very young cats and he thinks it will be good to get the entire dose into Hammett.

So I called the SPCA to see exactly what food Hammett would have been eating there and went and bought seven cans of it: two to feed him before starting the Panacur to make sure he’d actually eat it, and five cans for the Panacur.

I put this food out one evening earlier this week and he eagerly ate about two tablespoons of it and then wouldn’t touch the rest. He was starving the next morning, when I put out his regular food (dry Innova).

I made yet another call to Dr. Gordon, who said to try putting the Panacur into a tablespoon or two of tuna water, or into beef or chicken baby food. I asked if that would be enough to disguise the taste of the Panacur and he said it should be. That seems improbable to me, but I will go get some baby food and see if Hammett likes it.

This morning, there was a tremendous pile of diarrhea in the litter box. He has been pooping regularly, so I don’t understand where all that could have come from. If the diarrhea continues, I will call Dr. Gordon again.

(Why Dr. Gordon and not Dr. Press? Dr. Gordon works on Saturdays and Dr. Press doesn’t, and I’m trying to minimize my absences from work, of which there were many when Thelonious was dying.)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Hopping to the Phone Like a Rabbit

Herewith an announcement I never expected to make: I have developed an affectionate attachment to a Dixie Chicks CD.

Tom lent me Home, which came out in 2002, and on which most songs were not written by them, and Taking the Long Way, which came out in 2006, and on which most songs were written by them. Home is horrible. Taking the Long Way is, considering it’s a genre I can’t stand, wonderful.

I don’t like every song on it, but I like a surprising number, and am crazy about a couple (in particular, “Silent House,” which is really gorgeous). One song (“Not Ready to Make Nice”) is about the brouhaha about Natalie Maines’ remark about President Bush (that she was ashamed he was from her home state of Texas).

In Shut Up & Sing, Barbara Kopple’s documentary about the Dixie Chicks, one of them says the fallout was the best thing that could have happened to them. Listening to Taking the Long Way, I’d say that was absolutely true. I was thinking I would actually buy this CD, but then realized it would be easier to call Tom and inform him that the Dixie Chicks CD that used to be his is now mine. (I bought him another this week. He hadn’t even heard it when he lent it to me! He’s awfully nice.)

I saw my acupuncturist Friday night for the first time in several weeks. I had been in a sluggish period where many things—taking a shower, washing the dishes, getting up in a timely fashion to go to work—seemed difficult, and going clear across town for any reason impossible. I canceled two appointment in a row, both with precisely twenty-four hours’ notice, which is procedurally correct, but I still felt kind of like a flake and faintly guilty when I finally arrived, though I’m sure it’s all the same to him. He has the air of one to whom it’s all the same, in a good way.

It was so nice to see his face, I was surprised I had stayed away. I scolded him, “It was horrible without you. Don’t ever leave me again.” He grinned, enjoying the joke.

During Car Talk this weekend, one of the brothers wondered aloud what the various radio stations use the two breaks in the program for. The other answered that they use the first break to apologize for Car Talk being on the air, and the second to tell their listeners that a real radio program will be on in 21 minutes and to please wait for that.

During the second break, the KQED announcer described the next show that was going to be on and said, absolutely deadpan, “This real radio program is just 21 minutes away, so please stay with us.”

I came down with a cold on Saturday and so didn’t do much over the weekend. On Saturday, I took P. to see Casino Royale, which I enjoyed, but I ended up irritated with him, as always, and think that was the last time I’ll be taking him out.

While we were riding in the cab down to the theater, we passed my house and I asked the driver to stop so I could run in for a bottle of water, which I’d realized I might need to quell coughing during the movie. When I got back in the cab, P. was smoking a cigarette. He quickly, and typically, laid the blame elsewhere: “The driver told me to smoke in the cab!” I did cough horribly throughout the movie.

I’d told P. that he would not be able to leave the theater during the movie, because his sister doesn’t want him wandering around by himself, and I don’t want to miss any of the movie, so I was also annoyed when he announced halfway through, “I have to go to the bathroom!” I asked him to wait and crossed my fingers that his bladder wouldn’t burst. It didn’t. Later, his sister said he probably just wanted to go outside and have a cigarette, which hadn’t occurred to me.

A teensy piece of a filling fell out of one of my molars today. The last time it was repaired, it was so horrible—I can’t stand having air blown on my teeth—I hoped I would go the whole rest of my life without it falling out again. Maybe I won’t even have it fixed, or maybe I’ll ask them to give me general anesthesia and remove the tooth plus its neighbor, to scare the others into compliance.

Several days ago, I telephoned Tom, who lives right above me. I could hear that he was up there, but his machine answered. His message played, and then I began to leave my message. Then there was a terrible crashing and banging overhead and I said, “What are you doing up there? Stop that.” Tom picked up the phone and said, “I’m hopping to the phone like a rabbit."