Coronastan (II)

The stay-at-home order has been issued for Virginia. I was a little afraid it would mean “don’t go clock mileage even on deserted streets where you are further from other people than two apartment residents standing on their respective balconies,” but apparently exercise is deemed okay. It’s about no sitting down in restaurants, no going to stores except groceries and pharmacies, we know the drill by now.

I’m glad. See, I had this nightmare. Back in the Great War, commanders would reputedly rotate their troops away from the front, whenever possible, if they started to dream about the trenches. That meant their nerves were close to snapping and they might shut down in a crisis. Supposedly it took about six months.

Well, in one of the safest and calmest parts of Coronastan — at least for now; we don’t have financial worries at this point, we don’t know anyone sick, we can get grub by no-contact delivery — it took two weeks. Last night I woke in the emotional equivalent of a cold sweat, having dreamed that:

1. I needed a car part replaced, and apparently this was to be accomplished by summoning an artisan to the house who would create it on the spot with the equivalent of a glass blowing apparatus, which also made sonorous musical noises as he worked.

2. Said artisan had groupies who would go anywhere to listen to the music he made while practicing his craft.

3. Said groupies crammed my basement to the walls, bringing their kids, chatting, catching up with each other, passing the popcorn, until I realized in horror what could happen and began screaming “GET OUT OF MY HOUSE! YOU ALL KNOW WHAT’S GOING ON! GET OUT OF MY HOUSE NOW!” And of course they all diddled, and dawdled, and chatted, and reduced me to tears with their indifference.

And then I dreamed that my clients started to show up and wanted not only to get massages, but chat with each other.

And then I dreamed that mean, cruel people like the girls I knew in high school simply walked into my house and made fun of me for yelling at them to get out.

I tell you, I was fucking exhausted by four o’clock in the morning. I can’t imagine what doctors and first responders and people with ill relatives are going through.

When this horror is over, if it ever is, where do we as a nation send the therapy bill?



It sucks that this is going on, and that there are no adults minding the store at the national level (thank Goddess for the governors, mayors, local boards of supervisors and whoever is mandating closures and health policy). But as many have noted, there is a silver lining for some of us, however awful the situation that got us there.

If I don’t go into public spaces and don’t talk to anyone, I’m performing a public service. America has suddenly, for the first time in history, become a country for people like me.

I can handle a conversation with ONE person without getting twitchy. I need breaks in between people. Every workplace in my life, except my own home, has been torture. On the 1 – 10 scale of introversion I am a 17. Even the Engineer, a citation nerd who can spend wordless hours staring at a complex sim game like Civilization, can be too chummy for me sometimes. Just give me space inside my own head.

Now when I go out for walks — and I still do, because the streets of suburbia are virtually deserted — no one approaches or tries to talk to me (it’s allergy season with a vengeance, and I sneeze a lot). If a rare person does, I smile broadly and yell “Social distancing!” before they get within ten feet.

God, I love it. If only it didn’t come at the price of all the suffering and stupidity.

We’re about out of beer, but the wine cellar is full and both refrigerators (for reasons too weird to explain, I have two refrigerators) are jammed. We could keep this up for a while.

Better Than A Fork In Your Eye (III)

Don’t think it’s gonna happen.

I clearly remember the reasoning behind picking the date for eye surgery 1/4. I saw the surgeon in November. December, January, February in the DC area? Prime time for the notorious “wintry mix,” an isothermic phenomenon in which zones of rain, snow, freezing rain and frank sleet waver back and forth over a region, turning the roads into an unpredictable rink full of out-of-state idiots who think nothing of going out in only a little rain don’t be a sissy I’m not staying home just for this. You see them wiped out on bridges and shoulders in their hundreds. Wait till mid March, you won’t be hiking to a surgery centre across town through the middle of DC Ice Capades.

No fear. Now we have Coronavirus. And I am not here for it.

Oh, not yet. No lock down, no surge in reported cases. Yet. But since our nation is governed by a tangerine wankmaggot who only cares about his golf properties, and policy is managed by a dead-eyed kapo who thinks all foreigners and brown people have cooties, there are hardly any tests, supplies like masks and hand sanitizer have been bought up by crisis profiteers, and the airports are jammed with people returning from overseas to get ahead of he travel ban, perfect incubators for explosive spread of the fucking thing in another week or two. Right when it would be time for my follow up appointments. Has anyone been reading the fucking social media out of fucking Italy?

Under normal conditions I would suck up the way my surgeon’s (and I’m starting to say my very tentatively) group practice is managed. There are four other doctors. I don’t know who decided to run it this way. But you come in the door, you’re in a packed waiting room full of the cheapest armless chairs, jammed in hip to hip with 1001 geezers, and they want you to sign in on a touchscreen situated right in the glare of the full-glass front wall that I can’t even see and I don’t remember seeing any hand sanitizer.

Then you sit there for two hours, punctuated by three or four ten-minute “encounters” with the staff and, finally, the surgeon, who’s always in a rush.

I hear Dulles, the nearest international hub to me — the office is half way between my house and the airport — is dirty and chaotic, and has no provisions in place to mitigate contagion.

Not on.

I’ll have to eat a fee. Maybe a hefty one, but I’m already rehearsing my speech to the office staff:

I want to live. I don’t want to have complications right when the local hospitals might be overwhelmed, and maybe lose the sight in that eye permanently. I don’t want to have to stop half way through four surgeries because the surgeon or her assistants are sick or quarantined, and walk around cockeyed for God knows how many weeks.

That’s reasonable, isn’t it?

Meanwhile, I ordered a battlerope (I’m not going back in the gym either, which is how you know I’m serious) and I’m enjoying the one upside of this: introvert paradise. The door is shut and locked and no one on my hill route wants to stop me to chat and I’m keeping the week I took off. Large stack of books by my chair, topped off by the Kindle, even if I have to read it with a jeweler’s magnifier. Updates at 11.



So I still think of Lua-Vanessa Aspasia Himmelblau as the new car, despite the fact she’s old enough to be in fourth grade (fifth, if like me she were a precocious little shit). It should not have come as a surprise when I walked out into the driveway, turned the key in the ignition and got nothing but a solenoid click, given that she’s still equipped with the original battery.

This is how I met Duwayne.

Dead batteries were pretty high on my list of Things I Don’t Need. I go across town in less than a week to get a fork stuck in my eye, my accountant is working on my taxes and will ask me lots of questions I can’t answer, the washing machine has just started dumping water on the floor the way the last repairman said it eventually would.

But you know, Duwayne was real.

He pulled up in front of the house in a truck gay with the purple and turquoise livery of my dealership’s preferred towing company, making light of the task of getting Lua backed out of a downsloping driveway at an hour when I’m usually not even coherent. This is craftsmanship. I learned to appreciate it when I got becalmed with my Albino Ex in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire on what should have been a pleasant May weekend and found myself (1) facing into a raw, damp gale (2) with a rental car too big for me to drive (3) with a cold that owed something to that February’s Taiwanese flu (4) on the scene of a regional tow truck convention. I gained a respect for people who drive those mo’fos, and explained to him.

This made Duwayne my friend. We bonded even more quickly when I remarked that Siri had been smoking something and that the traffic evasion pattern she recommended to the dealership, weaving preposterously through twisty side streets, was bullshit and I could get him there with a single 90-degree right hand turn.

‘Preciated it, he said. Didn’t enjoy having to torque his rig through a hamster Habitrail. “Had a guy with a Jeep Cherokee, down in one of those underground lots, I asked if he could crawl it out and he said no, it was all tore up, and I thought it’d be a wreck and he just had the front bumper stove in…”

“Fuck,” I said, “I drove this baby to a body shop with the whole bumper cover in the hatch…”

“And I had this guy with a Tesla, so freaked out it might get a scratch, and he gets in the cab and its seventy five degrees out in the middle of November and he’s brrr brrr brr close the window and I shouldntna but I asked You got a girlfriend? and he says hah? no and I say figures, son, you got issues — “

“Metrosexual,” I said. “Also, lots of entitled people around here. Dad was a Master Sergeant, I didn’t get that gene.”

We were now drinking buddies and it was barely eight-thirty in the morning. I was carrying my Alpine walking poles, so I could hoof it back from the dealership, now that I can (“Three miles?” he goggled. I don’t know why that surprises people). Explained about the year-old, almost-broken-in titanium hips and being a gym rat. Found out that he came close to boxing Golden Gloves, had to change course when his dad got sick and he needed to run the family business, but it came in handy when his girlfriend’s abusive ex came calling. “He was one a those big steroid guys with the swole up arms, you know?” (Maneuvering the truck, and Lua, onto the dealer’s lot down a ticklish slope, with a guy in coveralls practically breakdancing to show us where to go.) “Went down on the second punch. I ast her ‘You teach him that position? Face down, butt up?’ ”

Duwayne is just my kind of guy.

The car needed a new battery, a brake line flush, tire rotation and fuel injector cleaning. My wallet feels very clean, too. At least she had the grace to swoon before I face the fork.

Le Fiasco, or, Eff You, Disney

Warning: Spoilers.

So, Tristan and Isolde, much?


Geek, me. Old enough to remember the FIRST release of Star Wars, me. Old enough to notice that Lucas was going a bit Wagnerian (Jedi = Knights of the Grail, Darth Vader = Klingsor [sort of], Luke very much Parsifal). But also, because Lucas just winged it and decided in between the first and second film to make Vader Luke’s father (fight me), you get that implicit tension between Leia and Luke (think of the cable-swinging rescue scene) which, uh, runs up against the wall of she’s his sister, largely, I understand, because fans liked the bitchy attraction that Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford brought to the screen. So you could also say that this was almost Die Walkure, where Siegmund the Volsung boinks his host Hunding’s wife on his own hearthrug and figures out that they’re brother and sister, leading eventually to the millions of butts that have been numbed by the six hours of Gotterdammerung.

But no. We got Tristan. Without even the bang on the boat.

Yeah, it is what it says on the can. You get the CGI space battles and the brave resistance (Kelly Marie Tran, they underused you) and God love her phantom Carrie Fisher (voiced by the incredible mimic Meryl Streep), and it’s all dazzling for what it is (that score still makes the heart batter the ribs in a way that whole-hogging schlock should not), but goddammit, I have been waiting through three long movies for Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren and Daisy Ridley’s Rey to cap one of their repeated lightsaber battles with whatever equivalent of a Force-infused hate fuck you can get away with in PG-13, and I get… the chaste, dying kiss?

Bugger me sideways. With a cactus.

Is something wrong with me? (Don’t answer that.) You tease this relationship, more intimate than anything in the whole saga (they can just appear in each other’s space, linked by the Force, to the point that she asks him to kindly put on a shirt — I was saying, no, fine, leave it off, old letch that I am); he explicitly wants her to take his hand, rule beside him, more or less be his Empress, and the chemistry is double-distilled, plus the pathos of that scarred face telegraphing naked yearning even in the middle of pitched lightsaber battles (nuanced facial expression is the way for an actor to win my heart), and you get… one moment of redemptive and rather didactic Beatrice-and-Dante love, and then, curtains?

Maybe it’s a vice of the whole entertainment-franchise concept. Darth Vader’s demise itself was a head-clutching example of “and they all go to the seashore” (Never on Sunday, q.v.; Melina Mercouri’s Ilya retells every tragic Greek myth with a happy resolution after which, forex, Oedipus and his family all go to the seashore). This is kind of another. Stephen Moffat’s brilliant Sherlock series shat the bed in exactly the same way; three seasons of tension, internal conflict, characters finding their way to one another in the middle of wicked, fast-patter dialogue, satire and brilliant Conan Doyle callbacks, and it all gets “resolved” by introducing a diabolus ex machina in the next to last episode (really only explaining who she is in the last) and then making everything okay even if she’s sociopathically killed countless people just because she can and that explains why Sherlock is the way he is (the script has him refer to himself as a “high functioning sociopath,” but he looks autistic as hell to me, and please understand that’s a compliment).

Everything doesn’t have to crash and go to hell for a story to be a good story. Redemption is possible. Moral reflection happens. But if you tease a situation until the audience has narrative blueballs and then just give it a cold hip bath, that is malpractice.

Who do I sue?



What Naughty Cat Did This?

IMG_0113Not little Miss Nickel, oh no, never her.

I think she’s unlocked a new achievement. She killed my landline.

See, I walk in my office, and the Nose That Can Smell Someone Eating A Cucumber On The Floor Below (it happened once) tells me, in no uncertain terms, that some cat did something naughty in there.

Some cat. Yeah. There is only one Bengal in the house. All the others are perfect ladies and gentlemen, but Bengals is crazy, and we’re already resigned to her leaving neat heaps on the rug in the Engineer’s dressing alcove. Half awake, in the pale dawn, I’ll hear him get up and coo to her in a singsong voice: “What naughty cat did this?”

She’s consistent about the location, at least.

When her husband was alive he had her kind of trained, but almost as soon as he was gone, she began vengefully peeing on toilet tanks (an odd selection of target, but at least easy to clean), emitting gruesome bass yowls that sounded painful but were merely meant to express a rough sentiment of fuck this world and everything in it. She was widowed, in a house with three other cats — two of whom would love to be friends and play, but she won’t hear of it. It took several weeks for her to calm down.

We thought.

My nose tried to trace that pee smell in the office for several days. Apparently only I could smell it. Now, to understand what took me so long, you have to remember that landline phones these days seem primarily involved in the transmission of unwanted sales calls and lame scams (“the warranty on your computer is expiring,” says someone in singsong Bombay Welsh to the woman whose boyfriend built her computer). So it was days before I picked it up and finally located… the… smell.

Bull’s-eye right on the cordless handset connection. I don’t even know how she got into position.

Okay, I guess I have to admit that, in the end, I killed my landline, Because every time I thought I’d swabbed and Q-tipped and sponged all the well-cured, mustardy looking incrustations off the damn thing, they regenerated. I don’t mean she refreshed her work. It just kept coming out of nowhere. I think it was the rubbing alcohol that did it.

This is hard to explain to clients.

Merry Christmas.




Better Than A Fork In Your Eye (II)

But only just. When I said that to the ophthalmic surgeon, she said “Oh yeah! I’ve taken out a few of those! Fish hooks, too.”

It’s nice to know your doctor shares your perspective.

Unlike my f**king hips, which blindsided me (every other joint in my body seems to be about half my age, but they were around eighty-seven when they got replaced with hardware last winter), my eyes have always been headed for, well, something. I have zero memory of a time when I could see anything further than a few inches from my face well enough to read (and yes, that means I have zero memory of a time when I couldn’t read). When I was still in short pants (okay, they don’t put anyone in short pants any more, but you get me) an ophthalmologist cheerfully told my parents I might go blind because I was getting more nearsighted at such a headlong clip that you could take me for a  refraction, get the glasses made and my eyes would be worse by the time they came back and we’d have to do it over again. Something about puberty arrested this, which I suppose disproves the old saw about what you’ll go blind if you don’t stop.

Everyone expects to get a little farsighted when they get past forty, so now the reading prescription at the bottom of my lenses is only about the lower limit for nearsighted legal blindness, instead of three times that. (This has led to perplexity when I show up at Costco and tell them I’ve come to pick up my reading glasses.) What I didn’t expect was, right about the time my marriage broke up (I don’t think there was any connection), to have my right eye refuse to focus even with a spanking new prescription; to start seeing double and triple images of anything luminous or contrasty (like highway signs and traffic signals), and to have my eyeball feel like it had been doing pushups.

This is something called map-dot corneal dystrophy, which is the commonest form of a rare condition apparently, and which my optometrist (who could eat all the MD opthalmologists I’ve ever had for lunch) had spotted several years before that, even though it wasn’t affecting me at the time. Now I was seeing double and I hadn’t had anything to drink that day. Yet.

What it is, is the cornea, which is sort of your window glass, doesn’t hold fluid evenly, so that you get an astigmatism (I already had the ordinary kind that comes from an irregular corneal surface, damn, forgot to mention that) which changes on a daily basis, depending on which cells are holding water. Meaning that you get a pair of glasses made, and by the time they come back, they make it worse, and instead of proper window glass you are looking through the wavy stuff they used to put in the windows of the restrooms back in high school.

Just like old times.

This left me at about 20/70. Newsprint was out. Giant movie-screen sized monitors and enlarged browser pages were in. I am typing this on a 27-inch screen in about an 18-point font. Today only some of the letters in my field of vision are double, like what you see when you turn a calcite crystal over a page of print.

It sucks, is what.

Then I got cataracts. The only way I can hold my head up here is to note that the Engineer already had his done, and he’s fifteen years younger than I am. I was so impressed at his being able to read a digital clock in the next room without glasses (which he began to do regularly, just to be snarky) that I said, “gee, I almost look forward to having that done some day.” Never wish for anything.

Last year I developed Fuchs’ corneal dystrophy, which is the other layer of the cornea. It looks like dandelion fluff is constantly floating around in front of me.

Amazingly, I can drive. I just can’t read a lot of signs, so I stick to places where I already know where I’m going.

So: first they take out the right cataract. Then after five Hellish days of no lifting and a little more recuperation, they pop some dead person’s cornea in my eye. This squicks me out even though I know it’s done all the time. Then wait for it all to heal up before doing the same thing on the left. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I could do it any time (Dr. Fishhook looked ready to do it right there in her consulting room, using an X-acto knife and with the Engineer holding a flashlight) but I am damned if someone is sticking a sharp thing in me twice in a calendar year. Shooting for March.

She does seem very confident, even though she looks about seventeen, but at this point, so does everybody. I could shot-put her, and I had to explain what I meant about working out (no, we are not talking about the cardio pump class with a pair of five pound dumbbells) but anyone who sounds that damn gleeful about tinkering sharp things out of people’s eyeballs strikes me as likely to know her stuff. I know how I sound when people come in dithering about I have this pain right here and I don’t know if I slept wrong (is there a wrong way to sleep?) and it feels funny here and maybe I’m going to have a stroke and then I feel it when I do this and when I can shut them up for two seconds I stick my finger on the spot I know is the problem, grin fiendishly when they lift three inches into the air, and shout “Eureka!”  Like that.

Nonetheless, can everyone yell the F word for me right about now? I need it.