A New Way to Read

 

Yesterday was a big day for me in a very small way. For the last months I’ve been clearing out the relics. All that remains of upward of 20 boxes in the garage are three bins of stuff and three boxes of books. I think I could go out there today and dump the bins into the trash can, but I won’t. Still, after loading a friend’s car with boxes of books to take to a bigger city to sell or donate, I don’t want more books in my life. I still have plenty that I could box up and donate or sell, but as they’re in shelves and not bothering anyone, I’m leaving them be.

Then I learned yesterday of a new biography of Goethe, GOETHELife as a Work of Art By Rüdiger Safranski, translated by David Dollenmayer

The NYT doesn’t give the book a glowing review — Anglo-centered wretches that we are — saying:

“Safranski’s book (a best seller in Germany) is aimed squarely at a German readership of Bildungsbürger, educated and tolerant of abstractions and paraphrases. It doesn’t feel the need to locate Goethe for a non-German readership. Safranski is an energetic writer, without much refinement or subtlety. Dozens of obscure names scoot past the reader’s eye with nary a word of introduction or presentation.”

BUT I could not read that review yesterday because the NYT shut me out for not subscribing. I went on Amazon. There was the book in Kindle and as a hardback book of nearly 700 pages. All I could think of was, “Damn, another book,” and that far outweighed (ha ha) my desire to read it. I put it in my “cart” without buying it and went on with my day, but, but, but…

Later I thought, “What if I had a Kindle?” I went back to Amazon and priced Kindles. I didn’t want to spend $80 for the lowest priced eReader then I thought, “Wait. I have an iPad.” It might be nearly 10 years old, and I might not use it very much, but I do have an iPad. And, for the first time made the conscious decision to read that way. I downloaded the book and, so far, I like it a LOT. Exactly what annoyed the NYT reviewer makes me happy. Another reviewer wrote that the book is not great for someone who doesn’t know Goethe’s oeuvre, which sounds slightly obscene, but I am familiar with Goethe’s work as would be many of the German readers of this book (for whom it was actually written), so I’m happy. The author relied on primary sources, letters, Goethe’s own work and I like that, too. Anyway, the author’s unrefined, energetic prose captivated me and the fact that it will not go on some shelf in this house was a relief.

Reading the review this morning I was struck by the fact that this reviewer thinks it’s a bad thing to assume one’s readers are, “…educated and tolerant of abstractions and paraphrases…”

Wow.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/relieved/

Dad

“C’mon MAK. Let’s go for a ride.”

“Where are you taking her?” My mom was angry at me again for something.

“There’s a record at the music store I want to look at, Helen. C’mon, MAK. Get your coat.”

I put on my ski jacket. It was the early 60s, I was 14, and the jacket was pure — and new — fashion. It was reversible. One side a flowery pattern in mostly orange, the other side — the usual side for me — black because I didn’t like orange.

“Listen, MAK,” my dad said turning the key in the ignition. “Stay away from your mom when she’s been drinking. Some people are funny when they’ve been drinking. Some people are mean. Your mom’s mean. When she’s like that, just get away.”

We backed out of the driveway.

What was he talking about? I was already living in the disconnect a lot of kids of an alcoholic parent live in. But from then on I took my dad’s advice and got out when the fireworks began.

In the wings of our lives was a move from Nebraska back to Colorado, my dad’s soon-to-be-rapid physical decline from Multiple Sclerosis, my family’s disintegration. That night we stood in the neon-lit music store in Bellevue, Nebraska and bought an album, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. Most of my generation knows this one, grew up with this one, but one song was particularly important to my dad.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/bottle/

Blossoms…

I have a garden and stuff is growing in it. Some of it is blooming, too. The peonies I planted three years ago bloomed this year — it’s my fault that I did not protect the buds from freezing in past years, but live and learn.

The late hard frost meant very few lilacs this spring. The frost was hard on the iris, too, but some made it into bloom before and some after; those caught in bud in between suffered the most.

The yellow rose that has been in my yard since godnose how long — maybe as long as the house has been here — has been poorly since I moved in. It’s a nasty rose, covered with grasping thorns, and somehow I was just never quite sure what to do with it. Each year it pumped out some blossoms then faded into a white-fly ridden mess of faded leaves.

But this year I decided, “OK, rose, you bloom every June no matter what. I’m cleaning the ground around you, I’m going to fertilize you and do something about your parasites. I hope you end up happy about it.” She’s very happy.

Rose

The downside of the rose (beyond the thorns) is that it spreads like a son-of-a-bitch, as does everything else — aspen, lilac and elm. It’s a war out there, I tell you, a war. This is the season of pulling minuscule elm-trees out of the places they don’t belong. You have to give it to elm tree, though. They bloom first and with an inspiring ferocity. “Nobody likes us. We gotta’ get out there and on that ground before anyone else and before the humans notice.” I know they think this.

baby elm trees

I’m not a great gardener. I’m just a person who putzes around the yard. I like best the gardens that grow on their own hook out there in “nature” (it still seems weird to me that “nature” is a place apart from my house and yard, but there it is). I am attempting such a garden in my yard. I bought wildflower seeds and followed the directions for sowing them. I do not think that the people who wrote those directions expected the results I have gotten. At the back, near the fence, I planted a Colorado Columbine. This thing is a dense mass of sprouts which I have thinned and thinned. Still…

IMG_6192

Even Bear, seeing this as a cool place to lie down after a walk, had no effect on its determination to grow like crazy. I’m very eager to see what the flowers will be — I recognize some of the plants — sweet alyssum, flax, cornflower and California poppy — but what else is there???

Another seed I planted is Love in the Mist. A few years ago one or two came up after I scattered wildflower seeds in a small garden. I had never seen such a lovely thing before. I bought seeds — 1/4 pound — and shared with everyone around, so maybe it will be a big winner in my literal corner of the world.

Love in the Mist

Last but not least — though no blossoms, yet — is my little veggie garden. Tomatoes, basil, chard and zucchini.

IMG_6194

After all…

Garden sign:mine

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/blossom/

The Stucco Angel

Back in the late 90s, my brother — an incorrigible drunk — was picked up by the cops, taken to a hospital, dried out for four weeks (at the government’s expense because he was indigent), sent to rehab, brought back from rehab, put in a motel with a few bucks to get him started. Naturally, he got drunk. At that point he realized that he had no place to live. His landlord had evicted him from his apartment. All the money left him by my mom through the sale of her house was gone, apparently stolen from under his mattress by his drinking buddies. In short, he was up shit crick without a paddle.

I’d been given strict instructions from his social worker not to help him, not to send him money, to do what I could to push him into sobriety. He had already told me how little sobriety interested him, but…

So one late afternoon the phone rang. “Martha Ann? This is Kirk. Your brother.” I only ever had the one but this is what he always said when he called. “I just want you to know I’m OK. I’m living at the Montana Rescue Mission. It’s nice and they’re giving me a job.”

My brother was living at a rescue mission. I didn’t know what that meant, how to take it, nothing. I was numb inside from two years of trauma in my family — my mom dying, my brother self-destructing all while trying, in my own life, to patch things up and hold them together.

While I was on the phone, there was a knock at my front door. “Someone’s at the door. You want to call me back?” He said he’d call me the next day.

A neat and clean, poorly dressed man about 40 stood there with a stenographer’s notebook and a bag over his shoulder holding flyers.

“I’m here to invite you to a Thanksgiving Dinner.”

“Where?”

“At the San Diego Rescue Mission. It’s $2.50 a ticket.”

I felt very strange hearing that. “I’ll take two tickets.” I thought one for me, one for Kirk. “Do you live there?” I asked him.

“Yes.”

“Can you tell me what it’s like living at a rescue mission? I just talked to my brother on the phone and he’s living at a rescue mission now. He’s an alcoholic.”

“I can tell you.”

So we sat down on the stoop and he told me all about himself. His name was John and he’d been a drunk and a druggy, he said. Lost everything to his habits but he really wanted to be sober this time. He was a soft-spoken man, without the inexplicable charisma a lot of users have. “God will help your brother, if he lets Him.”

I didn’t doubt that.

“It will be good for your brother. He’ll be with a lot of people like him who are trying to do better. It’ll be easier for him without the pressure of all the people outside who judge and aren’t fighting that demon.”

I could see the logic there. We talked for nearly an hour and then he said, “I have to invite more people. What’s your brother’s name? This is my prayer list.” He showed me the steno notebook. “These are the people I pray for every day. I’ll add your brother’s name.”

“Kirk Kennedy.”

So my brother’s name went into that book and John was on his way with $5 for the dinner. I set my two tickets on the table and went out back to be with my dogs, never thinking I’d ever see John again, but I was wrong. He came by two weeks later to check on me.

“How’s your brother?”

“He’s doing all right.”

“So far,” said John. “Always remember, ‘so far’.”

“Yeah,” I laughed.

And John came back nearly every month just to be sure that I was doing all right. Then he disappeared. “Oh well,” I thought, “so far.” A year passed and I didn’t see John. Meanwhile, my brother had given up on the Rescue Mission, gone to Colorado, got a job with a friend, and seemed to be doing well. I went to Colorado and visited him. During the visit he did something that showed me that if there was a wagon, he’d fallen off and the wagon was long gone. That was the last time I saw my brother alive.

More time passed — four years? My brother headed back down that chute, though this time in Arizona. I was working four jobs, one of which was supporting him in rehab. Housing prices went up and I decided to move out of the “barrio” and up to the mountains if I could find a place. I did. There was work that needed to be done on my house before the deal could close. I was working frantically to get it done, but I was out of money. There remained a 12 inch bit of wall all around an enclosed veranda that needed to be stuccoed. My real estate agent was going to do it, but had a heart attack instead. I was given 10 days to patch that bit. On Friday, home from school early, I decided to try it myself. After all, I’d textured a lot of walls and I was a painter, but I quickly leraned that troweling stucco above my head was impossible. It was too heavy. As I was standing on the step ladder, giving up on the stucco, there was a knock at my front door and the dogs went wild.

You know what’s coming.

It was John.

“I haven’t seen you in a long time,” I said. “Are you OK?”

“I messed up and had to leave the mission, but I’m back.”

“I’m glad,” I said.

“How are you? How’s your brother?”

“My brother’s in rehab again and I’m OK. I sold my house.”

“THIS house? How could you sell it?”

“I want to move up to the mountains.”

“That’ll be nice.”

I thought for a minute, guys like John… “Hey John, in all your work, did you ever do stucco?”

“Yeah. That was my trade. Why?”

I told him my stucco problem. He laughed and said, “Where is it?”

And he did a beautiful stucco job for me.

“I want to pay you,” I said.

“No,” he said. “You can’t pay me. We’re friends. You’ve always been here when I’ve knocked on your door. You never judged me. Your brother costs you enough and I know you work hard. Let’s go get a pizza sometime. You can buy.”

I gave him my cell phone number so he could call me about the pizza, and he left. A few weeks later I moved up to the mountains and five weeks after that came the Cedar Fire, the worst fire in California history. I was evacuated from my new house, scared and all the emotions that come from finding oneself living in a place surrounded by flames.

I was driving down the freeway toward a friend’s house where I would wait out the fire with my dogs when my cell phone rang. “Hello?”

“Martha? This is John. I just want to know that you’re all right.”

“I’m all right. We’ve been evacuated, but I’m fine.”

“Are the dogs fine?”

“We’re all fine.”

“Thank God,” he said. “Well I gotta’ go. I’m on the mission’s phone. No personal calls.”

I never heard from John again.

You can’t create stories like this. Life writes them.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/create/

A Memory For Fathers’ Day

This is just very beautiful. I felt like I was there and I may have been. ❤

Aunt Beulah

I remember how my dad took his children to Schroeder’s, despite a lack of ready cash. Screen door slamming; tall, work-slim body striding across the yard, he yelled to any of us within hearing, “If you want to go, climb aboard. I’m on my way.”

Word spread, “He might be going to Schroeder’s.” Deserting chores, we scrambled into our dilapidated jeep, jockeying for position. Dad gunned the engine, shot away and, singing that he’d take Kathleen home again, paid no mind to his passengers caught in mid-scramble.

A fast five miles of irrigated farmland flashed by, dotted by an occasional house hunched beneath massive outbuildings. The finger-smeared windows through which we peered softened the countryside and gentled farmyard clutter. Dad, more interested in his vibrato than our battles, bounced the jeep along rough roads in tempo to his tune, until, gravel flying, he executed his usual abrupt stop. “Whoa there…

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Shade or Sun?

For the last few weeks, weird guys have been walking up and down my street. Living in a small town you know who does and doesn’t belong on your sidewalk, and these guys don’t. We have neighborhood watch and I told my neighborhood captains that something’s fishy, that I think someone is selling drugs to the west of me. And the drugs they’re selling — as this is Colorado — are not pot.

So on our walk last evening, Bear and I met up with one of the Neighborhood Watch Captains who told me he’d talked to one of the scuzzy looking characters and told him he should take another route.

I said, “That’s fine. It’s his addiction.” This led to a conversation about addiction. Those lead to sad personal stories. Luckily his wife came outside and interrupted us.

I’m an addict, but not the kind that anyone would say, “Oh, she’s an addict.” I’m addicted to addicts. I grew up with an addict and my brother was an addict and my grandfather — my dad’s dad — was an addict. There is a network in addiction and everyone in the family has a role to play.

My role is the role of “good kid” and what I do is make life easy for the addict. It makes me INCREDIBLY HAPPY to do this. I think my dad might have had that role in his family, too, because his sister became an addict, but not his mom. I think my dad may have had the job of defusing my grandfather’s drunken rages and taking care of his mother.

In this role the person gets good feelings from enabling. We are every con artist’s dream, we are the ultimate patsy. It’s very hard to explain this, but my therapist said it, “It feels like home. You feel comfortable around those people.”

I am afraid I fell into the trap yesterday. A normal person would hire a handyman based on recommendations, look for his license, all the concrete things that show “this is a guy to be trusted.” I didn’t do that. I hired him based on price, the fact that we ‘hit it off’ (somewhat important since he’ll be in my space for a while) and something else I cannot define.

Yesterday when he came with the contract, there were red flags that I didn’t notice right away. He talked openly about previous drug use, told me about his family, his hopes for the future and none of this brought up any red flags — but it should have. The contract was a boiler-plate contract from the internet which, again, should have seemed strange but didn’t. It didn’t spell out the work he is going to do and the costs involved. I didn’t pick up on that at the time, either.

Later in the evening, something gnawed at me, “Check out the Facebook page you hired him from” and I did. I looked at his recommendations — ONE, clearly fake leading to a fake page with photos of the kid he’d brought along as his assistant. The kid was cleaned up and “Christianized,” but it was him. I thought, “Shady.”

At three in the morning, though, I woke up fearing I’d been played — again. All the things I should have looked for and didn’t went through my mind. I saw the pattern and I saw that there’s probably no way in the world that I will ever fully escape it. Now I have to deal with this.

He has a small deposit. He’s supposed to show up Monday morning. If he does show up when he says he will, then…the other side of it is MAYBE HE’S TELLING ME THE TRUTH and he is a young dad trying to start a life in a new state. That’s the other side of this. Knowing what I know about myself I find it very, very, very hard to trust my own judgment.

There’s also the fact that back when I lived in “the hood” and was really poor, if I needed home repairs, I pretty much hired any itinerant workman who showed up at my door. It always worked out.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/paragon/

Mini-Mace from Hell

Nature, in her inestimable wisdom, created many things far in advance of the invention of what they were designed to destroy. Ice, of course, was created to make automobiles skid off the road. Meanwhile, it peacefully worked on its long term goals of splitting giant boulders through frost wedging. “Someday you’ll be sand, mua-ha-ha-ha.”

Another manifestation of sadistic forethought is the goat head thorn. Sure, it stuck in peoples’ shoes, socks and trousers for centuries, but who cared? Then came the bicycle tire…

It’s a pretty enough ground-level vine, but…

Tribulus_terre_400

“I’m just trying to propagate my species,” it will tell you of its wandering little sadistic seeds, “I’m stuck here in the ground. It’s up to my kids to see that we find a new patch of earth on which to grow. We don’t ask for much. Just a barren, dry, forgotten piece of somewhere, ignored by everyone, likely to be used as a shortcut…”

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/puncture/

The Circus…

Looking at the political situation in the US now, one thing I can say is that I know a lot more about it than I did two years ago. I think that might be true of a lot of people in this country. The thing is like a huge, morbid circus.

There IS a lot of “fake news.” Yesterday I read that a friend of Trump’s thinks Trump might fire Mueller, the Special Counsel. That’s not news. That’s gossip. But it has spread and so… From a liberal blog, but…

I watched Trump’s meeting with his cabinet — finally he has a cabinet. The meeting was surreal. He blamed and bragged and the “cabinet” sucked up shamelessly. I thought last night that the job of the president and the cabinet was pretty serious and had nothing (much) to do with egos, but this was nothing but. Maybe after the photo-op was over, they went into a room and worked. I don’t know. Once again, he calls Democrats “obstructionists” not thinking that he is the president of ALL the people in this country, not just the ones who kiss ass. I think he believes his own fiction.

 

 

Ivanka the Good Witch came out in favor of apprenticeships in high schools (I’m completely and totally for that) and then I read an article in The Guardian exposing the terrible treatment of workers in Ivanka’s factories. It’s quite anecdotal and makes use of the passive voice, still, I don’t doubt it’s true. It’s also true that when I worked in China I earned $100 US/month and was near the top of the pay scale, close to the highest government official. The article is not what I call hard data.

Watching Comey testify last week was interesting, most interesting was that his BIG statement, that Russia interfered in our election process in a major way was not as interesting to people as other things he said. I got the impression that — to Comey — that was the most enormous thing but to the people on the committee and maybe the people in the country, the gossip he also shared was more intriguing. “He said, she said” is, to me, always gossip. Unverifiable and ephemeral, but so tantalizing. I do not know how anyone could ever prove that when Trump said, “I hope” he meant “You’d better.”

There’s just so much crap and that includes some of the REAL news. My interest in all this has not tapered off much because it continues to be completely beyond my ken. (I got to write ken 🙂 )

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/taper/

Ski Bum Revelation, II

Those of you starting out in life or making your way over the GREAT BRIDGE of life’s productivity, saving the world (I, for one, am grateful) well, maybe this post is not for you, but I think it is. I retired three years ago and moved back to the Rocky Mountains which I had missed more than I can ever describe for the 30 years I lived in someone else’s paradise. Don’t get me wrong. I was very happy in Southern California and found a Coloradoesque life for myself in the wonderful mountains that rim San Diego. I learned to see and love the coastal sage and chaparral, my great teacher in so many ways, but I always, always, always missed the mountains.

Once I retired and came back, I launched myself right into what I thought I’d want to do as retired person. I have arthritis in my knees, so I figured I needed surgery and/or I was a cripple. I never had enough time to paint, so I figured I was an artist. I had an unfinished novel, so I figured I was a writer.

Over the course of this three years, my understanding of myself has changed, shifted. Images of myself that I held up there peeled away. You might think it’s all about self-discovery when you’re young, but I’d say for me there’s been more of that in the last three years than any other time since, well, ever. I don’t have that stuff in front of me, all that “Que sera, sera,” stuff. A lot of my stories have ended and I know how they turned out. For example I know I’m not going to be anyone’s mom and I’m not going to make a million bucks or save all the people in an impoverished country. No one expects anything of me any more, except to creep inexorably downhill physically, to be more out of touch with technology than I am or ever will be, to be not all that bright. It’s funny, but after you do a pretty good job through your working years, there will be people (usually younger) that don’t realize that you once were where they are and YOU MADE IT THROUGH.

There was a point in life in which dreams turned into imperatives such as “Holy shit, do I earn enough to make my house payment?” I remember, sometime in my 40s, telling my brother that all I did in my life was “patch things up and hold them together.” He, for his part, was impressed that I could do that! 🙂

So now…the other day, riding the stationary bike and watching a movie, The Last of the Ski Bums, I realized that I was happier skiing than doing any other thing in my life, ever. And I wasn’t very good at it. That’s important. Skiing, in and of itself, was just great, sublime, exciting, beautiful. Snow, high mountains, speed. Wow. I decided then and there that in my next life no one’s going to hijack my aimless existence with their idea of purpose. No sirree.

Then… Well, I work out a lot. Simply being able to walk requires that the muscles of my legs are strong so my knees work like knees should. I don’t know what I was doing, but I found myself in a skiing maneuver. And I thought, “Damn. I can do this. Godnose that next life idea is unpredictable. I might come back  wombat or armadillo or something. Or a child in the tropics where there is no snow and no hope of any. I can’t hang my ski bum dreams on some next life. I missed out this time, but putting my money on my next life is really too big a gamble.”

So I did research. Lots of people ski with arthritis. Since I was never any good, I can probably have a pretty good time on the baby slopes, maybe even blue circles! There are braces people wear on their knees. Then I remembered reading something on the website of the local ski area, just 50 miles away and no mountain pass involved, Wolf Creek, (which, BTW, usually gets the most snow of any ski area in Colorado). Their ski school has classes for “Baby Boomers.” A lift ticket for “seniors” is $25. I might not be the only one living out their Late-life Ski Bum Dreams

 

“Damned kids!!”

Sometimes when I start up my car the music is so loud that I have to yell, “Damned kids!!!”

But it’s just me. There are no kids.

Some songs — by their nature — need to be listened to at full blast. “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath. “Born to Be Wild” by Steppenwolf. ” “Anarchy in the UK” by the Sex Pistols (or anything else by the Sex Pistols, but “Holidays in the Sun” I find makes me so happy that I might endanger my car’s speakers). Anything by the Ramones or Dead Kennedys. Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life.” “Master of Puppets” by Metallica. My list of loud songs is long and spans decades. And I sing along which adds a dimension of volume and horror you don’t want to imagine.

I’ve been married a few times. My first husband — whom I married when I was 20 — and I didn’t get along very well. We couldn’t communicate with each other, a combination of not knowing how and not knowing why. One day I came home to find he’d thrown all my Steppenwolf albums in the dumpster. “There’s more to life,” he said, “than a 20 minute drum solo.”

“Yeah? Well, what, for example?” He had no answer and I dug out my albums, but the nails were being rapidly pounded into the coffin of a very bad marriage.

It’s an interesting (true) fact that I paid for my divorce from him with my collection of Rolling Stones albums which was, apparently, staggeringly good. The lawyer who represented me in my divorce was the assistant dean of the University of Denver College of Law. I got that as a bonus for working there, I guess.

You might be thinking this loud music made it hard for me and my various spouses to talk to each other but that wasn’t the case. This is a CAR thing. I drove on bad brakes for months without knowing it because the music was so loud I didn’t hear them squealing.

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/volume/