The Moon And (some kind of) Pence

Another dream, but I’m sleeping a lot. It has become my main way of coping.

Maybe it was the night of the new moon, or something, but just before first light I found myself in the audience of the new musical that was apparently Lin-Manuel Miranda’s next effort after “Hamilton.”

The house was packed because it was, well, the guy who brought you “Hamilton,” and because the subject of the new show was actually the new administration itself. I can’t remember a damn thing about Act I, because the dream started during the interval, when we were all trying to get in and out of the ladies’ room, and the show resumed before I could get to the head of the line, but as a courtesy the theater was piping the sound into the loos. The opening scene involved Vice President Pence going into the Oval Office for a chat with President Cheeto, only the Cheeto was chasing some female staffer, and presently Pence appeared to say oh well, what the hell, and put the blocks on another woman likewise — a smooth, Don Giovanni-like effort given that we were supposed to understand it was his first shot at depravity . Set to excellent music, which I can’t remember. And I could only listen to it while finally reaching the solace of an open stall.

Highly subjunctive, as they say. But it’s the first good laugh I’ve gotten out of this.

The Coverlet

I had a strange, wistful dream the other morning that will not get out of my head.

I’ve dreamed entire stories before — once, I preserved enough of the narrative to write the damn thing, for what it was worth — and it looked as if I might be about to do it again, only a Person from Porlock, in the form of a cat or traffic noise or something, broke in before I had really gotten started.

It seemed to involve my Transgender Ex.

Neither of us have all day so I will try to explain that as briefly as possible. In high school I set my cap for a brilliant, toothsome, Ganymede-like young thing who could play piano like an angel. In those days he embraced an intellectual conservatism that you could at least debate and dispute and had a sense of humor about it. The relationship was off and on and rocky, punctuated by moments of the kind of stupid drama that make me ever so glad I am not young any more, and eventually he owned up that he had always felt like a woman, inside. Fine. Whatevs. Except that he didn’t do anything about it, which is why I am still calling him He, and went on to various relationship disasters intertwined with a decently accomplished academic career. Somehow, every half dozen years, he would turn up on my doorstep or the other end of my phone looking for some form of tea and sympathy (I was  susceptible because long history, Beethoven, loves cats, intelligent conversation) and, quite often, to mooch dinner. Then he would eventually say something condescending and snarky about my liberal politics, zingers which got nastier as he began to sink to the level of Rush Limbaugh and Fox News. Don’t ask me what the appeal of such institutions might be to someone who identifies as trans. The last zing was, well, the last; at a certain point, you just have to tell someone to have a nice life. I wonder if he has ever put on a dress (you have to start somewhere).

Anyway the story in the dream was apparently about him and it was called The Coverlet, which was printed on the title page of what seemed to be a little booklet or perhaps an open book turned to that chapter. As I sort-of heard the narrative in my head it was simultaneously pictured like a film unreeling.

The Coverlet

The spare room had been empty a long time, but was still kept fresh and neat; on the bed was a quilted coverlet of flour-sack gingham. He passed it every day on his way out, and had stopped giving it much thought.

That morning a pair of gloves rested on the green-and-pink patch of quilting below the pillow, almost like a pair of  hands resting one on the other.

He went on out of the house.

The next day a neatly folded winter scarf lay under the gloves…

And that’s where everything stopped. Couldn’t get it back. But I can still see the morning light shining in on that quilt and the slightly forlorn looking gloves and scarf sitting on a patch of grass-green quilting with tiny pink flowers printed on it.

They weren’t his gloves and scarf, they were someone else’s; someone coming into his life? Someone who’d gone out of it?

Someday I’m going to go to Porlock and burn the place down.

 

Heatyvent And The Despised Marshmallow Bed

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Torvald has discovered a new love and its name is heatyvent.

All the cats, unsurprisingly, like heatyvent but he is the biggest customer, no doubt because he is usually in the living room when the furnace is ginning up for the day. That vent’s right above the heat exchanger and right behind my chair — in a perfect world there would be no furniture near a vent, but I’m not sure where we’d all sit. It makes a nice little sauna.

Most days he’s come out after a half hour or so. Then, a couple of days ago, I was tossing the living room and murdering clutter, and my eyes fell on Marshmallow Bed, which was a big hit when it arrived a couple of years ago but which all have spurned since about the time Torvald got up out of it one afternoon and immediately collapsed from the heart condition for which he now receives five drugs a day. I’ve wondered idly if some whiff of panic adheres to the thing, but it’s been sitting on the floor under the stereo, forlorn, finally used to stash a couple of lumbar pillows that the Engineer doesn’t like.

I looked at this useless heap, threw the pillows back in the Engineer’s chair, and stuck the white fuzzy bed next to the vent. The next time Torvald ambled into the room he disappeared into it almost instantly. About four hours later he emerged.

Heatyvent == well, Heatybed — has become the lodestar of his existence. Where, previously, we dared not open the nearby door to the upstairs because he would be up there like a shot in search of ALL THE BUDDIES that he knew wanted to play with him, now he barely lifts his head when he hears the doorknob turn and says blearily “Huh?” before subsiding again.

I was a little worried, given his dicky heart, but when the furnace heat isn’t going, he’s still the same cranky, unsocialized dick he’s always been, trotting into the kitchen for kibble and down the stairs to harass Agatha. He just loves Heatybed. He always has been quite vocal about telling us that despite clear Maine Coon antecedents he is not suited to withstand frigid temperatures, that his breed is actually Virginia Goon, and he is not having the porch in winter, thank you.

Mr. Ferguson gets it overnight. He’s becoming hard to find, too.

I guess this will go on till around April.

Les Dames

The plate loaded T-row machine had apparently suffered some insult. They affix these things to the gym floor, through the mats, with substantial hex bolts, but all hardware fatigues at a certain point. When you hauled up on the crossbow-shaped plate arm, the whole thing rocked a half inch this way and that, just enough for an instability goose to the exercise. This can actually improve your training effect. Nonetheless I checked in with the management, who averred that they knew about the problem and had put it on the repair list and told me to be careful.

Uh huh. I went back and threw another ten pound plate on the load arm, only to be hailed by a large gentleman in a do-rag, with meaty, glossy, chestnut-colored arms emerging from a torn singlet. “Watch out, that thing ain’t level,” he warned.

I already had a 2.5 pound plate in hand. I have never had the slightest goddam idea what anyone would want with a 2.5 pound plate, but the slender part of its bevel slid seamlessly under the upbucked foot of the T-row apparatus, the perfect shim.

“Leave it to a woman!” cheered Do-Rag. “Fixed it!”

“Well hell I am always leveling furniture not to mention my commode,” I said, and cranked out a set.

“Leave it to the ladies!” he shouted again, and went off to do something dangerous, probably of an age to be my son had I ever been interested in such undertakings.

Gender politics in the gym probably isn’t the hill to die on. Besides, I have to say women are kinda extra practical. We gotta be.

Going into 2017 that kind of cheers me.

 

Chilblains

For Christmas I got a chilblain and a dying lady. Well, dead, actually. More about that shortly as it is the more complicated story.

Chilblains seem like such a quaint, Dickensian affliction that it is slightly mortifying to have one. My readers from Canada and the upper tier of the US may not see it this way of course, but please remember that I live in Virginia, which is technically the South.

On the other hand I frostnipped a couple of toes on my left foot thirty years ago, shoveling the street in snowmelt while wearing leaky boots, and they have never exactly been the same. I have learned to stick my sockfeet in plastic bags before attacking a snowdrift, thereby mostly avoiding a reprise of the lopsided, purplish toe-tip that marked that past occasion, but lately, I have been working barefoot because I can feel my weight shift at the side of the massage table more precisely, neglecting to note that as the winter advanced, I was planting said bare feet on an increasingly frigid hardwood floor for a lot of the session.

The day before Christmas Eve was cold and grey and my feet would not get warm, but preferring cold to heat on any day of the year and impatient with anything like suffocating my feet in socks or shoes inside my own house, I just put up with it, until the following morning I felt the characteristic  “I have been in the cold and now I am warming up ouch” sense on the tip of one toe, and discovered a circumscribed, indurated, reddish purple bit underlapping the end of the toenail. It took a little Net searching to convince me of what I was seeing. Who the fuck am I, Bob Cratchit?

So now I am ignominiously having to stuff my feet into little socksies and shoozies (L. L. Bean’s Wicked Good fleece clogs, if you must know) and keep them dry because chilblains don’t heal if you keep, well, chilling them.

So in the middle of that I texted Clarissa, who has come to me for fifteen years: tall, majestic, always mercilessly well dressed, in peacock-patterned tunics and looping great necklaces of chunky glass beads, too conscientious for her own good, scattered, dutiful, full of narrative of her life and work like a fire hose under maximum pressure.

Only this was the year Clarissa hit the wall. Um, they said, we’ve found a recurrence of the precancer you were treated for several years back, they said. Well, no, this is cancer. Come on down to the medical torture chamber and we’ll zap you coming and going.

Strangely, when ominous signs began to manifest distant from the cancer site, no one bothered to check if it was in fact more cancer. Don’t ask me. We have the Best Healthcare System In The World ™, right?

Well, whatever, it didn’t stop things from getting to the point where she wanted work, because in bed all day long stiff sore ouch, but couldn’t get to me because oncologist says don’t put weight on your leg bone it is full of cancer and will break, so I loaded up that fucking folding table and went to her, on the only day of the week I could find the time. You just do this. One December Sunday. Then another. Then “no, family are all coming this weekend.” Then Christmas. I don’t give a rat’s ass for Christmas, and sent her a text on Christmas Eve, complete with emojis (I just figured those out), asking if she’d like me to come down her chimney on Christmas Day.

Her husband texted back just as I was about to set out the gifts that we do exchange because it is the time after all. She died late Friday evening. About the time I was cultivating chilblains. I had to read that text but motherfucking God, he had to send it. I have no words.

2016, have you no goddam mercy?

I am still wearing my fuzzy socks.

 

Some Days Are Full Of Stupid

For starters, it was the Christmas decorations. Anyone who knows me knows I am the baby that Scrooge had with the Grinch, but this year, exhausted by the damn election, I did not really have the energy to animadvert. Until:

There were signs of industry around my neighbor’s house early yesterday — yes, those neighbors, the ones who dropped a tree on my house, crashed into my car, leave nastygrams on my friends’ windshields for parking legally in front of my own house. It looked like someone was cleaning the yard or maybe servicing the heat pump and I thought no more of it. Until I got back to the house from the gym.

The bushes were filled with oversized, tacky colored balls, a swag of white icicles depended from the entire width of the front gutter, vulgarly immense pots of poinsettias crowded all the space around the front porch, gigantic red bows sprouted from the roof dormers. A huge sign, about four by five feet, supported between two six-inch treated-wood posts, advised all comers that “DECORATE A VET” had visited and adorned this worthy veteran’s house for the holidays.

I suppose everyone honors service in his own way. I am not sure whose idea this was, but there was more to come, as when I returned again from an excursion after dark, the entire fandango was lit up like, well, like a Christmas tree, including the balls on the bushes, which now burned with a sinister inner light, like one of those cottages in Thomas Kinkade paintings, or the scrotum of some creature that ended up on the cutting room floor of Fantastic Beasts. The icicles were likewise illuminated. There was enough electricity running through that yard to power a field hospital in Aleppo. You could read the newspaper by it. Planes could probably navigate by it.

This morning it was all still there. I had not dreamed it.

Late to the gym, accosted by chatty people who had done their workout, I was finally gearing up in the kettlebell room when a gaggle from the Zumba class began milling about in an odd way, as if trying to find a place for a picnic. Finally they homed in on my vicinity. Of course. An indecently earnest woman leapt into my face and asked “Do you want to be part of a mannequin challenge?”

“No,” I said expressionlessly.

“Great!” she said. “Here, take these ropes and stand like you’re working them.”

(This is the fitness rope that you loop around a convenient upright and work up and down until your arms get tired. It is not a bad cardio thingy.)

I perceived that the subtext involved showcasing one of my favorite in-house trainers, who taught me kettlebells, so I sighed and picked up the ropes, freezing in full flexion. Three minutes and a bicep charleyhorse later, they got the hell over it. I think it’s on Facebook. Possibly the best part is the housekeeping lady aiming a spray bottle of cleaner into mid-air, as if about to neutralize the camera woman with it. I miss The Weight Room, where if anyone had waved a fitness rope at you proposing a mannequin challenge (had such a thing existed in that now-remote era), no one would have batted an eye while you tied them securely to the hack sled.

I did find a way to stack chest flyes onto one-arm rows and alternating shoulder presses, which I will say makes you puff, but not for nearly long enough. When I got home — workout-deprived and flying — my first client had cancelled at the last minute. Again. She’s always good for a check, but, well, fuck.

I guess it takes my mind off politics.

 

Notes From My Absence

I really have to come back. I have not missed a workout, but since the US election I have been sleeping a lot and throwing up sort of regularly. Not a joke. Really throwing up.

Life goes on nonetheless.

Do Not Drop Shit On Yourself

This is really good advice for anyone. On Election Day, after voting

img_20161108_1039061, I looped around to the gym for a chest and back workout. Lately I have been hucking a pair of 45#s on my last set and for some reason, that day, the weights went down cattywumpus and the left hand dumbbell decided to teeter and crash onto my pinkie finger, the one where I always wear a ring, since like forever, long story, but the latest ones have been adjustable copper rings on account copper leaches into your system and supplements the enzyme that blocks Substance P, which is a pain neurotransmitter… oh well. Some pain got transmitted. The ring flattened into a narrow oblong,

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one end dug into my flesh, I managed to wrench it off, and double-timed up to the front desk to ask if there was an ice pack available.

Great kerfuffle ensued and one of those gizmoes was produced that, on sufficently vengeful smashing, turns into an icy gelpack which I wrapped around my pinkie while the gym manager worked his way down a form. “Were there any witnesses to the incident?” he read off the sheet. “Buggered if I know, I just dropped a weight on myself because I’m a klutz, I didn’t look around,” I said.

“Do you want an ambulance?” he asked gravely.

“The fuck?” I responded.

“I have to ask, it says here,” he explained.

We finished the form, and I went back and finished my sets.

That is sort of an omen for life going forward.

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For the curious, I worked every appointment I had booked, it actually doesn’t hurt, unless you squeeze it. Periosteal bruise is my best guess. The ring either saved me or savaged me.  I’m keeping it on my desk.

Tough Redheads

My passion for Star Trek led me to a CGI animated fan film whose hero is a badassed redhead prone to starting fights (with Klingons, even). I can relate. I am in a mood to start fights right now.

I Had A Birthday

I am now, by US law (for as long as it lasts) eligible to collect a pension should I choose. I am really kinda good for some years of pummeling butt, so I didn’t apply, but it is awesome to be recognized by people like Azahar,  who engineered the provision of a buttload of incredible sherry through the agency of the store that, funnily enough, in its earlier incarnation offered my first shit-job out of college forty years ago.

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We drank it with a birthday dinner that followed a late-afternoon screening of Dr Strange, hey, Benedict Cumberbatch stripped to the waist, what’s not to like? I think I am going to be hiding in a lot of fantasy universes for a while, such as…

Fantastic Beasts

I hate Thanksgiving, that American holiday sacred to gluttony and familial teeth-gritting, but the day following (having evaded gluttony and gritting) we did enjoy this.

You get adult (in the best sense) ideas, and a Polish Jew in 1920’s New York who can bake, and the Thunderbird. The one who belongs in the sacred lands of the First Nations. I wept.

I even refrained from starting a physical altercation with some yuppie twat who brought her toddler kid into the restaurant where we had settled on our pre-film dinner, fired up her FaceTime app and indulged in a loud kid-assisted conversation with some distant family cohort. Hello, asshole. The whole restaurant does not want to hear your Precious Sneauflake blatt or your relatives blather.
But, y’know. I could be watching the movie or I could be in the police station across the street, trying to think of magical ways to erase these philoprogenitive scumsuckers from time and history.

Hanging in for a future. Watch this space.