We Will Never Really Know What Happened Here

The electrician has begun to talk to himself as he works. At least, that was what I thought, but the Engineer says he has one of those Bluetooth things that hangs inobtrusively on your ear and makes people think you are a schizophrenic walking around. I am getting to that stage myself.

The rewiring of the office and treatment room are finished, meaning that I can finally plug my computer into an outlet that is actually grounded — yes, Virginia, I have been living for years in an ungrounded house — and use an updated battery backup box that doesn’t shriek hysterically: “I am not grounded! I am not grounded!” the minute you plug it in. Forever. Until you unplug it. Sheesh.

I shut the cats up in here to keep them out of the electrical work, meaning there also has to be a water dish (which I keep kicking over) and a litter box (behind a purdah screen bought for the use, next to the computer desk).

This morning I turned on my computer, heard the comforting sound of the boot sequence beginning, went to make tea, and came back to find a blank monitor screen, the on-off LED unlit. You know the cold, hollow feeling you get when one of your electronics fails. This is the second monitor I’ve bought from Viewsonic, after the first one failed at an absurdly young age, on account I figured it was just a built-on-Monday issue and Viewsonic somehow has got the number of my horrible eyes and I can see their displays better than everything else at Micro Center.

The Engineer offered to let me use his monitor until I could shop for a new one, since he can see the laptop better than I can. We hooked it up and it didn’t work either. Heartening, but a mystery. I stopped having a full-on meltdown, ceased to swear at the various cables and desktop impoedimenta, and hit switches as the Engineer rearranged connections to the battery box.

“It’s designed so that one side transmits power no matter what, but the other receptacles only work if the battery power is on,” he said.

“Well it was on last night.”

Someone pressed this button on the top between last night and this morning,” he said.

It is right next to the litter box.

No one is confessing.

Veterans’ Day

There are a lot of flags flying today, and occasions of what I have come to think of as “solemnity porn,” involving moments of silence and the placing of floral tributes and a soulful rendition of Taps, meant to make tears well in your eyes and confer an uplifted feeling. You know the kind of thing.

There was an interesting piece in the Daily Beast a couple of days back about an overmedicated, desperate veteran who discovered — I don’t know why it surprises anyone — that marijuana relieved his post-traumatic stress when fourteen pharmacy drugs did nothing for him. He’s an activist now, staging demonstrations at Veterans’ Day parades, reminding people that “honoring the sacrifice” means nothing if you look away from the people who are still suffering, to include an appalling rate of suicides. The Department of Veterans’ Affairs apparently wants nothing to do with him and his weed, though there is a growing — pardon the expression — body of research suggesting it might be a targeted therapy.

Post-traumatic stress disorder — I prefer to call it post-traumatic stress injury, because it’s damage inflicted on a person, not something intrinsically wrong with someone’s organism — isn’t limited to people who’ve been in combat; it’s just that combat is a pretty sure-fire way to incur it. But growing up around, oh say, gang shootings, or in a household with a baby-raper, or just with a parent who brutalizes you mentally if not physically, will all do it; car crashes will do it, or the frank medical mayhem that occurs way too often in the guise of “care.” There is a lot of it out there, and it is not just an effect of war and violence but a cause of war and violence, so every single person on earth has to give a damn about it. It is a problem that exists in the body and has to be resolved in the body, and if I had my career in bodywork to start over again I might just be going to school to the people who are working with brain wave modulation and the tremor reflex and resolution of “tape-recorded” procedural memory — Peter Levine, Bessel van der Kolk, David Berceli. What does seem apparent is that the people who treat veterans or rape survivors with talking (which often just means reliving the trauma and inscribing it more deeply) and drugs (which make you numb, which PTSD does anyway) are getting it all wrong.

Then there are artificial, political conflicts that gum things up. Stress-afflicted veterans, trained fighters wired to overreact, act out and frighten their families at a disturbing rate; they end up in the legal system when what they need is informed care, connection, a way out of it. Some veterans’ and “mens’ rights” advocates appear stuck in the viewpoint that “feminists” are villains in this context for criminalizing domestic violence triggered by combat stress. I am as impatient with them — a woman has a right to protection from a violent man even if he is also a victim — as I am with the feminists who do seem convinced that only bad bad men are ever violent. (They need to meet the twelve- or even thirty-year-old me.)

Old literature majors never die, so I am glad to mention the Philoctetes Project, which gets it right.

So does Patrick Stewart. Yes, that Patrick Stewart.

Maybe we need fewer psychologists and more theater people on this problem. Or dogs.

This Veterans’ Day, I invite everyone to skip the paper poppy and instead learn enough about trauma so that the next time your vote, your advocacy or your donation can make a difference, you will know how to make it count.

Domestic Bliss

Now that the weather has become brisk — no, belay that, the weather has become damp and raw — the cats snuggle up much closer to us at night. The one that licks my fingers is Lily, the one that sits on my flank is usually Nickel, and the one who sneezes — kerflooey — is Mr. Ferguson.

In the early light yesterday morning I started to roll over and the Engineer said “Hold still a moment.” I felt a slight ruffling of my hair, and then the springy tread of a cat rappelling off my pillow.

“There was a giant cat booger in your hair,” explained the Engineer. “I took care of it.”

There’s real love for you. Both of em.

The Size Of It

This came to me sort of second hand via Avaaz (whom I do support with petitions though I haven’t yet budgeted money). I did send the cost of a client session to the UN Refugee office a while back. They say they’re overwhelmed.

You can’t think about this kind of thing 24 hours a day — unless it is your calling or your job, and fortunately that is true of some people. They are pretty amazing people. This is a video some of them made. It gives you a sense of the size of it.

What I can’t shake is how grateful so many of these people seem to be for… a few feet of the deck of a safe boat.

The Return Of The Great God Pan

Nothing to do with Arthur Machen. (Fortunately. There is enough disruption around here already.)

No, this is Panos, the onetime Cairo cabdriver, Mediterranean motormouth, contractor extraordinaire. What happened was, the Engineer, who builds computers — this one I’m working on, for instance — wanted to put together a new one after he moved in. The first step was installing three-prong plugs in his room, heretofore the province of the cats, whose computer use is limited to this kind of thing:


(Don’t laugh. Fergie’s right hind paw typed an entire message in binary code into this post, which I had to delete; it probably had something to do with world domination.) Well lo and behold all the wiring was ungrounded and wildly not to code, installed serially, and on examination there is not a single grounded outlet anywhere on the top two floors of the house. Someone took care of that for the cellar, for some reason.

The Engineer came with a dowry of sorts, and we decided we could stretch to it. Hence yesterday morning the Great God Pan, whose entourage includes an electrician, appeared at the door at 8 a.m. with his merry band, and for the rest of the day my house resounded with a great commotion of hammering, drilling and pneumatic nail guns as they ripped out the basement ceiling to expose the wiring and framed a chase around the heating ducts. This, I am promised, will incorporate recessed lighting after the electrical work is done. By the end of the day the ceiling, a fugly homeowner job painted an unprepossessing shade of babycrap yellow, was in eight sacks at the end of the driveway and good riddance.

Christian, the electrician, who is from some part of the world whose first European language is French and that is all I can tell, appeared about four with a coil of copper wire and a monumental breaker panel that looks as if it belongs on the International Space Station. Finally, I will be able to turn on the radiator in the massage room and charge my electric toothbrush at the same time.

My next door neighbor — the crabby old lady whose entire life seems dedicated to making citizens’ arrests of rogue cars in the local parking zone — was seen shuffling in her quilted housecoat between the crew’s vehicles, which I had provided with temporary passes. I swear I heard her mutter “Curses, foiled again,” as she clumped back indoors.

Christian comes back tomorrow to sink grounding rods and commence running new wire to all the household receptacles, starting at the basement and working up. Meanwhile my finished cellar room looks like this:


The cats, who are used to percolating through there at will (in their two separate cohorts, anyway) are banned until the place is no longer shrink-wrapped, and had to spend yesterday sequestered in remote locations. There is a cat box in my business office. Mystery, who goes down there every morning for some undisclosed purpose, is despondent (fig. 4 above). Fortunately food fixes it.

I kind of feel like an extra protein bar myself. Reports as things develop.

Stairway To Heaven, or, The Peaceable Kingdom

A household first.

Peaceable Dining

From the bottom: Mr. Ferguson; his wife, Ms. Nickel Catmium-Ferguson; the Engineer’s heavyweight cat, Mystery ap Bast; his sister, Lily ap Bast.

Usually Fergie and Nickel fress out of two dishes and then the Basts come in and police things up like polite beta cats, but today it was the full soprano-alto-tenor-bass chorus.

After I took the shot they played musical bowls for a while, but no one bapped anybody. Progress.