This is the way I saw the structure when I first noticed it under construction two decades ago, driving through one of the many new power centers that were popping up at the edges of Austin. I didn’t see it as the empty shell that would soon be filled with consumer goods that the average tech junkie would be clamoring for. I saw it as it sits now, a building that was aged and worn from twenty years of hard use, cast aside like an empty cardboard container that only existed to hold a transitory meal of convenience. A tribute to the vanity of consumer culture, unloved and abandoned.
This is life in the city. The structures that seem to erupt suddenly out of the landscape and briefly exist as bustling hives of industry that are almost as suddenly vacant and decaying, a blight on the landscape that was perfectly fine the way it was before the bulldozers showed up to turn a farmer’s field into a parking lot. What, exactly, did this structure offer that wasn’t available at the local mall? The local mall that is now also abandoned or repurposed into something else?
Now the power centers sit just as idle as the malls started doing a decade and more ago, and the real estate developers are looking for the next big thing that they can get us all to go to and spend money we don’t have on things we don’t need. This wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t the same behavioral patterns that hollowed out the centers of our cities back in the sixties and seventies. Maybe it is time to stop seeking the next new, shiny thing and take a look around at what already exists that we can make suit the needs of the moment. Let the corporations and the land developers starve. The people don’t need them if they can’t serve the needs of today.
I mean; I’m doing the wrong shit again. I’m doing the wrong shit after I was distracted from doing the right shit earlier today. I had to do some other shit that I needed to do after I did the right shit, but I had people counting on me to do that shit so I had to skip the important shit and do the more time-sensitive shit when that shit needed to be done. Now I’m at the end of the day and the important shit still isn’t done.
I just sat down to do the right shit, and this shit distracted me again. Well, shit!
Now I need to do the shit I didn’t do earlier after the shit that I had to do on time, and so couldn’t do the shit then. That would be the important shit, not the shit I’m doing now, because that shit still needs to be done. So I’m going to get up and do the shit that needs doing instead of this shit, so that I can finish doing the other shit that still needs doing before none of this shit gets done today.
If that happened that would be a shit end to the day and I want to avoid that shit if I can.
Oh, yeah. That’s the shit.
The wife could tell that I was obsessed with shit. She was glad I got the shit done. I didn’t have the heart to tell her I had more shit to do, but I’ll do that shit tomorrow.
Featured image is from a facebook status, but I deleted that shit.
“At that time of turmoil and sadness, and a profound need to cling on to something good, I wanted to write optimistic lyrics that would project me towards the end of this tragic event,” she tells the BBC.
When the Covid crisis hit Bologna early last March, she had just transferred from the local health centre to a specialist hospital clinic. After 36 years, she had been hoping to spend the final chapter of her career in a less frenetic environment.
Within a week her new workplace had become Bologna’s designated Covid hospital and she was at the checkpoint, filtering patients.
Simona’s idea was to put together a group of nurses to record the song, then use it to raise money to set up bursaries at the University of Bologna. If there was one thing the pandemic had highlighted, it was the scarcity of qualified nursing staff in Italy.
A hat/tip is owed to sky.it. It was because I discovered the video on their site that I knew it had to exist somewhere. Damn, was it hard to find on Youtube. The only way I ended up finding the official Youtube video was to follow a link from this Facebook profile that came up in a Google search for the nurses name. A hat/tip is owed to them as well. The fundraising link triggers trojan warnings on my internet security program, so I haven’t been able to go to the site without disabling security and I don’t have a disposable computer system to surf with at the moment. I consider that sentence to be a Fair warning for anyone who is concerned about internet security.
On this date more years ago than I like to count I officially became a parent. I have been raising children since I was a child myself, a phenomenon that is called parentification in psychological circles, so I’m told. I helped raise children, even though I had no idea how to raise them and they weren’t mine to raise. Sometimes in life you get handed a job that you didn’t ask for and you do the best you can with it. I was the eldest in a pack of five for several years; and as the eldest child in a single parent household you spend a lot of time herding the younger ones.
Helping to raise your siblings isn’t really parenting in the true sense of the word. Since you are a child yourself you can always count on mom to get home at some point in the day and then you can quit pretending you know what you are doing and get back to being a child yourself. You can always blame your mom or dad for putting you in the position of having to raise their children for them.
Once you are the parent, things get a little more complex. The early experience helped though. I knew how to change diapers. I knew how to feed a baby, hold a baby, a thousand different things. But at 2 in the morning, when it’s your turn to rock the baby, you find that you miss the days when the real parents would come home and take over. Well, not really. But just for a minute there.
They grow so fast. It couldn’t have been as long as she says it’s been since she was born. There is no way that it has been thirty years. She still looks like a high school student. She’s a good bit taller than she was when I first saw her. Then, I could hold her in the crook of one arm, a little over 6 pounds, light as a feather. I can remember taking her to school for the first time. I remember when she learned to read and then talked me into reading books that she liked. Dozens of them. She got me hooked on anime, an artform that she has a passion for to this day, all of us discovering she has quite a talent for art through her anime sketches. Spending years after that discovery trying to encourage her to explore her talent, without smothering her with pressure to do something with it.
I fondly remember dropping her off at the high school she still looks like she attends, dropped her off for the first time. Sitting there wondering out loud if I “should walk her in…” I mean, I had walked her into every school before this one. Taken the time to meet her teachers before I allowed them to teach her anything. Not this time. The disgusted “DAD!” that I got in return was the first clue I had that she was growing up much faster than I was really ready for.
She’s already on an exclusive list of one in my book. She is my only daughter. That’s a good enough reason to celebrate this day all by itself, without needing costumes and candy, like her brother gets on his birthday. Wouldn’t you agree?
At five in the morning Friday, after an evening spent feasting with the same three people that I’ve been COVID quarantining with since March, them drinking champagne, me drinking water and hoping to be able to empty my bowels later (a generally empty hope as it was that night. Alcohol causes constipation, something on the avoid list for those of us who have issues with our guts) a late night spent watching television in an all-to-rare showing of familial appreciation, I was woken from a rather weird dream in which I could hear animal noises coming from a nearby set of bushes, only to discover that the weird noises were the Wife trying to get up off of the toilet and failing to be able to manage it, try as hard as she might.
Spinal stenosis has been having its way with her over the last few years, and it has caused her to become a frequent visitor to pain specialists as they try to address the various pain complaints (neck, back, feet, knees and legs) that seem to crop up at almost random times and places. The last visit to a pain doctor for treatment was a few days ago, and we thought she was heading into a more lengthy period of being free from the daily grinding pain that Spinal Stenosis inflicts on her.
With a little coaxing I was able to help her get moved into a chair in the next room, but it was clear to both of us in a very short time that we were going to have to transport her to the emergency room in order to get the problem diagnosed and addressed, because the pain that had started bothering her as she and the Daughter were preparing pies and cooking ham together was simply getting worse with time.
The problem she was having did not appear to be related to the recent treatments, but the only way to be sure was to bundle her up and take her to a doctor. So at six am amidst the Black Friday sale desperation visible at every shopping center we passed, I drove her to the ER of the hospital that we seem to be spending more and more time at these days.
With masks in place and temperature checks passed, we were ushered into a private space where the nurses and doctors popped in and out and over the next hour or so, until they finally agreed on the pain meds they wanted to try out. The problem here is that most of the pain meds that have been made available over the last few decades don’t seem to work well for the Wife, and most of them are also extremely addictive with some severe side-effects to boot. She has some preferences for older pain drugs, but those drugs are interdicted as barbiturates or some such, and so you have to pull teeth in order to get a doctor to prescribe you any of them. But those drugs do work, if you can get someone to give them to you. The emergency room doctors will not be doing this. They’ll try some other new drug, one that isn’t already deemed bad for some reason or other. It was a new drug, so we figured why not?
Then came the attempts to get an intravenous tap into the Wife’s veins. This is always a hit and miss process with her. Very few nurses seem to have the skill to get a needle in one of her veins. After a few tries the nurse dragged in an ultrasound machine specifically set up to help nurses with people like the Wife , people who don’t want to give up their secret blood supplies to interlopers like medical professionals. It was a cool gadget and with it she was able to hit a vein with the least amount of trouble I’ve ever seen in the many times I’ve watched them try to get a needle in that woman.
With the IV in place they could finally do the thing they wanted to do, and they gave her the pain medication she needed. Her blood pressure receded from the scary levels it had been at up to that point, and she finally started to doze off, only occasionally being woken by the alarms that seemed to go off every time she fell asleep. Heart rate too low, blood oxygen too low, whatever. After this had gone on for awhile, the nurses came back in and hooked her up with some oxygen and gave her a second shot, and at that point she actually slept for a bit.
Hours had passed by then. As I sat there in my mask trying not to touch anything other than my phone, I marveled at the hectic non-stop activity all around us. City hospitals are always a little busy, but I’ve never seen the kind of activity that was going on during that morning. Signs of the long pandemic we are suffering through were everywhere. Plastic sheeting hastily taped up to partition the various spaces that used to be simply curtained off. Masks, face shields and gloves were in place for every person who wandered in and out of the room, including the janitorial staff. The room next to the Wife’s was filled and vacated three times before we left there sometime around noon. Everyone looked tired and stressed, and I wondered if we really should be taking up these poor people’s times with some simple pain complaint that seemed almost trivial in that time and place.
The Wife was sleeping, which was all I really cared about. Sleeping, when she hadn’t been able to sleep at all before that point because of the constant pain. As I mentioned, they discharged her at about noon Friday. We got back to the house and got her into bed, and she promptly passed back out again. The pain doctors are all on holiday, of course. None of them will be available for consultation again until Monday. In the meantime she needs pain medication to keep the back pain to tolerable levels, and none of the pain meds that are commonly on offer do anything to help her with the pain she is experiencing. The ER doctors got her pain to recede enough that she has limited mobility again but they didn’t have any medication to send home with her.
The Wife has to be able to walk in order for her to to get around inside our house. It is an older two-story home, and it simply isn’t set up for wheelchairs or even a walker to work inside of it, even if she stays on the first floor. She can barely get around the house on crutches. Luckily we had some crutches that her father bought her after she injured her leg in high school and that we have never let go of since then. If we hadn’t had those crutches we would have had to call an ambulance to even get her to the ER in the first place, and she wouldn’t have made it back into the house when we were discharged and sent back home.
One good thing that the COVID pandemic has done is allow telemedicine to gain traction in society. Leaving the house is an invitation to get infected, and so talking to doctors via video chat makes it possible to see a doctor without having to sit next to sick people for several hours at a time. We managed to get a telemedicine appointment with or general practitioner on Saturday morning. That is the miracle of telemedicine. Seeing your GP for a few precious minutes on the weekend in order to get you some medicine that you need so that you can not be enduring constant pain for three days waiting for the specialist to get back to you about this problem that just might kill you with pain-induced stress. With the desired prescription winging its electronic way to the pharmacist, I can finally rest easy knowing that the Wife will not be in constant agony over this long weekend.
The insane war on drugs goes on, though, and its victims are people like the Wife who cannot get pain medication because every medication that works for her chronic pain is a medication that every doctor can get in trouble for prescribing too frequently. Pain doctors are the targets of convenience for these stupid government drug crackdowns because obviously you go to a pain doctor to get your pain meds. That is what a pain doctor is for. To help you alleviate your pain. Sometimes the drugs are required and when they are required that point in time has a two in seven chance of being on a day when the doctor will not be available to prescribe them, and no one is willing to go out on a limb and give pain meds to a patient that they don’t know personally, even when that person is in the kind of pain that registers as spikes in blood pressure. This situation is intolerable and has to change.
Pain management has to turn a corner and come to grips with the fact that pain meds are both required and potentially addictive, both at the same time. It is a juggling act that the medical establishment had better learn to master, and soon, if they want to head off the next oxycontin embarrassment. That debacle simply waits in the wings for the next corporation to see a chance to reap a profit from people who have pain and have the money to spend alleviating the pain. This problem is not going away because the problems with pain are not going away either. We are going to have to learn how to deal with this problem. The sooner the better.
This entry on the blog exists to make a single statement. There are no tracks on Pink Floyd’s 1973 album Dark Side of the Moon. The track list is a lie, a fiction created by marketers who insisted that there had to be segments and names for all the parts of the life that is lived on the first side of the album that begins with birth and ends with death. Just as these same corporate shills insisted on there being labels for all the width of the lived life that is on the second side of the album, solid transactionalism to total madness.
Unfortunately there are few places where you can hear the album without track breaks, a fact that is quite maddening of itself for those of us who understand that the two sides of the album are intended to be listened to by starting the needle in the groove at the beginning of the first side of the album, listening to the end of that side, and then turning the record over to listen to the other side. A cassette tape works similarly, this is the thing that I always loved about my cassette tapes.
Honestly? I’m still looking into the whole gapless thing. Supposedly it works on Spotify if you pay for Spotify. I don’t pay for Spotify. I do pay for Amazon music and it doesn’t do gapless while streaming. Windows media plays my CD rips of Dark Side of the Moon gapless, and yet Videolan puts gaps in between the exact same ripped files. Amazon will play the CD rips gapless, but not the stream. Go figure. I have toyed with making Dark Side of the Moon and other albums that should be experienced as an album into one long file so as to avoid having to deal with track breaks where no track breaks should be to get past this variability in players and playback, but then I don’t have tracks to start and stop on when inevitably someone interrupts my personal music concert.
That was supposed to be my gift to all of you today. A gapless playback of Dark Side of the Moon. I was awake for a solid thirty hours yesterday. I woke early this morning after a solid twelve hours of sleep. Twelve hours of running, hiding, yelling, screaming, whispering and pleading. All those dreams and other forgotten dreams. A lifetime of dreams as the thirty hours before that had been a lifetime of experiences. I awoke with the words of Brain Damage running through my mind (even though I remembered it as Eclipse before looking at the track list) and I knew what I had to listen to while preparing breakfast and getting ready for a nice morning stroll with the dog.
The lunatics are in my hall The paper holds their folded faces to the floor And every day the paper boy brings more
An acquaintance on Pluspora attributed the Howling to John Carpenter the other day. It is not a Carpenter film. I’ve made a point to watch every film that John Carpenter makes as they become available. Carpenter single-handedly created the slasher genre with Halloween. He started James Cameron on his path to greatness by utilizing him on Escape from New York. His best films (to my mind) are Prince of Darkness and In the Mouth of Madness both of which I’ve watched numerous times. He’s best known for the unforgettable line from They Live where Rowdy Roddy Piper uses his signature wrestling tagline as the intro to one of the bloodiest scenes in They Live. I know my Carpenter films. The man is a movie genius and really should be better respected in movie circles than he is.
Ennio Morricone created the soundtrack to the second or third most recognizable of the Carpenter film library, The Thing. It stands out among the ranks of Carpenter’s oeuvre because of its haunting musical score. Ennio Morricone created the soundtracks for over 400 films. All of them that I have watched and listened to have been distinctively marked as his work. They could only be his work. While John Carpenter is a movie genius in my mind, capable of creating fantasy worlds for next to nothing budget-wise, Ennio Morricone was a master of the soundtrack. No one does it like he did. He will be missed.
I had to go looking to remind myself who it was that had written that great song that I loved. Who was it that the coronavirus killed the other day? That guy? That guy who sang a song about being there when someone needed you? Wasn’t that the song? I had to not only remind myself that his name was Bill Withers, but I had to then recognize the chorus line so that I would know the song title.
Lean on Me. Yes. That song. That guy. Bill Withers. Him too, then? One more grandfather we let die because we can’t be bothered to spend some of our precious treasure to make sure that there are procedures and tests and quarantine measures and hospital beds and whatever else that we need to invest in so that we can stop disease from spreading unchecked through our cityscapes. How many more will we lose? Will it be worse than AIDS this time? Will it hurt more this time than it hurt when Freddie Mercury died and I had to listen to friends spit on him and call him faggot?
I had a love of old wooden vessels powered by nothing but the wind like most young boys did. Treasure Island was one of the many books I read in grammas collection of old reader’s digest condensed books, on one of my many nights spent sleeping in my dad’s old room.
The idea of something called an ocean was nearly inconceivable to a young child trapped in the middle of the high plains of North America. Much less a story of a deadly life upon the sea. After reading Treasure Island I was young Jim Hawkins evading the pirates in most of the fantasies that I created, if I wasn’t Huck Finn floating his raft on the Mississippi, that is.
I read the full version of Huckleberry Finn when I read it the first time. Mark Twain’s love of travel infected me from the very beginning, and I’ve picked up and read pretty much everything of his that I could get my hands on since then. The beauty of Treasure Island as it was originally written had to wait until I bought a copy for myself back when the Son was hitting reading age and I thought I’d sneak him a copy. But even in its condensed version Treasure Island was enough to inspire a lifelong fascination with ships and the sea.
But when it comes to songs, few songs of the sea can stand up to Christopher Cross’s Sailing. Styx’s Come Sail Away was made and probably heard first, but Sailing expresses the sea-longing that Tolkien ascribes to Legolas and all the Elvish peoples in the Lord of the Rings. Ascribes to them but is really to be felt in the breasts of all people who hear the calling of the sea. Perhaps even in J.R.R. Tolkien himself.
It is said by the Eldar that in water there lives yet the echo of the Music of the Ainur more than in any substance else that is in this Earth; and many of the Children of Ilúvatar hearken still unsated to the voices of the Sea, and yet know not for what they listen.
Sailing will make me weep with longing for the freedom of the waves.
When I became a young man, with the weight of the responsibility of the years before me, I sought freedom in the music of pirates like Jimmy Buffett. His freewheeling style, refusing to be categorized by anyone as country or rock or pop or whatever, was my inspiration. I dreamed of taking a trip to the coast and liberating the yacht of some wealthy family or other, and with my friend Wade we would become pirates and drug smugglers. It would be a short life, but a merry one, and the cares and responsibilities of modern life could be someone else’s burden to bear.
But even Jimmy Buffett knew that it was too late to make that fantasy a reality.
Yes I am a pirate, born two hundred years too late The cannons don’t thunder, there’s nothing to plunder I’m an over-forty victim of fate Arriving too late, arriving too late
When it became clear that I was never going to get to sail on the ocean itself, I settled for sailing on the waters of Twin Buttes reservoir near San Angelo. I bought myself a fourteen foot sliver of fiberglass with a nineteen foot mast and tried my best to drown friends and family while mastering the handing of that finicky little boat of mine. The water was a short ten-minute drive from where we lived in San Angelo, and my experiences there were an almost acceptable substitute for real sailing experience. The canvas can do miracles, just like the song says.
But then times got rougher in San Angelo and we had to move to Austin. In Austin the lakes were much farther away. An hour in snarled traffic wasn’t the carefree ten minute drive that made sailing something I could easily engage in anymore. Boat maintenance became a chore that I soon shirked on, and I ended up selling my beloved sailboat to someone with more time and money. Someone who could afford to keep her.
From the North to the South, Ebudæ into Khartoum From the deep sea of Clouds to the island of the moon Carry me on the waves to the lands I’ve never been Carry me on the waves to the lands I’ve never seen We can sail, we can sail with the Orinoco Flow
The longing for the sea still calls to me. It called to me today, with a casual reference to my sailboat themed comforter that I gifted to the Daughter ages ago. Calls to me, even though just basic swimming is something I can’t indulge in anymore. I refuse to wear nose and ear plugs to the pool, and when I swim without them I end up with infections that have to be treated with antibiotics. I can only imagine what swimming in the ocean would do to my sinuses.
Just getting on a boat causes vertigo. If I travel and need to take a ferry ride, I have to stay on deck the entire time so that I can see the horizon move and not get nauseous. A cabin cruise would be strictly verboten from a vestibular perspective.
Where it all ends I can’t fathom my friends If I knew I might toss out my anchor
What is it about the sea that calls to me? Is it the lulling sound of waves lapping on the sand? Is it that I’m descended from fisher-folk who have always been near the oceans, lived on the oceans? Or is it something more than that?
I thought that they were angels but to my surprise They climbed aboard their starship and headed for the skies Singing, come sail away come sail away
Population keeps on breeding Nation bleeding, still more feeding economy Life is funny, sky is sunny Bees make honey, who needs money, monopoly I’d love to change the world But I don’t know what to do So I’ll leave it up to you
I ran across the retort OK Boomer in a podcast once. I’ve since forgotten which one it was. I’d never heard it applied to anyone until Jim confessed to his cardinal sin on Facebook. It fits perfectly. Sadly, it fits all too well when describing our current state of affairs and the despicable hand-waving that the I’ve got mine, get yours set engages in almost daily. Hand-waving designed to deflect any attachment of fault to their ill-gotten gains. I’ve done the best that I can to make the world a better place over my lifetime, and that time ain’t over yet. It ain’t over for the Boomers as a group, either. All they have to do is stand up and be the best people they can be, rather than allow the narcissists and their defenders to be the voice of their generation. If we leave it up to the millennials to fix our shit, we deserve to be disrespected with the phrase OK Boomer.
You want respect from the next generation? Well, then you should have left the planet in better shape than you found it. Simple as that. And we didn’t.
I, of course, was accosted with OK Boomer as a response to my observations. Too bad I’m not a Boomer.
Generational cohorts are defined (loosely) by birth year as the article goes into in depth. One might think that because my birth year is before 1964 that I would be considered a boomer. The Wife, who was born a few months after me, identifies as a boomer. I’m not a Boomer in any sense of the term other than birth year. I am Generation X. Solidly Generation X.
How is that? Like so many things boomers (and other average humans) believe, generational cohorts is just another thing that they have wrong, if they think that what makes up a generation is absolutely defined by the year of birth. The reason why you can’t set years and dates to separate generations is because the influences that make up the generation vary from household to household and from town to farm to city. I was the child of parents born after the start of World War II. My parents were born during the war, making them both too young to be boomers but too old to be counted as part of the Greatest Generation. I was the elder of a large family, all younger than me, so their influences were largely my influences.
The Wife was the only child of parents who fought in World War II. Her parents were of the Greatest Generation. She is a Boomer in every sense of the word, in every way the Boomer cohort is measured. Her parents stayed married, my parents divorced. Etcetera, etc, etc. You can go down the list. Everything aside from year of birth makes me a member of Generation X. I really don’t like Boomers, aside from the Wife and other RL friends. Too many self-important assholes in that group.