All posts by nicktingle

The Paper Arrived! Writing 6

 

                                                 Mud on 101

My paper was there this morning all neatly folded and wrapped with a rubber band.  That was comforting because it seemed to prove the claim, made yesterday, that the freeway, previously blocked for two weeks, is now open for business.  That’s why, as previously indicated, I thought the paper was late.  It’s the LA Times and comes up from LA on the road that was blocked by the recent floods.  So I figured they had to drive the paper up the long way taking about four and a half hours, so by the time the contractor got it to deliver to my place it was necessarily late.  But now things are back in order because the paper was there waiting for me when I opened the door.

Still the headlines were not all that reassuring, and another body was recovered so now officially, I think, 21 people died in the flood.  And at the club, where I work out daily, the flood remains the topic of conversation.  One of the guys there was driven from his home by the flood.  And he can’t get back in because they still have no electricity, or water, or gas.  He goes around spreading paranoia, since, he says, he has talked to experts and other people who have walked the mountain trails, and they say (he says) that the recent fires have destabilized the peaks, and come the next big rain the whole area will be buried in errant boulders the size of Volkswagens.

I discussed this possibility with my wife and we agreed that probably boulders would not get to us since they would have to travel a real long distance, and then they would have to cross a freeway, and then they would have to go through a shopping center and the walls of a Costco before they got to us.  Living as we do about a mile and half from the Pacific, we are in far more danger from a tsunami—a danger that recently increased, when over the last two years, the nine hole golf course behind our place was dug up and replaced by a huge hole—intended to be the site, we have been told, for a bird refuge.  Right now there is water in it—from the flood—and some birds.  But it will make a perfect channel up to our door for the tsunami when it comes.

And, of course, this is California, and there is always the possibility of earthquake.  So while getting the daily paper again in a daily way was somewhat reassuring, I am evidently quite a ways from feeling completely secure in my current circumstances.

                                          Errant Boulder

 

Where’s My Paper?–Writing 5

Well, at this point, my writing experiment or, at least, the attempt to make it a daily practice is not going so well.  I missed yesterday though I am not sure why.  Something got in the way.  I could do it easily, in terms of a daily practice, if I thought of what I am writing here as a diary—a daily record of events.  But I set a higher bar for this experiment.  I want what I write to have some sort of point beyond a mere detailing and recording of how many times I fart in a day (already done in obsessive detail by Samuel Beckett).  Though, I must say, at this point I have no idea what the point of this entry might be except to detail and record my frustration. The idea of having a point would seem to assume that there is some larger point to everything that is.  And I am not sure about that.  What the larger point might be.

Perhaps things like the recent fire and the recent flood rocks the foundations of our daily lives, our stability.  As long as things are stable we assume there is a point.  But when things become unstable, we see through the cracks in the daily routine…and what do we see there.  Nothing.   All of which is a roundabout way of saying I am not getting my daily paper on time.  Before the flood and fires my paper would arrive around 6.  In any case, it would be there when I opened the front door.  That is no longer the case.  I open the door around 730 and there is nothing there but naked concrete.

Usually, when I looked out around 10, the paper is there.  Some person has brought it and left it.  So I do get the paper, but not when I want it.  And this is upsetting.  I have been getting this paper for over twenty years.  Mostly, it appeared when it was supposed to over that time, surprisingly so in fact.  But not now.  I tried to contact the newspaper people about this problem, but I received some sort of generic reply about my contractor having been contacted that did not answer my question:  “is the paper delayed because the freeway is closed?”  I assume the answer to this question would be “yes” if I could ever find a person to answer it.

 

 

Fire! Writing 4

Hmmm.  I don’t think this writing experiment is turning out so hot.  I had thought that maybe the activity would add an iota of the positive to my day.  But now I think that, not only is it not therapeutic, it may be making things worse.  Or maybe this feeling of things being worse has nothing to do with the writing per se, but with events and conditions that gave rise to this idea that I should write something every day in the first place.  I find it a bit odd, at any rate, that I should decide to exercise my brain in this way right in the middle of a local disaster.

Briefly, starting in early December, 2017, a fire broke out that raged for weeks in the hills and on the mountains nearby.  Looking back, in retrospect, it’s clear my wife and I were never in any immediate danger.  But at the time, things were not so clear.  Yes, the fire remained miles away, but it was also moving quickly.  So while I calmed myself by thinking it was far away, I was panicked by the idea that it could and might move very quickly.  Big winds were coming, they said, offshore sundowners, I think they were called, and the tension in the voices of officials made it clear to me at least that they didn’t know what might happen when the winds hit.  This was a big fire they said; they hadn’t seen anything like it in recent memory.

Many homes had burned and many people had died in a fast moving, out of nowhere fire, up North, in Napa.  One old couple had been trapped by the fire, taken refuge in a swimming pool, and been suffocated by the smoke.  Our fire, though, seemed a bit different.  Yes, it might move very quickly, but, unlike the fire up north, it was not coming out-of-nowhere.  We were prepared or at least know it was coming.  And it was day light, we could see the smoke.  The people up North had been asleep when the fire struck.

These thoughts or ones like them circled the edges of my consciousness with varying degrees of intensity for nearly two weeks.  They might all be summed up by the question: are we going to be told to evacuate. Many people had already done that.  The motels in town were filling up with displaced persons.  Others were getting ready, putting together bags or suitcases with their most valuable possessions.  And putting those right by the front door.  And making sure they knew where their car keys were because if they had to evacuate in the dark (with no electricity likely) they might have a hard time locating their keys.

Every time I thought about this, about having to evacuate, about having to gather belongings, and credit cards, and cell phone chargers and so on and so for, and getting in a car, and driving somewhere, and trying to find a place to stay, I was overcome with an immense sense of fatigue.  I just didn’t know if I could do it.  I just didn’t know if maybe I was too damn tired to do it anymore.

Intolerable Liberty: Writing 3

Rats!  I am squeezed for time and won’t be able to put the time into this post that I might like.  I have about 20 minutes I guess.  Actually, I have all day.  There’s no place I have to go or anything I have to do.  Being retired, I am at liberty.  For what? I am not sure.  But to tolerate this empty liberty I have found it very important to have a routine.  A routine is a must; otherwise I might just drift off into oblivion.  Once upon a time, my work imposed a routine.  Now I must impose the routine on myself.  And I had wanted this daily writing thing to be part of the routine.

I am attempting to make this writing thing a “practice.”  I have other practices too, such as cleaning my teeth and washing my face.  I also meditate daily for twenty minutes.  I have read about meditation, how to do it, to breathe and so on.  And occasionally, when I meditate, I think about these things.  People ask, does meditation help?  Frankly, I don’t know.  It’s a practice is all.

I also practice twice daily with a device call a “Heart Math.”  It’s a biofeedback device.  I stick it to my ear and it monitors something.  I think it’s a scam.  But for the time I use it I am listening to my breathing and letting thoughts come and go in my brain, as the device “registers” the coming and goings of my thoughts.  I am pretty sure I am not damaging myself with this routine.

I don’t know if doing this helps either.  I guess the point of a practice is to get better at whatever one is practicing.  That used to be the case, I suppose, when I played basketball as a youth and young man.  But honestly, while I have been meditating for five or six years, I don’t believe I am any better at it now than when I started.

I also exercise daily.  This too is a practice and a routine.  That’s why I am squeezed for time today.  I need to start getting ready to practice my exercise.  I do it at the same time every day.  I get on a stationary bike for 80 minutes, I swim for 30 minutes, and I take a steam bath.  I have done this nearly every day, excepting holidays and breaks for illness, for about seven years.  And I am getting no better at it.  No, I am getting older.  Not better.  What can I do about that?  I am not faster now, or trimmer, or stronger.  I am slower in fact, and I ache much, much more.

My old therapist, from many years ago, retired when she was 80.  I think I wore her out.  One day I asked her the key to aging, how to tolerate it; she said “Adjustment and Discipline.”  That was that.  No explanation.  But she had formerly been a concert pianist, and still into her seventies, she practiced piano two or three hours a day no matter what.  Maybe that’s it.  Practices… Routines?  You do them and insist upon them as discipline, as about the only way you have to exercise control over this intolerable liberty.

Writing Experiment: Part 2

Well….

I experimented yesterday with writing something.  Putting words after words, as it were.  In some sort of syntactical arrangement, and, at this moment, I am unable to reach any conclusion about the therapeutic effects, if any, thereof…  I guess it was OK.  I didn’t hurt too much in the doing of it, and that is one of the rules I have made for myself.  Don’t write if it causes anxiety.  So, well, OK, it was a little anxiety producing…when I started writing about my cluttered garage and the cleaning up we had to do after our parents died.

And then reading over what I wrote yesterday, I had to do some cleaning up.  That was anxiety producing.  I always had to do some cleaning up after I wrote, but not like now, not like today.  I remember a colleague who was a really good writer who started sending out memos with all sorts of mistakes.  Words left out, for example, that sort of thing, indicating a failure of concentration.  And I remember thinking, so that’s what happens when you are 65 for she was 65. You are in the middle of a sentence, and suddenly, you can’t remember the name for the device that has your music on it, and you lose concentration and leave out a word.   And it’s like you have tripped on your shoe lace and you are stumbling down a step.

Of course, I know…it’s not as bad as that.  You aren’t going to break your ankle or anything, but it is alarming, and a consistent and persistent reminder that your brain is not what it was.  I guess your brain never is, as you age, exactly what it was.  I remember back in college I would hear a new word, I would write it down in my notebook and look it up later and wham! It would just stick in memory.  No effort at all, no repetition or anything like that.  And other words I picked up without even that little effort.  But when I reached 35…that just stopped.  I may have added a dozen words to my vocabulary since then.  Anodyne…I added that word in the last year.  Though, as I was looking it up, it seemed to me that I had known it at one time, but I had forgotten.

So just writing a sentence can plunge one into the pits of anxiety, as you remember and forget, and forget what you have remembered.  It’s a bit like when I get out of bed, and first walk across the room, and I hear this concatenation of snaps, crackles, and pops in my knees.  And sure I get across the room, but all this noise, in the very effort of doing so, puts me in mind of the day…when I won’t be able to get across that room.  So—to sum up—I guess this writing experiment is fraught with all sorts of potential for anxiety…

A Writing Experiment

Well…  I think I will try to devote a few minutes per day—20 or more—to writing something.  I don’t know why I would bother to do this since I have nothing significant to say and have done or experienced nothing worth reporting.  I continue to exist mostly, and perhaps, at 72 years of age, that is something to report.  Not everybody lives till they are 72.  I note in the daily obits that many people have failed to live till 72.  Though I am not so sure that living to 72 means that one has been successful at anything.  Except existing, that is.

So I continue to exist at least at the moment, though tomorrow I may not.  Perhaps I could be doing something better with the little time I have remaining than this experiment with daily writing.  But I am not sure what that would be.  Eating?  Well, that is always worth doing.  But there’s a fixed limit to that.  One cannot eat continually.  Well, I suppose one could, and probably some people have, but I wouldn’t want to do it.  And doing something else would probably require more energy than I have at the moment.

But the question remains, why should I expend the little energy I do have, when I could be taking a nap, on this writing experiment?  I think a nap might be better.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But I have read things that suggest the elderly benefit from creative activity, like taking a class in water colors, or something to that effect.  The theory appears to be that “creative” activity soothes the soul in some manner.  And writing, at least in the past, has served me to some degree and in some instances (not all my any means) this function.  The soothing or straightening out function, I mean.

I saw an ad for a book on this subject: the therapeutic effects, as it were, of neatening and straightening one’s stuff.  I should read it.  But I can’t remember where I saw the ad.  In any case, I know what they mean.  Neatening and straightening can make one feel an iota better.  And at my age and in my current horrible condition, I am looking for iotas.  An iota here and there, damn it, is what I need to get through the day.  At the moment though I don’t have the energy or a sense of purpose sufficient for me to do an actual, in reality, straightening and neatening, as in, imagine: the garage.

That garage is an albatross around my neck.  Every time I open that automatic door and look in, my heart contracts. Junk and crap about to tumble from overfull shelves.  Twenty years of indecision and neglect all piled in one place.  Overflowing with dust, and dirt, and grime.  And I feel a kind of responsibility to clean that place up before I go.  I mean I don’t want somebody else, probably my wife, to have to sort through that junk after I die as my brothers and I had to do through our parents crap: old clothes, napkins, pieces of metal, pictures and adult diapers.

Tacoma?

Where the heck am I?

Tacoma, Washington.  We are here for a wedding.

CIMG1306.JPGView of old downtown Tacoma from our hotel window.

indian.jpgStatue of  indigenous person.

river.jpg

A river runs through it.  Once highly contaminated, now not so much.  Lots of water in Washington.

train.jpg

Train…about a half mile long.  Wonder what is in those container cars?

Last Class Ever

Well, yesterday, Thursday, March 14, 2013, I taught my last class ever at UCSB.  Could well be my last class period.  Been teaching writing since 1973.  Can’t imagine not doing it.  But having used up my call back time, I am officially done.  Oh, wait.  I still have the last batch of papers to grade.  And then I am done.

Below find pics of my last class ever.  A good group, very quiet, though willing and very good natured:
CIMG3471.JPGCIMG3473.JPG Thumbnail image for CIMG3472.JPGBye Guys!

Broken Hearted Melodies: Liner Notes


Though the title might not suggest
it, I had wanted to end “The Tingles,” as we had begun it (Lighthouse
of Love), on a slightly more upbeat note. 
Now looking back, I can’t say where exactly I located that note, the
more upbeat one.  But I think it’s in the
last line of the refrain, “You can lean on me if I can lean
you.”  True, it’s hardly The
Youngbloods calling on us all to smile on each other, but at least there’s a
hint of an exchange of human warmth, though perhaps significantly qualified by
that “if.”  You can lean on me
IF I can lean on you.  I could have
written:  You can lean on me AND I can
lean on you.  But I didn’t because
“and” seems to presume to much, and honestly, you can lean on me only
if I am allowed to do the same.

So that’s the upbeat note as best I can locate it.

As for the rest of the refrain, I must insist on the
pessimism:

“Nothing now anyone can do
Just have to buckle down and try to see it through.”

Sometimes that’s just how things are.  It–whatever it might be (someone dying;
dreams gone up in flames; words spoken that can’t be taken back; really bad
mistakes made)–simply cannot be undone or fixed up or glossed over.  All that you can do–if that–is try to get
though it with whatever dignity you can muster.

The last stanza is perhaps a bit too existential (in the
existentialism sense).  But I just can’t
get Sartre and Heidegger out of my head…with their idea of our having been
flung into a world we did not make.