Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Lucid Dreamer Mildly Perturbed by Missing Finger

The lucid dreaming project is now six months old, and I’m averaging two lucid dreams a month, which is an absolutely satisfactory state of affairs. My goal is to be able to have them pretty much at will, and to be able to prolong lucidity for some minutes.

I had stopped having an alarm go off in the middle of the night on the theory that I want to be able to have lucid dreams without external aids, but then I decided that it’s probably good to have the artificial awakenings while I’m still learning (for the next ten years, probably), so I have alarms that go off every night at 1:30 a.m. and 3 a.m. Yes, I am a zealot.

The idea is that after such an awakening, you may go right back into REM sleep, the kind of sleep most dreaming takes place in, and since there’s a relatively short time between being awake and being in REM sleep, you might have a better chance of recalling your intentions.

Several months ago, this wouldn’t have worked because I would not have been able to get back to sleep, but now I usually can drop off again after being up in the middle of the night.

I lately had one of my best lucid dreams in quite a while, when it dawned on me apropos of nothing that I was dreaming, and then I did a reality check to confirm that. I counted my fingers and there were six: I’m dreaming!

I remembered to jump up and down, and to practice hovering in the air, and then I did another reality check, just for the heck of it. This time I counted five fingers and thought, “That can’t be right.” I counted again and was back to six fingers. Then everything crumbled and turned black in front of my face, but I didn’t wake up, as I realized later.

The ending of every lucid dream prior to this one has coincided with waking up. Because I didn’t wake up after this one, I almost didn’t realize I’d had it. I remembered two or three dreams in the morning and was writing them down when the lucid dream popped back into my mind, thank goodness.

My left knee is slowly coming along, since the big knock it received on December 21, but still hurts and is still red and sore looking. Jack advised putting arnica on it—arnica is good for bruising, stiffness and muscle pain—so I’ve been experimenting with Nelson’s arnica cream, and topical Traumeel, which is arnica plus several other things. (I also tried some internal Traumeel, but it gave me a headache.)

Both of these are homeopathic remedies, though they don’t truly meet the standards for homeopathic medicine, in that they actually contain appreciable amounts of their active ingredients. Did you know that in homeopathy, the more diluted a substance is, the more powerful it’s considered to be, with the very “strongest” potion having virtually no measurable amount of the agent? I’m reserving comment on that.

I think these creams have been helpful, and have decided the arnica is the better of the two. It rubs in very nicely, while the Traumeel can tend to flake, eventually, and it feels slightly stickier. Neither has stained my clothing.

Last weekend, I went for the first time to the new (i.e., four years old) de Young Museum, with Carol Joy. Carol Joy had seen a King Tut exhibit long ago, so we skipped that—there was a huge line, anyway—
and saw much of the permanent collection, and the quilt exhibit, and we had lunch in the museum café.

Yesterday evening, my little meditation group met at the Zen Center. I was going to have dinner at Ananda Fuara, but it was closed, so I went on to Hayes Valley and was pleased to see red neon lights screaming “taqueria” right next to La Boulange de Hayes, but by the time I crossed the street, it was nowhere to be seen. I finally figured out that what I’d seen was Timbuk2, and wishful thinking and imprecise observation had done the rest.

I went and tried Café Altano at Hayes and Laguna, which was wonderful and reasonably priced. I had squash ravioli. It was delicious, and the atmosphere is pleasant.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Little Peek at Garrison

Last weekend was top-notch in terms of entertainment. Tom and I went to see the Cirque du Soleil show Ovo on Friday night, a mesmerizing, beautiful spectacle. They are such amazing performers, and the costumes were so gorgeous and inventive. It was extremely funny in parts, and the live music was outstanding.

Afterward, we went to see the Red Cross ship that is docked at about the east end of 16th St. I first saw it several days ago on my bike ride home and was awestruck. It’s huge, with few windows, and entirely white except for a couple of giant crosses painted in red. Tom and the cab driver were properly impressed. I think the cab driver was a little nervous when we got in the cab and said that we wanted to go to the Mission, but first we wanted to go in the exact opposite direction, to that dark and desolate spot, but as we were leaving the ship, he said he was going to go back the next day with his camera.

On Saturday morning, I saw D. at the hospice and we went to see her cat as described below, and then I went to the War Memorial Opera House for a taping of Prairie Home Companion, of which I have become a fan.

It was a thrill to see Garrison Keillor in person. He has very long legs and moves quite gracefully. He was wearing a tan suit and white dress shirt and a very bright red tie, and red Adidas tennis shoes, or at any rate, red tennis shoes with three white stripes. We could see the house band and all the guest musicians and the man and woman who do the voices, and the sound effects fellow, who acts things out even when it doesn't contribute to the sonic landscape. When he was making a bird sound, he flapped his arms like a bird, which was charming.

The house band warmed up at 2:45, and at 3 p.m. sharp, the opening theme was heard, and at 5 p.m. sharp, it was over, though the house band played one encore and Garrison Keillor came back out for that. The show is evidently broadcast live in some places. It's not live here, but almost: I got home at perhaps 5:30 p.m. and at 6 p.m. I heard that same show starting on KQED and felt thrilled all over again.

Saturday evening, Tom and I got a City CarShare car and went across the bay to take Lisa M. out for a birthday dinner at Sweet Basil Thai in Berkeley or Albany. I think it’s actually in Albany, but the charge slip said Berkeley. Anyway, the food was really fantastic at this tiny place which has very pleasant ambience. It was also half as much as you’d pay on Valencia St., with entrees in the neighborhood of $10. I highly recommend it and will likely visit again one day. I had vegetarian pad see yew with soft tofu, and Thai iced coffee. Then we went to downtown Berkeley, right near the BART station, for gelato.

On Sunday I did nothing, more or less, and on Monday, a day off from work, I watched three DVDs: Daddy Nostalgia, Rudo y Cursi, and The Other Man. My favorite was Rudo y Cursi, which was quite funny. It stars Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal as Mexican soccer players who get a shot at stardom.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Rightly Indignant Bug

On the first day of this year, I met my new hospice visitee, D., who is only 57. The first thing I noticed was how beautifully she’d decorated her room at the hospice, though she’d only been there a few days. It is full of art and gorgeous things to look at and framed photos, and she herself was dressed on that day as if she were going on a date, complete with sparkling jewelry.

I have since been struck by the contrast between us, how I will let the simplest thing go undone year after year because in a mere thirty years, give or take, I’m going to be dead and it won’t matter anymore, while D., who actually may die very soon, does every possible thing to make her living space and appearance just the way she wants them. So she can enjoy them today.

To be around her is suddenly to be surrounded by dogs and cats and people and gifts. Plans mutate from moment to moment and there is a certain excitement in the air.

Embarrassingly, D. is more at peace with her death than I am. The hospice volunteer is not supposed to say, “So, I gather you’re going to die.” But nor is the hospice volunteer supposed to pretend the patient is not going to die, and twice I have caught myself saying things that implied D. has a possibly long future.

One of them had to do with a hair appointment she wanted me to make for her at a famous salon. I pride myself somewhat on getting things done, but I was no match for this place. I absolutely could not get through to them. But when I started to apologize to D. on the phone for not having been able to make the appointment yet, she said, “Oh, don’t worry—I took care of it.”

I complimented her, “Next time I need help making something happen, I know who to turn to,” and she was pleased, but I probably oughtn’t to have said that, because she won’t be here to turn to for long, though I now have no doubt she’s going to do plenty of things while she is still here.

The next time I saw her, she made sure I understood that she is going to die. She told me she has paid for her cremation—she said it’s going to be X number of dollars, in contrast to that of a friend of hers, whose cremation was arranged after he had died, and cost 20 times that amount. Apparently, once there is a decomposing body in the picture, they have you by the short hairs. D. said as much, and that she wasn’t having that, and so she has already taken care of it, along with choosing the place for her memorial service and lining up a pastor to officiate.

She said she wants me to attend her service, and as we discussed it and I pictured us all there remembering her, I was afraid I might cry right then. I felt sad to think of her gone. In fact, I can hardly imagine it. She is so full of life.

The last time I saw her, our third time together, I took her by cab to visit her cat in her cat’s new home, and D. got in a fight with the cab driver. Normally that wouldn’t seem highly positive, but under the circumstances, I thought it was great.

My small meditation group met last week. Beforehand, I walked from work to Ananda Fuara for dinner, and then from there to the Zen Center. At Seventh and Market, a white homeless guy in a rage threw something at a black homeless guy. The thing—a banana—missed the intended target and hit me squarely on the same knee that got bashed in my bicycle accident on December 21, though just a tad above the area that still aches, fortunately.

Then the white guy threw something else at the black guy, missed him again, and hit my other leg! The banana left a welt, but I was just glad it wasn’t a rock, a bottle, or a broken bottle, and that it didn’t hit me in the face.

My apartment seems to have an ant on every possible surface. They are on the kitchen counters, the toilet seat, my pillow, the cat. They are walking up and down the clothes hanging in the closet. An ant is an increasingly unwelcome sight, but per my commitment to non-harming of these tiny creatures, most deaths have been accidental.

I spend some time each morning fishing ants out of Hammett’s water bowl and have even gotten to perform a more dramatic rescue or two, as when one fell into the tub just after I’d turned on the hot water.

I scooped it out of the water as fast as I could with a small piece of paper and set it on the window sill to recuperate, but it didn’t seem to be moving. It needed some life force, perhaps, so I picked up the piece of paper and held it on my hand. Sure enough, the ant feebly waved an arm or two and then suddenly sprang entirely back to life. I set the piece of paper back down and he or she stalked off in high dudgeon.

About a week after New Year’s Day, I met the grilling neighbor and his wife while doing laundry around the corner. The wife and I greeted each other, as always, but, for the first time in a mighty long time, more than a year, the husband also said something to me. I’m happy that now we can all at least say hello again.

A recent New Yorker had an article about the replacing of the venerable fountain at the Lincoln Center. The new fountain is by the world’s foremost water fountain guy, the fellow who did the incredible water show at the Bellagio in the Las Vegas, and the tallest water fountain in the world (it is in Dubai and sends water 500 feet into the air), and, yep, the water feature I like so much at the McNamara Terminal of the Detroit airport.

When I called my mother to draw this to her attention, I made the regrettable discovery that she pronounces McNamara incorrectly, though I was not able to persuade her of this. She seems to think the place is named for McNamara, the Vietnam guy, who was also a president of the Ford Motor Company, and that it’s pronounced MACKNamara, but I feel it is pronounced MICKNamara, since McDonald’s, the ubiquitous burger purveyor, is pronounced MICKDonald’s (isn’t it?).

Did you know McNamara’s middle name was Strange? His mother’s maiden name.

My mother sent me a follow-up email that ended with something like, “I used to be confused about many things when I was young, too (like about 47).”

She also had this good advice: “Be careful, the two things that you could say that will certainly result in a humiliatingly invasive search at the airport are: ‘bomb’ and ‘MICKNamara.’”

Saturday, January 09, 2010

What the Lucid Dreaming Project Looks Like

On 12/16/09, I turned the lights out at 8:54 p.m., and was up again making dream notes at 11:11 p.m., 12:00 a.m., 1:42 a.m., 3:26 a.m. and 4:48 a.m. (A REM period ends approximately every 90 minutes.) The alarm went off at 5:20 a.m. the next day and I recorded five good solid juicy dreams plus three snippets, referring to the dream notes on the floor.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Once in a Blue Moon

The last day of 2009, we were allowed to leave work three hours early, which I wasn’t expecting. I decided to spend this bounty of time eating junk food and watching three DVDs in a row.

After I got home, I got sidetracked reading a novel, but had implemented my plan to the extent of eating way too much sugar when I got a call about vigil.

When I went through hospice training, my intention was to sit with people who were actively dying, in the hopes that no one would die alone. But prior to New Year’s Eve, I had instead spent time with people who were in hospice but not dying per se, which is perfectly fine, and probably most of what I’ll be doing, if only because people spend more time living and even being in hospice than they do actually dying.

And, to tell the truth, somewhere along the line, I’d kind of lost my enthusiasm for being in a room with a corpse, so when I was sitting in my comfy chair, digesting my chocolate cake (and peanut butter brownie), and reading my novel, it didn’t seem like a good thing when I got a call from the worst quadrant of the city, on New Year’s Eve, when I would probably end up stuck in that dangerous neighborhood permanently—I’d probably have to live there, due to not being able to get a cab back—and when the locals would probably be shooting off guns and killing strangers to celebrate the holiday. The last time I tried to get a cab on a New Year’s Eve, I ended up having to walk all the way home.

It also happened to be a full moon, when people act even more strangely than usual (according to the police), and in fact a blue moon! It was the second full moon in a calendar month.

I kept reading for ten minutes or so and finally stood up and listened to the message again, about the lady about to die all alone because the relative who had been visiting her regularly happened to be out of town now that the time had come. Oh, cripe. It wasn’t like I could go next time she died. This was the time.

I wrote down the address and looked it up on Google, since, despite living here for 27 years, I’d never even heard of the street the place was on, nor half the streets you take to get to it. I called a taxi company to see if I’d be able to get a cab to pick me up at that location later in the evening. They falsely claimed it would not be a problem, but I didn’t believe them.

I called Tom to see if he’d by any chance like to spend a couple of hours sitting in the waiting room of a care facility on New Year’s Eve. “Not really,” he said, and when I told him the location, he whistled.

Since Tom is always very optimistic about everything, I decided I absolutely was not going. If even Tom thinks a spot is no good, I definitely don’t belong there. But then he added that if I were to go early in the evening, it would probably be fine, and then we both remembered about City CarShare, which turned out to have a car available a block away.

It was a good thing Tom and I had already tried City CarShare for a past trip, because it might have been stressful to do it for the first time while already worried about six other things, but since I’d already done it, it was perfectly smooth. In fact, it was perfectly smooth the first time. Car sharing is a great thing, and City CarShare makes it simple.

I drove south, eventually admitted I was lost and unfurled my map but couldn’t make out that tiny print—next time I’ll bring one of the many LED lights I’ve gotten for Christmas over the years. As someone who hardly ever drives, I also couldn’t remember how to turn on the hazard lights, which I wanted to do in case someone drove right up behind me, figured out I wasn’t moving, and then shot me with their New Year’s Eve celebration machine gun.

I called Tom and he couldn’t figure out where I was supposed to go either, but he did know how to turn on the flashers, which was good. I headed north again and finally found the place, a lovely, immaculate facility with friendly staff, housed in a gorgeous historical building with high ceilings.

I sat with the dying lady for three hours, until 9:45 p.m. I found out after the fact that she was Catholic and had wanted someone to hold her hand and pray with her. I did neither, because her hands were largely out of reach, and because when I asked at the front desk, “Is she Christian? Does she believe in God?” the young woman there said, “Oh, no!”

“Is she an atheist?”

The young woman nodded, so, being an atheist myself, I just sat with her, right next to her bed, and patted her arm now and then, and read her some Mary Oliver poems quietly, and told her everything was all right, in English and Spanish.

I kind of ended up hoping she would pass away while I was with her, after all, because if she didn’t, it meant she probably would die alone. I learned in hospice training that most people do tend to die in the wee hours and alone.

She slept during most of our time together. She tried to speak a time or two, but it was quite indistinct. She was alive when I left that evening, but I imagine is gone now. I hope she wasn’t afraid when she died, and that she was at peace.