Saturday, November 13, 2010

Captain Skullcrusher

Today, a lovely warm autumn day, I took care of yet another chore that has been on my to-do list for a very long time: getting a carrier for Hammett, who has lived with me for four years. He doesn’t go out often, but when he does, it’s in the cardboard box Thelonious, now deceased, came home from the SPCA in 20 years ago. I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of that box (particularly considering that it was free), but I’ve always meant to get Hammett a real carrier, and today I finally did.

I rode my bike first to Pet Food Express at Dolores and Market, and then to Petco at 16th and Bryant. Both places had more or less the same stuff, but at Pet Food Express, they’d taken the trouble to assemble the carriers and set them out nicely, whereas at Petco everything was in random piles, so I went back to Pet Food Express to make the purchase. The checkout lady asked me what my cat looks like and told me she also has a tuxedo cat (Hammett is sort of a tuxedo cat, I guess). She pointed him out—her cat is featured on a large poster in the store, with the name “Captain Skullcrusher.” I asked if that’s really his name, and she said it is, so I asked what her favorite bands are: Blood Brothers and Nine Inch Nails.

I lashed the new carrier to my bike rack and took it home and then walked down to BART to go to Macy’s for another thing I’ve been meaning to buy, my first toaster oven, which will be more energy efficient for small jobs than the big oven. I figured I’d have downtown to myself on a Saturday, and couldn’t believe how jam-packed it was. I hit an unexpected snag when I came out of Macy’s with my biggish box and absolutely could not get a cab. One guy stopped, but when he saw the box, he shook his head and drove off.

What was up with that? Aren’t we supposed to buy stuff constantly? Here I’d bought a stuff, and no one would give me a ride home. After about half an hour, I caught the eye of a cab driver crawling by in the dense traffic and he agreed to take me home once he discovered it was en route to the airport, where he was heading. As he made a completely illegal turn across a lane of traffic, all but driving over a traffic island, he told me it fucking pisses him off when people jaywalk, and then he roared to the Mission at racetrack speed, using the car’s piercing horn liberally anytime forward progress ceased for any reason. It was quite exciting.

I unboxed the new item, puzzled for a bit over where to put it in my small kitchen, and walked to Sunflower on Valencia St. to meet a friend for dinner. On the way, I passed a huge café I’d never seen before, gleaming and new and full of trendsetters, and next to that an upscale restaurant. These places are popping up seemingly overnight now, while old favorites disappear, like Amore, where I’d bought cat litter for years and years, stopping to chat with Efram. (Though it turns out Pet Food Express has the same thing for much cheaper, and Jeffrey’s on 18th St. has it for cheaper still.)

I got to Mission Pet Hospital this evening, which looks positively anachronistic on our newly glittering strip, and rushed in to make sure they’re not going anywhere. I can’t recall at this moment the name of the very nice woman I talked to, though she’s been there for years, but she called me “sweetie” and smiled at me and assured me, in low and soothing tones, that they have no plans to leave that spot, and she asked after Hammett by name! (Either she very craftily looked him up while I was pouring out my heart, or she remembers his name because of the conversation we had about it the first time I brought him in four years ago: “As in Dashiell?” “No, Kirk!”)

Sunflower has never been one of my favorite restaurants, but my friend proposed it, and I was willing to give it another try, and ended up really liking the vegetable fried rice I had, as well as the very sweet fresh-squeezed lemonade, so I’ll definitely be back.

After dinner, we walked to Mission Dolores for a concert by the San Francisco Mandolin Orchestra. They played Bach, Corelli, Mendelssohn—and an arrangement of “I Talk to the Wind” by King Crimson, featuring vocalists Sean Gugler and Loren Cheng. It was mesmerizingly beautiful. It gave me goose bumps and made me cry. Luckily, they did that song again for their encore, and it had almost the exact same effect the second time.

King Crimson is not much in evidence on iTunes, but when I got home, I found a live version of the song by Steve Hackett there, which is quite nice, though not quite as goose bumpy as Gugler and Cheng, who sang like angels.

During the concert, I had an important realization, which was that the toaster oven could probably go on top of the refrigerator, and it looks like that will work fine, which is good, because the boombox can go in only one place in the kitchen, but the new item wouldn’t fit on the table along with the boombox, and so forth. Introducing anything new into this small space while avoiding the appearance of clutter is like trying to solve a Rubik's Cube.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Dyson Vacuum Cleaner: Necessity or REALLY a Necessity?

Yesterday was a Day, not just a day, and I had it off from work. I recalled that exactly one year prior, Veterans Day, 2010, was my first real foray onto Facebook: hours and hours down the drain, never to be seen again. I made much better use of my time yesterday, setting up my calendar book for 2011, which is quite an involved process and takes a few hours. When I’m done, my list of contacts (names, phone numbers, addresses) is up to date, ditto my list of email addresses, and phone numbers I might need at any moment are printed out and attached to the new calendar book, and everyone’s birthdays and important anniversaries are in there, likewise tasks that need to be done at a certain time of year.

People say, “Gosh, how did you remember it was my birthday?” Most assuredly, I did not remember—it was written in last year’s calendar and transferred to the current calendar. It’s a question of compulsiveness and organization, not memory.

After that was done, I did a couple of sewing repairs, and then cleaned the bottom of my iron with steel wool—all other measures had failed—and then sewed a pair of baggy pants. “For a change?” joked Lisa M. on the phone. These are green, for a change.

I was thinking I would go meditate at the Zen Center in the late afternoon, stay for dinner, and go to my Somatic Experiencing class. Then I thought I would at least make it to dinner and the class. Then just the class, but in the end, not even that. I was sorry to miss it, but I probably bought this particular piece of green cloth as long as two years ago and have been unable to find the time to do the sewing, so it was great to have the pants done, finally.

Now I can go buy some more green cloth and start the cycle of procrastination all over again. In other consumer news, I have been resisting the temptation to buy a Dyson vacuum cleaner. If anyone needs a Dyson vacuum cleaner, it’s certainly me. I know it would work a lot better than the one I have and I really absolutely should have one, but I can’t bring myself to spend that much on a household appliance when so many worldwide are struggling just for food and clean water. My latest paycheck showed that, due to all those hours of overtime not long ago, I’d made enough additional to cover such an item, but as soon as I realized that, I rushed to my (online) bank and transferred the extra pay to my retirement account before I weakened.

Once upon a time, I contributed to my retirement account with a sense of pleasure and satisfaction. Now that I expect the entire economy to crumble during my lifetime, taking all my imaginary money with it, I do it with a certain queasiness. Whereas I was once sure that saving and investing were the right things to do, now I just hope they may still prove to be. If the entire economy collapses permanently, there won’t be electricity to run a Dyson or any other kind of vacuum cleaner, anyway, but one will still be able to wear green pants, probably, for a time.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Casio Wristwatch, Prevailed Upon, Falls Back

It’s still strange to have N. not at work. I find myself scolding him mentally: “Why did you let this happen to you?” Another person in our firm told me that he lost his job in the past couple of years, but took the option to work for a couple of months before his final day, and while he was doing that, he was offered another position within the company, so it would probably have been smart for N. not to rush out the door with such alacrity.

Tuesday nights I’ve quit going anywhere whatsoever, as I’ve concluded that one evening class per week (currently Thursdays) is plenty. My sleep schedule was suffering, likewise dream recall, and therefore lucid dreaming. It’s been a month without one.

Last Wednesday morning I rode my to work along Market St. per usual except for the sizeable and cheerful audience—crowds gathering two hours early for the Giants’ 11 a.m. victory parade. Barricades at the curb prevented them from plucking at my business attire. Apparently at least one family got in position at 1 a.m. I didn’t go out later for the parade itself, but hours of car horns and yelling were heard, and from my window I could see fans streaming toward Market St. When I went for a stroll at 3:30 p.m. I was surprised by how much the party was still in evidence, with confetti all over the ground and something orange to be seen no matter what direction you cast your eyes in. The entire downtown area smelled faintly sweaty, with notes of marijuana.

My most customary bike ride home from work takes me right behind the ballpark, and I wondered if anyone would be around that afternoon. Nothing was scheduled for that location, but I suspected people might be drawn there anyway, and quite a number of people were. One fellow was just standing there looking in at the empty field. The olfactory experience in the immediate area was nearly all marijuana, with hints of fish and cigar.

Last Thursday night I went to the Zen Center after work to sit in the zendo, followed by dinner with a small congenial group, and to go to my Somatic Experiencing class. We partnered up and practiced offering and receiving touch. This form of touching is not meant to move energy or work out kinks, but simply to provide a palpable sense of presence that can be relaxing for the receiver, and may help to release nervous system activation. The communication aspects were stressed, including that we should always explain what we’re planning to do and then say to the receiver, “Please let me know when you’re ready for me to do this,” so that the receiver is completely in charge.

Friday after work I went to Noe Valley for a haircut and on my way back picked up a delectable marinated tofu burrito with refried black beans and guacamole from Papalote.

On Saturday I drove a City CarShare car to my dentist’s office to have the new night guard adjusted slightly, went to Rainbow on my bike, cooked green split peas and brown rice back at home, and in the evening went with Tom to see The Social Network. Mark Zuckerberg seemed a bit less evil than I was expecting, though being in a crowded movie theater was even more evil than usual. As always, I was positioned in front of a seat kicker, and when a latecomer arrived, instead of asking me if the seat beside me was occupied, she just picked up my backpack and handed it to me. Tsk.

I can never help thinking that for less money, less hassle, less annoyance, and the same amount of time, I could be in my own cozy living room in my comfortable chair enjoying a double feature in company whose civility is absolutely guaranteed—my own.

On Saturday night, it was time to fall back, timewise, which isn’t as exciting now that practically every device does this unaided. The only thing I was in charge of was the little Casio wristwatch I wear only once every six months, when I’m meditating on an airplane.

On Sunday I made a vat of pasta sauce to freeze and went to see E., who, with the help of friends, did make it to see Placido Domingo. She wore a red dress and darling red pumps, sported a white camellia corsage, and traveled to the opera house in a stretch limo!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

So Cal Couch Suffers Untoward Event

It’s been a very noisy several days in the Mission, what with Critical Mass on Friday, Halloween on Sunday, and a tremendous hullaballoo last night that Tom informed me was due to the Giants’ winning the World Series. We had hours of honking car horns, yelling and gunshots.

And it’s been a very busy several days at work, with all but two of my group out on vacation. Something rather shocking happened last Friday afternoon, when N., who normally works at home that day, rushed into the office and started cleaning out his cube—after 30 years at our company, he’d found out the day before that his job had been eliminated.

Longtime readers may recall N. as the slurping guy. He had quite a number of distracting habits, and it was entirely on his account that I kept Ajahn Sumedho’s book Teachings of a Buddhist Monk on my desk so I could snatch it up when needed and read this: “No matter how much we want things to be otherwise, they are as they are,” the beginning of a long section on how irritating it is to be around other people.

So I wasn’t always crazy about N.’s behavior, but he was also energetic and charming and was the person in the office I talked to the most. Generally speaking, I found him endearing and enjoyed our chats. (He was also the cutest guy in the vicinity, not to be shallow or anything.)

He finished packing up his stuff, asked for and received a kiss on the cheek, indicated I should tuck my email address into the chest pocket of his jacket, and was gone, just like that. It was awful.

Friday night I had to labor until midnight on a project for work which continued into the next day, when I got up at 8:45 a.m., leaving Hammett under the covers. He remained there until 2:29 p.m and then walked into the kitchen to see if what he’d been served for breakfast was something he liked—it wasn’t; it was cat food—and walked straight back out.

My project took until 8 p.m. Saturday, so it was just as well it was gloomy and rainy out. It was also quite cold inside, but when I called Tom to complain—he can’t do anything about the heat, but I’m scared to call the person who can—he said that the heat is never on during the day, which I had not noticed in 12 years of residency, and which I’m not sure is actually the case. In any event, since calling the building manager was out of the question, I followed Tom’s excellent example and put on a sweater.

Sunday was beautiful. In the morning I had a very nice chat on the phone with Sally in Ann Arbor, and went to see my hospice lady, E., who had declined noticeably since the prior weekend. Then I rode my bike to Rainbow for groceries, and in the evening went out to dinner at Herbivore with Tom and his girlfriend and her son, who proved to be a smart and alert young man. It was nice of them to include me.

To show my gratitude, I forwarded Tom an email that had scared the crap out of me, but I forgot to tell him to turn his sound on, so it didn’t scare him. I tried again with my mother, albeit with slight trepidation that it might cause her to have a heart attack and die and then the rest of the family would be disgruntled. However, she took it in stride, so then I sent it to my friend Frank, lately and mostly of Dublin, Ireland, but currently of Southern California, and got this extremely gratifying response the next morning:

“Well well well. Aren’t you a funny little friend. There I was with my dinner neatly tucked away in my belly, getting ready for a nice game of basketball on telly, when I decided to view that email sent to me by my good friend LWA. And what happened next? I innocently opened it up, and then pooped myself on the couch. Nice. I’ll have my revenge!!!!”

Yes! A happy ending there, except for my co-workers having to listen to me laugh convulsively every time I reread Frank’s note.

It’s been sad to walk past N.’s empty cube. I’d worked in the same building with him for five or six years, and had sat right near him for two and a half years. Yesterday afternoon I sat in his empty seat and, as an homage, sang the first two notes of “Hey, Jude,” which made the unseen person in the cube beyond chuckle, since N. sang the first two notes of “Hey, Jude” about six times a day.