I've switched computers, and upgraded my operating system, so once again - I have lost most of my email addresses. So even if you have heard from me in the last week, or we hang out together all the time, I probably don't know your contact information (unless you have an email address on my server or an easily identified domain that I can look up).
2002 was the year of tragedy in my computing life; the Linux machine died of old age, the replacements were stolen, the next replacement died from a combination of viruses and spilled beverage; then I switched to Macintosh, and had to learn how to use software after years of being strictly open source.
Bee: I don't know how to do anything!
Ariel: You just, well, click on it.
Bee: What do you mean, click on it?
Ariel: Put the mouse on the icon, and click.
Macintosh OS was a major hurdle for me; too simplistic, graphical, and easy. Luckily they released OSX right away and I got to suffer through all the buggy adjustments. That was more my style. But now I have Jaguar.... and it seems to actually work.
So now I just need to track down the email addresses of all my loved ones and colleagues. I am patiently waiting until it occurs to them to write to me.
A bumper crop of babies has started to come in.... Robert in Portland had twins, Guy in Tel Aviv had a little boy, Susan is due any day, friends in Portland and England are next in line. It is thrilling to be the person who gets to hold and admire the infants and then hand them back. I do not feel any whispy emotional urges to have another of my own. I'll just drift around admiring those that other people produce.
The weekly newspaper astrology column last week said (in summary) that the world is my pet bunny rabbit; that for the first time ever, my life will not resonate with the aphorism no pain, no gain; and that secret helpers are behind the scenes working on my behalf so the world will know me as the gorgeous curiosity that I am.
My personal astrologer seconded the reading, but added and we all know what happens to pet bunny rabbits after the holiday season.
It took three weeks of merciless shopping, and hours of circular and irritating discussions with salespeople, but I finally found decent shoes that, though ugly, don't actually cause psychic pain when I look at them. They are equestrian shoes and they have metal shanks inside that prevent me from walking on the sides of my feet.
This is a very peculiar sensation; I can't pronate. It feels like my feet are hitting the ground in galumphing splats. But the shoes are comfortable, my toes are happy, and my back feels a little bit better.
My big crisis of the week is the front of the Us magazine. One of those popular girl singers has my hair. I really did not expect tangled crispy waist-length badly dyed two-tone hair to become a fashion craze.
Last weekend was sunny and warm and Rebecca knocked on our door; she came and sat in the kitchen and told us funny stories and then asked if she could put our garden in order.
We hadn't noticed that the garden needed attention and we wandered outside to watch her pulling weeds. She pointed to different plants and explained some of the fundamental tasks required to maintain the landscaping.
I'm not sure we are qualified. We didn't cope well with our patch of grass back in Portland; I purchased and killed plants routinely, but never managed to eradicate the bumper crop of deadly nightshade. The chorus tried to help; various members made raised beds, hauled in good dirt, brought seeds and starts, but after living in the house for five years we had made only the most primitive progress. We could sit in the yard when the mama opossum wasn't around; I had some nice herbs and the boy had a rose bush.
Now I need to learn how to tend a rockery wall, flower beds, ornamental trees, and all kinds of bushes. I don't even know what most of them are called: what is the large thing with puffy fronds on the end? Does it need to be cut back or pruned?
I suppose I will have to read a book.
I've been watching The Young Ones on DVD. The show was on MTV in the eighties and I watched all twelve episodes over and over. At age fifteen, the only access I had to indie culture came from that show, along with 120 Minutes, Bombshelter Video, KJET AM, and the thin reedy feed of KAOS available only intermittently. I lived in the country, with no public transportation, so until I could drive I couldn't go to shows or cool record stores, couldn't hang out with anyone except the death metal neighbor kids.
Before I turned on the DVD I had prepared myself to be appalled, or bored, or disgruntled. But the humor holds up; the stereotypes are broad, the puppets are odd, but the basic premise matches what I experienced in my youth and what I have seen happen to communal houses. Arguments about who will cook the lentils, famous bands in the bathroom, and everything is boring.
One of the featured characteristics of youth is the fact that, because of geography, family, or school, friends are chosen less for compatibility and more for convenience. People sort themselves out according to musical tastes or clothing preference because those are the codes that indicate something deeper, but the connection is often superficial or transient. I was a teenage punk rocker not so much because I had abundant musical knowledge (in fact, I only had a few cassette tapes) but more because I was filled with rage and wore my clothes aggressively. I was angry because I was sick; my friends were angry because they were gay in a homophobic town, or they had to deal with racism, or they had been abused, or they had such a strong artistic aesthetic that the place itself made them crazy. Whatever the reason, we were different, and different is bad and we had to create our own community even if we had nothing else in common.
One old friend is in town and I keep meaning to visit him, but I never get around to it. He met me three weeks before the car accident. He didn't know me very well yet he was one of the people I seized on, decided to implicate in my tragedy. I wrote letters every day and mailed them to people who never knew the calm, practical person I had been before my head was cracked. After the injuries healed I was mortified that I had done such a thing, had revealed myself as vulnerable and in need of help and support. I'm sure that I was a burden, and now, I have no way to demonstrate that I am stable and even fun. I wouldn't be thrilled to hear from someone who established our friendship on a foundation of trauma and then lost touch for a decade; I wouldn't easily believe that the original drama was temporary.
I have been living here since July, driving around, shopping for groceries, going to dinner, going to parties, walking in parks. I run into people I know all the time; but always people I know from recent epochs of my life. Specifically, college, Colorado, and community organizing.
Aside from Scott, I never see anyone I grew up with. I started to wonder if I'm not paying close enough attention, but that seems an unlikely explanation. They haven't all moved away. I've heard many are living here and a few are still back in our hometown.
Since my daily, normal life leads me in and out of the lives of people I have known peripherally and intimately since I graduated from high school, but I only know one person from before that sunny June day, I guess that our youthful solidarity was necessary, appropriate -- and complete. I don't feel nostalgic for those hard years, not the dark parts, not the punishing discipline of reinvention or the eventual escape. I don't miss the hilarious parties, or the fun adventures; and if I miss the people sometimes, it is only in a dim way. The adult I have become is almost exactly what could have been predicted at fourteen but I don't live there. I live here.
Lucy Grealy wrote: What caused my sadness and my deep-seated unsatiableness was not a moral breakdown on my part (as conservative cultural watchdogs would have us believe) but rather my credulousness in believing beauty equals worthiness. I had not yet recognized all the subtle clues that beauty is only an easy label for a complex set of emotions: feelings of safety and grace and well-being. more
In the morning I watch the sunrise casting pink light across the Cascade range. After the kids get home the setting sun lights up the house again, yellow gold. I've never noticed the habits of the sun, the changing seasons, the landscape, in this way. Everything seems new and lovely.
Stella came the other night and taught me about leeks; she made soup and apple pie and gave me The Joy of Cooking wrapped in a special cover. Al and Byron and the kids karaoked in the living room and then started singing Holiday Barn.
Last night I dropped off something for Kara and then we ran into her again when we went out to dinner; the place was swarming with volunteers for Bikeworks.
Tonight Kristin and her family are coming for dinner. Teenage girls will fill the house.
People keep asking me if I miss Portland, but the answer is complicated. I don't miss that gray grid city, or the bad schools, or even my rickety house. The people I love write or visit, and I know they always will. I didn't sacrifice anything precious by moving a few hours north.
In this city, I know east from west. I walk to the bluff and look out across the bay at the Olympic mountains and feel content.
I found a holistic medical doctor. He listened to my history and nodded. He laughed when I stated that I am a recalcitrant patient, disobedient and not likely to follow through on any prescribed therapy. We agreed on a series of tests that should be peformed. I told him that he could check my sed rate and anti-nuclear antibodies if he wanted, but I won't take prednisone or anti-inflamatory drugs even when I am symptomatic. The tests are always interesting but never useful -- the experience is like a carnival game of chance; I always win a fish that dies the next day. I see no point in playing that particular game.
The nurse came to draw blood and she asked me for a good vein. We both looked at my arm. The scars from years of botched tests point to the best spot.
I didn't have high hopes for my visit, but the doctor seemed wise and kind, the clinic staff accomodating and fun. The nurse didn't even need me to make a fist; she drew the vials of blood without pain or fuss, and believed me when I said I didn't want tape.
My daughter announced her social schedule for the next few days: multiple friends arriving and departing all weekend, people to pick up and drop off, requirements for hosting and feeding.
I blinked. Why here? Can't you visit their houses once in awhile? I asked, after several booked weekends.
She stared at me. Dude she said, I have the most room.
This is true: she has an entire apartment, with kitchen and bath and guest quarters. When I installed her down there I hadn't really thought through the consequence: that my house would be teen central for the next four years, girls making prank calls, giggles drifting through the heater vents until dawn.
These girls are entirely innocent, wonderful, and sweet; in fact a joy to spend time with. They even like me. But my house has turned into a skit from Jeeves and Wooster, a newstyle Totleigh Towers. The girls even have daft nicknames for all their friends.
There is nothing to complain about; it is all quite fun. But very surprising.
Amy Joy and Dishwasher Pete have moved to Amsterdam and yesterday I got airmail: a lovely note from Amy Joy and a picture. Stevie is wearing suspenders, Anna Ruby has argyle socks on her arms and a red ribbon around her throat, Amy Joy is wearing fishnets, with bits and pieces of other random garments covering the rest of their bodies.
The latest email from Stevie was titled metal hips goes to Prague.
I miss them all; maybe I should go visit.
I went to three chiropractic appointments and each one made me more nervous; before the fourth, I had a panic attack. I didn't know why I was upset since the doctor and her staff were nice and attentive and even wished me a happy birthday. I knew that the anxiety was making my neck hurt, and that the appointments were supposed to make me well; I explained my fear to the doctor and she elected not to work on my neck.
Yesterday I remembered that on the first day of gymnastics in the fifth grade, I had a crick in my neck and asked to be excused. The teacher told me to take my turn and I went into a forward roll with my head slightly tilted. There was a cracking, wrenching pop and then I was rushed to the hospital. The pain was so intense I wanted to scream but even taking a deep breath was a chore; the particular, horrible pain that makes children and adults whimper for their mothers, and mine was there holding my hand as I went in to the CT scan.
The neck wasn't broken; but there was extensive damage to tendons, ligaments, muscles, and nerves. I needed a neck brace to hold my head up for months; my right arm was immobilized in a sling. I had to learn to write, dress, feed myself, with a clumsy left hand. I had to go to appointments with neurologists, surgeons, had to be driven out of the county for treatment at Children's Orthopedic, had to submit to gruesome tests. Even after I came out of the braces and started physical therapy, I could not turn my head, could not open a door or lift a book.
The injury took precedence in my life for an entire year and then my pediatrician noticed the cancer blooming in my thyroid. One surgery followed another and my neck and arm never properly healed, though gradually I forgot about that day in gymnastics.
It makes a lot of sense that I would feel anxiety about a sharp jerk of my head, about snapping sounds in my neck. The surprising thing is that I had actually managed to forget an injury so profound.
Looking back on that year, I wonder if I was holding my head differently because of the cancer; it had already destroyed most of my thyroid and oozed into my lymph system before the first surgery, so it makes some kind of sense that I might have been injured and then failed to heal because I was already sick. But I don't know.
The injury trained me for everything that followed, taught me how to hold still and disconnect my brain as my body was systematically damaged by doctors working to save my life.
Now I have a persistent, distinctive tightness across my shoulders and several alternative health practitioners have said that I need to work on my chakra, that I have bad chi. I roll my eyes and mutter, but I guess they are right on some level. Apparently my body does remember the injuries, the invasive surgeries. My brain certainly doesn't offer up the details.
Stevie Ann and Anna Ruby have been in Europe for months, and I can't convince any of my new friends to bleach my hair. They all suggest I go to one of the fancy hipster salons and pay money for an approximation of what I could get free in my Portland kitchen.
I miss the days when a group of random people would assemble to share bleach, mixing chemicals in recycled yogurt containers, streaking our hair and covering it in tin foil before some big event; Ana Helena swooping through with her stained toothbrush to add purple or blue to her glossy tresses; all of us splashing colors and chemicals all over and not caring because my kitchen was in a constant state of rehabilitation.
Once Stevie bleached out six inches of my hair and put red streaks on, but had to leave to meet someone. I rinsed the dye out myself and thoroughly ruined her handiwork: instead of red on white, it was entirely pink, like a smashed cone of cotton candy. We met up later that night at a showing of Third Antenna and Stevie gasped and turned away; she couldn't even look at my head.
If Stevie were around she wouldn't approve of my hair now; aside from the lamentable four inches of natural color showing, I've kept it bleached out with no color at the top for the last nine months. No more red or orange, and the black tips are only a few inches long. The last time she did my hair she protested but now you are blonde but I shrugged. I like the extreme pallor of the bleach job. I've gone monochromatic.
Portland friends visit every other week without advance warning; I'll have to buy some bleach and be prepared.
China mailed a big envelope of zines and newspapers and a really funny, sweet letter. The packet included I was a ... Student Nurse!, about her experiences student nursing; I loved the stories and the pictures of dummy patients. The cover of the zine is remarkably cool. The other zine was Dust Bunnie No. 1 and it starts with:
Do you range on the agorophobic side and start your day with dishwashing?
Are you the only one who wipes up dustbunnies out of the hallway?
Do you unplug the toaster when you leave the house so it doesn't blow up and set everything on fire?
Fret not, yonder frau, you are not alone....
She goes on to describe the process of becoming a homeowner and giving up the shambles and careless ways of renting. The illustrations by Matt are great, particularly I'm Past the Fear of Change with a pigtailed skeleton sweeping house. Her description of lying in bed worrying about the roof is dead accurate; and as a slovenly obsessive myself, I can very much identify with her story.
You should write to China and say hello and order the zines ($4 /Student Nurse, $1.50/Dust Bunnie):
Last year I hid myself away in the Colorado mountain cabin where Gabriel's parents homesteaded; an A-frame with no electricity, rudimentary plumbing consisting mainly of drains, cats mousing, a piano and woodstove and bunkbeds. The family horses stood in the soft snowfall outside, staring mournfully down the valley. I went over the drafts of the travel stories with Gabriel and on New Year's Eve his friends from childhood arrived for a celebration. The most interesting thing about this group of people, who grew up working or middle class next to Aspen, is the astonishing level of happiness and serenity they maintain, while also working as artists and traveling the world.
Annapurna was not part of this particular social scene because she was younger by a decade and had spent her childhood elsewhere. We were the outsiders and watched the others, best friends as teenagers, an aesthetic and artistic circle scattered across the globe who come back together over and over in different cities. I met some of these people in Rome; I see others when I visit New York. It was interesting and improbable to me because I grew up working class and desperate in a poor town and those of us who survived are suspicious of each other. But Glenwood Springs nurtured and tended the artistic and sensitive youth in its care, and they are good adults, strong and true.
At midnight most of the party cast off clothing and ran out on the deck and jumped into the snow drifts, screaming and laughing. Dawn showed up with her boyfriend and son and told us crazy funny stories about the emergency call center. We toasted each other with wine.
I didn't go to Colorado this year but Gabriel is there teaching and setting up a show:
My show at the Woody Creek Store and Gallery opens this Friday the 17th of January. They will be feeding us and keeping the doors open from five to eight. The work will be up through February 12.
Some Clearing is/are mostly domestic scenes of picking and clearing painted on small books or on wood panels covered in loose cloth.
The Woody Creek Store is next door to the Tavern. The number is 970 922-2342.
We were married seven years ago today, on the high holy birthday, at the Church of Elvis. The laminated schedule for the event included a fashion twirl, testimonial time, touching legalization of the vows, and in bold upper caps: wedded bliss.
The minister made us march through the streets of Portland and then through the foyer of Powells. She wore a ballgown and smacked me with her fairy wand when I refused to cooperate with her scheme exactly as directed. I wasn't terribly amused: she had invited a television news crew. I didn't feel like giving sound bites at my wedding.
The Church of Elvis is gone now; on a recent trip to Portland we saw the minister standing on a street corner screaming about mittens. But Elvis is universal. The spirit lives on.
The Bishop of Elvis Underground let us sleep at his house during the Breeder Tour. He gave me condoms to distribute at our events, marked The King is Coming.
Whether we are lucky or diligent is hard to know, but the laminated schedule for our wedding was easy to follow; we have fun that gets better and more interesting with every passing year.
On January 7, 1971 the first New Year's baby in the county was born to one of my mother's high school friends. I was the second that night; and the third baby was my cousin.
I was switched at birth with the cousin and restored to my own mother based on the fact that I had no hair when first viewed and could not have purchased a black wig in the interim. My birth certificate was muddled, the name completely wrong.
Could there possibly be a better way to meet the world, entering on a palindrome, a changeling without the benefit of a proper name?
Last night we hosted Kraftwerks and made dozens of buttons, cutting up old magazines and encyclopedias, gossiping and laughing, and then Kristin showed us how to make our own shrinky-dinks. Today I woke to many sweet salutations, and when I went to exchange my license I was rewarded by not having to take the dreaded knowledge test. Tonight I get to pick a nice place to eat and the children promise not to complain.
This has been the best birthday ever. Probably because I didn't have very many expectations.
Today I went to a new chiropractor. The standard intake form never allows enough space for my medical history so I just jotted a few notes and made X marks on the picture of the body, showing the various points where my system of stoic endurance isn't winning out.
Last year I went to see meteor showers with Polly and clan, Gabriel and Annapurna, Gwineth and Roman, and a bunch of people I had never met. I was looking up at the sky as I sat down, too hard, in the grassy and deceptively soft meadow. Apparently there had once been an apple orchard or some other tree root infrastructure, because there was a wacking jolt to my spine and I gasped and whispered I'm broken. I stretched out on the ground and the whole world was spinning and I knew that I was seriously damaged, in fact had broken my coccyx. Annapurna sang Smiths songs in my ear and handed around wine in paper cups as everyone else continued their merry party.
Polly drove me home and I stretched out on my living room floor and did not budge for twelve hours, when Byron called home from a business trip to tell me amusing stories. I had been silently gnashing my teeth but I burst into tears at the sound of his voice. He patiently asked did you call someone for help, a ride to the hospital?
The answer was no; I won't consent to x-rays so there is little point in being examined. He asked did you call someone to take care of you?
No, of course not, I would rather not be observed in a piteous state.
He asked did you take Arnica? and at that question I blinked. Arnica! Salvation. Faith cure, friend. I asked one of the children to fetch a vial from the kitchen and gobbled it down, and then called Stevie and asked her to bring more.
When she arrived at the house with Arnica and salves I couldn't get up. It was days before I could walk properly, go up the stairs to my own bed. My chiropractor said the coccyx was indeed broken, ligaments and muscles torn. I had to stop riding my bicycle, walking on uneven surfaces, sitting in normal socially approved fashion at events. I couldn't sit at my desk and type and after a few months had to buy a laptop so I could sit cross-legged on the wood floor to check email. But even then, only for brief periods.
At the time I remember stating that I was fine with a glare or grim smile. But I wasn't, and only now, over a year later, is it clear how badly I was hurt, and how little the regimen of treatments has helped. Mainly because it still hurts, but also because my new chiropractor pointed out radical changes in my posture and the way I hold my shoulders and sit and walk, differences that are astonishing when compared to how I used to stride about aggressively, arms on hips. I've assumed a more protective stance. I still can't ride my bicycle.
I guess that I'm really old if I have a back injury. This is something I'll have to view as a mark of status -- I've arrived at a distant and unbelievable age if I can claim a banal, normal, and even silly injury like this. I'm so old, I am required by physician edict to wear comfortable, ugly shoes. I don't have to go to the oncologist this week: I have to go to physical therapy.
I've been busy, and then sick. I am stoicially occupied and proficient when beset by crisis or traumatic illness, but common and banal infections or viruses slay me -- give me a head cold or stomach flu and I will writhe and complain and cry bitter tears. This week I took to my bed, piled high with comforters and quilts, and let the world slide down.
Fragments from the holiday season:
The research group rented the Seattle Art Museum one night and we went to see the Frida Kahlo and Mexican Modernist exhibit. I wandered through the exhibit and admired the Orozco female nude, the Carrington, the Diego portrait of Mrs. Natasha Gelman. I shivered in front of the Frida self-portrait with monkeys. I had forgotten that Frida changed the spelling of her name from Frieda in protest against of the rise of Nazism (she was half German). I stood for some time before the painting Two Nudes in the Jungle, a gift to Dolores del Rio.
I looked at the Lola Alvarez Bravo gelatin silver prints, at the Maria Izquidero circus images. I watched the research scientists and their partners and lovers wandering about, talking about art. Several people seemed knowledgable; a woman in a lavender chiffon dress and braids laughed at the Collage with Two Flies. Others seemed irritated, impatient.
We drifted down to the cafe level of the museum, where a lavish banquet had been set out, food ranging from vegan to bloody beef. I stood in line at the open bar and ordered a glass of red wine. The bartender looked at me and said Having fun, dear? and I said No, but I don't have a choice and he laughed.
We took the children to see a production of The BFG at the Seattle Children's Theatre and had a tremendous time, but I was a laggard and didn't buy tickets for The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe before they sold out. My enjoyment of the event in hand was ruined by the loss of the event not seen.
My in-laws came to visit for a week and we took them to bookstores, to eat at our favorite restaurants, and up the Space Needle for sunset and supper. Byron walked with his mother to the bluff and along the shore. They played chess and Lego with the children. We had a grand, good time, marred by nothing, happy and content. The children started to sing and my mother-in-law blinked and turned to us: but they are harmonizing? she said, and we nodded. They sing together, high and fine and perfect, untrained, spontaneous.
At the cusp of the new year we went to a party with people who are our age but have very young children. They were charming, interesting, funny, and talked at great length about birth and child rearing. The women made an effort to include me in the conversation but I smiled and shrugged. My experience of parenthood is idiosyncratic; my daughter is as tall as me, articulate, poised. I had her when I was a teenager and our life together has been thrilling and wonderful, but not equivalent to the experience of someone who waited until after age thirty to breed.
Beyond that essential difference, having children threatened my own continued existence. Both attempts placed me in great peril, were my own sincerely reasoned risk; I didn't have a normal or reasonable experience either at age eighteen or twenty-five. I just tried to survive, and then felt lucky to have managed it. But talking about my reckless and ridiculous adventures would detract from the beautiful normalcy of birth, child-bearing, the societal effort to reclaim and demedicalize the experience. I feel that I simply cannot talk about the terror of my births, because they detract from the hypothesis I most support.
Happy new year & the best of all wishes ...... and hoping that you all escape the seasonal illnesses....