Friday, February 20, 2009

Just cause it ain’t rollin’ don’t make it furniture!

A DVD lately seen: Swing Vote, starring the Kevin Costner. Tom and I both liked it. The title of this post is my favorite line from this movie, screamed by Kevin Costner’s character at someone who was leaning on his truck. I also liked this, said by a boss speaking to someone who has just been elbowed out of a cushy spot by a colleague: “I feel your pain. Don’t make me call security.”

I also saw, and found very moving, American Teen, a documentary about high school students in Warsaw, Indiana.

Sean Penn and Robin Wright Penn play a married couple living on the fringe of society in She’s So Lovely. Sean Penn’s performance as a man who loses his sanity after his wife is attacked by a neighbor is heartrending. After being institutionalized for ten years, he sets out to get his wife back. I almost wanted to see this a second time.

Tom and I also saw Death Race, with Jason Statham and a very favorable stunt person-to-actor ratio of about five to one. Tom DID see that a second time, but on his own.

Last weekend I went to have the first couple of my entire mouthful of crowns done, and then Tom and I had dinner at Terry and Nancy’s, out in the avenues, along with a few other guests. Nancy had scattered little candy hearts on the table for Valentine’s Day and served us a wonderful vegan lasagna and we had a very nice evening.

I’m a little worried about Facebook currently, and, in general, I’m worried that I might be diverging from the modern world even more than I had planned. Like, in a way I might not be able to recover from, even if desired.

I read just a few blogs, one of whose authors said lately she might put less energy into her blog in the future because she is having so much fun on Facebook. I can readily see the appeal of Facebook. In the couple of weeks I had an account there, I looked up my high school graduating class, and it was neat to bump into names of people I really liked back then. It is fun to read entertaining quotes from people you like and see photos and all of that.

But if those old friends and I had really, REALLY liked each other, wouldn’t we have stayed in touch? Or maybe we did really like each other when we were 16 or 25, but could it be that times changed and we drifted apart? I’m thinking that’s probably what happened.

Would it really be satisfying to have 200 “friends” on Facebook? If I felt like jumping off the bridge, could I call every one of those 200 “friends” and would they listen to my troubles and would they care?

Yes, I know I am being curmudgeonly, as usual, but I did feel genuinely bad about the Facebook thing, because I thought, “Great: now the two people who read my blog aren’t going to anymore, because they’ll be over on Facebook instead, and this blog I’ve enjoyed reading will have fewer or shorter posts because the author is over on Facebook instead."

I suppose it's technically possible to have 200 "friends" on Facebook and ALSO to know two or three people in real life who care whether you live or die.

Then there’s photography, which I used to enjoy very much, using a Nikon FG my father gave me years ago. That old camera broke again in the past couple of weeks, and I think I’m not going to get it fixed this time. Film photography is not good for the environment, and I can see it’s basically over. I was talking to someone who is studying photography in college, and he or she, I forget which, said they aren’t teaching anything but digital photography now.

I don’t have a digital camera, but I had been open to the idea of buying one, until I had some prints made from digital photos: they looked terrible! Now, I’m sure there’s some way of using a digital camera to produce a print that looks fantastic—my co-worker Emily does it all the time—but it probably costs more than I was thinking of spending, and, more to the point, I have no idea what that way is, I have no idea how to find out—given the overabundance of information online—and I’m too tired to try. However, now that I think about it, I guess it wouldn’t kill me to email Emily on Monday and ask her how she produces those gorgeous prints. That I can do.

But I can't figure out how to hear my mp3s in the kitchen and I don't have a cell phone, etc. I was talking to my friend Margaux on the phone tonight (we've been friends since we were 13) and she said something about an elderly relative whose life she feared had become smaller. That's what's happened to mine! But Margaux's relative is 86 years old and may therefore have come by it honestly. Frankly, the idea of being 86 makes me a little jealous at the moment.

The life my late grandmother lived looks ideal to me, but I don't think that kind of life is to be had anymore.

Last but not least, I have been part of an online group for about ten years which has about 350 members, I believe, but only 10 or 15 regular posters. Generally this is a very supportive, kind and friendly place, but a few weeks ago, someone posted something quite harsh and critical in response to something I’d said, which was a bit shocking, but all for the best, because it made me remember that you never really know who’s reading what you post online, and it also made me remember that the best thing of all is in-person friends, or at least on-telephone friends.

So I adjusted my settings for that group so I won’t get email for a time, while I think about whether to leave altogether, and I unjoined Facebook, and I have taken my name off this very blog; I’m sure it is cached in a million places, but it just feels a bit better this way right now, and I’m going to try to make a point of going where actual live people are, and seeing and calling up (i.e., employing the telephone, not having a séance) the actual live people I know more often, goodness bless them.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Summer Experiences

I wrote this when I was ten, for school, with the title above.

This summer was probably the best in my life.

Before school let out, a Chicano came to our school to talk to us. He was Desi Ortez, and the one person who really listened was Laura S. She started picketing A&P. After a while, I joined her.

For most of the summer, I complained (just to Laura) and didn’t come to the pickets. I was lazy. Working for the boycott I met a lot of wonderful people. Like David Martinez. He called my mother and persuaded her to let me go to a boycott party.

His one passion was volleyball. I play absolutely rottenly. So at the first game, I missed a ball and everybody groaned, then somebody said “That’s all right, Linda.” One thing I did get good at was serving. Once I made 7 points in a row serving.

Another person was Alfonso, commonly called Poncho. He seemed to me to be a compact person. One of his roommates was Ruben, who at first seemed to be all right, but turned out to be prejudeced (?). He hated whites, and lectured Laura (about different things).

One especially good part of the summer was the Cesar [Chavez] rally. I loved it. Afterward at the rally, I met Cesar and talked to him. There were many other people, and I’ll never forget them.

Late in August we went to our cottage. We didn’t do much else except sail. I met one of my distant cousins.

My mom has a dream of sailing around the world. Maybe we will.

(End of piece. My teacher wrote “Very Nice!” on it.)

I remember picketing outside A&P, around and around in a circle. One day I thought it would be clever to poke plastic bags stacked up outside the store with a small sharp metal pointy thing; the bags contained grass seed or dirt or something. The manager came out to ask me to stop, which of course I did. It was embarrassing.

I was a young activist. A few years prior, I helped dig a bomb crater to protest the Vietnam war and appeared in a photo in the Ann Arbor News.

Laura S., at 11, was very voluptuous for her age, and was having sex with some of those grown men. About that time, and very much having to do with Laura S.’s precocious sex life, I adopted a protective manner of dressing, in overalls, work boots, ancient sweatshirts, and a leather editor’s visor that I loved.

I myself had a crush on David Martinez, but he always behaved like a perfect gentleman. No harm came to me that summer, if you omit the fact that it was with Laura that I started smoking marijuana. She had three older brothers, Todd, Rick and Kim, who had taken over the family’s attic. I remember being up there smoking pot, which gave me a buttery feeling in my throat.

Not long ago, my mother sent me Todd’s obituary. He was closest in age to me and Laura. I don’t know what he died of.

"Sail" and "cottage" shouldn't make you think we were rich; they should make you think of a small Styrofoam craft eight or ten feet long, and a little place on Little Traverse Bay in northern Michigan that was formerly a garage. It had one main room where my parents' beds were, along with the dining table and big green chair, plus a small kitchen, bedroom for the kids, and bathroom.

You could walk to the water in one minute, through a tangle of poison ivy. The beach was all smooth rocks, no sand. Now and then one might wet a stone and thus discover it to be a Petoskey stone, with its distinctive round markings, very beautiful when polished. I liked to sit on a large inflated rubber innertube in the water.

All those people I was sure I would never forget, I can't remember any of them.

Ants Stage Sit-Down Strike, Demand Gooey Desserts

The season of comedy has recently concluded, those two weeks in the late winter when the S.F. Sketchfest occurs. Fortunately, one of the venues this year was the Dark Room, two blocks from home.

I bought tickets for Friday and Saturday night three weeks in a row (before I realized how broke I was) and particularly enjoyed Moshe Kasher and Brent Weinbach, and Dry Hump. There was also a darling woman who played the ukulele and sang a song about her favorite letter: U. She announced one song by saying, “Here’s another hit I wrote,” and reassured us a bit later, “Now we’re going to have less talk, more rock.”

There was also a woman Tom didn’t like because she talked about her pubic hair, which he thought was gross, and I didn’t like because she kept calling the people in the front row “bitches.”

In addition, there was “a straight guy who talks like a gay guy who talks like a black woman,” whose name was something like DeBrookashawn, though not that, because I can’t find that online; he was always referred to as “DeBrookashawn, y’all.”

There were improv groups of more and less talent; I thought Crisis Hopkins were particularly gifted.

A couple of weeks ago, I finally made it back to a volunteer night at the Bike Coalition, and the next night I went out to stand in the street on Valencia and hold up a sign publicizing a rally the next morning to protest the city’s idea of removing a stretch of bike lane where motorists keep turning in front of cyclists to get onto the freeway, and hitting some of them.

The city’s idea was that if bikes and cars used the same lane, ergo the cars wouldn’t turn in front of the bikes, and in theory, I quite agree, but the Bike Coalition feels that removing any bike lane is a step in the wrong direction. They also predicted that, even in the narrower space, cyclists would still try to squeeze along next to the cars, and they’re probably right about that, so, on the whole, until cyclists understand they are safer in the center of any lane that is less than fourteen feet wide, it probably is best to keep the bike lane, and a judge did end up nixing the city’s plan, so yay for us yet again.

The Bike Coalition now has more than 10,000 members, making us the largest local bicycle advocacy group in the country, even including NYC, which has many more inhabitants. And every one of us is an impassioned activist, or so it seems.

We were rich in protests that week: you had your choice of protesting the bike lane removal, the attack on Palestinians by Israel, or the shooting of Oscar Grant by BART police, and probably a couple of other things. Much protesting equals many helicopters overhead.

It’s proving to be practically a full-time job keeping my ants in peak form: they’re floating in Hammett’s water bowl, they’re walking on the bar soap, they’re strolling on the stove top. Liquid soap is very bad for ants, causing them to disintegrate in short order, which I’m sure is not a pleasant way to go, probably something like being submerged in a barrel of acid by an associate of John Gotti.

My mother says she truly felt at home in her and my father’s new house when she was sitting in what they call “the tiled room” and saw a spider making its way down the wall. She said she had been thinking of bringing some spider egg sacs from the old house so she could have the same spiders at the new house.

I was getting ready to break it to her gently that the spiders that came out of the sacs wouldn’t be the exact same spiders, but their descendants—uh oh, Alzheimer’s?—but of course it turned out she meant the same types of spiders.

One day my mother and I were conversing via email when I realized—crud!—I’d forgotten to bring a container of steamed Brussels sprouts to work. I'd left them sitting on the counter at home and supposed that, by the time I got home, the container would be full of ants.

My mother wrote, “That was kind of the ants (if they did) to eat the Brussels sprouts, so now you don't have to eat them. Ants are our friends and sisters, as someone once said. Maybe ‘Brussels sprouts’ was a typo: did you mean Crème Brûlée?”

(When I was a teenager and complaining about a spider being near me as I sat in the sun in our backyard, my mother advised me that spiders are our friends and sisters.)

I wrote back, “I don’t mind if the ants eat my sprouts (I don’t know yet if they did; I’ll see when I get home), but since I’m sworn to let no ant die in my apartment, it means I have the project of relocating a lot of ants so I can wash the container.”

Now my mother was frankly concerned. “WHY do you eat Brussels sprouts?”

“Because they’re yummy and green,” I said into the phone; the gravity of the situation had required switching to an even more immediate medium of communication.

“They are not yummy, and this is not the way you were raised. It’s like if you have a child you raise to be Lutheran and then they grow up and say they’re Catholic. This is a major philosophical difference,” my mother fretted.

We were unable to settle the question of whether, objectively speaking, Brussels sprouts are good or bad, but I can tell you that ants don’t care for them, not one little bit.

Super-Duper Cheese: Only for the Rich

A few months ago, I had my annual eye exam and got a new prescription, not too different from the old one, but enough so that my eye doctor said he thought I should get new glasses.

I got my current glasses from the office of a different eye doctor (I go through eye doctors kind of fast, for the thrills), who has an actual guy who does nothing but help people pick out glasses all day, plus that office has a huge selection of frames, so I telephoned that guy—let’s call him Harry—and asked if it would be OK if I went to him to get new frames, even if my prescription originated elsewhere. He said that would be fine, so one afternoon I went to that office, and looked at all the glasses, and didn’t see much I was crazy about, meaning that I didn’t see any glasses exactly like the ones I already had on my face.

As the hours wore on, however, Harry convinced me that times had changed and that what I saw before me were the new, fashionable shapes; why, he said, in so many words, that maybe it was time for a change. Of some frames I kind of liked, he said, “Well, if you WANT to look like John Adams … ”

The glasses he himself had on were not unappealing—they were rimless and incredibly light. From about four feet away, you could barely tell he had glasses on. They were $300, but at this particular moment in time, I have pretty good insurance, and so I ended up deciding to get these glasses. I wasn’t in love with them, but they seemed to be the best choice given what was available.

However, by then I’d been in there so long, the price had increased to $350; I think he had actually just accidentally given me the wrong price the first time around, though when he said $350, he acted like that was what he’d said in the first place.

With my insurance, it was still going to come out to be $267, and this for glasses I wasn’t completely crazy about, so I said I was going to have to think it over, and I did a very smart thing, which was to ask for my prescription back.

That evening, I decided that, since I like the glasses I already have very much, all I really needed was a backup pair.

When I called Harry to tell him that, he said peevishly, “I wish you’d told me that before you took up all my hours.” Which is to say, it really wasn’t OK with him for me to bring a prescription from another doctor to him—I know he would have been perfectly nice about it if the prescription had come from his own office.

I thought about sending him a note saying that, but decided my remaining moments are too few to waste in that manner, so in the end, I just went back to my current eye doctor’s office, determined to choose something from his much smaller selection of frames, all of which I’d thought were horrible when I saw them on eye exam day.

When I saw them again, however, it turned out Harry had given me a gift, because they all looked fantastic—they were all the new, fashionable shapes! I easily picked out some frames within 30 minutes. There was a rimless option similar to what I’d seen at Harry’s, but my eye doctor said, “Don’t get those! They don’t hold up well. I wouldn’t recommend them at all.”

So in the end, it cost me $39! Instead of $267! Thank GOD I didn’t get those rimless glasses at Harry’s. Probably a couple of months ago, I would hardly have blinked at spending $267 on glasses, but with the dreadful thing that has happened to my savings, even though it was pretend money to begin withI think our entire economy is one big Ponzi schemeI no longer feel so sanguine; now I’m all, “Uh, how much does that cost?”

Not long ago at Rainbow I saw some very highly touted cheese, only two containers left, customer favorite and after you taste it, you’ll know why; get it while it lasts. I picked it up and saw it was $20 for about six ounces, and said to myself, “I guess I’ll never know what that super-duper cheese tastes like.”

I also saw something in the bakery department called “Vegan Pleasure Domes,” a nice treat for the PETA member.

It is a bit worrisome to watch my imaginary money vanish, but if the economy does actually recover, which I tend to doubt it will (I mean, I'm sure there will be ups and downs, but I think we're basically at the beginning of a final collapse), stocks will have been the best thing to buy at this juncture, and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t matter if your money is in stocks, bonds, a checking account, crumpled bills under your cat litter box or in gold.

When it comes right down to it, it’s going to be about water and food, and if you can contrive to make sure you have those things, or get along well enough with your neighbors to form some collective way of getting those things.

I was reading quite a gloomy thing in the New Yorker about the economy; nearly every person quoted has a gun, because they foresee a future where we will have to guard our last few drops of water from other desperate souls.

Good Riddance, Reproductive Years

I’m starting to think that the symptoms I was griping about may have signified the grand finale of perimenopause rather than the opening ceremonies, which is great. I looked at the log o’ periods I’ve kept since I was a teenager and saw that there had been a distinct change—they got shorter—about two years ago. I hadn’t thought too much of it, but now I think that was maybe the beginning and this is more the end.

Last weekend, when returning from one of my many recent dentist visits, I stopped off to see Peter and take him a token for his 34 years of sobriety. I hadn’t seen him in quite some time. He has fewer teeth now, pointing in more directions. I hung out with him at his care facility for an hour or so, and then he walked me to the corner.

After we parted, I stood and watched him walk away until he passed under a leafy tree, and I couldn’t be sure if I was seeing his head bobbing in the sunlight or leaves dancing in the breeze. That may have been the last time I’ll see him. He has had several heart attacks and strokes, and is ever harder to understand. He smokes a lot, unfiltered Camels.

I got a newsletter from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) which contained a very distressing story about the treatment of farmed pigs, who had rods shoved up their rectums and vaginas, clothespins poked into their eyes, and endured many more acts of dreadful abuse. An accompanying photo showed a pig whose face had been spray-painted blue just for “fun” by some cretin.

Tom is concerned about animals being brutalized, but charitably notes that the workers who do those ghastly things have some of the crappiest jobs around—the situation is not good for the animals or the people.

I posted the picture of the spray-painted pig on my refrigerator to remind me that as long as there are alternatives, I will not eat the flesh of a formerly (or currently) living creature, including those from the sea. Also, to show that I, too, care about workers, I will not eat the flesh of the working man, woman or intersexual person.

I have in the past been vegetarian and even vegan for years, but it seems harder now, partly because I used to be perfectly willing to tell people who invited me over, “I don’t eat this and I don’t eat that,” whereas that seems more difficult these days; it seems impolite. But, on the other hand, it’s far from unusual at this point for people to be vegetarian.

Tom recently got a large book full of photos of classic hand-built bicycles, and assured me, with a twinkle in his eye, that this book is going to bring us “many, many, MANY hours of enjoyment.”

He and I watched several episodes of 30 Rock on DVD lately, with Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin. While I liked watching Alec Baldwin, on the whole, I thought it was merely OK, but Tom liked it, so we’ll probably see more.

Other DVDs lately seen:

Mr. Brooks (with Tom, on New Year’s Eve). It’s about a serial killer, played by Kevin Costner; his alter ego is played by William Hurt. We both thought it was excellent. Tom reported a few days later that he was still thinking about it. There may be a sequel one of these days.

I saw a whole DVD full of Alice in Chains videos, which I liked a lot. Gosh, I never realized how attractive Jerry Cantrell is, though I’ve always thought he was a musical genius. He wrote most of Alice in Chains’ songs, and his own two solo CDs are remarkable.

I saw My Father My Lord, about a darling young boy whose father is an exceedingly devout rabbi. It’s very beautiful and tranquil and features distressing events. I recommend it.

Tom and I also liked Cleaner, in which Samuel L. Jackson plays the owner of a service that cleans up human remains, and is tricked into removing the evidence of a murder.

I also recommend XXY, a slow-moving yet riveting film about a young person in Uruguay with both male and female genitalia (one of the intersexuals I have vowed not to eat), an original personality and ferociously supportive parents.

You can probably skip Hancock, though it’s always great to see Charlize Theron, and definitely avoid Tropic Thunder.

Things are tranquil at work lately. In all this irritation with my co-worker—I kept track one day of how many times he made that horrible sound with his lips, and it was 85 times; I’m sure it would have been three times that, but he also had to scream into his cell phone, yell anecdotes to his neighbor on the other side of the wall, and do a little singing (“We Are the World,” if you want to know)—I’d forgotten a key fact, which is that I LIKE this person.

I only remembered because I dreamed about it. The day after my dream was a day of the week that he works at home, but when I saw him the day after that, I did the exact same thing I do every morning that I see him, which is to say, “Good morning, Northrop,” or whatever his name may happen to be, except that this time, I meant, “I hope you have a good morning,” rather than, “Keep your trap shut or else.”

Lately “Good morning” has been the first and last thing we say to each other all day, but I think he picked up the difference in vibe that day, because he asked me something or other, and I smiled at him, just as if I like him, which I do, and answered him pleasantly, and you know what? He barely emitted a peep the entire rest of the day, and has been much, much easier to take ever since.

So either he was actually doing it on purpose, or else the bad vibes were making him tense, and when he gets tense, he makes noise, sort of the way I eat 73 hard candies in a row when I get tense.

Today I Drank THREE Glasses of Water

My apologies, by the way, for not updating this blog more often, and then suddenly posting a veritable barrage of entries. Part of the problem is that I live alone and work more or less alone and most of my friends and relatives live far away (boo hoo) and I’m scared to tell stories about people who work in nearby cubicles for fear of losing my job (though if I do lose it, I know exactly what I’ll do instead, and if I were less fearful, I would lose it right this minute on purpose).

Anyway: few daily anecdotes, and it can take several weeks for a dramatic arc to become evident, like, “Wow! I’ve been to the dentist TEN TIMES in the past six weeks. I’ll have to put that in my blog!”

I did today get my daily phone call from the woman with the loud, annoying voice who has news of “high importance” about my credit card account, or sometimes it’s a call about my debt, of which I have none, or my car, ditto; I also got a call from a smart and artistic acquaintance here in S.F. Her message was cut off at one minute, because that’s what my machine does.

There is a way to make it record up to a five-minute message, but when I put the instructions in my outgoing message, certain parties complain that it’s too complicated; plus, if a power outage causes me to have to redo my announcement, then I have to go look up the instructions myself, because that is the kind of thing I absolutely can't remember, and then the whole thing gets to be a lot of work.

I thought I might call my acquaintance back, but then I thought maybe I’d make a note about my answering machine, since that is exactly the kind of exciting news I like to include in my blog, and so now I’m doing this instead of calling S. back, and that’s another reason my life is somewhat free of anecdotes. Also, I’ve sworn off screaming at motorists, causing yet another reduction in little stories.

Oh, well, here’s a story. I was going to say that, now that I take the lane, I have very few near misses—very few occasions of motorists passing me too closely—and so there’s not really much to yell about, but the other day, a lady (?) in the passenger seat of a van yelled, as they passed me, in a voice that would peel paint off a wall, and at the top of her lungs, “Hey! The road isn’t just for you! It’s not just for bicycles!” It was rather jarring.

Then they had to stop right away at a red light, and since they were now in front of me, I stopped behind them, like the polite user of the public roadways that I am, and she craned her neck to look at me from her window, perhaps wondering, “Why does that cyclist still exist? Didn’t she hear me?” But she said nothing further.

Then I came inside and ate a whole bag of Ruffles, but I might have done that anyway, as I find that is a pleasant thing to do after a day in the cubicle. (A cartoon in the latest New Yorker shows a bank of cubicles and their dwellers. A lone man is sitting on the ground at some remove, and his colleagues are saying, “We’ve got to try to coax him back into his enclosure.” The cartoon is by “Gotham” or “Flotsam” or “Floxam” or “Jetson.” Can’t quite make it out.)

Now, why did I not scream at that yelling van woman? For one thing, she seemed so enraged that she might have hopped out and punched me if I’d given her a piece of my mind or attempted to “educate” her. But mainly, there wasn’t really anything to yell about, as I still had all my parts and fluids in their customary relation to one another.

I had taken the lane, ergo the driver of the van had seen me and gone around, ergo I was safe and sound. Also ergo there was some yelling, but that really is very unusual. Possibly, in fact, this woman had just arrived from some city where she does not see a cyclist every two seconds, as she will here, many of whom will be smack in the center of the lane, which is where a cyclist should be if the lane is less than 14 feet wide, excluding parked cars.

Most workday evenings, I make my way to Fifth and Market, and there I pull in front of the cars waiting at the red light westbound on Market, which I’ve decided is the best of the various alternatives—certainly better than what I used to do until David C. heard about it and gave me a stern lecture. I was actually doing many wrong and unsafe things, of which that was the worst. David C. cured me of that one, and the bike safety skills class cured me of nearly all the rest.

So I customarily pull in front of the cars and, like magic, within seconds, another cyclist joins me, and another, and another, and when the light turns green, we all go together. After the van lady sees something like this a hundred times, which in San Francisco will take about two days, maybe she’ll get the idea, or maybe not. But as long as she goes around cyclists rather than over them, that’s probably good enough.

Not Really Any of Your Dern Business

Speaking of dreams, here are a few bad ones I’ve had lately: I dreamed of a dog falling through the air. That’s all. And I dreamed that I had a fancy end table made out of a laminated shiny human skeleton bent more or less into table shape, which I blame one percent on the general state of the world and 99 percent on having seen that dreadful exhibit years ago with the dead bodies preserved by plastination; these were also featured in Casino Royale. In the dream, my end table had outlived its usefulness and so I needed to take it out to the trash area.

In fact, maybe it was only then that I realized it had been made out of a human skeleton. In any event, I was scared to touch it, even to grasp some of its knobby parts with the tippy-tips of my fingers, and I think I may actually have thought, in the dream, “Maybe Tom would like to come down and do this,” and it’s possible that in the end, I said, “Oh, I can do this,” and just did it, but I won’t swear to it.

I also dreamed Tom invited me to a BDSM sex party (and that was VERY like real life—it’s an issue between us, Tom and his endless BDSM sex parties) and in the dream, his girlfriend, who looked quite like Amy Winehouse, was kind of rude to me, and then I realized there was what amounted to a biker bar across the street, so the evening was probably going to end in violence, when the bikers came across the street to beat all the sex party people up (uh oh, is this giving too much insight into my psyche?), so I decided to leave, but I couldn’t locate my bicycle.

By the way, that dream I had about not liking my mental health professional explaining me to myself even if she is right falls into the category of very literal dreams, because it came after this happened in real life: I stopped seeing my mental health professional partly because she explains me to myself, which I don’t like, even if she’s right.

To summarize what has happened in therapy for the past ten years, bearing in mind that I only go now and then, and sometimes don’t go for months: I spent seven years being furious at everything she said, and then I got so angry I didn’t go at all for a year or two, and then there was a year or so where I would go in, tell her everything that had happened since I’d last seen her, and then we might discuss current events, and then I would leave.

Lately, however, I must confess I have become interested in myself at younger ages (yes, I’ll just say it: my inner child), particularly myself at age seven or so (no, let’s not confuse the matter: at seven exactly) and I wanted help revisiting that era.

Here’s why I didn’t think I could get there myself: When I went to a workshop with one of the authors of When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies in the past year, I told a story about when I was a teenager, and how I didn’t understand why I had felt a certain way, and Carol Munter said, “Well, you know, maybe such-and-such,” and I was like, “Oh! I would never have thought of that.”

To back up even farther, I went to another Carol Munter workshop a few years ago—they were both extremely helpful—and after that, I visited a few therapists to see if I might find one I really liked, which is not to say I don’t like the one I’ve seen for 25 or so years. All the irritation aside, I like her very much: I love her, and she loves me. This is implicit and explicit.

But it did seem like we were having the same session over and over and over, and so I went to see Monica, and I really liked her, and our session was a bit emotional for me, which seemed like a good sign, but you know, her office was in a kind of gloomy location, and it was going to, you know, cost a lot, and I realized I was going to have to tell her the whole story from scratch, which was going to take forever, and here I already had a perfectly good therapist who already knew the entire story, and so I decided not to continue seeing Monica.

But then after I got interested in my seven-year-old self, I decided I needed actual assistance, needed someone to notice the things I would never notice myself, or maybe just needed someone to hear the story again, in case I myself might notice something new in the retelling, and so about six weeks ago, I stopped seeing Deborah and started seeing Monica.

My last session with Deborah was surprisingly difficult. Frankly, between you and me, while I didn’t expect her to say, “Cool; there’s the door—later!”, I also didn’t expect her to say “I would prefer that you would do that work with me,” which is what she did say, and she seemed a bit upset.

When I said nothing much seemed to be happening, she said she kind of was in the position of having to wait for me to be ready, which I found faintly offensive: Shouldn’t she, in her big bag of therapeutic tricks, have some way to nudge the extremely recalcitrant, easily angered and very well defended client/patient/customer along a bit, at least so that one year might be just a bit different from the one that preceded it?

In the end, she said that she trusted my instincts, and that her door will always be open, and I have every expectation of seeing her again. It’s a forever relationship.

Now, at my first session with Monica, I told her about dynamics that were occurring with two friends. She encouraged me to notice, in minute detail, what I felt as I described the two situations, and after I left, it was very clear to me what I wanted to do (back away from one and mend things with the other, both since easily accomplished).

As it happened, what turned out to be my final session, for the time being, with Deborah had already been scheduled for the following evening, so while I was there, I told her the same two stories, and she said, of one situation, to paraphrase, “Oh, no, no, no—you don’t need that in your life,” and of the other, “Here’s why that bothered you: this, this, and this,” though she clearly assumed this was a friendship that should go forward.

She could not have been more correct—she knows me very well, and has paid close attention all these years—but what happened with Monica was more rewarding, where the truth was obvious once I really felt it, and that’s why I had that dream about telling Deborah I didn’t like that she was being directive: the exact same thing could easily have happened in real life (except probably for the belted dress with the little red designs).

But here’s the kicker (maybe): the last couple of times I saw Monica, I have just told her everything that has happened since our meeting a week prior, and haven’t felt much of anything, and when I mentioned to her that I was there specifically to do the detailed work of feeling, she kindly said that sometimes it will be a good time to delve into the feelings, and sometimes there are stories that need to be told.

In other words, feeling or feelings will occur when I’m ready, which is pretty much exactly what Deborah said. Which basically means that I (ugh) will myself have to do the work to sink into an experience and feel it and let someone else see this, and I imagine I could do this with either Monica or Deborah or any one of the other million therapists in Northern California.

Nonetheless, for now, I’m sticking with Monica. I think certain bad habits just got far too well practiced with Deborah, but I won’t be surprised if I find myself six weeks from now saying sternly to Monica, just as I did a million times with Deborah, “Why do you think THAT’S any of your business?”

A Highly Important Update

Today I woke up feeling very exhausted in a way that I knew wasn’t going to go away even if I got on my bicycle and went to work, so I called in tired and stayed in bed all day napping with Hammett and reading periodicals: an issue of Newsweek, two issues of The New Yorker, and February’s The Sun.

I’d gotten my preferred nine hours of sleep, but I’ve noticed lately that if I wake up in the middle of a dream, I feel incredibly groggy, and this morning I was awakened in the middle of a dream about my mental health professional, in which I showed her a document I’d written which I thought explained my general situation.

As she studied it (in the dream), she frowned and started scribbling out sections she didn’t agree with, perhaps sections where I’d been too hard on myself. After she crossed out three or four things, I slid the paper away from her, and, angry, said, “I think I’ll be leaving now.”

She became upset and started to cry, which made me more furious, and then she physically tried to stop me from leaving, which I found outrageous, and there was a bit of grappling at the door and I pushed her arm away, in the kind of gesture that people later describe to the police as a shove or a hit, even though it wasn’t really, and I yelled at her that she might be totally right, but I didn’t like that she was being “directive,” and that I wanted to figure things out for myself.

In the dream, she was wearing a pretty belted dress, cream-colored with little red designs on it, like something a fashionable older lady would wear and really very nice, but not the kind of thing she wears in real life, which is more elegant hippie style. That wasn’t a particularly bad dream. It was just startling to be awoken from it suddenly by the alarm.

The alarm in question did not issue from my Zen Alarm Clock. After my Digital Zen Alarm Clock died, I decided to replace it with a plain old Zen Alarm Clock, which I thought might be more reliable and which was quite handsome. It was nice to have a clock with actual hands—i.e., a clock you can learn the time from even if you’re more than two feet from it.

It made a ticking sound precisely every two seconds, or not, according to its mood, and its alarm always went off exactly 20 minutes past the time you set it for, or about that, since, due to the hands, it was hard to tell what time you HAD set it for.

Its fatal flaw, however, was this: The chime was very, very loud. I tried turning it to the wall and/or setting it on a folded cloth and/or draping a thick napkin over it, but in the end, I sent it back and am waiting for another Digital Zen Alarm Clock, which can be set to loud or soft, and you can also close its lid, which makes it even quieter.

In the meantime, I’m back to approximating the Digital Zen Alarm Clock experience thusly: I set a cheap electric alarm clock that has a loud blaring call for five minutes after I want to get up, and I set two alarms on my Invisible Clock (a diminutive gadget which, among other things, lets you set 12 different alarms in a 24-hour period), one for five minutes before I want to get up, and another for the exact desired time of arising.

After the first six beeps sound, I have five minutes to ruminate about the things I like to ruminate about in the morning, and then I must turn the actual alarm clock off and get up, or else hear that horrible noise.

My dreams are generally extremely literal. Like, the night after I felt annoyed at Mandrake (can you tell I made up that name?) at work for not doing what I asked him to do five days in a row, after which I emailed his boss, I dreamed that I saw him and said, “Say, I’m sorry I was grumpy about that thing.”

I used to consider emailing anyone’s boss beyond the pale, but this tactic is used so routinely in my group that it’s almost come to seem like something a normal person might do. The person who does this the most; indeed, the person I have learned this despicable practice from, a person who, year after year, copies the boss nearly every time she emails her very own team members (not to mention that she marks nearly every email she sends as being of “high importance”) was recently heard to complain bitterly about a person in another group who is very difficult to deal with. “Why,” said my co-worker, “a few months ago, she took to copying [our boss] every time she emails me!”

From this tale, I hope you have learned that it is (very slightly) more fun to email other people’s bosses than to have yours emailed, and also that you really should never mark an email as being of “high importance” unless the building is on fire. I’ve only sent about four in ten years, but then, maybe that’s because they don’t trust me with anything highly important.

My co-worker who always copies the boss also knows everything, by which I mean every last thing, and she also remembers everything she’s ever heard, and she is very collegial about helping out.

She has assisted me innumerable times, but this can backfire in various ways, and I would actually like to be more the kind of person who says, “If it takes me all day, I will sit here until I figure this out!”, rather than the kind of person who says, “I suppose I could look this up, but I know Carol knows this off the top of her head, so why don’t I just give her a little jingle?”

Yesterday I encountered a mystery in an area where Carol is particularly expert, and decided to exhaust every possible avenue of research before I asked her, and, lo and behold, I was able to find the answer. It took half an hour, I felt great afterwards, and I’m somewhat less likely to forget the answer since I figured it out myself.

On the other hand, undergoing all that extra mental effort is probably a second reason I couldn’t get out of bed today.